Most men do not have close friends. It's a fact. Many men are acquainted with other men but few of us, if we're honest, have iron-sharpening relationships (Proverbs 27:17) or a deep camaraderie forged by walking together through life, wrestling with God and fighting the devil. Few of us can lament like David did in the loss of his friend saying, "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women" (2 Samuel 1:26).
This is a larger cultural problem in America, as Devin Friedman recently wrote in GQ:
[I]t's hard for men to make new friends, period, as life proceeds and one is no longer 23 years old and no longer has roommates named Jay and Sean and Josh. All new friends come prepackaged. All new friends are couple friends. MattAndChloe, SethAndSusan, ElizabethAndMichael. I can't say exactly why. I have a theory that men get more bearlike as they age, increasingly taciturn, hairy, prone to long spells of slumber, prone to growly solitary rummaging. The man can get unsocialized as he ages.
And the married man can come to believe there's a division of labor: The woman forms the social connections, and the man is treated in social situations as if he were just learning to feed himself solid food again after a terrible accident. That's why the older the man gets, the more isolated he becomes, the more rarefied his world is, the more other humans seem to be accelerating away from him, the more his friendships become dominated by figures so long known that they're more like comfortable marriages than friendships.
And for most men the church offers little help and socializes the problem. Churches with "men's ministries" clearly signal that iron-sharpening-iron, pursuant relationships are not a part of men's culture. Often those men's gatherings are nothing more than activity-driven programs disconnected from cultivating vulnerability and life sharing.
Added to this is the idol of marriage, as John Piper describes, where young adults are wrongly led to believe that all of their emotional and spiritual needs can be met in their respective spouse instead of the holistic provisions of other relationships in the church that help us experience the provisions of the Triune God. This unrealistic expectation creates a fair amount of disappointment and disillusionment. Since marriage is temporary (Mark 12:25), says Piper, "relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families."
For men cloaked in idolatry, the mission of his life becomes "the woman" instead of the Kingdom.
Women overrelying on men to meet all of their relational needs is consistent with their curse, as Piper describes-with the constant cell phones calls, manipulating him to be at home with her, using sex or "sickness," if necessary, and so on. Men overrelying on women begin to be forged in adolescence when women become places of validation, self-perception, and masculine identity that can lead to passivity or abuse. Or worse, men look to work for all of their significance, which feeds our curse.
One young man recently lamented this to me regarding his declining male friendships:
"My wife is not the type to establish social connections, but I am. A lot of times my friend has no idea if he can say yes to getting together and sometimes is stunned that he has to figure it out on his own. Sometimes I end up talking to my buddies' wives to just arrange a get-together.
"Needless to say, a lot of times the friendship gets weakened because my buddy has been so used to going along with the social agenda set by the wife. It's hard losing friends because their wife sets the social calendar.
"My situation now is that I'm only able to hang out with guys who are allowed to do stuff without their spouse. It's funny and sad."
So what happened? It seems that we have forgotten that friendships among men require regular proximity and activity. Male friendships rely more heavily on doing things together, accomplishing tasks, and overcoming challenges instead of meeting to talk and share "our hearts" over tea or encircled in a church basement. C.S. Lewis masterfully addresses male friendships forged in activity together in his book on the Four Loves.
Conversation is not the relational glue for men that it is for women. For most men, conversation flows out of regular activity (playing video games, watching sports, playing music, repairing a roof, fighting for social causes, and so on). The more men are disconnected from living life together, organically and dynamically, the more isolated they become and the fewer friends they have. We live in a world of post-college-aged, married and single men plugged into church programs, folding chairs, with great jobs, who may be great fathers, who are Biblically literate, who are theologically sharp, with fantastic lawns, with balanced checkbooks, in small groups, attending informational Bible studies, on softball teams, doing penance accountability groups, and who are completely friendless.
Most men, unsharpened and lacking deep camaraderie in life and Kingdom mission, function through the motions of life only to finish the race with no one poetically lamenting, "I grieve for you, my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."