- Gender and Relationships
The Importance of Bro Time
Urban Dictionary's Definition of Bro Time
Bro time is a “safe space” for bros to express their “feelings.” It is often the spontaneous result of bro’s night and normally occurs after consuming a case of natty ice... It is a space where bros can be “as raw as they want to be” and where the thin ties holding together their heterosexual bro identity come dangerously close to unraveling.
Men Sharing Feelings and the Double Standard
People laugh when they hear someone refer to male bonding as "bro time." It sounds like when adult men come together they revert to gnarly teenagers again. As they reach adulthood, society expects men to settle down with a family and a career, and to devote all of their time in making money and being fathers. Going out with the guys and sharing feelings is not male gender appropriate. Many white heterosexual males think that it's okay for women or gay males to have friends, but not them. This kind of rigid male mentality has resulted in white heterosexual males having the fewest friends of any adult male, resulting in loneliness and limited emotional support.
There's a double standard here. Women can call their female friends and share feelings or discuss problems. But when men do it there's something wrong. It's not normal. It's downright unmanly.
Women Know the Importance of Girl Time
Women have always known the importance of developing female relationships. A "woman's night out," if only once a week, is a necessity in maintaining sanity. Women spill emotions, bitch and cry to their close friends usually in a safe and nurturing environment.
Many women feel that friendships with women are beneficial in many ways-- they feel more supported and understood than they do with male friends. They are free to be themselves.
Feminists believe that relationships with other females are empowering and help to mold women to be more independent.
Dr. Randy Kamen says in her article, A Compelling Reason Why Women Need Friendships, that when life becomes challenging, women seek out friendships with other women as a means of regulating stress levels. A common female stress response is to "tend and befriend." That is, when women become stressed, their inclination is to nurture those around them and reach out to others.
Dr. Kamen goes on to say that in the face of a major life loss, women who have close friends with whom they can share their burdens fare better than women who lack close friendships.
Typically, men lose sight of the valuable resource that friendships provide as well as its healing benefits. As the research suggests, both men and women need to build these important friendships to maintain their physical and emotional well-being as they age.
Why it's Difficult for Men to Bond with Each Other
It was much easier in grade school for boys to develop new friendships. Boys were expected to have friends and hang out with each other. It was as simple as asking, "Do you want to play basketball?" And the other boy would say, "Yeah, sure." There was no pressure. If you didn't like the kid, you just didn't choose him on your basketball team. No drama.
When men become adults, especially white heterosexuals, they tend to cling to their high school and college friends. And if these don't last, men have a hard time forming new friendships.
As men get older and develop intimate relationships with women, they have less and less to do with their own gender. I believe that men feel that having a woman is enough of a sounding board for their emotions. While males have superficial friends at work or at the gym, they do not have any type of emotional closeness with them. Conversing about intimate subjects with the same gender seems taboo or too girly.
Some researchers believe that men have difficulty developing relationships because they have a lack of empathy and compassion. Others believe that it's a lack of social skills or that men are too competitive and critical of one another to form any type of meaningful relationship.
Without friends, old age can be a very lonely and isolating time. Men will feel left out of things, compared to women and their abundance of meaningful relationships. Men could possibly end up like the two elderly characters in the movie "Grumpy Old Men"--conflicted, competitive, and unable to share feelings.
Why Some Women Feel Threatened when Men have Friends
My ex-wife seemed to be resistant to the idea of me having friends. She thought it would take time away from my family responsibilities as well as taking time away from her. I think she feared that I would spend too many nights out with guys having bad habits--perhaps being unfaithful, drinking too much alcohol, and regressing into an irresponsible teenager.
Enterprise writer, Terri Choice, wrote an article entitled, "Hey Dudes: What's with all the Bro Time?" She thought that the phrase "bro time" sounded dopey and got annoyed at men calling each other "bros."
I'm annoyed at the term's negative connotation. "Bro time" is society's way of mocking men for spending to much time with each other, implying that males should be doing more age appropriate things like getting married and raising a family instead of having fun and being immature with a bunch of pals.
Most men have more sense than society gives them credit for. Just because a man has a friend or two doesn't mean he will turn into a Johnny Manziel and party like there's no tomorrow--doing all nighters, playing beer pong, and getting into brawls at strip clubs.
What Do Men Need to Do to Befriend Other Men?
In a Salon article, "American Men's Hidden Crisis: They Need More Friends!" Lisa Wade writes: To be close friends, men need to be willing to confess their insecurities, be kind to others, have empathy and sometimes sacrifice their own self-interest.
For men to do this they have to be disloyal to society's definition of what a “real man" is. They need to change from being "self-interested to other-interested." They need to be less competitive with the men they seek in friendship. They need to express their emotions more freely, and be humble enough to ask their friends for help when needed.
Lisa Wade: "Men who value friendships with other men may have to teach others how to be friends. They may have to model friendship for other men or be understanding when their friends fail them and respond with greater disclosure instead of anger or dismissal (e.g., “it hurt my feelings when you didn’t call to see how my surgery went”). This calls on great emotional reserves, but it’s worth it."
To use an overused phrase, men need to be more in touch with their feminine side, as scary as that seems for some white heterosexual males. If they can liberate themselves from the archaic, narrow-minded version of being a "real man," then, just maybe, they could cope with life much better, not be so lonely, and live as long as their female counterparts.
Depending on which research you consult, people with good friends have a 22-60% lower chance of dying over a 10-year period.
Advantages of Bro Time
Some research that writer Tom Valeo found:
- Those men who had a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by 22%.
- Those with ample social support, good friendships, had much lower levels of a protein linked to more aggressive types of cancer.
- Sheldon Cohen, PhD, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, has shown that strong social support helps people cope with stress. "They provide material aid, emotional support, and information that helps you deal with the stressors."
"People with social support have fewer cardiovascular problems and immune problems, and lower levels of cortisol -- a stress hormone," says Tasha R. Howe, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Humboldt State University.
For more on the advantages of having friends, read Tom Valeo's excellent article, "Good Friends are Good for You."