Another week where Ryan shares his perspective on marriage. I have talked to a lot of women who wonder why their hubby’s don’t have many male friends. I will tackle friendships next week from my perspective but I think this is a great one.
Several years after getting hitched and beginning to have kids, Jill and I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I grew up. We moved for several reasons (mostly because of my job and because the Red Wings are the greatest freaking hockey team ever) but one of the reasons that I looked forward to being back was being able to spend some time with my old high school buddies who I rarely saw when I lived in Chicago. These guys and I have lived through it all, seeing each other at our best and worst (mostly worst, which was great fun), and when we’re together, it’s like we haven’t missed a beat. I knew it would be great to be back in GR to catch hockey games, root on the Spartans (Go State!) and have some cookouts.
Fast-forward six years. I’ve probably see them twice a year, and when we’re together, it’s always with the wives and a billion little kids around. Not that we don’t love to get the families together, but what happened to “guy time?” In fact, I’ve seen a few of them more in other cities over the past few years when we were attending weddings than I have when we’re in GR. Now I’m a pretty social guy, and I began to wonder, “Why do I never just hang out with my guy friends?” So I began to ask around a bit. I asked some of my old buddies and other men from work and ultimately came to the conclusion that while guys do spend some time out with other guys (happy hour, golfing, etc.) very few of us are able to invest heavily in close friendships as we get past our twenties. We’re not losers (or so we tell ourselves), but instead are victims of the modern married social life.
So here’s my theory. A guy makes good friends in high school. Then after high school, he is able to expand his social circle even further until he’s got a good, thriving social life. Then – wah, wah, wah – he meets his future wife (yep – that’s you, Yoko) and soon becomes Mr. Lame, registering for flatware while other, cooler guys are fishing or watching Japanese game shows. As marriage progresses and kids appear on the scene, the Yokos seem to be uniting, meeting each other through their kid’s school activities and bonding while watching soaps and grazing on bon bons, but the guy has a new world order. This order consists of two competing sets of priorities – his desired priorities and his scheduled priorities. Based on his Outlook calendar, his scheduled priorities look something like this:
Priority 1 – work
Priority 2 – wife
Priority 3 – kids (as time progresses, #2 and #3 may swap order)
Priority 4 – church life (occasionally he thinks, “Wait, shouldn’t serving God be #1?” Only if you can do it at work, cuz that’s where you’ll spend 2000 hours of your year, sucka!)
Priority 5 – his parents
Priority 6 – that “honey do list” (see, Priority 2)
…Priority 27 – friends.
Now I’m not suggesting that this is how things should be. Ideally, men should invest in friendships and in their church communities where they can make new friends. But what I’ve described above (short of the tongue-in-cheek reference to the bon bons) is reality for most guys, and deep down, I’m not sure most of us are fully satisfied with seeing our good friends so little.
So what can be done to improve things? Well, I’m still looking to figure this out myself, but I’ve reached two conclusions. First, a lot of guys who are trying to serve their families will willingly neglect friendships indefinitely. You might ask your husband if he feels like he gets enough time to bond with good friends. Jill has done this and it’s a great blessing to have your wife encourage you to spend time with your buddies. Now, I know that some husbands are hitting the links every weekend, and if yours is one of them, you can skip this part, but if he seems a little isolated, you might raise the topic.
Second, while most guys can’t stand the idea of Christian men’s groups, they are the probably the best way for guys to connect with other guys. They can be scheduled over breakfast, rarely involve heavy amounts of alcohol, and can provide good accountability when priorities take the wrong turn. I’ve been in many of these groups over the years, and even led one awhile back, and my recommendation is that it’s best to encourage guys to join one that already includes one of their good friends. That’s not always possible, but it significantly increases the chances that they’ll stick with it.
In fact, the guy I led a men’s group with in Chicago just let us know that he and his wife are moving to Grand Rapids! He’s a fantastic guy. I look forward to hanging out with him one of these years.