Male Friendships

A quick observation, one backed up by science (at least as a five minute google search revealed): it’s getting more difficult to have male friends as I get older. Yes, my time is largely taken up with family and work. Yes, there are lots of activities in the elders’ quorum. But I find that I simply don’t have very many close friendships with men. Maybe a handful. Most live far away.

The benefits of male friendship are ample. Increased life expectancy, feelings of satisfaction and belonging, and what’s more, there’s some evidence that healthy male friendships may counter some of the effects of toxic masculinity and violence. Loneliness and desperation will drive men to do bad things, it seems.

You would think that our church would be great at nurturing and developing male friendships. I mean we’re a _patriarchy_ for crying out loud. I know people that speak of lifelong friends made while serving together in a bishopric or presidency. But many men — maybe most — will end up serving alone. They’ll come to church, sit with their family, then sit through their meetings and go home. Somehow, the hour each week spent together does not, or at least in my experience has not resulted in close friendships, but instead a sort of pleasant familiarity that makes me ok with them borrowing my truck.

None of this is the Church’s fault. Culturally, men rely on shared activities — sports, work, etc. — to bring them together, rather than psychological or spiritual bonds. As men get older, have careers, and families, those activities dry up and the possibility of new friendships also starts to evaporate. Unless the early friendships have evolved and formed ties along spiritual/psychological lines, the friends are likely to disappear. That’s not to say that I’m no longer friends with my mountain biking buddies, it’s just that they’re _mountain biking buddies_ and I don’t mountain bike as much.

The revamped elders’ quorum and the new lesson formats lend themselves, potentially, to a reshaping of how we view male relationships. Older and younger men meet together, with a format that encourages collaboration, sharing of viewpoints and spiritual experiences. Yes, there are activities and opportunities to serve together. But we’re not relying upon Wednesday night basketball to make friends. This is a good thing.

Is it enough? Is it realistic for us to look to church for male friendships?

Comments

  1. I think some of it is the church’s fault. There is a lot of official and unofficial pressure on men to only serve in their callings, excel in their jobs, or be there for their families and wives. The official and unofficial message has been, “if you aren’t working at your job or your calling you should be home.” How often has men doing things just for fun been discouraged from the pulpit as taking away from those other sacred family and church responsibilities? I know that is a message I’ve heard for my whole adult life. How does that leave time for shared activities and friendships outside of those boundaries without some guilt or cultural disapproval?

    I think this is an example of how patriarchy doesn’t just harm women. We have excluded women from the official power structure of the church and then tried to compensate by putting home, family and wives on pedestals. And then we make people feel guilty for not spending all of their time shoring up those pedestals.

  2. kevinf says:

    It is amazing how close you can grow to someone when you serve together in a bishopric or presidency, and then how quickly that friendship can fade to just acquaintances when those callings end. As a (former) High Priest, I actually am looking forward to spending more time with the younger elders in our ward, and hope that it produces some greater friendship among all age groups. I have just a couple of close male friends, and they both live 800 miles away, so we don’t see each other often. There is a void there, and I sense a need for this. But it has to extend beyond basketball, which I have finally had to give up for my knees sake, and the elders quorum video game nights. As we do more service together, perhaps that will help.

  3. D Christian Harrison says:

    I’m quite literally terrified of the newly combined meetings… that’s not to say I can’t see the enormous upside potential from these new meetings—they just have a significant downside for those of us who found safety in the confines of whichever quorum in our ward was more progressive.

  4. Disfellowshipped says:

    Making meaningful relationships with other men is exceedingly difficult. I’ve never been the most masculine of men, and that has further alienated me from the men in the wards I’ve attended. Bundle in being liberal and bisexual, and that’s a cocktail for never making a male friend at church in southern Utah ever. Thank the good lord I have one great friend from the mission, but I don’t think I’ll ever have male friends from my local congregations.

  5. D Christian Harrison says:

    Also, KLC is correct—even the old home teaching structure, as a brilliant friend observed, treated men as if individual men didn’t have individual needs—just responsibilities as heads of households.

  6. I’ve had a similar conversation about male friendships and the Church with several other Mormon men over the years. Alas, we haven’t come up with any great solutions.

  7. “and I don’t mountain bike as much.” – Well, there’s your real problem (and mine).

  8. Carolyn says:

    Question: Why –can’t– Elders Quorum / Priesthood Meeting be more like a lot of relief societies? We could inject real, thoughtful, vulnerable, multi-generational discussion on real issues. Some relief societies are far better at that than others, to be sure, but I’ve been in EXCELLENT lessons all over America and Europe.

    So this barrier to real friendship — is it a Mormon problem? a Mormon man problem? Or a global men – aren’t – socially – conditioned – to – share – real – vulnerabilities problem?

  9. As far as I can tell, the new ministering structure still treats me as the head of a household and not as an individual.

    Based on the few weeks that we’ve been meeting together, I suspect that the transition to the new EQ will have real negative effects for some, at least in my ward. (There will, hopefully, be some positive effects as well.) So far, I see a generational gap between who want a more open and vulnerable discussion, and those that don’t want their priesthood quorum to be some sort of group therapy session. A HP in his late 60s is the one who pointed out to me that the entire new EQ presidency is under the age of 45. (Or younger? I’m not sure.) For me, I’m just the guy there each week that went from not being convinced that even half the people knew my first name, to now not being convinced that even a quarter of the people know my first name.

  10. I’m lucky that my ward has other people who also like board games. I have found that if I don’t start something like an ongoing time for playing board games, it doesn’t happen. It is awkward for me because I don’t really like putting myself out there to have people turn you down for a variety of reasons. Going to the Marvel movies together has also been a good bonding experience (not for everybody, I realize).

  11. I welcome the new meetings because they will make it easier for me to hide. The whole ward wins when this happens.

    When I lived in Rexburg a decade ago, I made a lot of new male friendships. My ward had a nice mixture of teachers and others looking to have discussions…about whatever.

    While I value the church for communitarian reasons, I don’t have a community there. It is almost entirely my fault.

  12. Carolyn: This was explicitly brought up in my EQ meeting on Sunday, with multiple comments from the older half of the demographic that men have been raised to not be like women, and they don’t have any intention to start “blubbering” at church. (Blubbering is the word he used.) We even had a reference to Henry Higgins singing “Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?” which, of course, went of the heads of the younger half of the quorum. The younger half of the quorum is, in general, be much more open and vulnerable. To answer your questions, I think this is absolutely a cultural problem (bug, not feature). I think it is a general American male problem, which might be worse within the church. I am personally too deep inside Mormon culture to tell how much of it is specifically Mormon, vs just generically American/global.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Great observation. Adult male friendships are hard to find, nourish and maintain. My friends at church are just that–casual church friends that I don’t get together with outside the Church context much. (Although I did recently have lunch with the bishop and 1C just because we all happen to work within blocks of each other in downtown Chicago. No church angle to it at all, and I quite enjoyed it.) My best male friend is a true friend–we’ve known each other since third grade–and we get together multiple times each year. (We’re going to do a road trip this fall in honor of us both turning 60). He’s not LDS, which may be an advantage, as his free time is not absorbed by LDS Inc.

  14. Rexicorn says:

    It’s definitely a general culture problem, at least for older generations of men. It’s one of the reasons that health outcomes are so much worse for widowers than they are for widows — women tend to have a large support network outside their marriages, while men tend to lean on their wives for social/emotional support. I’ve noticed my own father is a very social guy who’s touched lots of people’s lives, but I can think of maybe two people outside the family that he’d ever, say, meet up with casually for lunch.

    I’m not sure what an Elders Quorum could do to combat that culture, though…maybe activities that encourage more social connection instead of being task-oriented? It seems like Relief Societies are more likely to have book clubs or lunch groups that allow people to share problems and ideas instead of just do things alongside each other. Is there something like that for men?

  15. I don’t have anything to add, other than to say that I very much identify with this problem. My close male friends all live in other cities. I have lots of casual male friends, but I haven’t made a close male friend since college. My wife has a handful of close female friends in the ward and they all try to get us, their husbands, to be friends. We like each other well enough, but haven’t really become close friends. The most we’ve really done is see a movie once a year without our wives.

    When I was in law school I had a hard time making friends with most other LDS guys at my school because they got together for (1) watching BYU sports, (2) playing video games, or (3) watching MMA, and I had basically no interest in those things.

  16. I have a cousin who is a good friend but we live in different cities and rarely see each other. I’ve compartmentalized my varied interests and have acquaintances in each “region” but no one I share everything with. Like others, I’ve found good friends through church service and once upon a time through a faculty gathering at an Institute of Religion near a campus. That was great fun. But at this stage of life, I see few other opportunities ahead for really close friendships with broad common ground. It’s a little sad maybe, but I’ve always been a loner. I can’t decide if that makes it better or worse.

  17. Rexicorn: Is there something like book clubs or lunch groups for men? How about . . . book clubs and lunch groups? There are plenty of men that like to read, and that like to eat. I think we (the church) are in the habit of brainstorming activities by first eliminating everything that women do, and then filtering through the remaining list of “man activities” and picking something. Hence, since living in my current ward the EQ activities have included roller hockey, and watching a boxing match. (I will give them credit for at least having activities of any kind, as most of my EQs over the years don’t do anything.) Now that we have septuagenarians in the quorum, I suppose roller hockey is out.

  18. I haven’t had a close male friend since late elementary school. I’m not sure I even know how.

    I played with buddies in various bands in high school and college, but we didn’t really get together for anything except to play music.

    I grew close to several men in my ward during years spent serving in scouts, but I never met up with any of them to do anything outside of those YM events.

    I’m not lonely at this stage, because I’m happy spending my limited free time with my wife, with my kids or with a book. I am cheerfully an introvert. But I would be profoundly lonely if I wound up widowed or divorced some day, and I don’t even know what I would do to address that sort of maybe trying to remarry.

  19. Not a Cougar says:

    Steve, great post and thanks for sharing. It’s a topic dear to my heart. I was recently released as the EQ president (completely coincidental with GC – I found out the Sunday before GC I was to be released), and one of the things that bothered me the most was that almost none of the guys in the ward ever hung out with each other outside of church. There were essentially no true friendships (in what I would consider the fullest sense of the word) among the 40 or so active men over the age of 18 in the ward.

    I have no panaceas and there are still several men in the ward who don’t really have friends, but I found that just calling everyone by their first names helped tremendously to bridge the gulf (and I point to Boyd K. Packer’s talk from April 2003 when anyone infers I’m being too familiar). I’m also an unrepentant back, arm, and leg slapper to other men in the ward. To anyone who’s ever been on a sports team, there’s just something about appropriate physical touch that helps to build bonds. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to individual willingness to reach out and invite. It can be hard to do.

    The Church leadership can help here, but I sincerely doubt they will. As many have pointed out, the push to ensure fathers are at home is pervasive, and perhaps leaders worry with good reason that encouraging men to have outside interests and friendships will result in that encouragement being used as an excuse to shirk family responsibilities. But the downside is too often loneliness.

  20. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Carolyn said “Or a global men – aren’t – socially – conditioned – to – share – real – vulnerabilities problem?” I think this hits the nail on the head. Traditionally men get quite wrapped up with bread winning/ protecting/ presiding that we don’t take the time to be soft and cuddly and vulnerable. I think this ministering effort is supposed to give us a chance to be more like the Relief Society.

    Any thoughts on men having a friendship with women (other than spouses)? I have always felt more comfortable chatting with women than men. Maybe because I don’t like sports or video games. But when woman chat about their kids, how they are doing at school developmentally, dealing with illnesses, etc; that stuff is more real. What if men talked more about their own worthiness issues, difficulties doing family scripture study and FHE. What if we really cared enought o help each other out with this stuff?

  21. Michael H. says:

    Amen, many times over. I too have thought about this for many years, but I’m a weirdo. (We’re all weirdos, right? It’s not just me, right?) I’ve never felt that I went to church with people like me. I’ve always felt, rather, that my wife and I are aliens, posing as human Mormons. I know–at least I’ve been told–I’ll probably live longer and probably be happier if I had male friends, but there’s really no one with whom I have a thing in common. Even when it comes to churchy stuff, we merely speak a common language, yet even though we use all the same words, the meanings are different. Both in New York for many years, and now in Vegas, my wife goes to a monthly women’s reading group. All LDS. I’m envious. But I’ve found no evidence that any men in my ward read. And in my ward, the consolidation of HPs and EQ so far doesn’t bode well. In HPs, the dozen or so of us sat in a circle in a well-lit room, looking each other in the face and having genuine, thoughtful gospel conversations. Now there are about sixty or so of us spread throughout the dim, spacious chapel, hiding among the pews.

  22. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I remember feeling ‘shocked’ when non-member male work acquaintances invited ‘married me’ for a run or a game of racquet ball. I had to briefly mentally ‘justify’ my time involved in male-friending. I haven’t had a fellow male member of the church invite me for that kind of thing since I was in a singles ward. Maybe I’m just not that fun to be around, but I also get the distinct feeling that if I extended such an invitation to a male member of my ward, it would be received as if it was an impropriety. I have been in a YM calling, so haven’t been in the dim, spacious, consolidated meetings–but it is worse in our ward for participants. They are doing the ‘circle of chairs’ in the cultural hall and with the bad acoustics, the hearing impaired are feeling less able to be involved. I would love to group-read with you Michael (reading Elijah of Buxton with my son right now) and hang with you ‘Disfellowshipped’–political differences aside!

  23. Brother Sky says:

    I have to second Michael H.’s observation: “I never felt that I went to church with people like me.” I have a few acquaintances at church and a friend or two, but as a progressive person in the conservative south, not to mention as someone who speaks his mind at church, I’ve found most people in my ward just avoid me. I take no offense as that’s often the case in this church, but it does make it hard to connect with people. And even with the folks that I might consider friends, we rarely have the time to get together as we are all busy with work, kids, etc. I’d also second Brother Jones. I feel much more comfortable around women than men and the LDS Church, because of its paranoia about sex, the depravity of men and the purity of women, is not the place to cultivate meaningful friendships with members of the opposite sex. And as the OP suggests, this is a huge issue outside of the LDS context. Men seem to withdraw socially as they get older, which is probably the opposite of what the healthy tendency should be.

    Also, many men just don’t seem to communicate well. And I think many of us have to own that. My own situation is exacerbated by the fact that I’m a writer and an academic, which means I spend a lot of time in my own head and am quite comfortable doing so, but it also means that spending the energy to connect with others is more difficult. And I’ve noticed that most people are extremely uncomfortable around silence, even what I would consider companionable silence. The world is so noisy and busy that many of us freak out if someone is a bit quiet or isn’t a chatterbox.

  24. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I’ve had a lot of friends throughout my life. These are other males who I have spent considerable time with in activities such as playing soccer, camping, golfing, hiking, “ministering”, even mountain biking. However, I find that the frequency of interaction doesn’t equal intensity. When I see these friends, we talk about soccer, about hiking, or mountain biking, etc., but those “friendships” are compartmentalized, limited to those subjects. If I want to play soccer, I know who to call. If I want to go for a ride, I know who to call. If I want to talk about something I’m struggling with, personally, I have no idea who I would call. And the thought that I should call my home teacher/minister just seems reductive. Obviously, this isn’t unique (as evidenced by the OP and comments). I’m not going to blame the Church, as I don’t necessarily think that’s the job of the organization, nor do I think there’s anything about the Church that prevents this from happening. A number of comments reference close friends living far away, and increasing geographic mobility definitely drives some of this – people just used to live near each other for longer periods of time. Having kids also make it more difficult, I think, as men get busier with their kids. Ironically, this is something that seems to draw women together. Working leaves less time for developing and maintaining relationships. I find that the women I know who are working full-time also experience this. I’d probably have more close friends if I didn’t work so much. Of course, those friendships would be strained by my having to crash on their couches, since I wouldn’t be able to afford housing.

  25. Rexicorn says:

    @Clark, good call! In my YSA ward we had a coed book club and it was at least half men, sometimes more depending on the book. I was just trying to think of something more stereotypically man-friendly, given the church’s socially conservative culture. But maybe we just need to push book and food clubs.

    As for socializing while working/parenting, there does seem to be this stereotype that “girls night” is a form of self-care, while “guys night” is an excuse to blow off responsibilities. Just another way that society devalues male friendships.

    Are fathers-only play groups a thing? That might be a good option for EQs with young dads in them.

  26. The older retired men in my ward do a weekly “old man’s lunch.” They seem to love it. A few of us used to get together for lunch semi-regularly, but that was driven by one guy that has moved away and nobody picked up the baton.

  27. nobody, really says:

    Two wards ago, we had a guy who was a convert and a strong believer in developing friendships among the guys. He would host huge BBQ events at his home, with families invited, and he was careful to set up separate seating areas where the guys could congregate, where the women could congregate, and plenty of things to keep the kids running back and forth and up and down. Meat smokers, Dutch ovens, grills, fire pits, coolers of soda, all the stuff that could keep guys happy and looking busy without actually having to work at anything. Some of the best relationships I’ve ever had were a result of those backyard events.

    The bishopric/stake presidency got wind of it and let him know that unless everyone there had their home teaching done, we had no business holding a weekend party. “The Church has a mechanism for friendship, and that mechanism is Home Teaching.” We went back to our old ways, and the guy who organized the events (along with his entire family) went inactive for over two years. I would also note that later on, that ward EQ basketball team was awarded the “Worst Sportsmanship” trophy and banned from future competition in a tri-stake area.

    I’ve joined organizations where I’d have the chance to build friendships – a triathlon club, non-profit groups where my family or I was the only LDS people in attendance. I can’t even count the number of times where somebody started to chew me out for “worshipping Mammon”. I had to explain that my doctor mandated it, and my Bishop supported me in it, so unless they were my doctor or my Bishop, their opinion wasn’t even going to be considered.

  28. Always fun dealing with statistical rumours, especially those concerning life expectancy. Sorry, I’m too fatalistic to think we can add one day to our life with any such magic bullet. it’s like someone finds something they can do simply and easily, posits that if everyone did it they would also be happy, then tacks on the “happy people live longer” and gets “if you do this, you’ll live longer”.

    Maybe I’m just proof of what happens when you don’t develop close friendships. Early death, here I come!

  29. @Frank Pellet, good thing there are actual studies, then, and not just rumors.

  30. @Brian, would be more helpful if you cited something.

  31. I disagree that this is a universal problem among men. Among my peers, it’s totally normal to spend hours at the bar doing nothing but drinking beer and talking about life. That’s not an easy evening to replicate if you take away the beer and the bar, but perhaps we should try harder.

  32. @FrankPellet. Or you could do a quick search before doing a drive-by of the OP.

  33. @Brian. I did a “quick search”, and even a more in-depth one. What I found are articles touting that science has said that bromances lead to increased lifespan. Those that have a citation of a study attached link to a study that shows that male rats put under stress get along better with their cell mates. They’re connecting this with a raise in oxytocin levels, then connecting it to longer life. It’s a large jump in logic, not supported by any studies that I can find. It’s not uncommon to turn a rather dry study into an headline, no matter how tenuous the actual connection.

    drive-by indeed.

  34. Well, there are at least 148 relevant studies on actual humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20668659

  35. Brian, that’s not limiting to male-male “bromance” relationships. “The quality and quantity of individuals’ social relationships has been linked not only to mental health but also to both morbidity and mortality.”

  36. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Frank-
    There are even more studies than Brian indicates. NIH will catalog most of the US studies, but often misses those done elsewhere. Not going to do the work for you, but you can search yourself (google scholar is best, but you’ll often run into a paywall – not my problem). Search for social relationships/isolation and health/life expectancy/quality of life. As someone who studies this, I can tell you that the connection between these things has been known for decades, hasn’t disappeared over time, and persists between genders, cultures, income status, race, marital status, level of education… Not only will it add at least a day to one’s life, it will increase the quality of life for more than those added days. Really is a no-brainer.

  37. jimbob says:

    This isn’t a Mormon problem, really. It’s an American man problem–and maybe beyond. Along those lines, this podcast from NPR is worth your time if you have interest in this issue: https://www.npr.org/2018/03/19/594719471/guys-we-have-a-problem-how-american-masculinity-creates-lonely-men.

    I would argue that at least in the Church you have the social structure to associate with other men so as to possibly make friends with them. The suggestion in the podcast is that most men don’t even have that. My guess is that there’s another man in your quorum who would also very much like to make a real, bonafide friend as well. The gravamen of the podcast discussing why doing so is so very hard for men in spite of that mutual desire (though some of the “toxic masculinity” portions of it seem a little too easy to me as an explanation).

  38. This is where Scouting comes in as the best calling for me. I enjoy working with the youth. I enjoy working with adult scouters. I enjoy going out and doing fun things in the wilderness. Backpacking, sports, cooking, throwing tomahawks, canoeing, whatever. If it wasn’t for a calling in Scouts, I wouldn’t be able to justify time away from my family to go do fun outdoor things. Of course, I still do things (both outdoors and not) with my family, and I do enjoy spending time with them, so I’m not looking to be away from them. But I can do things bigger and outdoorsier and manlier because of Scouts, which I couldn’t do with my family (for a variety of reasons, such as interests, ability levels, other activity conflicts, etc. of family members). There are dads around my age who wouldn’t come to other activities but do come to Scouting events to support their sons and because it is fun. Even with all those relationships built through that program, if BSA all went away, I’d be back to not being able to go do fun outdoors things again (I know, because when I was in the EQ presidency in between Scouting callings, there was none of that). There’s no way a guys camping trip is ever going to happen. The closest we will get to it is someone saying once every other year that we should do one. But it’s the Father/Son outing or Scout Camp or High Adventure that actually make it happen. Our recently released EQP was planning an adult pinewood derby. He claims it is still going to happen, but with the presidency/quorum shakeup, I’m not so sure.

  39. kevinf says:

    Part of my problem is that my wife is my best friend. Both of us recognize that we would much rather spend time with each other than anyone else. We met in 7th grade, but didn’t date until college, so we had a long history of friendship before it turned romantic.

    That being said, she does make more friends than I do. And actually, some of her female friends are closer friends to me than anyone other than my two old friends from high school that live in another state..

  40. My main concern about the OP is that it’s a “one size fits all” solution with very little scientific support. It’s the kind of thing that gave us things like Home Teaching in the first place, assigning friendships. Not everyone works like that. Some do better forming close friendships with *gasp* women. Some do better not having these close friendships at all.

    It’s almost a “it was better in the good ol’ days” post. Several of the comments even reinforce it, lamenting times when it happened in their past or how the gentiles have it better since they can drink alcohol.

    We should have close -friendships-, no matter what genders or other relationships are involved. A second option would be a good counselor/psychiatrist. Sometimes a spouse. Sometimes someone with whom you share a hobby or interest (as often happens with presidencies). No matter who it is with, they can fade and be built anew as life changes. It can be more difficult (or nigh impossible) for some people than for others, as some of us are introverts, but yes, it’s important to pursue.

    “Everybody needs somebody sometime”

  41. Here you go @Frank. https://t.co/NJKS4fsTcs

  42. Sorry Frank. Didn’t mean to pile one. I see this item had already been covered.

  43. Nunya Bidniss says:

    Like all relationships, it takes time, effort, commitment, and making yourself vulnerable and available.
    My longest-lasting friendships have been with childhood friends (35+ years), and they need continual upkeep to be fulfilling.
    I have had the good fortune of having good, more recent friends through my wards. Seeing each other on Sundays during services is not enough to make a friend. Adding to that genuine concern and ministering (neé Home Teaching), and doing service projects or Scout outings together, and spending the time and effort to go bowling/to the movies/boardgaming/to a football game, you can have a balanced life with friends outside your nuclear family.

    Yes, it means that tonight I’m going to the movies with some EQ dudes who like movies. It means that this weekend I’ll be going to a father/son campout with a bunch of different ones (even though I don’t like camping). Actually caring about them, finding out what makes them tick, and asking how their lives are going goes a long way.

    I’ve never found my commitment to working for the church to rob me of opportunities to care, befriend, and spend time creating and maintaining real friendships. If church gets in the way of friendship, you’re doing church wrong. :)

  44. Sorry, I’m new to this – What is OP?

  45. nobody, really says:

    OP = Original Post, Original Poster.

  46. Rebecca J says:

    In the Mormon world, my observation has been that married people with children (especially young ones) at home don’t recognize the need for each spouse to have time away from home that isn’t work or church. It’s easy for a mother of young children to be resentful of any time their father spends away from home that isn’t strictly “necessary,” but supporting your spouse’s need for non-obligatory socializing on a regular basis pays big dividends, in my experience. (I hope it goes without saying that this support should go both ways. One might argue that a spouse who is a full-time caregiver of young children might need a little more “away” time than the spouse who speaks to grown-ups every day, as opposed to special occasions. But that doesn’t mean the full-time WOTH spouse doesn’t need time away too.)

  47. Agreed with Rebecca J. I have to admit that when I was a SAHM, I resented any time outside of work that my husband was away. I spent so much time with the baby already that it seemed so unfair. Once I was pursuing a fulfilling career it became so much easier to encourage my husband to go out with his friends. I don’t mind taking care of the kids by myself once or twice a week because I’m happier with my life. He also does the same for me and it’s been awesome. And even though I can see the benefits for both of us, I’m pretty sure if I went back to being a SAHM the resentment would immediately return (for me, not all SAHMs).

  48. Angela C says:

    This is why I thought it was a great idea when our Singapore ward had menrichment nights. Otherwise a lot of the men would just work really long hours and be lonely and occasionally have affairs and get into trouble because their families often left the country for the summer, but they had to stay and work. The menrichment nights were selections to things the Relief Society did: meet up at a restaurant, go to a movie, play sports, go to an event. If you put on these events, people will come.

  49. Yes, everyone needs someone, and not having someone has a provable impact on life expectancy. In addition to the NIH review cited above, here is the following: “Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality…Overall, the influence of both objective and subjective social isolation on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality.” BYU meta-analytic review, 2015 https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1996/

    People’s circles of confidants are decreasing, particularly outside their own families: “Both kin and non-kin confidants were lost in the past two decades, but the greater decrease of non-kin ties leads to more confidant networks centered on spouses and parents, with fewer contacts through voluntary associations and neighborhoods.”
    This study also found that white, male, heterosexual men had fewer friendships than any other demographic surveyed.
    McPherson, Miller, et al. “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.” American Sociological Review, vol. 71, no. 3, 2006, pp. 353–375.

    Men and women value different things in same-sex friendships, with women placing a higher value on traits which lead to higher trust: “A small difference favoring females was detected in overall friendship expectations (d = .17). Friendship expectations were higher for females in three of four categories: symmetrical reciprocity (e.g., loyalty, genuineness; d = .17), communion (e.g., self-disclosure, intimacy; d = .39), solidarity (e.g., mutual activities, companionship; d = .03), but agency (e.g., physical fitness, status; d = -.34) was higher in males.”
    Hall, Jeffrey. “Sex differences in friendship expectations: A meta-analysis.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,Vol 28, Issue 6, 2006, pp. 723 – 747.

    Men rely upon their female friends for support more than women do, and differ in the number of friends they are likely to have compared to women: “men preferred numerous but less intimate same-sex friends, while women (as in the United States) showed a preference for a few, close, intimate same-sex friends. Men, in contrast to women, derived emotional support and therapeutic value more from their opposite-sex relationships than their same-sex friendships.”
    Aukett, R., Ritchie, J. & Mill, K. “Gender differences in friendship patterns. Sex Roles (1988) 19: 57.

    This pattern is echoed in other literature, as follows: “Divergent social styles may in turn reflect trade-offs between behaviors selected to maintain large, functional coalitions in men and intimate, secure relationships in women.” Vigil, Jacob M. (2007). Asymmetries in the friendship preferences and social styles of men and women. Human Nature, 18, 143-161.

    The reliance of men on their wives for social support is reflected in the higher likelihood of death due to loss of a female spouse as a man: “…men’s mortality increases more than women’s mortality after the death of spouse…Widowhood mortality risk increases for men if their wives’ deaths were unexpected rather than expected; for women, the extent to which their husbands’ death was expected matters less.”
    J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014 Jan; 69B(1): 53–62.

    Men gain emotional support from their wives, while women are more likely to gain it from outside sources in addition to their spouses: “They list the following explanations: the greater social support that husbands may gain from their wives than vice versa (Belle 1987; House et al. 1988; Litwak et al. 1989; Uchino et al. 1996; Umberson et al. 1996)… Multiple lines of research provide evidence for the idea that women benefit more from close relationships outside of their marriages than men do. Research shows that women feel closer to others (Monin et al. 2008), give (Wellman and Wortley 1990) and receive more social support (Turner and Marino 1994), and are
    more likely to have confidants (Booth 1972) outside of their marriages than men are.” Monin, J., Clark, M. “Why Do Men Benefit More from Marriage Than Do Women? Thinking More Broadly About Interpersonal Processes That Occur Within and Outside of Marriage.+ Sex Roles, 2011.

    It may not start out this way, though: “Niobe Way reveals the intense intimacy among teenage boys especially during early and middle adolescence. Boys not only share their deepest secrets and feelings with their closest male friends, they claim that without them they would go “wacko.” Yet as boys become men, they become distrustful, lose these friendships, and feel isolated and alone. ” Way, Niobe. “Deepest Secrets.” Harvard University Press, 2011.

    To sum up: yes, everyone needs someone, and we as social cooperative primates require meaningful social bonds. Deprivation of such bonds has a genuine, measured, well-established effect on life outcomes, up to and including life expectancy. In America today, white heterosexual men are most likely to have the fewest of such bonds, and when they do have them, they are more likely to be female, and they are vastly more likely to be wives and girlfriends.

    This is a timely post which is emphatically well-supported by relevant data. Thanks for writing it, sorry that I can’t be bothered to stick to a citation style. I’d use URL’s if it didn’t suck my comments into moderation purgatory.

  50. BigSky says:

    I am awash in acquaintances; I have few close friends.

    I have two close friends in my ward with whom I engage in independent and enjoyable activities and talk about anything with the confidence they will listen with understanding and compassion…and disclose how they think and feel in kind. Two. Friends. Ironically, we don’t get to spend time together very often. Maybe an evening or a lunch every six months. It doesn’t exactly fill my emotional and psychological need for friendship within my ward.

    I have more close friends outside my ward. Half of them are not Mormon, one has stepped away from the church and one is active in the church. I find it easier to do things with them and talk honestly about anything than all of the acquaintances (outside of the two real friends in my ward) I’ve made in all the wards in which I have lived, combined. They are respectful, open-minded and the least judgmental people with whom I associate…and my only close friends who have endured more than a decade and a half, even as I have moved a few times across town/stake/ward boundaries. Why? Unencumbered by ward time commitments, they have time to give to our friendship. It is as much a priority to them as it is to me. We talk multiple times each week, get lunch regularly and engage in outdoor activities routinely. We push each other, chide each other, and are there for each other. Simply put, it is a priority to them rather than an acquaintanceship born out of the convenience of proximity. I don’t know what I would do without them. Honestly, I think I would be lost, and nearly isolated. I am grateful for these people. It’s a weird dichotomy that most of my “friends” (acquaintances) within the church struggle to really disclose. It seems even when they are in pain there is a lot of masking. I think our church culture has something to do with that. Maybe the need to outwardly always appear to be totally self-reliant, put on a happy face, struggle with doubt but for heaven’s sake never talk about it.

    I also think part of the problem with friend building within wards is that it is often built around shared church experiences, shared callings. You serve in a bishopric or in young men, and those people become close to each other. But what if you don’t and haven’t held those callings? One issue I see is the STP problem (same ten people) who play musical chairs in auxiliaries like young men (and young women). So what do you do if you aren’t in that inner circle?

    It seems to me feeling isolated and friendless is becoming more and more common, and it is also a growing problem among our youth too. Maybe I am projecting, I’ll admit.

    Steve, you hit one of my buttons with this post… Thank you for bringing up a problem I suffer from as well within my life as a Mormon and within the Mormon community, and it has been hard not to think I’m doing something wrong.

  51. K Smith says:

    Thanks for starting this discussion. It’s helpful to read the comments and not feel alone. I’ve been to one combined elders quorum meeting and it was a struggle. I can relate to everyone here mentioning the lack of vulnerability, openness, honesty. Those things are viewed as weakness or lack of a testimony or lack of understanding of church principles.
    I honestly felt a lot of empathy for 18 year old females who go to relief society for the first time. The generational gap doesn’t seem to lend itself to open sharing, at least not in my ward at this moment in time.
    Hopefully that can change as I force my Brenet Brown doctrines on everyone! Muahaha!

  52. Bro. Jones says:

    There are some really great guys in my EQ that I could probably be closer friends with. But we’re all in the “young kids” bubble where we all feel compelled to spend our time at home. My wife is one of the few in the ward in our age bracket who works full time, so the stretch on our free time is even more pronounced. If my kids were just 4-5 years older (making them a teen and a tween, respectively), I wouldn’t feel quite as bad about being absent more. My wife feels the same, so it’s not just a patriarchal thing at least in our family.

    As to the close friends I do have: my 3 closest friends are two men and a woman. The men are LDS, the woman is not. None live closer than 2 hours away. We talk a lot on the phone and I see two of them at least once a year, but I wish that we could be in the same place more often.

  53. As Steve knows: “Il n’y a pas d’amis; il n’y a que des moments d’amitie” (Jules Renard).

  54. Gary, hélas ! C’est trop vrai.

    Thanks everyone for your comments. It is comforting, I think, to know that I’m not alone (except for Frank Pellett I guess?).

    It is hard to be lonely at church. I wonder how long I (or anyone else) can do it.

  55. Gary, Renard had it right for many relationships, but not all. There is a friend. John 15:15. There are also some friends who share more than mere moments of friendship, though that kind often begins with shared “moments” creating a relationship that must be nurtured if it is to grow or persist. Too many, for my taste, are unable or unwilling to nurture a relationship; they are more comfortable, even if lonely, with “moments” that merely happen.

  56. I’m pretty sure that the church’s view on Men’s needs are that they need a calling. Any other need is probably illusionary and should be solved by the man pulling harder on his boot straps.

  57. stephenchardy says:

    The more I study Joseph Smith, the more I come to be convinced that for him, heaven meant being connected. Not just to God, but to each-other. I believe that he was a highly social person who craved friendship. Consider how he set up the School of the Prophets. In the D&C 88 it says that when people arrived to study together that the teacher should greet the arrivals in this manner:

    132 And when any shall come in after him, let the teacher arise, and, with uplifted hands to heaven, yea, even directly, salute his brother or brethren with these words:

    133 Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.

    I love this greeting. It shows the high value of friendship that was an integral part of the School of the Prophets. I sometimes wish that we greeting each-other in some sort of similar manner, and that we had friendships that made such greetings natural and sincere.

  58. “I wonder how long I (or anyone else) can do it.”

    In my experience, pretty long. At least death will come earlier. ;)

    Thanks, KLN, for the links. It’s the gender specificity that was (and is) my problem. We get into trouble when we try to classify all of any group as one thing or another. It shuts out the few (not so few) who don’t fit the mold. It manifests in things like “women have it easier, since they can bond over childcare/homemaking experiences” and “why isn’t someone thinking about the poor white men?” (often, why isn’t someone thinking about poor me?).

    We’d be much better served looking outward. For those who can, seeing what measure of friendship can be made with those who can’t. Finding commonalities, even small ones, with those unlike us. Better yet, bond in service, not just to the outsiders (making them feel even more outside), but to those who feel they should be able to manage everything themselves.

    For group activities, make invitations personal rather than “whomever shows up” if you want to make friends, not just have bodies around. It’s kinda like church callings; they work better when the person feels they were chosen out of the crowd for who they are (or by direction from God because of who they are), not as just someone to fill the spot.

  59. The best part about being banned from holding callings is that I truly feel like I have been chosen out of the crowd for being the heretic that I am. Knowing my bishop doesn’t like me or my wife really brings a personal touch to our church experience.

  60. Jack Hughes says:

    There is a generational component to the male friendship problem. When I was growing up, my baby boomer father seemed to be part of a tight group of male peers from church. They willingly home taught together, helped each other with home improvement/auto repair projects, had barbecues and game nights, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. However, his emotional connection and involvement with his wife and kids were minimal at best. He certainly worked hard to support us, but it pretty much ended there. He came home from work too exhausted to care that much. He probably never touched a dirty diaper in his life. I don’t necessarily blame him for those perceived failings, but men of his generation just weren’t expected to be nurturing. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way. I have a demanding white-collar job that has me working more hours and getting paid less (per hour, inflation adjusted) than my father did 30 years ago in his blue-collar union job. When I come home, I hit the ground running, changing diapers, doing laundry, helping with dinner, checking homework, and I am expected to be genuinely interested in the lives of my wife and children. I can’t even go to the gym for an hour once a week without feeling super guilty about neglecting my family. Like many of you, I long for more meaningful friendships with male peers, LDS or not. Perhaps we won’t figure out how to balance our lives better until another generation passes.

  61. I serve on a high council. I really like the men I serve with, but we’re not really close friend, except maybe one whom I’ve known for 30 years. My wife is in a book group. They get together and talk about good literature. I think I’m getting the short end of the stick.

  62. I made efforts to show that the gender specificity referred to in the original post is backed up by the scientific literature, because it is. On a personal level, I support efforts such as the ones you recommend – looking outward, reaching out to others, etc. The literature does suggest that whether the reasons are sociological, biological, or both, this problem is informed by gender. Combining what we are capable of doing on an individual level with an accurate understanding of the problem at a macro level is more valuable than either alone.

  63. Accurately addressing patterns which have been measured with good methodology and rigorous statistics is different from classifying all members of a group as one thing or another.

  64. Having worried over the issue for decades, I have come to the following observations and beliefs:
    1. There is a real issue and it does seem to be informed by gender.
    2. The LDS Church is not a panacea, and may be criticized for under-performing against expectations, but does seem to provide more opportunities and more experiences for male friendship than U.S. society generally.
    3. For my own part, I have organized men’s groups and gone out of my way to honor and improve on my male friendships, in addition to Church activities.
    4. A positive relationship with my father was valuable and important. I feel his loss immensely. Brothers and sons (I have a number of each) are a treasured but incomplete substitute.
    5. But I knew it all along, and formed what friendships I have as a conscious bulwark against losing my dad.
    6. And then shot myself in the foot by moving to the end of the road, where it is real work (like slogging 10 miles in the snow work) to connect with anyone in real life. Which if the studies are correct means I will die young and slightly embittered.

  65. your food allergy is fake says:

    “Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism.” Joseph Smith

  66. James Stone says:

    For all those who are worried about the lack of male friendship in the Mormon faith, it’s not just a problem for Mormons. Every vestige where men were once allowed to hang out together and form bonds have been destroyed by the left. It used to be common to have male-only clubs where men could socialize and bond over common interests. Not anymore. In the name of equality and feminism these groups have been destroyed (they Boy Scouts being the latest example). Maybe if the left would actually let men hang out together in settings where men feel comfortable, this issue of male friendship wouldn’t be a problem.

  67. Wondering says:

    “The Left” is a hackneyed boogeyman, James. From my vantage point, the more significant difference in our culture compared to that of our fathers or grandfathers (i.e. the supposedly golden age of the 1950s) is that it’s difficult to keep up with a bowling league when you can rent video tapes (1980s-1990s?), follow sitcoms or broadcast sports, and binge-watch Netflix.

  68. jaxjensen says:

    Netflix plays a role in the changing culture, sure. But so do the attacks on “Boy” scouts, Augusta National, and every other Men/Boy’s Only group as evil and sexist. So does almost every TV Dad in those sitcoms being portrayed as idiotic/childlike and/or flagrantly promiscuous. Online friendships are more common now that actual physical ones. Men used to get together and play games (bowling, golf, etc), they still get together and play games (Fortnite, CoD, etc) but in a different form. Unfortunately that new format isn’t quite as fulfilling IMO.

  69. Katie M. says:

    While the lack of male friendships is a society-wide problem, it is very instructive to look at those who largely do not have this problem: Christian men.

    All the Christian men I know, and I know a lot, have at least several, if not a half dozen very good male friends. The reason? Small groups.

    The vast majority of Christian churches do something called “small groups” in which people get together once a week for dinner/Bible study. People often attend one group that’s a weekly coed group for singles/couples/families, and another that’s a monthly men’s Bible study. The latter is perfect for creating psychological/spiritual bonds; while Christian churches also have greater or lesser currents of patriarchy, Christian men are very, very big on vulnerability; they are very, very big on confessing sins and struggles to each other, sharing what’s on your heart, and leaning on each other as accountability partners. To the point it would probably make many Mormon men uncomfortable. Their bonds are quite enviable.

    And so I do think the Church is in fact to blame here. Friendship and socialization is simply not prioritized, and the structure isn’t conducive to the building of friendships. It could actually build socialization right into it as almost every other church in Christendom does (that is, make it a structure of: worship service on Sunday+informal small group during the week). We could shorten church to 2 hours, removing Sunday School, and make “Sunday School” something you do with your friends during the week/month. Of course, I know that the Church would resist this because it allows for less direct oversight of what people are up to. But this loosening of control would have an incredible affect on members’ bonds and happiness.

    I should add that small groups would also be beneficial for women. While women in the Church definitely tend to do better than men in making friends, I know many, many women in fact struggle to make them and are very lonely at church. Too many women to count have confessed this to me, several woman have broken into tears during Relief Society to make this confession, and the loneliness of women in the ward comes up frequently at ward council. Many, many Latter-Day Saints of both sexes are tremendously lonely, and this could be readily chanegable.

    Small groups, small groups, small groups.

  70. stephenchardy says:

    I think that it is good to try to figure out why men have a hard time forming satisfactory relationships. Our culture has been changing, and this may result in a loss of certain kinds of relationships. Augusta National was the site of a significant country-wide sports tournament in a sport that used to put up all sorts of barriers. I have no interest in returning to a period when blacks, Jews, Catholics, gays, and yes women were banned. New technology and new ideas both have resulted in a re-examination of how relationships are made and how power is shared. We can’t go back. I don’t want to go back. But we can go forward and try to figure out a new way to connect with each-other without excluding others. Please don’t blame the “left” for these changes. Blame God whom I assume approves of the inclusion of women in all aspects of sports, society, business, religion, and politics.

  71. Wondering says:

    “But so do the attacks on “Boy” scouts, Augusta National, and every other Men/Boy’s Only group as evil and sexist.”

    But having those spaces wasn’t about friendship. It was about power. It was about having a safe space to create and strengthen business and political networks.

    Sure their loss may have unintended consequences, but it seems like the only people who really regret their passing are people who think that women and ethnic minorities have no place in government or business.

  72. Dog Spirit says:

    Katie M., yes! I attend a small women’s group at the local UU church, and I’m amazed and positively envious at the sheer number and variety of small group activities and classes for men, women, families, and kids they offer throughout the week. It’s all the time commitment of Mormonism, but with more variety and chances to make like-minded friends. I think it’s a fantastic model.

  73. As a member of the left, if James needs my permission…I grant it to him. Go ahead. I will let you.

  74. Also, does Augusta still need to admit black men? They might make James and Jax uncomfortable as well. Damn those liberals!!!

  75. jaxjensen says:

    I had no idea that Boy Scouts was about strengthening my networking… guess I missed that lesson on my way to Eagle.

    Chris, just as a person can hate what someone is saying and yet support their free speech right to say it, a person can supports the right of private people/entities to set their own rules and yet not be a racist/sexist.

  76. Jax, do you also lament the decline of the Klan? Would that also not make you racist?

  77. jaxjensen says:

    It would make me a Democrat for sure!

  78. The facists on the bloggernacle have not improved in quality since I last visited. Steve, great post. Keep up the good work.

  79. Wondering says:

    “I had no idea that Boy Scouts was about strengthening my networking…”

    Isn’t that the point of most of the merit badges, especially the optional ones? To put you in close proximity to all sorts of professionals throughout your community and have them explain the profession and training?

  80. Mildly off-central-thread points of order: 1) the stupid dad trope is a severe issue which I would love to see die an unmourned death. I don’t see how it directly prevents men from befriending each other.
    2) The stupid dad trope is deeply rooted in the concept that men are inept caregivers and homemakers best suited to the work force. It’s simply the mirror image of the misogynist trope that women are inept career people best suited to housebound tasks and raising children. It reinforces traditional gender roles and I would absolutely love to see it go the way of the dodo.

    Website Fatherly wrote about it this way: “Research indicates that the repetition of portrayals like men being bad at chores and women constantly cleaning up after their children creates false notions for children and adults about what “normal” gender behavior looks like. Stateside, ads have a long history of depicting men — especially fathers — failing to complete simple or mundane tasks, such as eating healthy or dressing themselves. Advertisers and companies are certainly disregarding the idea of the bumbling father, instead pivoting to promote a more well-rounded and aspirational image of fathers. Let’s hope the trend continues.”

    The Good Man Project has taken it on in a few different posts, including the following: “We have seen this guy every day in syndication for decades. It’s a brutally ugly stereotype of men, and it comes paired with a painfully irritating stereotype of women as well: Sitcom Husband’s wife is always a nagging, humorless killjoy, a sexy pseudomom to a fat, balding adolescent. That is not a normal, relatable marriage dynamic, that is an Oedipal nightmare.:

    And Huff post wrote it up this way: “In 1963, Betty Friedan pointed out in The Feminine Mystique that it is both insulting to men to suggest that they are simply incapable of keeping a house and limiting to women when it becomes the assumption that housekeeping is, by default, a woman’s responsibility. Still, commercials which draw on the idiotic/incompetent man trope make up a large part of what we see on TV today, particularly when it comes to the marketing of goods that have to do with housekeeping — particularly child-rearing, clean up and home maintenance, and food preparation.”

    Would love to see more Full House fathers having good, interesting conversations with their children.

    In conclusion: this trope sucks. Would love to see it go, largely because it is insulting to men and to women, having arisen from subversion of the Leave it to Beaver dad while strongly upholding the underlying gendered division of labor of the mid-twentieth century.

    But seriously not sure how it prevents men from befriending one another in any direct fashion.

  81. I was recently called as the RS enrichment leader in our ward. I’ve brought up with a number of people why we have a program for women to form friendships and not men and was really surprised at the amount of pushback I recieved. The most surprising being that men only need their wives, but women need friends outside of marriage. I found that so surprising. There really is nothing in the church culture to encourage adult male friendships.

    I would love to see small groups as mentioned above. Observing my Christian friend’s experiences in their protestant religions they seem much happier and their social needs are truly being met. I really wish the LDS church was more about fellowshiping and less about obligation. More meetings and assignments isn’t going to keep men and women engaged in the church forever. True, honest human connections will.

  82. Mean mama jones says:

    I wonder what women do to counter the effects of toxic femininity.

  83. “men only need their wives”. Interesting idea. Not accurate as to any men that I know in the Church or out. Where did that idea come from?

  84. There are those who have written about “toxic femininity”, if you’re interested, MMJ –
    “Toxic femininity is a self-destructive, inwardly-directed energy that sometimes, but not always, projects this inner pain upon others. Toxic femininity is a cry for help from someone who struggles with core survival issues such as self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-love.”
    Some things that women can do to counter what this author considers toxic femininity include therapy, self-compassion, and yes, having positive relationships with healthy boundaries with others.
    https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/talk-about-toxic-femininity-chwm/

  85. Kevin Barney says:

    We had a version of small groups that greatly accelerated our integration into the ward when we first moved here, but it died when the bishop’s wife, who was the force behind it, moved away:

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2012/05/23/dinner-groups/

  86. Christiankimball, wrote: “For my own part, I have organized men’s groups and gone out of my way to honor and improve on my male friendships, in addition to Church activities.” As have I — with mixed success and failure, the latter largely related to my seeking to establish deeper friendship than some others are interested in or capable of (I wouldn’t know which). It remains difficult to know when to give up and let go.

    “A positive relationship with my father was valuable and important.” I’m sure you are grateful for what you had. My very negative relationship with my father was significantly damaging and therefore important in a different way. Brothers, immediate family, and friends are treasured but cannot be a complete substitute for the positive relationship I never had.

    Still, I have no intention of dying “young [or] slightly embittered” — maybe slightly sorrowful that I haven’t succeed with friendship as much as I would like.

  87. Angela C says:

    A few years ago, when our home teachers were visiting, I mentioned we were working on a book club (which was actually for RS) and trying to pick the book. Both these guys were really interested and wanted to be included. It’s a shame we don’t have more social opportunities for men and women to do things together. We seem to be convinced like Pence that book clubs are just a bowl of keys away from an orgy.

  88. LatamGirl says:

    Nobody, really : “The bishopric/stake presidency got wind of it and let him know that unless everyone there had their home teaching done, we had no business holding a weekend party. “The Church has a mechanism for friendship, and that mechanism is Home Teaching.””

    This is so sad and I’m so so sorry. I think those kind of BBQs are an excellent way to minister.

    Jimbob : thanks for the link to the NPR podcast on the Lonely American Man. I was about ready to link to it as I listened to it a couple of weeks ago and was both fascinated and depressed about it.

  89. Ryan Mullen says:

    Angela C, my wife and I were in a co-ed book club years ago and miss it terribly. In a more recent ward, she asked about men attending the book club and got firm pushback: “Maybe that could happen in a liberal California ward, but here…just, no.”

  90. Angela – You must attend the same church I do.

    ” We seem to be convinced like Pence that book clubs are just a bowl of keys away from an orgy.” Now where is that bowl of keys?

  91. LatamGirl says:

    Katie, great point about the small groups. I recall when there was a push to have more RS “meetings,” I felt like we had an easier time getting to know one another.

    One nit with your comment, though. You made a distinction between Christian and Mormon men. I would hope that all Mormon men consider themselves Christian.

  92. In our prior ward there was (still is, so far as I know) a men’s book club. Judging by participation with or without reading, it was viewed as a way to structure a small group gathering. I thought it was great.

  93. dlorenzen says:

    Being in Young Men’s and attending camps and backpacking trips for so many years have given me many experiences of friend-iness of a kind that is, sort of, almost fulfilling. For that at least, I am thankful for the church.

  94. This problem I think is something that has driven many men away from the church, caused many men to be tempted in other ways—like pornography, adultery, etc because they lack any real connections to people other than their wife. There was a point in my life where I felt so incredibly lonely that I found myself almost having an affair with another woman. It really came down to a real lack of genuine connection with people outside of my own family. Luckily I was able to get out of a bad situation and save my marriage, but I feel this might not have happened if I had emotional connections with friends.

    I discussed with my wife on many occasions. She has many friends and goes out many times a month with those friends while I stay home and watch kids.

    I’m envious. I haven’t had a good social life since college. I’ve tried many times to get people together and have found that I’m the only one that ever cared enough to make an effort, and that burnt me out quickly. I tried having lunches once a month with other LDS men that work in my company….good attendance the first month, less the second and then I found that I was the only one showing up. I’ve talked with “friends” at church about getting together, but then unless I am the one organizing it, nothing happens. This is depressing. Friendship shouldn’t be such a chore.

    With the new EQ change, I was called as 2nd counselor. I am really hoping that this is something I can help improve within our ward although I lack faith that anything can really change. Like every other ward I’ve been in, I have many acquaintances and shallow friendships, but nothing that I would consider a lifelong connection.

  95. John Mansfield says:

    Interesting topic, and helpful to think on. It even moved me out of my complacency to invite a fellow to go do something tonight, so thank you. Like many, I can think of modern trends that seem to work against friendship, but then I thought of an old McCartney interview talking again about the break up of the Beatles half a century back. He said, more or less, “‘Wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine’ but this time the lads were world famous.”

    His phrase was the title of a hit from 1929, which I’ve never heard, but apparently McCartney covered it to finish off a Beatles documentary.

    There goes Jack, there goes Jim,
    Down to lover’s lane.
    Now and then we meet again,
    But they don’t seem the same.
    Gee, I get a lonesome feeling,
    When I hear the church bells chime,
    Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.

    It seems like an old, unresolvable force transcending particular causes, and requiring work to overcome.

  96. I’ll just reiterate Katie M.’s point: many Christian churches have opportunities built into their structure for men to associate closely and intimately with other men. Ostensibly, quorums are supposed to fill this purpose — and with the recent changes, like encouraging seating in a circle and “counseling” together about the needs of the quorum, it’s coming closer to achieving that ideal.

    If you want a great portrait of how one Christian group fostered male friendships, check out John Bartkowski’s book “The Promise Keepers.”

  97. anonforthis says:

    anonforthis to not turn in my friends.

    In Mormon circles (that’s BCC, right?) it seems to be that whenever I get to know somebody well enough to think friend, they turn out to be interesting. Not usually a huge sinner (although there was that time . . .) but heterodox in some respect, an original thinker, not 100% with the program, somewhat cafeteria in approach. It suggests to me that a moralistic judgmental church environment is not an attractive place to open up. Kind of like the conversation needs to happen in a place where the bishop never visits and tattlers are not welcome.

  98. Natalie says:

    I think friendship is hard for both men and women today. I’m in the child-raising stage, and life often feels like pick only two: work, tend children, alone time, spouse time or friend time. By necessity, it’s almost always work or tend children (with one’s spouse occasionally tending all the kids so that you can do something else, usually work-related). We rarely ever even go on dates due to time constraints and childcare costs. When I have tried to schedule gatherings with friends beyond play dates (which are often not that fulfilling socially because we spend so much time chasing kids), people almost always have family plans or are out of town. I’ve wished for a long time that the third hour of church meetings would just be a social hour so that we can talk to other adults without kids around.

  99. Anon_Also says:

    The church does have a sort of small group meeting where men can be vulnerable and talk about deep stuff and be intimate and the Bishop never comes and tattler are not welcome.
    It is the Addiction Recovery groups usually organized at the stake level. These have been good for me, and I think a lot more men need this. Both because they may have a secret problem and they need this kind of connection.

  100. flipphone says:

    “church meetings would just be a social hour so that we can talk to other adults without kids around.”….except for those who have been called to Primary and the Nursery…not quite fair.

  101. Not a man, but I have difficulty making friends in my late 30s and recognize it must be even harder for men because of our notions about masculinity and what is/isn’t appropriate for men (as has been well dissected in the comments). This all reminds me of this excellent article about making friends (or not) over age 30. It’s several years old now, but I still find myself returning to it because it is so spot on.

  102. flipphone says:

    Great article Annie. It makes this conversation feel normal.

  103. Natalie says:

    That’s a good point about people called to nursery and primary. I was actually called to nursery with a toddler, which was tough. But we could rotate those callings or consider having just a few paid people to help. I mostly like our volunteer model, but it sometimes limits us from doing more to benefit members imo. Or, there’s always let kids run around in the gym.

  104. By the way, the slow decline of men’s service clubs (Elks, Kiwanis, Rotarians) has been studied for decades, and it’s easy to see reasons for it that have nothing to do with (as some have suggested here) shrewish feminists trying to invade or destroy “male spaces.”

    Top of the list: longer working hours for middle-class Americans (boo), men wishing to be more involved as fathers (yay) and more leisure-time competition from technology since the dawn of television (boo/yay).

  105. Mike Esplin says:

    Read “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Robert Glover. Great book on masculinity.

  106. Kristin Brown says:

    Looked up the book…spot on!

  107. Kristin Brown says:

    I don’t know if the solutions work, but the definition described in the book is real. The author does promote the idea that men need to do something they want to do once a week.

  108. nobody, really says:

    [sunday_school]
    But men should only want to go to church each week.
    [/sunday_school]

    Seriously – heard at church a few weeks ago, from a member of the RS Presidency, “If you’re spending enough time on your family and your calling, you shouldn’t have *any* time for friends.” She was earnest and serious.

  109. cloves says:

    **from a member of the RS Presidency, “If you’re spending enough time on your family and your calling, you shouldn’t have *any* time for friends.” She was earnest and serious.**

    Okay, seriously. why are so many women in RS presidencies so blind to what men might need. Men and women don’t have such different needs. If women need a night out with the girls once a month, or every other month ,or whatever your ward has decided on, why do they think that men don’t have that same need to unwind, get away from responsibilities and bond with other men???

  110. We did have fairly regular menrichment nights for a while (like 2 or 3 per year for a couple years). One activity was making consecrated oil vials in one of our bishopric member’s woodshop, on his lathe. I brought some caramel popcorn, and we had an inactive brother who is into woodworking attend, pretty simple but fun hanging out with power tools in the garage. Maybe 4 or 5 of us came (which was actually a good percentage for the size of our EQ). I’m still hoping the pinewood derby will happen. But it’s been a long time since menrichment night happened (basically since I was moved out of the EQ into the YM). I went out to lunch once with a fellow quorum member after his vasectomy. So you know, we can be friendly and empathetic. Honestly, though, I don’t think I will be telling any quorum members when I have mine. Maybe I should use the occasion to invite all the men to a V-Day barbecue.

  111. I was talking to a brother whose trailer I borrow a few times a summer for dealing with yard waste. He throws a big neighborhood barbecue each summer. It’s a family thing and well attended by members and non-members alike. I was talking to him a little about friendship, in particular related to a family in the neighborhood who felt left out of a lot of things, and he noted that as many people as he has invited over to his house for dinner or game nights or other things, no one has invited him over for anything other than an actual official church function. He was surprised at how few people nearby he could consider to be friends, even though he knew a lot of people well and had served in many capacities in the church with many of them and with his job a lot of people in the community know him. He then said, I assume we’re friends since you feel comfortable enough asking me to borrow my trailer. It was funny that it had to be stated, l think you and I are friends, right? I always felt like I was imposing on him by borrowing it, and that I hadn’t done much in the way of repaying him. I hadn’t thought much about that even if I didn’t have anything he particularly needed from me, the fact that I came over to borrow something from him was still being friendly.

  112. Is it realistic for us to look to church for anything?

  113. flipphone says:

    I look to the church and find a purpose for living.

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