All About Men’s Friendships

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Podcast Description

The more I think about men’s friendships, the more fired up I get. If I could paint an analogy for you, men’s friendships feel like a big ball of yarn with thousands of strings that we have to untangle.

There are a lot of narrowly defined stories about how a man should “be” in today’s society – they should be powerful, they should provide and be self-sufficient, and they should be in control. But just because society was built for men, by men, does not mean these systems are working for the modern man.

Studies show that men have nearly the same amount of friends as women, but their fear of vulnerability and authenticity prevents them from creating genuine, meaningful connections.

So let’s dig in and talk about the three systems of power that are keeping men in these very narrow boxes. And stay tuned as Part 2 comes out next week to explore more ideas around this topic.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Being a man can be lonely. Between suicide rates, mental health, drops in admission and graduation for higher education, and higher earnings, what does all this mean to “be a man”?
  • Why we’re in a weird, limbo place with redefining the definition of masculinity. Men are “allowed” to be more vulnerable, but the boundaries are so unclear.
  • A breakdown of the 3 systems of power that are keeping men in a box, including capitalism and white supremacy.
  • The many issues that are affecting men’s friendships with women – women can be so much more than just romantic and sexual partners.
  • The problem with “men’s groups” – though they are great spaces for men to be vulnerable and connect with other men, it’s a band-aid that doesn’t offer a long-term solution.
  • Why men struggle to make meaningful connections in their community, especially with the loss of “third spaces” and circumstantial situations, like going through a divorce or navigating a new life as a widower.

Reflection Question:

How would you redefine masculinity in a way that breaks out of the boxes and systems we discussed in this episode? How can men forge deeper, genuine, and authentic connections with other men, women, and society as a whole?

Notable Quotes from Alex

“The people who quite often have the best community and connections are the people who experienced the most adversity and oppression in our systems. Because when the systems don’t work for you, when the boxes already don’t fit, you still have to survive. And when you’re desperate to survive, people will throw out societal norms and lean into each other, they will ask for help, they will be honest about their difficulties. And they will work together to build creative solutions to quite honestly, survive. Because when you have nothing, you will rethink everything to keep living in a world that wasn’t built for you.”

“I am all in on men befriending other men. I encourage the men in my life to make friendships! But men seem to have become disconnected, not only from each other, but from the rest of society. They are in their own box where some of them want to do anything to stay in the box to be acceptable. Others want to break the box. They’re shamed for not participating in society. But yet, society shames them back when they try and do new things outside the box. They aren’t taught how to do any of this. And if they really just put their stake in the ground and they say, ‘I’m going to break this mold, I’m gonna rethink masculinity, I’m going to prioritize connection,’ they will still get subtly shamed by the people around them for not fitting this accepted mold of what it means to be a man.”

Resources & Links

Books mentioned in this episode include All About Love by Bell Hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by Bell Hooks, How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Pecks, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam, and Fair Play by Eve Rodsky.

I also recommend the works of Alok Vaid-Menon, a non-binary activist who speaks about compassion and how the patriarchy and masculinity is affecting the trans community. Tune in to his episode on the Man Enough podcast. I can’t recommend it enough!

Tune in to Episode 15: Staying Curious and Managing Differences in Friendships and Episode 19: The One for “Little Alex”.

Leave Alex a voicemail!

Let’s Talk All About Mens Friendships

Until next time…

Take the conversation beyond the new podcast on friendship! Follow Alex on Instagram (@itsalexalexander) or Tiktok (@itsalexalexander), or send her a voice message directly.

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Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro/Outro  00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro/Outro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander 00:50

I haven’t been this nervous to record an episode since I recorded my very first episode. Normally, when I record a solo episode, I create an outline. And I just record it in one take. However, this is my third attempt at recording this episode. So, welcome. Let’s buckle up because I think that this is a really important episode, which is why I have put so much time and energy into recording it. Honestly, I have been working on this outline for months. I knew. I always knew I would record an episode about men’s friendships. But I think I’ve just been putting it off because this seems like such an overwhelming topic to talk about. But in that time, since I started writing the outline, the more I think about men’s friendships, the more fired up I get. So we’ll see how that comes out in this episode. And this outline that I built, that I thought was one episode has split into two. This episode is more of an intro, giving you kind of a foundational new way to think about men’s friendships. And then part two will be more of like, what we can do about it. And this first episode is more research-based. It was inspired by the various reading and listening and whatnot that I’ve done by some of the most profound thought leaders. There’s also some parts of this episode that will be me expanding a little bit further, or throwing out some ideas on how my ideas are mainly about the how… like how these systems are playing out, and then the impact they’re having. And when I’m seeing people be frustrated about these end results, about the impact about the symptoms, I watch them and think, well, yeah. I’m not shocked, because that connects back. You know, in order to make an impact in order to change this, it would be lovely, if I could just tell you some ways that I think you could be intentional or make small changes in your life. But as you’ll see, in this episode, we really need to kind of look at the systems, the players, like the behind the scenes of why this is happening. Because otherwise, it’s going to be really hard to push through to act counterculture and think outside the box. As you’ll hear in this episode, I basically think that men’s friendships are a big ball of yarn. There are probably 20, 40, 100, maybe even 1000 strands of yarn, all jumbled up together, tied in various knots, loop through this and through that. And it’s really hard to tell where one thing begins and another thing ends. Like it’s just a really layered conundrum. And I’m not saying I know how to fix it. I’m not even saying I see all the pieces of it. But hopefully if we start thinking of it this way, if we start seeing the pieces, maybe we can unravel one string at a time, we can start to take small actions that will add up. They will make us all feel more connected. And shoot, who knows maybe in our lifetime we’ll start to see a difference. You know, when I tell people I want to talk about men’s friendship, it’s kind of similar to when I tell people I want to talk about community. You know, I say I want to talk about community and friendship. And people are like, “Well, why don’t you just talk about friendship?” It’s like, because friendship, and community and family are all interconnected, right? These are all the people that care about us that support us, we can’t talk about one without the other. And that’s how I feel about men’s friendship. A lot of people assume I’ll just talk about female friendship. And there are lots of people who are talking about that. But then I think this just does such a disservice. Like we are all humans who are existing on this planet together. And as much as society would love to convince us that we’re separate, as much as society has convinced us that we’re separate, we’re not, we are all here, we all have to interact and coexist. We all have to find, give, receive support. We have to connect with not only our family, but our friends and our community. And the people that make up our support systems, and the people around us, they are male, female, non binary, all people. We need to stop sectioning them off and see how it all interconnects. So as much as people have told me to niche down or simplify, I have fought back over and over and over again, I will not only talk about friendship, I will not only talk about female friendship, because I don’t see how we can keep talking about these things. As if they’re separate, we cannot separate them. They are all overlapping. And if we’re not talking about how they’re overlapping, and how we’re experiencing that overlap, then those problems that I mentioned earlier, we’re just going to keep feeling the ramifications of those problems. So today, we’re gonna talk about men’s friendship. And I am sure that this episode is not going to go where most people think it is. So, let’s do this. I’m also expecting that when people hear that I’m talking about men’s friendship, when you listen to this episode, I’m gonna get a lot of pushback. I’m gonna get a lot of people saying like, “Well, men have it easy, society was built for them. We live in a patriarchy. So we need to stop giving them any sympathy.” They need to fix this. And I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, just because society was built for men, by men and these systems have continued through time, does not mean they are working for the modern man, for the man and our time, does not mean we want to keep perpetuating them. But it’s that big ball of yarn again, how do we start untangling? Because here’s the thing about men living in a patriarchy. In order to be a man, you have to fit in a very specific box. And I think by the end of this episode, you’ll see that that box is actually more like a cage. And when you try and get out, somehow the path just leads you back into the cage, it’s really hard to get out. And so men just keep getting stuck in this box of what it quote unquote “means to be a man”. And that is very, very narrow. Now, yes. What it means to be a man is broadening. But we’ll get to that in a second. Like, that’s still very confusing. You know, just this idea of like, what is it to, quote unquote, “be a man”, being a man is lonely. It’s limiting, like men are not thriving in this system. And you can see that the stats are out there, right? Suicide rates, mental health, drops in admission and graduation for higher education, earnings. Like there are people out there talking about the quote, unquote, “crisis of men”. I see it. I see it, I just don’t like their solutions. So before I keep talking and generics, let’s actually dive in to some of this information. We are going to talk a little bit about the systems that are keeping men in this narrowly defined box. I’ve already mentioned that the patriarchy is a system. And it’s a system that was created, it’s created boxes that keep other people out. So a very small group of cis het white men get to maintain all the power. But in order to have that power, in order to stay in the box, they have to be dominant. They have to build walls that keep others out, they have to stay in control. And by doing that, by building those boxes, every time they do it, it just forces men to define more and more what it is to fit just perfectly right in the box. 

Alex Alexander 10:19

And at this point, the box is very narrow. And although we may know men in our lives who want to break these boxes, who don’t want to be defined this way anymore, there are other men who are trying to stay in the box, who will endlessly shame any man who tries to get out of the box. There are systems in place to keep them in the box, there are women who shame them for leaving the box. So like I said, this is just one big ball of yarn with 1000s of strings that we have to untangle. And although this can feel overwhelming, we’re going to try and break it down. So what does it mean to be a man? And I know we’re trying to change these definitions, but in a… the eyes of patriarchal masculinity, what does it mean to be a man? Because it’s important to understand this, to think about how men are interacting with the people around them. To be man is to be powerful. And therefore to be dominant, to be self-assured, and therefore look like you have it all together. To be strong, and therefore not show any weakness, not share any information that someone might use against you. Men should be self sufficient. And therefore they don’t need any help. Men should provide, and therefore forsake any interests that get in the way of them being that provider, and men should be in control. And therefore, they need to control others. And if you listen to that list in order to be a man, all those traits, all those actions required to fit in that narrow definition. They’re all barriers to connection. You know, in order to be in community with people, you need to be equals, you can’t be controlling them. In order to be in community with people you need to ask and receive for help, you can’t do that if you have to look like you have it all together. In order to connect with people, you have to be vulnerable and open and share, you can’t do that. If sharing is a sign of weakness, like everything it is to “be a man”, quote unquote, in a patriarchal society does not make it easier for you to connect. So even if you break some of these down as a man, there’s still a lot left there that are holding you back from connection. Now, I ended with talking about how you need to be in control, you need to look like you have it together. And if you listened to Episode 15, I talked about this idea of managing your differences in friendships. And I’m not specifically talking to men in that episode. But in thinking about that episode, I talked about how, when you’re trying to be in control, when you’re trying to predict how somebody’s going to react to you control the outcome, it’s a lot of work. Right? You have to first of all, think of the outcome you want, then you have to consider that person. And then you have to work backwards and think of what you could say or do or present or act to get them to control them to act the way you desire them to act. And it’s a lot of work. And I think most people are going to get caught up on the fact that, you know, they’re trying to control the other person. But there’s also this component that if you’re trying to control, you’re controlling yourself. Whatever you naturally want to say, you’re denying it. Because the only thing that matters is the end result, not yourself. And in doing so, you’re not presenting the full authentic version of yourself. So when somebody tells somebody to be a man or man up, or that’s not very manly, no part of that, being manly is actually providing these like authentic interactions if you’re trying to control them and control yourself. That’s not real connection. Manning up encourages men to ignore their feelings and surrender their integrity. And in the end, they spend their lives in denial of really who they are or how they feel. And you might say, you know, Alex, men don’t want that anymore. We’re trying to break that down. Yes, we are. trying to develop new definitions of masculinity. But in doing so, we’re in this weird Limbo place where men are allowed to start having connection to their emotions, to being vulnerable. But no one seems to have any idea of how much emotion is allowed, with whom you’re allowed to show it. When, where, what exactly, areas, like what areas of life are okay. The boundaries are so unclear for men. Because when they start to step out and show this, one person in their life might be encouraging. And then they might go and try and share with another person and that person will say, “That’s not really what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re supposed to be a provider. Man up. Doesn’t matter, you’re going to be fine.” And men are suffering because there’s these mixed messages. That’s a lot of tiptoeing around, that’s a lot of work. And we think about it anxiety, to do all this decision making to be trying to decide what’s too much is this okay? Will this person react the same way? They were fine with it yesterday. But what if today, I tell them that I’m strugglingand they tell me I need to be strong? Like it’s just very unclear. And I can imagine how that process of us changing the definition of masculinity is weighing very heavily on men. So why are men stuck in this box? Well, we live in a society that operates within systems of power, right? Our society operates within a patriarchy, within capitalism and within white supremacy. And I want to touch on these. I’m mainly going to focus on patriarchy. I mean, because I got to pick a focus for this episode, but I will touch on all of them. Now, this section of the podcast is greatly inspired by three profound thought leaders. The first one is bell hooks. And I cannot recommend her books, all about love, and the will to change. I can’t tell enough people about them. Because both of these have been invaluable. Both of these have left me saying, oh my gosh, these things I felt are real. They’re given language and cohesive thought. The next one is Mia Birdsong, Mia Birdsong wrote a book called How We Show Up. And when I read it, I thought to myself, oh, my gosh, somebody else feels this way. I didn’t have words for what I was already doing and feeling in my life. But I cannot thank her enough for her book and her work, because it made me believe that I wasn’t alone. And the third person I’m going to call out is Alok Vaid-Menon. They are a non binary activist, they speak about compassion, and how the patriarchy and these systems are boxing us all in. They also are a trans activist, and speak about how the patriarchy and masculinity is affecting the trans community. I will tag all of these resources in the show notes and I can’t recommend enough you going to the source and reading their work or listening because so much of their work has informed my own. So we’re gonna dive in, and we’re going to talk about the patriarchy and specifically patriarchal masculinity. So from the book, All About Love by bell hooks, she says patriarchal masculinity, requires boys and men not only to see themselves as more powerful, as superior to women and other people seeing themselves as powerful isn’t enough. They need to do whatever it takes to maintain their position. So it’s not about just them seeing themselves as powerful. They must do whatever it takes to control other people to maintain their position. So in order for men, quote, unquote, “a man” and stay in this very narrow box, they have to be in control not only of others, but of themselves. They have to control themselves, tamper themselves down, deny, lie, do whatever it takes to stay in the box, but it’s pretty miserable in the box. So what that means is in order to survive as a man within a patriarchal society, they quite often have to lie to themselves about how they’re feeling. They have to deny things so that they can look in control or strong or like they have it together, like they don’t need anyone. Which boils down to men are exposed to have feelings. Think about the term man up or be a man. They’re all telling you to forget about the feelings, to move on, to pretend they don’t exist. 

Alex Alexander 20:20

And because of this, because when you have a kid and you want them to grow up, and you want them to fit in the society and be successful, most boys aren’t even taught about their feelings at a very young age, a lot of boys are told that they should forget their feelings, that they should ignore them. You know, and doing thi and hearing this idea of like being a man and manning up, there’s not a lot of constructive conversation. You don’t learn, first of all, what your feelings are. But then second of all, how to actually have a conversation about them, how to process them, voice them, discuss them, work through them. Instead, men just hear a lot of you’ll be fine, you got this. So then they have two choices, right? They can either learn about their feelings, but suffer in silence, accepting that they have those feelings, but never voicing them. Or they can control themselves in a different way where they deny that they even have feelings. Whatever they do, have, they compartmentalize them and dissociate them. They never verbalize them, and basically deny that a piece of themselves even exists. Which means that they aren’t really being authentic, they aren’t being seen, they aren’t being fully themselves. And that makes it very, very hard to be in relationship with someone else if you can’t be yourself. We’ve already talked about that in multiple other episodes, people are feeling this in all sorts of ways. And I think a lot of men are feeling this. And as we’ve already discussed, it’s hard to anticipate how you want someone to react. And then what actions that will take for them to react in that right way. It’s a lot of work to twist yourself into the right version, the right actions to elicit the right response. Now we’re going to add another layer to this, which is that in a patriarchal society, we are taught that love is a feeling. Think about it when you say I love you so much. Right? I love you. I’m pressing my hands on my chest, about this feeling. As if it doesn’t matter what the other person feels. I love you. Why is this important to bring up? Well, believing that love is a feeling is problematic. You know, most dictionary definitions really emphasize this idea that love is a feeling they emphasize. Love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. But the problem is that love if it’s a feeling, that feelings are fleeting. Feelings come and go. In that moment, we might love them so much. And the way we’re acting shows that love but very shortly after the actions may not be very loving, and somebody can just turn and look at you and say, “But I love you.” This idea of love as a feeling is something we really need to examine for all of us, but especially when it comes to men and friendship and connection. M. Scott Peck has a book called The Road Less Traveled. And in it he says that we need to look at love as an act of will. That love is both an intention and an action and that it has nothing to do with feeling. From the book All About Love by bell hooks, hooks says, to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients, care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust, as well as open and honest communication. Love is a process of investment. And when you see love as a process to nurture our own and another it becomes clear that you cannot claim to love if you are hurtful or abusive. Now, why does all of this matter in an episode about friendship? Because we have a bunch of men who are told that their feelings don’t matter, that they shouldn’t express their feelings, that they should tamper them down that they should deny them and yet we believe that love is a feeling. Do you see how this could be a little confusing? So if love is a feeling and they aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings, they aren’t supposed to show or any weakness, care, affection or openly communicate, if we look at hook’s definition, and then we just shove men out the door being like, go make some friends do we really think that’s gonna go well? Men are caught in an endless loop where they can’t win any which way, not under our current belief system, not in this transition. Because love is a feeling, they need to control their feelings. And they need to control the feelings of others, therefore feeling good for looking at when men are trying to control the other people, right? When it is most important that the other person they’re interacting with feels good. And therefore they should control anything they say or do to make sure that the interaction leaves positively. Because that’s love. Love is that positive feeling. But they aren’t… it’s an endless loop that makes no sense. And it keeps confining men into these boxes. Because you know, if you’re out there trying to get closer to your male friends, or connect with some of your community, like at some point, you’re going to hit a roadblock, in which you’re told that love is this feeling. But you can’t show feelings, you can’t receive help and care on the back end. So it’s no wonder that men feel like they just have these flat interactions. And I can see it in the men around me. I can see it super clearly. There are subtle comments made when a man starts to share his feelings, people around him get uncomfortable in a room and try and change the subject. And I’m so curious if as men listen to this episode, they’re going to say, oh my gosh, thank you for voicing this because it does feel impossible. Like guys, I think you are stuck in an impossible situation. And now I want to add another layer to this, because we’re all out here telling the men that we love our husbands, fathers, friends, that we love them. But as I’ve covered, they’re already denying parts of who they are. They’re not showing all their feelings. So when we say I love you, how confusing would it be to constantly wonder, well, do you love me? Or do you love the strong version of me that I’m showing up as? That is so much work to try and decide which version to show up today as you start to peel back these layers. Now if you’ve listened to Episode 19, about my childhood, I get it. I felt like I lived in a show. That’s how I describe my childhood. I felt like I lived in a theater where I acted one way to the public, and one way at home. But if I’m being honest, neither of those were me. So if you’re a man, and you’re listening to this, and that’s how you feel, I fully understand how exhausting This is. Now, there’s one place that society says that men are allowed to have feelings and find love. And I want to talk about this. You might be like Alex, I don’t know why you’re bringing this up in an episode about men’s friendship, but it’s important. Because the one place that men are told they can find love is in romantic partnership and specifically sexual intimacy. Right? We’ve covered the fact that society tells men they can’t show their feelings. But they can maybe show some of their feelings romantic partner. How many feelings? I mean, I don’t really know. Like they’re supposed to show that they love you and you love them. But you’re also supposed to be self assured and provide and not show weakness. Because then they might not love you because you’re not a man. Like do you see how exhausting this would be? And I’m mainly speaking about this when it comes to romantic partnership in a heteronormative relationship. But there’s this other layer where

Alex Alexander 29:09

like they’re being told, I love you, a man has been told I love you when they’re maybe not showing up as thier whole selves. And then they believe that love is a feeling and they’re chasing that feeling. And for anybody who has experienced sexual intimacy, we all know that sometimes there are those high, amazing, loving feelings. And when they’re there, they feel good, but they are fleeting. So when we see love as a feeling, and the only place men are told they can find love is in sexual intimacy where those feelings are fleeting or sparse or rare or not there, as you can imagine, that’s very limiting. There’s only so often they can find the one avenue they’re told is fine and acceptable. And if it’s not there, then as we all know, we all are meant to belong and connect and be seen and feel love. So if it’s not there, of course, they would be more desperate for i. It’s already a narrow opportunity to find it. So instead of shutting it down, they’re going to seek it out, they’re going to crave it more, because it’s better to do anything to find it than to remain lonely. Are you still with me? Okay, now, I mentioned there are two other systems. And I’m not going to go as deeply on either one of them. But I just do want to acknowledge them. Because we kind of have to otherwise we’re not getting a very full picture here. The second system we have is capitalism. And the reason I want to mention this, especially when it comes to men and friendship is because capitalism convinces us that what matters in life is acquisition and consumption. Having the nicest house, the nicest car, the best of everything we must consume, and consume and consume, so that we can feel better and more powerful. And in doing so, capitalism tells us that community and connection are not as important. That instead, we should focus our attention on accumulation and materialistic desires as a marker for that rich life, success, fulfillment. And that plays out in our friendships. Because society is much more focused on cars, houses, stuff, accumulation, than they are sitting down to actually ask us about our connections. And therefore, we’re not prioritizing them the same way, especially for men, where you’re supposed to be the provider who brings those things so that you can stay in the box. The pressure to thrive in that system, is, I’m sure, overwhelming. Now, the final system of power I’m gonna talk about is white supremacy. And this is an entire layer that I definitely am not qualified to speak on when I try and learn a lot about and it is very high on my list to find experts who can come on this podcast and dive deeper so that we can all learn how this is affecting the community in our life. But here’s what I do want to say is that the people who quite often have the best community and connections are the people who experienced the most adversity and oppression and our systems. Because when the systems don’t work for you, when the boxes already don’t fit, you still have to survive. And when you’re desperate to survive, people will throw out societal norms, and lean into each other, they will ask for help, they will be honest about their difficulties. And they will work together to build creative solutions to quite honestly survive. Because when you have nothing, you will rethink everything to keep living in a world that wasn’t built for you. But if you’re a man, especially a man with other privileges, so many parts of the world are working for you. And so you are more inclined to stay in the boxes, you’re not desperate, you won’t throw out the norms. Okay, so we have covered these three systems of power. And I might be missing some that I haven’t learned about yet, we’ll see what comes up in all this work. But I think that gives a pretty solid foundation, about the systems that are keeping men in the box. Now, the systems are there, but we’re all keeping each other in the box through the practice of shaming. We’re very used to hearing discussions about how women are shamed by society. But the same thing is happening to men. And, you know, I’ve listened to a number of people who are talking about this crisis of man. In fact, I listened to a podcast yesterday in which I spent a very large chunk of time basically screaming, are you kidding me? Because what I’m seeing when it comes to talking about this crisis of men, which by the way, is just shaming men for not meeting certain markers, right, not staying in the box is that people are trying to help men in two ways. The first one is that men need to be accountable for themselves. Go self-care your way out of this, you know, take the burden off the women and communities in your life. They’re basically pushing them further and further into this toxic individualism, individual accountability with maybe a little bit of, hey, I’ll be here to push you in the right direction and hold you accountable.


But what thats saying to man is, hey, if you can’t take care of this yourself, you can’t do this lone wolf approach that you’re failing. And any man that’s at rock bottom, that’s feeling this way, like you are not failing, you’re not meant to do this alone. But then the second thing I’m saying is men saying, Okay, well, we’re not meant to do this alone. So let’s come together in a men’s group, and we will rewrite masculinity in today’s day and age. And we’ll focus on how to not only hold each other accountable, but we’ll also you know, maybe discuss how we can help it make it easier for you to meet the societal markers of what it means to be a man. We’ll help you get into college will help you excel and economic opportunities. But what they’re basically saying is, hey, we’ll come together, we’ll still silo ourselves off from the rest of society. But we’ll, we’ll help you stay in the box. And on one hand, I’m like, okay, well, this could put a quick fix bandaid on some things, right, maybe we’d have some lower suicide rates, or it would make a dent in gun violence. But we’re still keeping people in these structures and in these boxes. And if anything, it seems like we’re kind of just tightening this box, again, like men are in these boxes, and they’re miserable. And we’re continuing to not talk about the fact that the boxes exists, that there’s a problem that we need to be talking about. And we need to acknowledge the shame that’s out there that says, hey, I know you don’t want to fit in this box, and that you’re overwhelmed by the box. But it’s okay, just like let me help you make some money or get into college or find romantic partners. And then… and then the box will be a little easier to live in. But doing this just keeps this same lonely, disconnected pattern. And I can’t wait to get on some of these podcasts and have conversations with these people, I get so fired up. But it’s like, this isn’t healthy. And sure, maybe it puts temporary relief on the shame, right? Because we’re helping them meet the markers, because they do get some connection. But they’re still grouping men off on their own and disconnecting them from the rest of society. They’re continually told to do it on their own, to get themselves out of it. If they can’t, then something’s wrong with them. So as we continue on this episode, I want to talk about if we’re trying to push men out there to get reconnected to the rest of us, not just to each other, to society, to women, to people, like what are the barriers? What does it look like when we are currently saying go do this thing, go make friends? And you’re gonna see that this kind of just feels impossible. But we have to talk about the barriers that feel impossible so that we can start to break them, so that we can start to shift our behaviors and our culture and take small actions. Because if we don’t talk about them, if we don’t see them, and acknowledge them, and we can’t say, you know what? The boxes are really powerful. And we’re all going to start to slowly try and chip away at them. So the first go out there and connect option might be to go connect with family. And there is an entire layer to this, that I don’t have time for on this podcast. But I do want to tell you that it’s there. And my suggestion would be for you to go read The Will to Change by bell hooks. I don’t have time, maybe in another podcast. But as you know, I don’t like to only talk about friendship, I want to acknowledge that this piece is there. So then the other place we might be pushing men to go connect is to community. And it’s very hard to connect community when you can’t show any weakness, when you can’t ask for help. It’s hard to connect community when success as a man is defined as going it alone. You know, a very, very, very vital part of community is giving and receiving, is sharing and learning, changing your opinion, rethinking, you can’t do any of that and that patriarchal definition of masculinity. And men can maybe give a little bit but the definition of how they can give is very, very narrow. Like they can’t give emotionally but maybe they can give physical labor. Right? They can receive but only in certain ways. And then if you add in the capitalism piece and the white supremacy piece, that community component for men isn’t going well. Okay, now, let’s move on and talk about men. Connecting the friending, supporting… being supported by women. The podcast episode I mentioned that I listened to yesterday, there was actually discussion of men seeking out connection with women. But here’s the problem is that quite often when we’re talking about men seeking out women for support and connection, the conversation goes to romantic connection. Which isn’t shocking, because if we have a crisis of men and loneliness and mental health, and we know that we want them to not feel this way anymore, that narrow box, that narrow tightrope, that the current boxes of society tell men that they can overcome that loneliness, is romantic relationship. So I’m not shocked at all that there are people out there who are pushing this, who are having conversations about how, in order to combat this crisis of men, we need to make men more desirable to female partners, we need to boost them economically, we need to help them graduate and become more educated. But that’s assuming that the only place for men to find connection with women is in a romantic partnership. Now, I understand that my suggestion of male-female, non romantic friendships is very outside of a lot of people’s comfort zone. Welcome to this podcast. Welcome to the platform. If you are listening for the first time, none of this is comfortable, what is comfortable is not working. We think it’s comfortable. But in reality, we’re all just very comfortable with these normalized end results. Because we’re not really talking about it and starting to make change. 

Alex Alexander 42:04

Now, one of those barriers of men and women friendships, is that heteronormative romantic relationship. That’s all men can have that that’s all that’s acceptable. And I’ve heard this from a lot of people. You know, when I talk about having male friends, people will say back to me like, oh, that’s impossible. You can’t possibly have a male friendship because when they become close to you, they become romantically inclined. And if you’re don’t reciprocate that, then we have an issue. And if you go back to earlier in this episode, and think about how men are told that the only acceptable place to feel feelings is in romantic partnership, and in sexual intimacy, then no wonder we’re perpetuating this belief. But it’s so important for men to understand that they can care for a woman, support them, listen to them, share their feelings with them, feel connected to them, and it has nothing to do with romantic or sexual love. Love is not just a romantic love. So we need to stop perpetuating this idea that there is some inevitable end of this friendship when the people are out there having friendships with the opposite gender, that are healthy and strong and plutonic familial love, that has nothing to do with romance. Another barrier for men befriending women is the current state of our weak ties. The individualism running rampant makes it so that we are less trusting of our weak tie relationships. If you’re interested in this, there’s a book called Bowling Alone. That talks all about the deterioration of our weak ties. Now, there’s weak ties, and they’re strong ties, right? Strong ties with people we know very well. We have built up this trust with them. We have lots of evidence that they’re trustworthy people. Weak ties are just the people we meet out in the world. And through a variety of factors that you can read about in Bowling Alone, because I don’t have time to cover those in this episode, but I’m sure there will be another one. This harms men’s friendships, because we have all this evidence out there through the media, through firsthand accounts, that male-female friendships are not safe. That there could be sexual assault, for example. So we’re on edge the entire time and I don’t have his particular solution for that for this episode. I have some ideas in the next episode, but just know that like this is working against men, because every time they walk up to a woman, the assumption is that the only thing they could possibly be interested in as far as a connection is a romantic sexual connection. But that’s all they’re capable of. And if that is the assumption we’re going into these connections with, they’re never going to get off the ground. Another issue affecting men’s friendships with women is the separate spheres that we’ve created. Now, this looks like feeling like, you know, when you’re together, maybe with a group of friends that men go off and talk about whatever they’re going to talk about. And women talk about what they want to talk about, and that they could never possibly be interested in the same things, which is just not true. We all talked about it with each other, we might start to understand that a lot of us actually have a lot of overlapping experiences, feelings, interests, whatnot. But it’s hard to break those spheres. Right? That would be outside the box, outside the norm. Another issue with men befriending women is that men are taught that social connection is women’s work. And one way that we see this is that people in a heteronormative relationship get married, and a lot of men, like they’re told that their role is to provide, to work, to care for their spouse and their children, to take care of themselves, to be self sufficient, to self-care. Building themselves a community for support is not seen as something that makes you manly. So even just prioritizing these relationships with anybody isn’t seen as a priority. And if you are prioritizing them with a woman that couldn’t possibly per society’s boxes be because you’re just interested in being friends with her. It has to be because you have a romantic connection. Do you see where this is a problem where men are stuck in an impossible situation? And then probably the biggest barrier, I think, between men becoming friends with women, is that women are exhausted. It is a lot of mental, emotional labor. To deal with the repercussions of the systems of power that we live in, there’s more burden placed on women. So even the mention of leaning in and helping to be a part of the solution and providing mental emotional labor for men gets a lot of women up in arms. The catalyst for recording this entire podcast episode, so soon, for me not putting it off anymore is that there’s an article, I believe it’s in the New York Times, that talks about how men have no friends and women carry the burden. So what does that look like, right? We talked about how men are taught to have feelings. So if you’re a grown man, nowadays you are trying to learn this, a lot of men I know at least are trying to break down these systems of power, rewrite what masculinity is, quite often, the route to do that is that men are encouraged to go find therapy, to go let it out. But like that is now an okay place for men to go. But when you go to therapy, you still need to practice this newfound skill of being open and vulnerable. And as we know, when anyone learns to do anything, they are probably not very good at it in the beginning. So as a woman to sit down and listen to a man, the work is one, like being okay with the fact that this doesn’t fit society’s boxes. Two, that when men come to you with their feelings, they may be kind of jumbled, and a mess. And they probably aren’t going to very many people, right? So if you are one of those women that is trusted by a man in your life, whether it is your partner, your father, your sibling, or maybe it is a close friend, you might be one of very few and you feel a lot of pressure to be this person support. Because otherwise they won’t have any and that’s not healthy and you love them and you care about them. So you want them to have this. But it’s exhausting to be that one person. It’s exhausting to continue to tell them to go work on this skill set that it’s important. It’s exhausting to live with the repercussions of this system where you have more work. And it’s exhausting to sit with the men in your life as they try and learn the skill set. So a lot of women will say, I don’t even want to do this. And I hear you because I have done this work. I’ve been the woman that sits there, you know? I haven’t really talked about this on the podcast. But in high school, I was a coxswain on the men’s crew team, which means I was the person that sits in the back and stares and yells. I did this all through high school, and most of college. What that looks like is that I was one, maybe two females on the men’s team, me and 60 other guys. So a lot of my friendships were me, a woman with a lot of men growing up, I had a single father. And I’ve just continued to be friends with the men in my life since then, and as the female that slowly over time has helped a number of men break down their barriers, it is a lot of work to sit there as they try and process it, as they come out jumbled, as they try and figure out how to constructively discuss their feelings as they work through the fact that they’re not supposed to be saying these things. And you might think to yourself, you know, they should go talk to a therapist, a lot of them are.

Alex Alexander 51:44

But even when I go to the therapist, and I work through my things, I may not process them with my friends, but I still leave therapy and maybe acknowledge like, it’s been a hard week or I’m working on something hard. Or I did that. Men still need a place when they leave to go and share that they are doing the thing and practice these new communication skills they’re learning. So part of the work is sitting there, but part of the work is also me, watching myself, making sure that I never shame them for doing this. I never tell them that’s not very manly, that like I’m not holding them in the box. So quite often, I think that we’re putting this all on men or blaming men for the symptoms. But really, again, we all exist on this earth, we all have to do this together. And I just gave you an example of being like the female friend for a bunch of guys, and how much work I’ve had to do to be that to engage in a greater community. But I’m gonna give you another example. You know, we’re blaming men for these systems that they live in. They aren’t new, they’ve been around a long time. It’s not like the current men that are alive created them. One of those is like one of those symptoms, one of those end results is asking men to partake in domestic labor and families. So if you’ve ever heard of that, the Fair Play, the book, I love it, we have the cards. But I look at maybe the childcare one that doesn’t apply to our life. But I look at that, and there’s cards on, they’re like, being your kids contact person, helping them with social interactions, right? So let’s say a dad gets that card. And he has heard his family he wants to partake. So now he goes out. And he’s picking his kid up from school, and he’s talking to the other parents. And as he does that, some woman, some mom, who is not considering the fact that she also has a role in this, she’s not part of their family. She has no idea that this is like a goal of his and their families. He reaches out and says, “You know, our kids seem to play really well together, we should set up a time for a playdate.” And she says something like, “Well, like we can do that. But maybe your wife should get my phone number.” Because there’s a variety of factors playing against him here. Right? Society says that if he gets her number, that might be a threat to both of their marriages, that he might be dangerous because we don’t trust in weak ties. That this isn’t very manly, this isn’t what he’s supposed to be doing. And suddenly, this very simple interaction, because we see this as like a men’s problem to fix, he isn’t going to be able to make any progress. And yet we continue to just yell about how men need to get involved and fix this. But no matter what, women also need to partake in unraveling this big ball of yarn. Whether it’s by being the people that have learned how to communicate about their emotions who are practiced at this, and engaging, whether it’s starting to consider that there can be connection for men, besides romantic connection, whether it’s simple interactions that allow men to be active members of society, and partake in things like the care of their family, we cannot escape the labor. It’s there. Okay, one more dynamic. Male friendships with other males. Now, when I recorded this episode, this is probably what you all thought I was going to talk about is how men can be friend other men. I am all in on men befriending other men. I encouraged the men in my life to make friendships. But as you’ve seen in this episode, men seem to have become disconnected, not only from each other, but from the rest of society. Like they are in their own box, where some of them want to do anything to stay in the box to be acceptable. Others want to break the box. They’re shamed for not participating in society. But yet society shames them back when they try and do new things outside the box. They aren’t taught how to do any of this. And if they really just put their stake in the ground, and they say, I’m going to break this mold, I’m gonna rethink masculinity, I’m going to prioritize connection, they will still get subtly shamed by the people around them for not fitting this like accepted mold of what it means to be a man. A lot of what I see when it comes to conversations about male friendship is twofold. One is that men just need to take care of themselves. They need to self care, they need to be accountable, that it is a burden on women to put this on them. And all this is doing is perpetuating this hyper toxic individualism. It’s keeping men cut off on their own island, it’s continuing this idea that men are successful men if they can do it all alone. It’s also ignoring the fact that in order for men to have time to do all these things, and all this accountability, in a heteronormative, American Dream relationship, the women are still off having to care for the kids, and try to care for themselves with limited time, like this solution is not for men to go off and self care their way out of this. There’s also a lot of conversations about, you know how men should get together with other men, learn what it is to be a man to hold each other accountable and rebuild what being a man is and integrate together. But again, what we’re telling men is, you go off on your own, you can share your feelings here in this group of men, but you’re still not connected to the greater society. And we will talk about what it means to be a man. We’ll rewrite the definition to include each other. But there’s still a very narrow tightrope that men are walking. And now we’ve added in the layer of accountability and shaming each other if you can’t do it, and you’re a bad person, if you can’t get yourself out of this problem on your own. If you can’t figure out how to be mentally stable and fit and self accountable and successful in your career, like you’re a failure. So I really don’t think that this is solving the problem. I think it’s just putting a bandaid on certain symptoms, like maybe if we can get men to be self accountable and whatnot, we would have less gun violence or lower suicide rates, but certain men still aren’t going to fit into this. They don’t want this. They won’t do this. So I really don’t think long term that’s like the solution to all this. And fun fact, men actually report that being friends with other men is much harder than befriending women. Men have a much easier time sharing with women, which now that we’ve talked about it is probably because one person is a little more emotionally savvy. But the biggest reason is because men are so in their heads about what it means to be a man. That whatever those expectations are, it’s hard to overcome or convince another man that your definition might be different, but it is still valid. The other piece is that if you’re being held in this very uncomfortable, tight box by society, and you decide, you know what, I don’t want to be here anymore, so you start to get out. The people that are still stuck in the box, are going to shame you and call you out because they’re super uncomfortable. And they can imagine you not being miserable, not inside the box. Like what is the point of them forcing themselves in the box, should tampering down all their feelings, feeling disconnected feeling on their own island, if you aren’t all going to do it together? Men do have friends. This is not to say men have no friends. Studies show that men have nearly as many numbers wise friends as women.

Alex Alexander 1:01:29

But quite often, men’s friendships are called shoulder to shoulder friendships. Which means that because they have this fear of vulnerability, and authenticity, and opening up because it might get used against them, because they have to look like they have it all together and they can’t admit that they need help or support, they often end up spending time together, doing activities. And in doing those activities, because they have to overcome the expectations of other men about what it means for them to be a man, they quite often don’t share. They aren’t open, they don’t ask for support. And you’ll see this, if you’re around male friendships, in that if somebody is vulnerable, if somebody does admit something, you might watch the men in your life get really uncomfortable. Because in their minds, kindness is not acknowledging it and being supportive. Kindness is pretending that you never made this admission, and that you are still as much of a man to them. That is the kindest thing you can do as a friend. And now that I’ve said that to you, I’m curious to see how many people start to notice this in their everyday life. So what happens is men go and do these shoulder to shoulder activities. And then they come home. And in a heteronormative relationship dynamic here, you know, I might ask, how was golfing? Was it good? Did you and Jay talk about that new job? They’ll say no, it never came up. And you’re just standing there wondering how the heck did you spend five, six hours on the golf course and you never talked about it? And then I understand why people, women, whatever, are frustrated, it’s like you went and spent all this time together, you didn’t actually get any support. So now you’re back home, I’ve been doing all the labor of keeping our life going. And then you want me to do the mental labor of continuing to guide our families, social connections, continuing to be your support. So I get why it’s frustrating, but I always am out here talking about… like I generally use Michael, my husband’s fantasy football league, right? So many people talk about like a fantasy football is so dumb for adults, such a waste of time. Right? And this is perpetuating this idea that men are supposed to work, that men are supposed to care for me. Like that’s the only things Michael my husband is good for. And that’s not true. He’s also allowed enjoyment and fun. We don’t have any kids. So I get that that adds a layer to this. But the piece that I always tell Michael is the reason I encourage fantasy football, one, you enjoy it. But two, it is the glue that keeps you all talking. They all talk about football and sports and whatnot very easily. They’re comfortable doing it. Without that, they probably would never text each other and ask how their day is maybe. But it’s going to take a while for them to get there. That when they go and they do maybe this draft weekend, sure they’re going to spend a lot of their weekend doing like talking about sports. Yes. But without that weekend, they would never get to the 10pm conversation where they’re all sitting around and somebody finally asks the question of like, how’s life. There’s no chance they might actually share with each other if they never do it in the first place. So I’ll talk about this more in the second part of the episode, but like part of this is having conversations with him, with people, our friends and saying, hey, you are each other’s support, this is part of this time. Yes, it is to go have fun. It is also to check in on each other. Both are worth it, and you deserve that. But if we cut men off, if we see men’s friendships as lesser than, they’ll never get together, they will never have the opportunity to practice, they will never have the opportunity to like change the friendship culture within their male friend groups. But if you notice a piece of this layer is like me and the other women in their lives encouraging this and saying, this is better for all of us. I do not need to be your only support, go do this. Nobody can do any of this change alone, we all have to be bought in. And the final thing I want to say about men’s friendships, is that male friendship is so fragile that we actually have a term for male friendship. I call it bromance. And in a world where there are very, very few terms that relate to friendship, right, we have a friend and we have an acquaintance. And I’ve spend countless hours in my week trying to think about how to get the most people in this world to understand that friendship is not all or nothing. It is not black and white. It is not only friend or acquaintance. We have very, very little language for friendship. But we have a term for male friendships, bromance. But when you really think about the word bromance, it’s really not a term of endearment normally. Saying like, oh, they’re in a bromance is seen as like a joke. It’s a quiet pleading explanation, where you’re saying, please believe me, this is not that. And quite often men are pushed out there to go find this bromance to go seek it out as their sole means of support, but then slowly working their way there is a waste of time. When you are there, you’re not sure what the limits are on how much to share what’s allowed, how you’re going to navigate this, how you have these jumbled conversations where both men aren’t encouraged to share and ask for help, and lean into support, it’s kind of like the blind leading the blind and added a layer that yet another piece of these systems that they’re existing in is that a bromance is not a romantic relationship. Right? Because men can’t have possibly any other love or connection or support besides romantic, so it’s a bromance, please believe me, it’s this not that. It’s really not that endearing. And I’m just left sitting here thinking that yet again, men’s friendship seems like this endless spiral of impossible situations. Okay. Take a breath for a second. I know I got a little worked up, you’re probably a little overwhelmed. What we all want to know is, where do we go from here? How do we start to untangle this mess? How do we make an impact? Because the thing is that this situation that we are all in that we’re all existing in, is having massive, widespread consequences. I’ve mentioned before on the podcast that loneliness has been called an epidemic in the US by our US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. And quite often, mental health or loneliness or the need for community is just this like generic phrase that’s thrown out in conversation after we talk about big issues impacting our society. Issues like gun violence. Now, I will be the first to line up, like we need gun reform. Right? Like this is not a one or the other. I believe I’m not holding back my beliefs on this podcast anymore. We need gun reform.



You’ll get the full scoop on everything we’ve been up to in the last seven days – podcast episodes, blog posts, and updates, plus an exclusive note from Alex every week with her latest, unedited thoughts. 

Alex Alexander 1:10:00

But there’s also this constant blame on mental health. There’s conversations happening asking if gun violence is a men’s issue. But then I sit there and think, what about mental health? What is leading to all this depression in men? Well, feeling like they don’t fit in the box, feeling ashamed. What is causing all this anxiety, you know, if you don’t feel like yourself, if you’re trying to live this double life, that’s going to cause you a lot of anxiety as you’re trying to navigate. And just daily interactions, as you’re trying to think ahead and predict the outcome, make sure everyone feels good that you are still seen in a certain way, that you have control. Research shows that men who have a fear of showing emotions also tend to display the most violent behavior. So we have to start making it okay for men to show emotions. And that’s not just men showing emotion to other men. That is, all of us getting more comfortable with men being honest about how they’re feeling. All of this also applies to suicide rates, divorce rates. We’ve all heard the stories about the men who get divorced, because they cheat. And I already talked about how sexual intimacy is seen as the only acceptable place for men to find and feel love. But then, we also on the flip side, have the… heard the stories about men who their wives ask them for a divorce. And they had no idea that anything was wrong. Because they’ve been compartmentalizing. They’ve been ignoring their feelings. They don’t have the language to talk about it. And then we also have this issue with men who get divorced. I’ve heard this from many men who have gotten divorced, and realize that they actually have no friends, that their entire social circle was dependent on their wife. That their wife had friends and they hung out with their wives’ friends, husbands. But those people warned actually their friends, they didn’t actually build a connection. Well, social wellness is seen as women’s work. It’s kind of hard to get close to these guys, as we’ve seen. They tried to stay in their boxes and fulfill their roles. And then they’re left alone, which then impacts their health. You know, studies recently have come out showing that the greatest predictor of life expectancy is connection, the greatest predictor. So if the current boxes of society are not built for men to have connection, it’s literally killing them. And other big societal issues, sexual assault, you know, there’s lots of conversations about getting to men, to help them with the loneliness and the impact. Like, what if men were just allowed to be friends, with anyone without these boxes, men, women, people? And they started to see women in their life, people in their life as people, not just wives and sisters and mothers who live in this other sphere of the world, you know, that they exist. But men are not existing with them. If suddenly they could find and feel connection and love that didn’t just come through sexual intimacy, don’t we think that that would have a trickle down effect on sexual assault? You know, there’s all these conversations out there about emotional domestic labor, we want help. But it’s not manly to help. And we’re trying to break that down. We’re trying to break that down. But there’s a lot of barriers for guys to do that. Because they aren’t always allowed to just partake in the greater community. Because somebody might interpret that as more than just a friendly connection. Substance abuse is another huge issue. If you can’t be yourself, would make sense that you might try and numb that to dissociate and deny and tamper all that down. Trans rights. You weren’t expecting that one maybe. Maybe you were. There is a beautiful episode one of my favorite podcast episodes I’ve ever listened to of all time on the Man Enough podcast with Alok Vaid-Menon. I’ve listened to it three times. And Alok talks all about how men are being held in this tight box by the patriarchy. They’re miserable. And if you’re that miserable, it would make sense that you are struggling to accept someone who is fully themselves outside of society’s boxes, as in trans and non binary people. And that it would make sense if you’re in that much pain, that you would want to cause other people the same pain for being free, and being seen and being themselves. It’s truly… I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve shared it with, and I’m sharing it all with you go listen to that episode. And other one is these conversations about dwindling attention. Well, if third spaces are disappearing, which they have, really are only third space, our space to go and meet people and connect with people is online. Third spaces have transitioned to online. So if you are seeking out connection in a very disconnected world, you’re going to direct your attention online. And that often gets blamed on like, technology and all these things. Like maybe cutting back on technology, isn’t the answer, maybe the answer is making it more okay to go connect out in the world to become a part of the greater community for men. It will be less on what we’re limiting as in online and more about what we’re adding, you’ll be way less concerned about what you’re leaving behind if you have something great out there. I could go on and on and on about this. And the consequences. I want to tell you one more story related to me, when I think of why I care so much about men’s friendships. You know, I’ve mentioned before that my mom passed away. And that left my father, as a single father of three kids, 13, 5 and 3. e Hsuddenly had to become a caretaker, in a world that tells him he’s not, where he doesn’t really have the tools, or he doesn’t have the support system. And I will never forget, you know, my dad had to go. Because my siblings were much younger, he had to walk them up to the bus stop, and he had to stand with them when they got picked up for school in the morning. That’s fine. Sometimes there were other dads, but for the most part, the moms in our neighborhood were up there. And he would go up there and just quietly drink his coffee off on the side. And after a while, after a few months, he started watching Desperate Housewives which was an ABC, I don’t know, I think it was on Thursday night sitcom. And sort of, like 20 years ago.

Alex Alexander 1:17:35

Gosh, how has it been that long? Anyways, he started watching it. And I have never actually asked him this. But if I think back, I think he started watching it so that he had something to talk to these other moms about. So he could break into the conversation, because he couldn’t really say I’m struggling, because it would make him look less manly. But if he could have something that they were all talking about, that he could also talk about, then he could join the conversation and he could get the information that he really, really needed. Which was what are they doing about spring break? How are they handling parent-teacher conferences? Where do I go to buy my daughter’s feminine hygiene products? But admitting those things, right, we’d have to admit that he needed help with that he couldn’t do it all, all things that are not manly. So instead, I think my theory is that he just started watching the show because it would allow him in on the conversations where they might say these things and he could just pick them up. He could like hear over here without having to ask. Or maybe he would connect with them enough that he could ask these questions. But let’s think about what a wild world it is that my dad didn’t feel like he could just freely do that when he desperately needed support. I can’t even wrap my brain around having to suddenly single parent, three kids, let alone single parenting three kids in a world where they’re telling him that he needs to provide, he needs to care for them, he needs to nurture them and he has to do multiple roles. But do it alone. Don’t ask for help. Don’t show that you don’t know what you’re doing. What a sad situation. And we hear these stories. I obviously lived this and I don’t want this to be the case moving forward for other men. But we also hear these stories about how women… let’s say a woman gets cancer and then her husband leaves her and we get all down on the men, on the symptoms, on the final result. But after listening to this episode, I hope you look at it and think that husband was taught to deny his feelings which he probably has many of, to never really fully connect, to never be honest. Now he has to be a caretaker in a world that is telling him that is not manly, where he was never taught how, and where he’s told not to go find any help. I might give up too, if I’m being honest. What a sad box and situation to be stuck in. How overwhelming but a twisted web of knots to untie. We need to stop seeing connection as structure. If anything at the end of this very long episode, I hope you see that we need to stop seeing connectionist structure, what’s acceptable and what isn’t. And trying to hold each other in these boxes when we don’t live in these boxes. They aren’t working. Because connection isn’t about structure. It’s about values and love and care. It’s about building what feels right. And that if we start questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing, when it comes to our friendships, our community, our romantic relationships, our family relationships, that we might actually be able to start breaking down these boxes and rebuilding things that feel right when start untangling this giant ball of yarn. I hope that by listening to this episode, you now have some sort of awareness. As you move through your day, we’re not going to see it all I’m still unpeeling layers of this. But you might start to see how maybe somebody in a male in your life, whether you are a man, a woman person is opening up to you and maybe you are uncomfortable and you can check yourself. That awareness is the first layer. And that after that, we can start to try and implement new actions. We can change the way we think, speak, and act when it comes to friendship and community in our lives. And slowly start to break down these boxes and rebuild things that actually feel right. So with that, I will leave you there will be a part two to this episode where I will give some out-of-the-box ideas of ways that you might start to change these relationships in your life. Whether you are a man or are connected to a man, which is literally everyone listening to this podcast, because, at the end of the day, we all exist in this world together.

Podcast Intro/Outro 1:22:48

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

Profile Photo for Alex Alexander a blonde haired white woman smiling at the camera. She is in her 30s with her hair down and curled and wearing a grey sweater.

Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

Ask questions, leave comments, share critiques or give advice. All are welcome.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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