Unfortunately, very few men have authentic friends -- guys they can call at 3:00 a.m. if they're in trouble, guys who'll get dressed and drive to their home to be there for them. Authentic friendships are totally mutual relationships in which guys "have each others' backs" unconditionally.
An authentic friend will be open and honest with you -- letting you know if he feels you're behaving like a jerk -- not to chastise or embarrass you, but to help you understand how your behavior is hurting you and everyone around you. He'll listen to your story and fully support you, but not offer advice or tell you what you should do, because he knows that advice is the lowest form of conversation. If he has experienced what you're going through, he'll share what he did that worked and what didn't -- as well as the emotional process that helped him move ahead. An authentic friend isn't afraid of showing and sharing his feelings or appearing unmanly because he knows it takes great strength to be authentic. Wimpy? No way.
The reasons men have given me for not having such deep friendships are mostly bogus -- for example, "I'm too busy," "I'm not a guy who talks about his problems," "My wife is the only friend I need," "I don't trust other men," and "I'm a loner and don't know any other men." The real reason is fear, and if there's any quality that defines a wimp, it's allowing fear to sideline you.
In fact, few men could maintain eye contact while offering these excuses -- the classic "tell" that exposes liars. Most of them probably had friends they were close to as boys but decided they'd outgrown the need. They're fooling themselves, though, because men need other men in their lives more, not less, as they age -- when unresolved emotional and relationship issues are compounded by physical and financial problems.
And, as far as relationship issues go, they don't go away just because a man's clock keeps ticking. The divorce rate for Boomers is sky-high, and many remarry again quickly, offering the unresolved issues from their failed marriages as wedding gifts to their next wives. These guys keeps repeating their dysfunctional behavior, hoping for a different result -- the classic definition of insanity.
Easy for me to say now, but I remember how painful it felt staring into the bathroom mirror, trying to make good life choices in a vacuum. I second-guessed myself into my 40s before the pain of my isolation became so disabling that I felt compelled to reach out and make friends with other men.
And what I know now is that men don't have to go it alone in life. No one really thinks you're more masculine because you choose to suffer alone in silence. That only works in the movies, where most of the actors actually have very screwed-up private lives. Isolating yourself and eating your pain doesn't make it go away, so face the fear and seek out other men who have felt the same pain and can help you get beyond it once and for all.
Don't just take my word for it, though. Read the stories of eight men who accomplished this -- and became each other's authentic friends -- in my new book, Act Like a Man. It's a real eye-opener about what men can accomplish together -- and, if they did it, you can do it, too!
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