My wife says I need more friends. I suppose she's right. The guys I feel closest to still live in North Carolina, where I spent most of my life. Here in Georgia, I really don't have close friends. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of guys I know. A lot of them I like and would enjoy hanging out with. But when it comes to people I feel like I can totally be myself around or have a natural inclination to hang out with, I really don't have those kinds of friends. I know some guys from church and in my neighborhood that I think I could potentially be close to, but at this stage of life, it's difficult to build new friendships. I think most guys feel the same way. Once you have kids, life becomes consumed with work and family. It's all you can do to make sure your wife doesn't feel neglected, much less have any time left over to hang out with the guys.
Women are different. They're naturally more social than men are. My wife can strike up a lifelong friendship with someone in the car line at my sons' school for cryin' out loud. Just the other morning, she met her friend Sylvia for coffee at 9am. She called me at noon to tell me that they were just finishing up and that she was running to the store on her way home. How the heck can you have coffee and just talk for three hours? Guys can't hang out that long unless they're watching a ballgame, playing golf, dealing cards, or tracking something they intend to kill. Even then, we don't say that much to each other. Words aren't that important. We bond just being together while we do something. Women bond through talking, expressing emotions, and validating each other's feelings. If one of the guys asks me how my day was, I usually respond with something like, "It was good; you?" To which he will likely respond, "It was good." Boom! Conversation over. Pass me a beer and a bag of nachos, and turn the game on. If, however, you ask my wife or one of her girlfriends how her day was--trust me--you better have already peed; it ain't gonna be a brief conversation.
Don't even get me started on telephone conversations. With the exception of business calls, my longest phone talks last between thirty seconds and two minutes. I'm on the phone just long enough to know who I'm talking to, relay or receive any relevant information, find out if I am expected to be anywhere at a later time as a result of the phone call, and, if so, when and where I am supposed to be. Beyond that, I have no reason nor desire to stay on the phone any longer. It's short and sweet; a cell phone company's nightmare; no going over my minutes.
Women, on the other hand, are the reason cell phone company CEOs own vacation homes in Europe. They can talk on the phone for hours--ABOUT NOTHING! I can get off the phone after a forty-five second exchange and tell you exactly what has been or will be accomplished because of my talk. My wife, by comparison, can walk in the house on her cell phone, remain engaged in the same conversation while she unpacks her groceries, keep talking as she prepares an entire dinner, and not hang up until food is on the table and the kids have washed their hands. After which, if I ask her what she and her friend were discussing, she's likely to say something like, "Oh, Mary (or Sylvia, or Angela, or Stacy...) was just telling me about her day."
Yep, women have a whole different outlook and expectation of relationships. Men want someone they can hang with. He doesn't have to be deep or ever discuss a single human emotion. Heck, it's not even essential that he has any emotions. As long as he owns power tools we can occasionally borrow, we're good. Women, on the other hand, want someone to talk to, connect with, know on a deeper level. It's two different definitions of friendship.
All that being said, I'm seeing as I get older that it is important to make time for friends. Being married with kids is a high-pressure life. You're responsible for making sure your wife and kids feel loved and secure. You struggle to provide for their future as well as their present. All the while, you want to be a great example for the little ones you know are looking to you to learn how they should behave and what kind of people they should grow up to be. I need guys I can talk to. Sometimes, I just need to vent while they listen. Other times, I just need to shut up and listen to their stories so that I realize I'm not the only one struggling to try and be the man I should be. We're all baffled by our wives, tested by our kids, and stressed out (at least at times) by the daily concerns of life. I don't just need friends, I need the right kinds of friends. I need guys I can respect, who I know share my passion to be a godly, faithful, and loving husband and father. Those are the kind of men who can help me with their words, while inspiring me with their example.
Yes, I want to enjoy watching the game or cutting up over a tall cold one; but I need the occasional meaningful talk and good advice too. So, as a husband and a father, I'll make more effort to build the relationships I need here and now. I have no intention of listening for an hour while you tell me about your relatively uneventful day. But if you can help me be a better husband and father, I'm all ears.