It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Men no longer know how to fight. Don’t get me wrong — we know how to confront strangers when they cut in line at the butcher’s or block the door on the subway. What we don’t know how to do is have the kind of unpleasant talks that articulate feelings to real friends when those friends ignore our wives at a dinner, or don’t think to call us when we are fired. Instead, we either shrug off the slight or end the friendship.” (“Can’t Guys Just Learn To Fight For a Friendship?”; New York Times, 10/26/2012)
Is this true? I’m not a guy, so I can’t speak firsthand. But from the experiences I’ve had watching male friendships–or, more specifically, watching male friendships deteriorate–I’d say most definitely yes.
I never thought I’d be grateful for friendships that involve blowout fights, or (worse?) passive aggressive fights that finally result in a sit-down chat, potentially with tears, but this article make a pretty great case for it. When women fight (warning: sweeping generalization ahead) we wallow, overanalyze and complain, and eventually talk it out. As Ben Schrank, the author of this article, writes: “My wife and her friend hurt each other’s feelings at dinners with other friends. Then they stew and obsess and vent to other friends. Next, they engage in a difficult phone call. A few days later they meet and drink wine and work on gently knitting their bond back together. And their friendship not only survives, it is also strengthened.”
For men, this isn’t so much the case. Talking it out is out of the question, apparently. “What a pleasure it would be to voice my pains and disappointments like Lauren does. I suppose that I would have to hear some guys complain to me about my insensitivity and distance, too. It would be worth it. Postfight, I would be more present for my friends and they could be more present for me,” Schrank writes. “But it won’t happen because the idea of calling a mutual friend to vent after I have had an argument with a guy is laughable. So, because I can’t take a single step down the path that my wife and her friends traverse so well, I had better not get into a fight with any of my friends in the first place.”
I’ve witnessed this firsthand with my husband. One day I’ll realize I haven’t heard mention of one of his buddies in a while and I’ll ask if they are still friends. “I don’t know,” Matt will say.
“Did something happen?” I’ll ask.
“I don’t think so,” Matt says. The conversation continues with me encouraging him to call said friend, or make a lunch date, or extend any gesture of friendship at all, and Matt basically shrugging off the suggestion. Usually I can’t even tell if it’s Matt who is ending the friendship or the other guy. Every now and then, with enough nagging, I’ll get Matt to admit that maybe it was this thing he did that pissed his friend off, or that he’s still annoyed about something the other guy did, but there are no conversations among men. At least not these men.Certainly no heart-to-hearts. Just fizzled friendships. (I should clarify that this doesn’t happen often with Matt, its just that we’ve been together for almost 12 years, so I’ve been witness to more than one faded relationship.)
Does this sound familiar? Why don’t men fight? Or, more importantly, why don’t they make up? Or is this too broad a generalization? Sound off below!