Middle-aged men face this weird life-path. You start a career. Get married. Move to the suburbs. Start a family. Become a little league coach. Watch your kids graduate. Then you get ready to die.
I feel like I’ve got more friends than ever in my life, but if I stop and really put down on paper people who I would consider a ‘close’ friend, that number is very small. Part of this is the social world we’ve created. Staying in touch with hundreds or thousands of people at a very surface level, but never really going that deep. “Sorry to hear your cat died. So, awful…Hey, this video is hilarious, I better share…”
The reality is I grew up in a generation that was much different than my parents. I don’t think my parents really cared if I lived or died, as long as I wasn’t too loud in the house, and I didn’t do anything to embarrass their station in life. My generation then went to the extreme opposite and became helicopter parents!
The Boston Globe recently had an article titled: The biggest threat facing middle-aged men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness. And while I don’t really want to admit this is me, it’s probably more me than I realize! From the article:
Beginning in the 1980s, Schwartz says, study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s. One study found that it can be as much of a long-term risk factor as smoking.
The research doesn’t get any rosier from there. In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent.
I like to tell my wife she’s my best friend, and the reality is, that’s true in every form of the phrase. I’m sure she likes knowing that, but boy does that add a lot of pressure to a marriage relationship! I’m thankful for having such a great relationship, but she doesn’t like Tosh or Deadpool, so I probably need a guy friend for that stuff!
I have a dog. He’s pretty great. Wish I had a pickup truck for him to ride with me in it. That would be even better. I call him my best friend every day, and I think he actually believes it. I know I do.
I have others I call my ‘best’ guy friends, but some of those on that list I rarely see and sometimes go weeks or months without actually communicating live. That doesn’t seem best friend-ish!
Because I write in the HR space, I have a bunch of women who I communicate with often, and I would definitely call them my ‘best’ friends who are ladies. Most guys don’t have this luxury because their wives wouldn’t take to kindly to other women talking to their husbands. I’m lucky that way, but still, most of these ‘friends’ I rarely see live or talk to live, it’s mostly a social relationship.
The moral to this story? Stop reading blogs and go touch someone. Not inappropriately, but physically see them and talk to them. The human body needs real life relationships to thrive.