The Hard Truths About Male Loneliness and What You Can Do About It
“My loneliness is killing me…” croons Britney, a familiar tune from the past, its lyrics resonating with single men all over the world. Sounds like an overstatement? Except it isn’t. Male loneliness is real. And if former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is to be believed, it is of epidemic proportions with debilitating health risks.
In the world’s most populated countries, China and India – men outnumber women by 70 million. This imbalance results in a surplus of bachelors where Chinese and Indian men, in their mid-30s are feeling isolated, left out and alone. Singaporean men share how they are discovering the reality of loneliness especially in light of the further isolation that the pandemic has brought about.
While it may be a sobering reality, there are things that can help if you are facing the same situation. But before we delve into that, let’s first try to understand how it comes about in the first place.
Challenges to Modern Male Friendships
So how do young men in their 30s get trapped in this vicious cycle of isolation? You would think that with the connectivity that the internet brings, this generation should be the most connected generation, ergo least lonely generation of all. But unfortunately, it is the opposite.
The main issue seems to stem from the difference in upbringing. Compared to females, showing affection, and displaying emotions are typically associated with weakness in males – and this is especially pronounced in Asian cultures. As such, young boys adapt and adopt masculine behaviour which steer clear of male vulnerability because of such social expectations.
Where females are encouraged to share deep intimate connections with and rely on their “sisterhoods”, such behaviour is frowned upon between young boys and men. It is not surprising then, that this naturally forms a hurdle for men to even grow strong lasting friendships to begin with. Think about your soccer friends, poker buddies, how often do your conversations go beyond the surface? The sharing of emotion and stories of lives that come easier to women, is a real struggle for men because of these social expectations since young.
As they grow up and enter society, these notions persist. And additionally, you now also have a new hurdle – the lack of time. Combined with the fact that studies show “men seem to require an activity together to make and keep a bond” compared to women, it seems almost impossible to maintain a bromance or any form of friendship really.
So how can a modern male – with such ingrained behavioural habits and facing such seemingly impossible hurdles – overcome the odds and combat male loneliness? We have some suggestions that might be useful for your circumstances.
Tackling Male Loneliness
While we are the first to acknowledge there is and will never be a silver bullet for a multi-faceted problem like this, there are plenty of strategies that may help you gradually chip away at the problem:
Get in Touch with Your Feelings
It is difficult to go from suppressing all talk of emotions and feelings for a good part of your life to suddenly sharing an outpouring of them. It is all about baby steps.
How to start learning to get in touch with your feelings and be comfortable talking about them? A small change could be to make it a habit to have at least one conversation about your feelings each day. Start with someone you know – a family member, a close friend or a friendly colleague from work. Ask them how their day was and really listen. Share with them about yours and be as open about it as you can. If you can’t get far the first time, try again the next. Over time, with more exposure, you’ll get more comfortable talking about deeper topics.
Reach Out to Supportive Communities
Be proactive in seeking communities that will allow you to reach out to people who are willing to connect, share and support each other. Mantor can also be that place for you. The key here is to reach out early and reach out often.
Spend Time Cultivating New Friendships
Once you have made the effort to reconnect or reach out, make sure you keep it up. Friendships cannot be cultivated over a single activity or conversation. It is a sustained effort. On top of that, now that we have learnt that men bond better over activities instead of just chatting, plan for activities instead of just chats over coffee or beer if you can.
Need some help to get started? You can learn some tips from therapist and researcher Geoffrey L. Grief’s book based on his study of nearly 400 men exploring the diversity of male friendship.
The above suggestions may work for some, but if you don’t believe this is something you can tackle alone, don’t hesitate to get help. Therapy can help with social anxiety, making friends and depression associated with male loneliness. So, reach out and get help should you require it.
Well, the first step to escaping this vicious trap of male loneliness is to admit that you are lonely. And having read to the end of this article, we applaud you for taking this difficult first step. Now for the next baby step, and the next….Remember, you are not alone in your journey to combat loneliness in your lives – there are thousands of men just like you out there.
We hope that you can share your struggles and successes in tackling loneliness with us and help us continue this important dialogue.