You need other people, and I’m not just talking about your wife, your kids, or a group of guys you can eat wings and watch the game with. All of those things are important, but what I’m talking about is having people who you can talk to about what is really going on in your life, people you can share your deepest longings and struggles with, people with whom you can share those emotions that you’ve spent most of your life pretending you don’t have.
It’s good if you can share those things with your significant other, because most of us don’t even do that. But you need to have men in your life that you can share with. I learned this the hard way. You see, a year ago today a judge signed his name and stamped his seal on the document that ended my marriage. Men often have a more difficult time dealing with and recovering from divorce than women. A big reason for this is that men tend to rely on their wives for all of their emotional needs, because we think it is weird or gay to share our emotions with other men. This means that men tend to suck at friendship. We are so caught up in being perceived as being gay, that we fail miserably at forming strong friendships. This is a huge problem, because low social well being is connected to higher rates of a whole host of health problems, as well as lower life expectancy.
I was one of the worst offenders in this area. Since my divorce, I have been blessed with a group of men who have helped see me through the past year, and without this support network, I’m not sure I would have made it. The problem is I didn’t just need that support when my marriage had failed. I needed it when it was failing. When everything was falling apart, I talked to marriage counselors about it, but I can’t remember one time I admitted that things weren’t going well to anyone that I didn’t have to. I thought that men suffered in silence. We didn’t talk about our emotions, especially with other men. This isn’t because there weren’t men in my life who wouldn’t have been glad to listen and to help. It is because I didn’t think that’s what men were supposed to do.
I have since learned how wrong that was. I have learned how deeply I need other people. We have often heard that behind every great man is a great woman, and that is often true. But there is usually also a great friend or group of friends. Abraham Lincoln had Joshua Fry Speed. Thomas Jefferson had John Adams. It is really only in the context of modern America that the idea of close male relationships being somehow unmanly has become a part of culture.
We need to battle against that. We need to find friends who will walk through life with us. We need to find people who we can confide in. The people who will be there when we are going through struggle, or who will rejoice with us when we have joy. It is not enough that we have men who can do that for us, we also need to be that for other men. Don’t just take out of your relationships give back to others. Listen to them. Suffer with them. Be joyous with them.
I want to challenge you to do something. If you have something you are struggling with reach out to someone about it. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them. Don’t wait until your marriage is broken beyond repair, or theirs is. It’s going to be awkward at first. It won’t feel natural to share, but I can’t begin to express how important it is.