The Lost Art Of Buddyship: the deepest of male interactions

Friendships, relationships, friendlationships, and interpersonal men's issues.
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The Lost Art Of Buddyship: the deepest of male interactions

Unread postby musicmonkey » Sun Feb 15, 2009 7:10 pm

Chapter 9 of Herb Goldberg's book The Hazards of Being Male, published 1976, is called "The Lost Art Of Buddyship". I've provided the link to the chapter at the end of this post. In it, Goldberg states that as adult males in our culture the phenomenon of being without even a single buddy or good friend is a common one-so widespread in fact, that it is not seen as unusual nor is it even spoken about. Rather, it is taken for granted. He says that many of the men he interviewed accept this as being a normal and acceptable condition. He gives several scenarios including the man with many business acquaintances but not one real friend, nobody to call up for no reason except to say 'hello' and to chat.

He says that men are not comfortable sharing their downsides-their failures, anxieties, and disappointments. Neither do they seem to feel comfortable sharing their ecstasies or successes for fear of inciting competitive jealousies or appearing boastful. Consequently, verbal social interactions between men focus on neutral, largely impersonal subject matters such as automobiles, sports, and politics.

He also discusses what it's like for single men and how it often mobilizes intense sexual anxieties, doubt, and suspiciousness. That horrible preoccupation of, "I wonder what he really wants from me" emerges as soon as an overture of warmth and friendliness is made by one man toward another. I have been on the receiving end of that one many times, even with married Christian men. It's sad that an overture of warmth and friendliness insights such anxiety and suspicion among other men.

Goldberg states, "It is a tragic irony in our culture that men can only come comfortably close to each other when they are sharing a common target. As teenagers they come together in a gang or as members of a team out to 'destroy' the other team. As adults, in wartime, they have a common enemy."

He describes how male consciousness-raising groups are a real struggle to keep together because "group cohesion is tenuous and the interaction among the men tends to remain on an intellectualized, distant plane."

The chapter ends with the term "buddyship", which he describes as a genuine social skill, an area of competence that needs to be learned. He conceptualized four phases often present in the development of a buddyship: the manipulative phase, the companionship phase, the friendship phase and finally, the buddyship phase.

1. The manipulative phase is where most relationships between men begin and remain. It is a phase of mutual using often to the benefit of both. Once there are no mutual benefits to pursue the relationship will tend to fade. He mentions other forms of the manipulative phase including the relationship between the successful man and his "tag-along" or "kick me," the mentor and his student, the powerful man and his sycophant. My apartment building manager has a "tag along" who helps him with building chores and without pay. I've probably treated guys as "tag alongs" in the past.

2. Companionship relationships are basically segmentalized ones which revolve around sharing a specific activity. A ladyfriend of mine reminded me recently that drinking is an activity too when I told her that I have guy friends where we just talk about stuff over beers. Goldberg states that the mutually shared activity becomes the safe structure or excuse for getting together and that it helps to define and limit the interaction in such a way as to make spontaneous intimacy unnecessary. He says it's a limited relationship because there are no real roots of mutual caring. I would agree. I would never ask one of my "companions" for help if I needed someone to rely on. Thankfully, I have amazing parents that I can rely on for as long as God keeps them here.

3. Goldberg's friendship phase is one which involves mutual aid, compassion, and a willing readiness to be there in an emergency. He says this phase is relatively free of mutual manipulation but that it can only become a buddyship once they have experienced a crisis that tests the friendship. He states, "If the crisis is transcended, vulnerabilities have been revealed and come to be respected, and deep trust has developed the buddyship phase can begin." I agree with this wholeheartedly. Sadly, in my own life, the crisis is rarely transcended and usually results in complete closure.

4. According to Goldberg, "buddyship", which already have endured crises, have rich dimensions that generally cannot exist even in the deepest male-female relationships and that it is the deepest of male-male interactions. He says it has facets of a good father-son and a loving brother-brother interaction. He states, "Each buddy, at alternate times, may assume the role of teacher or guide to the other and will revel in the other person's development and expanded skills. And there is also a sense of warmth and empathic understanding and comfort when one person is feeling weak, acting foolish, or being vulnerable. In these instances, one buddy gets stability and nourishment from the other. There is a happy, mutual sharing of resources, both material and emotional. The competitive element is inconsequential and a win for one becomes a win for both."

The chapter goes on with some guidelines toward achieving buddyship. You can read the entire chapter at:

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