Men’s friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

Men’s friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

What is the basis of competition between men? What does society force men to do and how to live with it?

While a woman only needs a man to be successful, a patriarchal man needs to be successful on all fronts of life. Therefore, male competition rests on three pillars:

  1. Power (status);
  2. Resources;
  3. Women.

This is a “travesty” of harem-type animal societies: in both, the masculine male, who has power, as a consequence, gets both resources and females.

In this sense, modern patriarchal society is not much different from primates: with resources and power, females will themselves compete for the attention of the male. Men without resources and power are left at the bottom of the list. They have to constantly prove their masculinity to society, and all other men become competitors for them.

Such a worldview gives a lot of room for manipulation. The phrase “the man is the head and the woman the neck” comes from here. A man is more tightly pressed by the need to “be a real man” than a woman, who is sometimes allowed to “be a man”. Hence the woman, and with her the whole society, gets a wide range of tools to control the man.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

There is only one way to insure against manipulation: to stop playing gender games. Competition between men is appropriate if there is a war, if you are competing for a girl, if you are business or career rivals. In all other cases it is more advantageous to be friends with men than to fight.

In today’s world, the stereotypical notions of the male and female relationships that prevailed only a few centuries ago have long since been blurred. But while communication between girls has received much attention, close relationships between men continue to be condemned or retain a taboo on the display of emotion. This is due to the historical context and the lack of knowledge in the field of psychology.

How has men’s relationships changed over time?

The ancient Greeks considered male friendship stronger than love to woman

In ancient times, the psychology of relationships between men was considered special. Such communication was considered ideal, occurring on a mental level.

The historians also emphasize spiritual intimacy and communication without words. Strong friendship was compared to a high relationship beyond the usual understanding, and was ranked higher than marital love for a woman. The Hellenes believed that girls were incapable of fully understanding people of the opposite sex, making such an alliance mentally considered inferior.

Aristotle and other philosophers extolled the virtues of platonic feelings (an emotional connection without sexual intimacy). The Greeks regarded the relationship between men as almost ideal.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

During this period the idea of heroic friendship took shape. It meant an intense emotional or intellectual union of people of the same sex. Examples of this type of relationship are recorded in many texts, from the Bible (David and Jonathan) to ancient Greek legends.

The strong male friendship is reflected in the tremendous level of understanding between Achilles and Patroclus. They fought together in the Trojan War and had a truly intimate relationship. When Hector killed Patroclus, Achilles was beside himself with grief for days. He smeared his body with ashes and utterly refused to take any food into his chambers. After the funeral, the warrior, filled with powerful anger, went out onto the battlefield to avenge the death of his best friend.

The image of Achilles and Patroclus has occupied an important place in history. When Alexander the Great and his battle comrade Hephaistion passed through Troy, their army stopped in front of the tomb of the two heroes of legend, showing reverence for the unbreakable spiritual bond.

Men’s friendship in the Middle Ages

Friendly feelings in the 19th century were expressed absolutely freely: with hugs, even kisses. In books of the time one can find descriptions of men’s open expression of deep feelings, sentimentality. Society was relaxed about the friendship alliance, which in many cases had as deep roots as the emotional intimacy of marriage with a woman.

The Romantic era emphasized emotion. It should be understood, however, that this kind of relationship did not imply intimacy. The idea that a close friendship between men jeopardized their heterosexuality was condemned by society and viewed with derision.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

Members of the stronger sex freely expressed their feelings on a piece of paper, sent secret letters, or found pleasant words in everyday conversation. For example, the American senator and one of the famous orators of the time, Daniel Webster, often began notes to his male friends with the phrase “My favorite boy” and ended with “With affection, your…”. Even the letters of prominent politician Theodore Roosevelt were filled with sentimental turns that in today’s world are embarrassing to say aloud.

Affectionate words were not the only means of friendship between men. Physical touches, such as hugs or intertwined fingers, were also freely expressed.

A popular method of renting a common dwelling among men in the Middle Ages was to sleep in the same bed in order to save a decent sum of money. The great emancipator Abraham Lincoln, for example, shared a bed with a man named Joshua Speed for several years. Unscrupulous journalists believe that the politician had a romantic attraction to persons of his own sex, but historians say otherwise: the two men simply enjoyed the comfortable company of a companion.

The psychology of relationships between men at that time looks strange to us, but it was considered the norm of behavior in society. The vintage photos clearly demonstrate open affection.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

Not all modern people view the pictures positively, because they mistakenly see the openness as an intimate connection. In fact, such old pictures of two grown men embracing looked normal for that time.

XIX century: Split and change of views on male relatioships

At this time, society began to look at close relationships between men differently. Perhaps this was due to the fact that cases of not only friendship, but also love relationships between individuals of the same sex became more frequent.

There are several reasons explaining the tenderness between men in the past:

  1. First, there was no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The stigmatization of homosexuality took place at the legislative level, but it did not set rigid limits on the expression of emotions among the population. Tender feelings were not considered an obligatory attribute of a sexual relationship. Even the notions of same-sex sex and partnership were absent, since they were hidden behind the metaphorical “crime that cannot be spoken of”. It was not until the early nineteenth century that psychologists took up the study of people with an attraction to the same sex;
  2. The change that came had a negative effect on men’s freedom, as it caused embarrassment. The government, the media also influenced the change in attitudes. Now, when meeting a faithful friend, they did not hug him, but at most patted him on the back;
  3. In the past, emotional friendships between men had objective reasons. The social structure of society was strict, women were not allowed to show warmth towards the opposite sex. Once in a while, a girl could be spoken to at dances, receptions, or, if there was permission from one of her relatives, young people would go out together. Interaction between man and woman was reduced to a minimum until lovers announced their engagement. Separation led many young men to satisfy the need for emotional expression of feelings with other guys. After all, a man always remains human and needs close, open communication, support and tenderness. Nothing to do with the sexual needs of such a desire has nothing to do;
  4. In addition, the pursuit of “fraternity” groups became more frequent in America. They were like little communities where men gathered to discuss hobbies, share impressions of a book they had read, or provide emotional support. Most of the meetings of such companies took place in secluded houses, where they could not be interrupted by the unexpected visit of a random passerby.

XX century: Formation of a modern view

The hard events of the 20th century (several bloody revolutions and world wars) did not pass over the warm relations between men, which changed into a cool and aloof one.

Restraint began to be enshrined in law. Accusations of homosexuality reached the point of absurdity. Testimony was given by third parties who only assumed an intimate relationship between two people, but had no proper proof. The once free society was subjected to fear.

It now seemed wrong for young people to hug when they met, as well as to show any physical contact. In many countries same-sex relationships were condemned, often ending in arrest. The reason for this was that the intimate relationship was contrary to biblical precepts, homosexuality was considered a disease, a form of deviant behavior.

The Industrial Revolution and ideas such as social Darwinism changed people’s views. It has become “unfashionable” to sympathize, to help, to show respect. This meant that the possibility of finding a potential comrade-in-arms or friend dropped to almost zero. Man’s goal became winning at everything, comrades suddenly turned into competitors who must be beaten in order to take the best place under the sun. Of course, this does not mean that men stopped being friends. But warm relationships between men have lost the status of the social norm.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

Detachment and cynicism among men became commonplace. As mobility increased in the twentieth century, the search for self-interest came to the fore, buddy relationships became unimportant. It is difficult to find a loyal friend when you have to compete with each other and make sure that the work is done better than the others.

Technological advances also had an impact on relations between men. People had more free time, and after industrialization, men began to exercise more often and take part in outdoor activities. That’s when new opportunities for socializing emerged: golf courses, front yards, and workspaces in the collective. The usual emotionality, the attachment to another person was no longer built on a mental union, but within the framework of a professional activity.

World War II

On the one hand, the war divided men from one another, dividing them into “their own” and “enemies”. On the other hand, it brought them together as never before (for it is only when you know your friend is near you that you can fight with confidence).

Battles claimed lives every day, so relationships between men at the front were strong and emotional. Most of the men took part in the hostilities, which created a true brotherhood of men. Soldiers never left their friends and were willing to die to save them.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

At the same time, special organizations providing psychological aid to all participants in hostilities were established. Even the support of friends could not compensate for the monstrous psychological burden faced by the front-line soldiers. The experience changed people, distorted their notions of normal and abnormal. The men who came home from the war found it difficult to fit into a peaceful life.

What is a man’s friendship now?

Friendship is an important part of any man’s life. It’s nice to have people around on whom you can rely in a time of need if your own strength is lost.

The modern conception of a buddy relationship between men is multifaceted. Friends support each other, give gifts, spend time together. It would seem to be the same as in former times. However, in fact, the concept has undergone tremendous historical changes.

At the moment there are four types of relationships: business, friendly, close and romantic. It is advisable to consider each of them separately.

Formal Relationships

This is a purely business relationship between men. They imply complete concealment of real emotions from the eyes from other people.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

It is generally believed that during work activities people should think only about work. There is almost no place for emotions and personal relationships. In such relationships their key element is often manifested – rivalry. The desire to prove dominance and unique abilities over the others.

Buddy relationships

When it comes to buddy-buddy relationships, modern men’s relationships are built without any strict framework.

There are many exciting activities that are more fun to do in company. Such a pastime does not involve deep emotional attachment. People just know each other and relate to each other quite well. They are unlikely to make sacrifices or reveal their souls to their buddies.

Close friendship

Affection is inherent in all people. Close friends rely on each other for everything and share their deepest feelings. It is an alliance based on the deepest emotional attachment and complete trust.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

Romantic relations

It is also not uncommon for close relationships between men to arise for a number of reasons, depending on experiences or an innate attraction to one’s sex. After the historical taboo of emotions, such a union between young people is perceived with disapproval. However, in Western countries, society treats partners indifferently, without condemnation, allowing them to build a full family or state marriage.

Why friendship between men is normal and natural?

Today many organizations, communities, and even entire countries view male friendships negatively. The strict framework of the modern world has led to a situation in which men are free to establish close and intimate relationships with women, but not with men. Such a refusal to express emotions has a negative effect on a person’s overall condition.

Meanwhile, numerous studies have proven that men who have a few close friends they can trust completely tend to be happier, more confident and live longer than in their absence. All thanks to the mutual support from other men.

Men's friendship. Or why it is sometimes useful to be friends than to compete

Male friendship is strong because it is associated with three concepts:

  • Loyalty. This probably has to do with the desire to overcome obstacles collectively, not forgetting to help a friend;
  • Unbiasedness. In today’s society, men are not judged by their appearance. It is assumed that mens to assess only by their actions – worthy or not.
  • Immediacy. Men are not really so restrained. They also need to vent their emotions, to discuss the problem without suppressing themselves. With a woman to openly show their feelings are unlikely to work, but with a friend, you can be completely frank.

It should be noted that the above attributes are also characteristic of the female half of the globe, depending on tradition and upbringing.

So, let us summarize. Male relationships are multifaceted and have gone through a number of changes since ancient times, until they received their modern form, the restrained form. This found expression in books about male relationships as well. It is unlikely that a modern author would describe friendship in the same way as Homer or Thomas Melory. It is true that the psychological aspect of such closeness from the world is negative, because it puts a man in a difficult position and forces him to keep silent about his experiences and his own problems.


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