I have a hard time making friends with other guys and I also have relationship issues. When I am with other men I always feel like I am being ignored and that I am not getting any respect. I’ve searched all over the internet and couldn’t find any information related to my problem. I believe this problems stems down to when I was younger. For most of my childhood I was always shunned from my brother and my cousin. They never accepted me into there “group”. They would tease me to get me mad. So, I was left playing with my sister. Ever since, I’ve had trouble making friends with other guys. My community was full of hunters and guys who played sports. I, on the other hand, had different interests like music. As a result, I became friends with girls instead. Now, I have a hard time crossing the friendship line with the girls I meet and it is exteremly difficult for me to become friends with other guys becuase I don’t understand them. If you could give me any information I would be happy.
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In order to address your problem, we have to address the underlying philosophical question of , “What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman”. Obviously, men and women have different anatomy. But the differences between the sexes are more than skin deep. Men tend to act in ways that are characteristically “masculine” and women in ways that are characteristically “feminine”. Masculine characteristics tend to be active, forceful, and analytical, while feminine characteristics tend to be more passive, and emotional/social. All this you know. But the most important word I’ve used above is “tend”, as in tendancy. Men may tend to act in masculine ways, but they also have feminine characteristics and behaviors about them as well. The same hold true for women, who have many mascuine characteristics as well as feminine characteristics. While individual men and individual women may be rather narrowly masculine or feminine as the case may be, when you consider the population of all men and all women as large groups, there is all kinds of variation. There are many men who are act more feminine than masculine, and vice versa, women who end up acting more mascuine than feminine. Pick any random male and you can only make guesses as to how masculine or feminine he may be behaviorally. On average, you might expect more mascuine behaviors from a man, but that doesn’t mean that your random man will fit that mold.
We live in a conservative country and one of the things that conservative culture does is to harken back to the “good ol’ days” when men were men and women were women. This is to say, conservative culture has a rather rigid view of what healthy masculinity and healthy femininity look like (e.g., men should act only in a masculine manner, while women should be only feminine). This view is in constrast to the psychological idea that healthy men and women are those who are allowed to develop both their masculine and feminine sides simalutaneously. This idea appears in Jungian psychology as the concepts of “animus” and “anima”, and in the influential writings of psychologist Sandra Bem. According to Bem, men and women are healthiest when they are allowed to cultivate all of the characteristics they find inside themselves, and whether those characteristics happen to be “masculine” or “feminine” in character is not so important.
Men and women living in more culturally conservative areas will face a fair amount of pressure to conform to rigid sex roles and behaviors. Therefore, you’re going to find a lot of men who get into hunting and sports. It’s not like these men don’t actually like these things; they do. Its just that they were encouraged to like these things and not to explore or like other things like cooking, or sewing or gardening. Their behavior was channelized in particular directions, and while some men found that effortless, others felt like square pegs in round holes but did their best to fit in anyway. And then there are men like yourself who simply didn’t fit in and didn’t try. You think that you are so different than these other men, but you aren’t really all that different from some of them. It is just that some of them became masculine socializaed despite their counter-interests, and you didn’t get that opportunity, or didn’t pursue it like they did to the extent you had it.
You’re different than most of the men in your community for whatever reason. That doesn’t make you a freak; it just makes you a minority. One solution to your problem of being a minority male without masculine interests is to migrate to a place where you are no longer a minority. If you get out of the culturally conservative areas and go to cities, you will find that there are men there who aren’t hunters and sports fans; men who like to cook, garden, appreciate art and other things that aren’t stereotypically masculine, but which fit some men just fine anyway. Why in the cities? Becuase they move there from the more culturally conservative areas becuase they don’t fit in there, and want to find a place where there are other people like themselves (which is in the cities).
If you do move to a city, you will need to put yourself out into social situations if you want to have any expectation of meeting men who might become friends. The classic way to do it is not to seek friends out, but rather to just get involved with groups and organizations that gather people together to do things they enjoy. If you enjoy music, then join some sort of music-oriented club. If you enjoy cooking, then take some cooking classes. Friendships happen when like-minded people come into repeating contact with one another.
Don’t expect too much however, especially as you get older. Men are notorious for not making many friends and the problem only gets worse as you age. Many men become socially dependent upon their wives for social opportunities. They get involved in work and family and do not make themselves available to other men in social ways. I don’t know why this is so, but it does seem to occur. So, if you have some difficulty making male friends after schooling is over, this may be one of the reasons why. Don’t take it personally, if this is the case for you.
If you aren’t willing to move to find a like minded community, you also have the option of learning to become more “masculine”-identified. This won’t be easy to accomplish, becuase these aren’t your interests in any real sense so it will be work pure and simple to make this occur. The basic idea would be to study up on some masculine behavior like shooting a gun, or football or fixing up a motorcycle. There is plenty to read about these topics, and plenty to watch on tv. You can take shooting lessons, I suppose, and study up on the various players and statistics. The more expert you become in these masculine fields, the easier it will be to strike up conversations with men who are similarly expert. Of course, striking up conversations is easier when you join groups with people who share these interests.
Apart from your difficulty making male friends, you also are worried about your difficulty “breaking the friendship barrier” with women. If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that you don’t know how to stop being a friend to women and instead become a lover. This is an age old problem that a whole lot of men struggle with. The basic problem is that if you want to become intimate with a woman, you have to approach her with that in mind, rather than purely as a friend. The men who succeed with women are the men who find the confidence to ask for what they want (and the tact to ask for it in a way that is flattering rather than blunt). It takes assertiveness, a willingness to risk rejection, and an active manner. You cannot wait around for the woman to approach you becuase many women are socialized to be more passive with regard to this aspect of life. They expect men to take the lead. You will turn off or confuse many women if you are passive. If you want a girlfriend rather than a friend, you will simply need to learn new ways of relating to women. I recommend the recent movie Hitch as a good (and funny) illustration of the basic problem you might face and how to solve it. You might also benefit from reading our Dating Topic Center basic information article.
The key to everything you want here is to learn to accept yourself as the person you are, and to pursue your interests without shame. Love yourself and your “feminine” interests. You are a worthwhile person. There are other people out there who will love you back (or be friends with you) if you allow yourself to do the things that will make them aware of you, and if you let them know that you want to love them (or be friends with them) too.