Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Hard Facts: When Man Friends Fight

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!

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Friending: The Only Thing You Need To Know

Last night I was at a wedding with a couple of friends. During dinner, Friend #1 mentioned that there were two other guests she knew, but hadn’t seen in years. She was deciding whether to say hello, but wasn’t sure if they’d remember her. Or if she even had the energy to do the whole catch-up small talk.

Friender that I am, of course I said she must say hello. If you remember them, they probably remember you, I told her. And if they don’t, just say “Hi, I’m Friend #1. We used to work together. So good to see you again!” See? Easy peasy.

Friend #2, after listening to this conversation, summed everything up perfectly. “The big thing I took from your book,” she said, “is that everyone’s waiting for the other person to reach out.”

She is exactly right. That’s the big lesson. It’s not that an old coworker pal thinks it’s weird if you remember her. It’s not that your new potential friend doesn’t want to have a friend date with you. It’s that everyone is waiting for someone else to make the move. To do the work. To take a chance.

So remember, if you want to see someone, extend an invitation. If you want to talk, say hello. If you want to know their name, introduce yourself. I promise, no one is analyzing your “friend-making tactics” nearly as much as you are.

Friends back east: Stay home! Stay safe! 

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The Hard Facts: Friendship In Your Twenties

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“According to research by the late Bernice Neugarten of the University of Chicago, who helped launch the academic study of human development, people choose most of their adult relationships, both friends and lovers, between the ages of 22 and 28. The friends we make in our 20s are not only BFFs; they’re also our first truly chosen friends, people we discover as a result of our adult decisions—where to live, work, or study—as opposed to our parents’ choices.” (“Just How Many Facebook Friends Do You Need?” ; Newsweek 10/15/2012)

This recent Newsweek article is chock full o’ stats for Research Wednesdays. This bit above is from the very beginning, and is one of the most fascinating nuggets of research I’ve read in a long time. Since OD’ing on friendship science back during my Year of Friending, it’s rare that I come upon a piece of research that is entirely new to me. Often it seems to be a rehashing of something we already know — that Facebook is changing relationships, or that friends are good for your health. But this is so specific about how and when we make new friends as an adult. Like I said… fascinating. 

According to these researchers, we’ve only got a six-year window during which we become friends with the majority of our lifers. The span makes sense if you think about it—22 is when we graduate college, and 28 is just about when the average American gets married (as of 2011, the average age of marriage for an American women is 26.9,  while the average age for an American man is 28.9). The idea, then, is that we create most of our bestfriendships during those “emerging adult” years when we’re on our own but still figuring things out.

It’s amazing, then, that I was 27 when I started my friend search. It’s as if my inner self knew the clock was ticking! (It’s hard for me to really believe that but the science does line up well.) And while of course this friending window isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s also crazy to me that my prime friend-making years might be behind me. Good thing I met so many good eggs when I did.

Like I said, research like this can’t be exact but it does make you think about age in regards to friendship. I’ve always expected that when I have kids, a whole new world of mom friends will open up to me. But this research says probably not. I guess only time will tell on that front.

What do you guys think? Is this 22-28 window surprising? Did you make most of your besties during those years? And if you’re in the 22-28 age range, do you see yourself choosing friends now in a way you never have?

 

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This Seat Taken?

Once upon a time, a commenter on this blog mentioned it can be easier to make friends abroad because in other countries it isn’t weird to park it in an empty chair at a coffee shop, even if there is already someone sitting at the table. Sharing a table in a crowded European pub or restaurant is friendly, rather than the American personal-space invading.

During my trip to London I’ve witnessed this firsthand. On Sunday night I saw a couple ask another couple if they could sit with them, even though the other couple was quite obviously in the middle of dinner. It seemed quite weird. I don’t know that I’d want strangers blatantly interrupting a dinner with my husband. (And to be clear, these weren’t tourists, these were just regular locals eating dinner). But as the night went on, the couples chatted a bit, and seemed friendly enough. I don’t think they’re necessarily going to call each other at home, but it was certainly one way to attack the whole couple-friending blind date issue.

As we watched the couple crash a dinner table, my friend and I dissected the situation. She thought it was a bit odd, too, but explained that—just as that commenter once said—such an encounter is much less unusual in London that it would be in, say, New York City.

I wonder what it is about us Americans. Are we just more protective of our personal space? Are we more private? More wary of strangers? Ruder?

Have you noticed that strangers are more willing to share space and chat outside of America? Or am I reading too much into this? If it is true… why?

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Cheers Mate!

I’m in London at the moment, where all friends are “mates.” I love it. I’m going to start incorporating that more. Consider yourself warned.

I’m visiting an old bestie, who I lived with for three years in NYC. The whole roomie thing can be so tricky. I’ve seen it go horribly wrong for other people. They moved in as great mates (see?) and left on silent-treatment terms. So how lucky I am that my old roomie and I slip back into our old ways when we spend time together, giggling about my old Don Cragen IM icon or the way we used to use comforters as window shades.

Twenty-two-year-olds do the darndest things.

Our hangout reminds me I want to tell her this:

Normally I’m not much one for ghost antics but I could get behind this.

Lots of women tell me that living with a friend was exactly what ruined their relationship, so I want to hear from you. Have you ever had a friend as a roommate? How’d it go? Still as close? Did I just get lucky?

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The Hard Facts: My TV Friends Are Ruining My Life

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“The status of a romantic relationship could be in jeopardy if the couple or an individual in the relationship are frequent television watchers, according to a study from Albion College.  ” (“When TV and Marriage Meet: TV’s Negative Impact on Romantic Relationships,” ScienceDaily.com 9/18/2012)

What does this have to do with friendship? Nothing specifically. Except that the same TV factors that are screwing up marriages are messing with friendship, too.

Listen. I’m not one to hate on TV. I lurve me some TV. (These days, Parenthood, The Voice, Grey’s Anatomy, and SVU are high on the list.) But I absolutely believe that my all-time favorite shows —Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Sex and the City— directly impacted my friendship expectations. According to this study, fans of popular shows like Burn Notice, True Blood and The Big Bang Theory are “less committed to their spouses and think alternatives to their spouses are relatively attractive.”

Similarly, TV portrayals of friendship make us think what we have isn’t enough. Why can’t we find our BFFs across the hall at a moment’s notice? Or go to McLaren’s Pub together, every day? How is it that I don’t have three ladies to eat brunch with every. single. Sunday?

It took me a year and an entire book to realize that the best friendships I adore on TV (Meredith and Christina, anyone?) aren’t necessarily realistic. That if I hold all my adult friendships to that standard I might never be content. So I certainly believe this marriage research — and I would encourage the researchers to look into friendship next. Dr. Jeremy Osborn, who authored this study, said: “I found that people who believe the unrealistic portrayals on TV are actually less committed to their spouses.” I bet those who believe in the TV friendships are less committed too, because they don’t realize that the relationships they have might be the real true BFF thing! It’s tricky stuff.

What do you think? Do TV relationships skew your expectations of friendship? Which TV friendship do you hope to emulate in real life?

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When Friends Go Off The Grid

Hey there friends. Perhaps you noticed—or perhaps you didn’t because, well, you have other things on your mind—but this blog went on a brief hiatus over the last couple of weeks. Sorry about that. It was unexpected from my end as well.

But… I’m back! I know. Thank God.

And if you’re still here, tuning in, to you I say:

But since we’re on the topic of people going off the grid (however momentarily), has that ever happened with one of your besties? How did you handle it? I find that when one of my pals goes into hibernation I’m never quite sure if the right move is to give them space or continually check in to see if everything is ok.

It seems whichever option I choose is always wrong. If I don’t check in enough I feel neglectful; If too much, I’m a smotherer. It’s hard to know what someone needs. A mindreader I am not. (And I think I may have recently lost a friendship as a result.)

So my new BFFs, what do you think? How do you handle these moments?

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