DEAR AMY: I'm a 33-year-old man with a great partner, a good career, and a baby on the way. My life is going really well and I'm thankful, but my lack of friends has always nagged at me. If you've ever seen the movie "I Love You, Man," then you know how I feel. It's about a guy who is generally happy, but lacks a close-enough friend to serve as his best man when he gets married. It's a comedy, but I was actually upset by it because I identify with the main character so much. I've heard that a lot of men deal with this and that it can even have negative health implications. It's not fair for me to lean on my partner as my social network and only emotional support, but I've always struggled with this. It was tough — but not impossible — in school and university, but as an adult it's gotten even more difficult. I don't need or want to be best friends with everyone, but having a couple of close friends to go with me for coffee or to the movies would be nice. It would also take some pressure off my partner. How can I break this cycle and expand my social circle?
Little Circle Seeks Bigger Circle
DEAR LITTLE CIRCLE: You are describing a common issue for men, that unfortunately isn't acknowledged openly enough, and this is the challenge of building emotionally intimate male friendships.
Some of these challenges might shift and ease a bit with fatherhood — because children have a way of bringing parent-friends together, but again, as you astutely acknowledge, your partner will likely be doing a lot of the friendship-forming and connecting.
You don't seem to have a problem meeting other people, but, like the Paul Rudd character in "I Love You, Man," you want to develop the tools to close the friendship deal. This doesn't mean you're currently doing anything wrong ... you're simply behaving the way you know. Challenges with emotional intimacy likely go back to the male role models in your early life.
Inspired by a line in the movie: "There are no rules for male friendships," I've been reading the book, "Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship," by Robert Garfield. (2016, Avery). I recommend it for you. The author, a psychologist, conducts men's support groups. Like the men Garfield writes about, you will have to be brave enough to alter your perspective, and also behave differently.
Emotional intimacy can be learned, and once you are more open and available, you will experience hits and misses — just like dating. And — just like with dating — the personal rewards and sense of fulfillment can be life-changing.
DEAR AMY: I've been in my wife's family for over 10 years and have always had a "crush" on my sister-in-law. She has always been there in tough times to help me out whenever I ran into a bump in the road with her sister (my wife). Fast-forward and now my wife's sister is separated and we have had a couple outings out together and I completely enjoyed myself. My sister-in-law's company was what I imagined the whole time. Now I feel guilty that I enjoy spending time with her. Please help!
DEAR LOVE IN-LAW: The first thing I can do is to validate your feelings.
For instance, those pesky feelings of guilt.
Well, you feel guilty because you ARE guilty.
You seem to be dating — or at least trying to date — your wife's sister.
So — to recap — you are contemplating, planning, hankering, intending — to cheat on your wife. With her sister.
This will not end well.
Realistically, if you and your wife's sister do manage to leave your marriages and land together, you will have had a hand in imploding two marriages (hers and yours), as well as creating the most awkward family holidays ever.
Presumably, your sister-in-law's relationship with your wife (and possibly other family members) will be damaged, possibly irreparably.
Furthermore, I don't imagine this family will have a very high opinion of you.
This is supremely selfish of both of you. It's just wrong.
DEAR AMY: "Loving Husband" reported that his wife had cancer, but she wanted to keep it a secret from everyone. I felt so sorry for him — he needs support as much as she does.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I agree. The American Cancer Society offers caregiving support and advice on their website: cancer.org.