Eleven hints for Life – 3 of 11

3. The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you’ve ever had. – Unknown

This is one of those areas in which I think there is a big difference between men and women. It has been my observation that once men get out of childhood, where it seems like they could still have best friends; as adults, they tend to have buddies instead, maybe even best buddies; but I’m not sure that they have best friends, at least not other men as best friends. Men may have golfing buddies or hunting buddies or even buddies on sports teams that they belong to. They may have some buddies at work and in other social settings, but no one that they would feel comfortable sitting next to on a porch swing.  After all, we are taught that’s just not manly.

Women, on the other hand, seem to retain the ability to have best friends even in their adult lives. Sure, women have lots of other friends or acquaintances (they don’t tend to use the term “buddy”, but “girl friend” seems popular), too; usually in social group settings. Women tend to allow for bonding better than men.  Women tend to be less competitive with each other in day-to-day social settings.  That’s not to say that they aren’t competitive in sports and business and other areas of life; they are; however, they also seem to be more supportive of each other than men. They don’t have that mental block that would prevent them from sitting next to their female best friend on the swing and maybe even giving her a hug.

So what is the difference between buddies and best friends? My gut feeling is that in order to be a best friend (the kind talked about in the saying for today) you have to open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Men tend to hate to do that, so they get to the buddy level of friendship and are satisfied with that, precisely because they don’t have to open up further.

Women, on the other hand, seem more receptive to the idea of opening up to other women, sharing more of their feelings and leaving themselves more vulnerable.They are not embarrassed to cry in front of each other. Men will only cry together with other men while watching the Brian Piccolo story movie and then will turn away from each other so the others don’t see the tears.

It’s really kind of sad that boys are trained as they mature into the role of self-reliant, emotionally hardened manhood and end up unable to get back in touch with the openness that allowed them to have best friends with other boys as a child. The one exception that I see the most in men is that, over time, most men break though that emotional barrier with their wives. The men who can’t even get to that level of best friend with the one that they are spending their life with often end up in divorce.

The men who do find their way back to that childhood experience of total openness and vulnerability with their loved one; find out again how pleasant and satisfying it can be to welcome another soul into share their personal space. It’s a beautiful thing and can lead to that ability to sit on the porch swing hand-in-hand or with arms around and have the best conversation without saying a word. So, reach back and recapture that ability and reach out at least to your spouse and make a new BFF.

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