What a Boy Wants

My husband’s oldest and best friend was in town this weekend. He came not only to visit Matt but because another of their childhood friends was in town for a bachelor party. That friend, a Marine, is deploying in a few days, so the weekend became a farewell extravaganza of sorts.

I’ve almost never seen Matt as happy as when he’s with his BFFs (though he would never call them that). I’d love to say it’s similar to the sheer bliss in his eyes every time he gazes my way, but come on. He loves me lots, but there are different types of joy. The look in his eyes when he’s with these guys—friends he’s known and trusted and laughed with all his life—is the same mix of comfort and wonderment and affection that stares out at me from photographs taken on the little league field at 7 or on their way to prom at 17.

There’s no question that male friendships are different. Men would rather engage in side-to-side activities—watching a football game, playing a round of golf—than have face-to-face talks. And when it comes to serious emotional discussions, research shows both genders turn to women first. But just as I yearn for girl-time so I’ll have someone to talk and talk and analyze and then talk some more with, Matt devours the time he gets with those he doesn’t have to talk, talk, analyze, and talk with. Women want friends who’ll help confront problems, men want friends who’ll help escape them.

Watching Matt this weekend, it was a necessary reminder that I’m not the only one in this marriage who needs friend time. My husband may not be on a best friend search, but that doesn’t mean those relationships aren’t vital for him (he has great local friends, but if I find a new friend with a husband that would be perfect for him, I’m sure he’d be open to that). Men and women, we both lust for friendship, if for different reasons. And I must say, there’s something magical about how unspoken great male friendships really are. That Matt and his best friends know they’ll have each other’s backs, always, without so much as one word to say as much? Well sure, I’m a little jealous.

Do you believe men long for friendship as much as women do? Is the difference merely what that friendship entails? Have you ever witnessed male friendship in action and felt just the teensiest bit of envy? And, to all the (perhaps few) men in the audience, would you say you look to women for support and men for escape? Or are escape and support one and the same?


Filed under BFFs and Marriage, The Gender Gap

24 responses to “What a Boy Wants

  1. I’ve always wondered about that, as my husband rarely seeks to hang out w/ guys he knows from work, or makes longer lasting friendships. He did in the past, but people moved and they lost touch. I keep thinking he should have more friends, that can give him something that I can’t, but he’s content. It boggles my mind.

    • It’s funny, my husband doesn’t seek it out either. I don’t think he needs the constant BFF companionship that I want. And he too says he’s perfectly content. But then when I see him when he’s with old friends, I realize that those relationships sustain him, even if they only see each other a few times a year.

  2. I am with you 100% Rachel.

    My bf has a close knit circle of friends here that’s he’s had since high school. So moving here with no real friends of my own has been hard, because he loves going to hang out with them. He is so happy when he’s going off to play poker or watch a game with them. I’m am a teeny bit jealous but I’m so happy he has that….and their wives have been very welcoming to me.

    I think guys do need friendship just as much as we do, so they can NOT talk rather than talk!


  3. I think guys do need friends, but are less willing to admit that they need that “boy” time. My husband prefers to have male friends that like to do guy activities, like playing football or basketball. Luckily, after searching for a few months (in our new city) he has found some buddies that exclusively play either football or b-ball.

    • Yeah, my husband has basketball every Wednesday night. And even though it’s more playing and grunting than actual talking, I know that’s really important time for him. Thuough as you say, he would never admit it as “boy time.”

  4. In my marriage, I’m a people person and my husband is a self-professed people hater. It’s not that he doesn’t have friends. But, his need for friendship and being around other people is much less evident than mine. He has definitely helped me refine my friendship circle, helping me determine who really is a friend and who should just be left an acquaintance.

  5. My Guy’s friends are more like family to him so yes, he craves that time with them. Each friend serves a different purpose – one’s the “meaning of live conversations” guy, the “try new things together” guy, the “geek put together” guy, the “friends since high school and are each other’s sidekick” guy, and when they all get together, it’s a riot. And I’m totally jealous. It’s a great group and I see why he needs that time.

  6. My husband is a social butterfly, but true friendships? Only a very very few. But those friendships are hugely important to him–and seem so effortless most of the time, which is what I find myself jealous of.
    I will say though, that for my husband, he and his best friend have both support and escape. Sometimes, when I know he’s worked up over something, I’ll tell him to go spend the day with his best friend, knowing that they’ll likely play video games, drink beer, and talk talk talk talk talk talk through every aspect of what’s bugging him. I do think their friendship though is maybe not the typical guy/guy type, but I know he’s lucky to have that! (I wish I did).

    • I too am jealous of the effortlessness of male friendships. Sometimes it’s as easy as “you wanna watch the game? Great” and suddenly they’re friends. Or so it seems. Meanwhile I’m all “tell me your life story and we’ll see if we mesh.”

      Your husband is lucky to have a wife who knows to send him off to the boys instead of saying “What’s wrong? Tell me!!!” I need to remind myself to do that more… Because I like to talk, I often find myself saying “Why don’t you want to talk about it with me??” Which is the exact wrong thing to do probably

      • Ana

        That is a great point; I need to remind myself about that, too. Honestly, sometimes I would also rather blow off steam with some friends instead of excruciating explanations and endless conversations with my husband about things that he just may not get (not that he doesn’t try, his mind just works way differently!)

  7. I find my husband’s need for friendship isn’t as strong as mine. I need friends to feel connected. He doesn’t have that. But the friends he has are very true, and they go back forever. I think that’s pretty cool.

  8. I am deeply and openly jealous of my husband’s relationships with his group of college buddies. They only see each other a few times a year, but they spend most of their guy weekends laughing, playing, and reminiscing. He does talk about “real stuff” with some of them, but usually not in the group setting.

    I no longer have a pack of female friends like that and I miss the energy of a freewheeling group give-and-take.

    Another great post, Rachel!

  9. Becca

    My husband has amazing friendships with tons of friends. And loves his guy time whether it’s watching a game, playing golf, or grabbing a beer. I’m always envious of the ease of friendship. I’ll never forget when we lived in NYC and I called Tim on his cell to see what he was up to and he said he was at his friend’s apt. “what are you guys doing?” I asked, because he was whispering. “well everyone’s asleep so I’m just watching the game”. Yes, he went to hang out to watch the game and they were all snoozing. Sounds like an easy friendship to me!

    But he also can talk about anything with his friends. Sports, work, relationships, etc… And it’s just easy. They just don’t expect as much from each other. And don’t judge quite as much either.

    Great post Rachel!

  10. My husband has a few close friends and one really really close BFF. But, he lives in England. They see each other once every few years and on the rare occasion when I hear his voice change on the phone in the other room–happiness radiating in all directions–I know who he’s talking to. Since my husband is now in America it’s hard for him to make BFF-level friends fast. I know he misses that special type of relationship though. We’re working on it.

  11. Really appreciated reading this post for so many reasons. I am always envious of male friendships, so much simpler, always on the up and up. Refreshing.

    But at the same time I worry about my husband in this department. When I’m frustrated with him I have outlets to vent, he doesn’t. He’s not very good at staying in touch with friends. I suspect that’s just his problem, but I notice it with lots of men I know. I wonder why that is? I wish he had more male friends to just hang out with, for all the reasons you describe here.

  12. I so agree! My sportsman is from a small town, and the relationships these guys have are for life.

    My sportsman lights anytime he gets to go do sports stuff with his old H.S friends.

    I think it is great and very heathly for them to have their bonding time.

  13. Jen

    What I wonder is, do men realize they need friends? I mean, do they make an effort to make friends, as women seem to, or do they fall into friendships more out of circumstance? I’ve wondered this a lot, actually. And I’m going to dwell on your post a bit here. It’s good stuff.

  14. Dare I say it, but perhaps it’s easier for the men to maintain those friendships because they are less tied to the home & hearth, particularly once children are in the picture?

    Like Kristen, I long for the closeness I once had with female friends, some of whom have drifted away – as have I – after divorce and raising children alone, or simply because life is overloaded. But I have no doubt that if we saw each other, it would be as though 10 years melted away.

  15. Caz

    The boy and I have talks about this, as he knows I’m on a bit of a BFF quest. He says that if he and a dude get along well, they’re just friends immediately. There’s none of the talks, polite chats, “testing the water” type of beginning that there is for women.

    When I mentioned last week about the “how much calling/texting/invitations is too much?” and the need for a potential BFF to initiate calls/plans on a somewhat equal level, he looked at me like I was crazy. He was all “guys don’t worry about that.” If he wants someone along, he’ll invite them, whether or not said person ever calls/invites him etc. So much less complicated!

  16. Bryan and I both recognize the other’s need for friendship outside of each other. I actually push him to make sure he goes out with his friends regularly; otherwise, he’s a total bitch to live with.

    I am more cyclical. I go through periods where I crave a friend par high school, and then I go through short periods where I hermit up and close ranks. It gets to a point where Husband will force me to make plans to just get out of the house, and we’re always happier.

  17. J

    When my brother gets with his best friends since childhood, they disappear into my parents’ basement and play video games for HOURS. They also drink a lot of soda. And beer.

    But you know it’s exactly what they want to be doing.

  18. Interesting post. I agree with what you say about male friendships having a different purpose. They want to have a laugh and enjoy shared interests together, be it sport or something else. My husband loves what I call geeky games (like dungeons and dragons) and his old school friends all play too, despite the fact they are all now 40, married with kids. Next weekend he will be back in the UK to meet up for his annual weekend of gaming with them. Since we moved here to the US six years ago he has struggled to make new non-work friends and needs his trip home. I think men find it harder than women to make new friends, real friends they feel comfortable kicking back with. My husband I know wishes he did have just a few good friends here and I wish he did too.

  19. Fanfan

    Again, I think a lot of researches you mentioned about genders and friendships are done by American psychologists. I don’t know how much you are interested in other cultures, but friendships can be very different genderly speaking in a lot of other countries.
    Thanks for forwarding the links to me! I had a blast reading them. I personally have a childhood bff who is a very sensitive guy. He is not like Harry in “When Harry Met Sally”. He treats his girlfriend like a BFF. We still talk on the phone or facebook a lot and see each other when I visit him, but I don’t know how it will play out if we live in the same town and how jealous (or maybe not jealous at all) if his girlfriend is around(I haven’t met her yet).

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