Men in America have very few friends. And they have even fewer friends today than they did 30 years ago. In fact, one survey found that there’s been a fivefold increase in the number of men without any friends at all, leading psychologists to warn of a “pandemic of male loneliness” and a “friendship recession.”
But when it comes to the plight of male loneliness, for many guys, it’s not for lack of trying. To that end, I asked some men in their 30s — an age when many people are building families or putting down roots in other ways — about how they’ve managed to find new best buds, as well as the challenges they’ve faced along the way.
“All my old friends are back in my hometown, but even then, once you’ve got a serious relationship or especially once you’ve got kids, no one expects you to make time for them anymore,” Keegan, 39, tells me. Keegan mostly relies on shared interests like stand-up comedy to build new friendships, but he admits it’s been challenging. “Dudes in general need to have some excuse to get together. No one wants to admit they just enjoy each other’s company.”
Adam, who lost most of his friends after getting married and moving to a new city, has faced similar struggles. He has primarily relied on friendships with coworkers, as well as getting set up for forced bromances with his wife’s friends’ husbands and boyfriends — and again, these are typically based around overlapping hobbies. “Making new friends is weird,” the 33-year-old tells me. “Especially if you don’t know a ton about sports.”
Similarly, when a recent thread in the subreddit r/AskMenOver30 asked, “How to develop friendship as guys in my 30s?,” nearly all the top answers involved cycling, backpacking and other athletic activities. But as Keegan laments, the problem is, sometimes your hobbies and interests don’t overlap with many other men. “If you don’t fit neatly in a dude category, good luck,” he says.
For Dan, who lost touch with a majority of his friends when he stopped working in the restaurant industry, having schedules that align is far more important than liking the same bands or TV shows. “Usually, it’s just repetitive proximity,” the 37-year-old explains. “We go to the same bar a few times, or our existing friends are friends so we see them out a lot, or we work together.”
Griffo, who is 36 and unmarried, has been pretty disappointed by the men he’s tried to become friends with. “So often, it feels like they’d rather spend their time either working or trying to fuck someone,” he tells me. Outside of convenient workplace friendships, he’s found new friends to be generally flakey guys who don’t prioritize platonic relationships. That said, Griffo still believes it’s possible for guys in their 30s to build new friendships. But like with any relationship, “it will take work to not only find a good match, but also maintain it.” For Griffo, that means “checking in, listening, being empathetic, making plans and sharing your feelings.”
To kick-start things, as a musician, he lets other guys he’s interested in hanging out with know what shows he’s going to. “The best thing to say is, ‘Hey, it would be great to go to X concert. You want to go?’” Griffo explains.
When John, a 37-year-old father of four, moved to Cleveland a few years ago, he threw a party at his house with the intention of making new friends. There wasn’t any specific issue he could pinpoint, but “it just didn’t work,” he says. “None of those guys were what I’d consider friend material.” Then, after relocating to the Chicago suburbs this year, he organized a group chat that successfully merged his work friends and the high school friends he had lost touch with. “It had a little traction at first, but it sort of fizzled,” he says. “I guess everyone is just too busy.”
Luckily, though, he recently met a few dads through his son’s Little League team, and they all ended up going to a local minor league game together. “It felt so nice to hang with some guys and shoot the shit,” John says. “It’s honestly one of the most exciting things in recent memory — to meet some other guys around my age that aren’t boring and that I’d actually want to get a beer with.”