Buddy System

Understanding men and their friendships.

Men's friendships are different from women's

Men and women have different styles of same sex friendships

I am constantly asked, "How are men's friendships different from women's?"

Men "tend" (because I am not speaking of all men or all women) to have shoulder-to-shoulder friendships and women face-to-face friendships.  Paul Wright used these terms in a 1982 article in Sex Roles and they refer to men feeling more comfortable interacting with men around activities - we get together and do things together, like sports.  Women tend to feel more comfortable facing each other over coffee and conversing directly with fewer distractions.  Men are socialized to compete through structured activities, like sports and pay checks; women compete in less structured ways - appearance, demeanor, warmth.  (This is changing, most markedly for women who now slightly outnumber men in the workplace, despite their earning less than men.) So men approach friendships differently - through activities - 80% of the men interviewed for my book said they participate in sports with their friends; no women gave that answer though a few said they exercise with friends.  Shopping is a more common activity for women - only one man out of 386 said he shopped with his friends.

Women put a much greater value on frequent contact with friends than do men; women reach out more to friends to maintain that contact than do men; women were much less apt to be concerned about appearing homosexual by showing too much affection than were men; women were more apt to be supportive with friends by listening - men were more apt to be supportive by giving advice.  AND, women tend to be more emotionally and physically expressive with their friends than men (perhaps linked to some men's fears of appearing gay, but maybe more due to other socialization/biological factors).

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

These are a few areas where there are differences - but, these are all matters of degree and may not apply to any one individual.

Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships.

more...

Subscribe to Buddy System

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?