The Struggle of Friendship (especially for 30-something males, which I write about because I am one)
Friendships for men in their thirties are hard. I say this based on my own experience and on conversations I’ve had with many other men in their thirties. It might be true for men in the forties, or even fifties. Shoot, it might even be true for women! But I’ll leave that judgment to people who are those things. Here’s what I’ve experienced and heard from others that makes these friendships hard.
I always have to ask.
I feel like I am always the one to initiate getting together with other guys. Over time, this makes me feel like they don’t really want to get together in the first place. But as I’ve talked to other guys, they feel the same way. We all want to feel like others want to be with us, and when we don’t feel that way it’s easy to pull back. So we need to keep asking. The reality is, when people say no, it’s probably not because they don’t want to say yes. It’s because…
No one has time.
The reality of this time in life is that it is actually busy. In college I thought I was busy. I did have at least three to four hours a day in class. The reality I see now is that I wasn’t busy and that I had an enormous amount of time to hang out with friends. An amount of time that will never be matched again in my life. Right now there are family dinners, kids activities, bedtimes (anyone seeing a theme here?). It is also a time of giving a great deal of time and sacrifice to careers and dreams. I wouldn’t want to give up any of it. I love my kids and wouldn’t want to take away any of the time I spend with them. I cherish it because I know it will be gone before I know it. I also love my job and enjoy working toward some dreams I have. But all of this adds up to very little free time.
Regular time with other guys has to fit into an hour early in the morning or an evening once a month at best. This kind of limited time certainly can sustain friendships, but it does have limitations. I’ve realized people actually are busy–we don’t just say it. Maybe someday there will be more free time and more time to devote to friendships.
We feel pressure.
Because of limited time and limited invitations, there is pressure to make every interaction deep and amazing. My best friendships were forged over time through playing basketball, sharing dinner, watching movies (and often discussing them), and being there for each other when times were tough. The common denominator with all these things is time. Now that there is less of it there is pressure to maximize the short time we have.
A friend of mine once said that the measure of a true friendship is the ability to be in the same place at the same time without the obligation to say anything. We put too many expectations on our limited time together. Sometimes deep conversation is great, but maybe time spent just hanging out isn’t wasted either.
But we want friends.
Despite the difficulties, I can say unequivocally that I value friends. I wish I could spend more time with my college friends–the guys who became like brothers to me fifteen years ago. I wish there were more nights to play basketball, catch a movie, or just hang out and enjoy a good beer with my friends here. I wish a friend would drop by my house to say hi–even if he only had five minutes. I wish guys would ask me to do things, and keep asking even when I have to say no five times in a row. I wish I would keep asking even when other guys have to say no five times in a row. Maybe I will.