A new study has found that young heterosexual mens’ ‘bromances’ — their close friendships with other men — are more emotionally satisfying than their romantic relationships with women.
It appears that young men are confiding in their mates instead of opening up to their female partners, more so than older generations of men.
The study was published in Men and Masculinities1 and showed that of the undergraduate straight men they interviewed for the study, 100% reported having at least one “bromantic” friend with whom they engaged in behaviors such as sharing secrets, sleeping in the same bed, or expressing love. 96% of respondents said they had cuddled with their bromantic partner.
I, too, have found this phenomena strongly trending among young men I work with in my private counseling practice in Sydney, Australia, where I regularly work with men in relationships.
The rise of the bromance
I think the rise of the bromance is a good thing because it’s a sign that men’s relationships with other men are developing to include greater intimacy, openness, love, and support.
Ten years ago in my counseling practice, only one in ten young males would have a relationship with a friend that could be called a bromance. Today, six in ten young males I see have formed a bromance they find mutually satisfying. I think this is a startling change that indicates Australian males are leading this worldwide trend.
One of the changes I’ve noticed is young straight men are much more willing to open up and be vulnerable with their close male friends than they are with their girlfriends. Often, they feel a mate will be less judgmental than a girlfriend.
I think there are a number of factors why this is happening, including: men are less worried about having to conform to the stereotype of the strong, non-emotional man; decreasing homophobia in younger generations; and a growing acceptance by men that it’s okay to express feelings and open up to other males.
Older men can benefit from bromances
This is in stark contrast with the men I work with from older generations who have been conditioned to be tough, resilient, and not ask for support. Seven out of every ten older men I work with report feeling lonely and isolated or have very few male friends, which can compound mental health issues. Older men can learn a lot from the way younger men are developing nurturing bromances.
Concerned about your partner’s bromance?
Women will need to make sure bromances don’t erode the connection they have with their partner. Young Australian men will still need to cultivate open and loving communication with their female partners to ensure their primary relationship is safe, secure, and has longevity.
If you’re a woman who is concerned about your partner’s bromance, here are my tips for you:
- Don’t stop your boyfriend from spending time with his male friends. It’s important to allow your boyfriend to cultivate his bromances. Criticizing him for wanting to have time with the boys can create a source of ongoing conflict and create disconnection in your relationship.
- Make sure you prioritize your relationship and spend one-on-one time on a regular basis. Suggest a regular date night, a weekend away, or sharing a hobby or project together.
- Each time you greet your boyfriend after time apart, embrace each other with a long, full-body hug. This helps you tune into each other’s bodies, regulate your nervous systems, and feel more connected.
- When you have a fight or disagreement, seek to repair the upset as soon as possible. Don’t let disputes remain unresolved for long periods of time.
- When you need to raise an issue in the relationship, use the strategy of the ‘soft start-up.’ Choose a good time to discuss the issue, check that your partner is ready to hear you, use a gentle tone of voice, and maintain good eye contact and frequent touch while you discuss the issue.
- Make your partner the ‘go-to’ person for all important news or events that happen in your life. This helps your partner feel valued and know he is the most important person in your life.
- Stefan Robinson, Adam White, Eric Anderson. Privileging the Bromance. Men and Masculinities, 2017; 1097184X1773038 DOI: 10.1177/1097184X17730386