The stereotype that men not able to talk about or share their feelings may have some truth behind it, and according to Victoria counsellor Bruce Chambers, it's getting in the way of men building friendships, especially with other men.
Chambers, a volunteer counsellor at the Citizens Counselling Centre, says he speaks to many men who are feeling isolated and lonely which leads to depression, anxiety and anger.
"There were a lot of male clients, who, even though they may in a partnership, they may have children, they may have a successful career, they're feeling unfulfilled or isolated … and most of them were able to say they have this 'no friends' thing, this 'male no friends' thing," Chambers told All Points West host Robyn Burns.
"That part of their life was just a real hole for them."
- 'Let No One Be Alone' encourages Manitobans to reach out to seniors
- Loneliness linked to premature death
Chambers doesn't believe men prefer to be alone, and it's more a circumstance of family and work life displacing friendships. And while those things are fulfilling for many men, Chambers thinks that men do need male friendships throughout their lives.
Problem at all ages
It's a problem Chambers is seeing in men of many ages. Sometimes men in their 20s move out on their own to a new city and realize they don't know how to build new relationships. Other times, older men lose their partners and have forgotten how to make friends.
"Also there's an issue with mostly young people who've been spending a lot of time online with friends and are beginning to find that unfulfilling," he said. "We're finding ways to teach them to transition to face-to-face friendships."
Chambers says that men are socialized to not talk about their feelings, which can keep existing friendships at a surface level. He finds some men who come in for counselling are uncomfortable even making eye contact.
"So there's a lot of skilling learning and learning new attitudes and getting over this whole idea of how we were socialized as men," he said.
He says that for many men, getting friends back into their lives can be improved by practicing some fundamental skills that might seem obvious, like eye contact, story-telling and even compliments — but many men don't realize what they're not doing.
To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Why are men such lousy friends? A Victoria counsellor has some ideas why