The Difference Between Male And Female Friendships

Everyone needs friendship and connection in order to live a fulfilling life, but the way men interact with and relate to their male friends is vastly different from the way women navigate their female friendships.

By Ella Carroll-Smith3 min read

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: Your husband or boyfriend comes home from a night hanging out with his male friends, and you ask him how everyone is doing. “Fine,” he said. You continue to prod him for personal information about his friends: “Is Steve still seeing that girl? How does Joe like his new job? Did Adam mention if he and his fiancée picked a date for their wedding yet?”

But he just shrugs and tells you, “I don’t know, we didn’t really talk about any of that stuff.” You throw up your hands, flabbergasted. “Then what on earth did you guys talk about for four hours?!” 

As a fellow woman, I too cannot imagine hanging out with a female friend for hours on end and not learning about the things going on in her life and how she feels about them. Men and women, however, have very different approaches to friendship. 

Women Crave Emotional Connection, Whereas Male Friendships Are More Transactional

Women like to talk. A lot. About everything. Women speak more words per day, on average, than men do, and the conversations women have with "the girls" are very different from the ones men have in their own friend groups. 

Men are much more likely to discuss the latest sporting event or the intricacies of German vs. Japanese automakers, whereas women like to go deeper into the hows and whys behind more personal topics. 

friends rachel phoebe monica hug

A recent study on the differences between male and female friendships found that women’s friendships were more intimate when the women were similar in traits that affect the quality of the relationship, such as humor, happiness, and education level. Female friendships thrive when they’re primed for emotional connection

Men, however, had the most intimate friendships when they were most similar in ways that affected their involvement in social activities, such as finances, outgoingness, and social connection. The scientists who conducted the study believe these differences might reflect the fact that women tend to prefer one-on-one socializing, whereas men prefer socializing in groups. 

One-on-one socializing is more conducive to longer and more intimate conversations than when you’re hanging out with a larger group of people. This might help explain why when men hang out, they often need to do something. They play golf, they watch a sporting event, they work on their cars, etc. When men hang out, the talking is not the central point – the activity is. 

men work on cars

Women, however, will hang out with a female friend solely to talk. Sure, there might be wine or a walk or shopping involved, but the real point of spending time together is to talk through what’s going on in their lives. Because women prioritize this emotional connection, it’s unsurprising that this same study also found that women are more likely (98%) to report having a same-sex best friend than men (85%). 

Close friendships are important not only to a woman’s emotional well-being but also to her physical well-being. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that women with very few female friends were four times more likely to die from early-stage breast cancer than women who had a larger group of female friends. If you’re a woman, it turns out that a best friend can literally save your life!

Why Men Need Women

This is not to say that men are incapable of having emotional connections with their friends or that they never share personal information with each other. Of course, they do, but it’s not on the same level or with the same frequency as the way women share interpersonal information. 

Men are great at compartmentalizing and are often capable of shelving their emotions away for some time. But just because male-male friendships don’t share the same level of emotional intimacy as female friendships does not mean that men don’t need emotional intimacy.

Men might not need to talk about their emotions as much as women do, but they’re still human beings with thoughts and feelings that they need to get off their chests. Perhaps the reluctance to share their insecurities or uncertainties with other men lies in a fear of coming across as effeminate or appearing weak, but it really shouldn’t. 

I’m not saying that men should all devolve into sobbing messes, but emotional intelligence is gained by having these types of vulnerable conversations, and it actually makes a man more masculine to be in touch with his emotions – not less. Women want a man who’s comfortable talking about his feelings in an open, honest, and constructive way.

tom hanks the woman i share my life with love

What’s interesting is that men often feel more comfortable making these types of emotional disclosures to women than to other men. Psychologist Anne Campbell explains: "Men’s conversations with other men tend to focus on depersonalized topics … with women, men make emotional disclosures more often and report that relationships with women are more meaningful, intimate, satisfying and pleasant than male-male relationships."

This is yet another reason why men need women. It's important to talk about your emotions and feel comfortable opening up to someone, and while a man might not get that level of intimacy from his male-male friendships, he does get it from his relationship with a wife or girlfriend. 

Nowadays, a lot of men are lacking in relationships and emotional connection, and it’s taking a costly toll on our society. The suicide rate among males in America is on the rise. Middle-aged men have the highest suicide rate in America, and according to statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “In 2021, men died by suicide 3.90x more than women.” 

While the suicide rate among men is on the rise, marriage rates are declining. Since 1970, marriage rates have fallen by 60%. Considering the fact that married men are healthier and happier than their single peers, perhaps there's a connection between these two statistics. 

Closing Thoughts

The differences in male and female friendships are further proof that beyond the obvious physical differences between men and women, there are deep psychological ones as well. We’re opposite, yet complementary, and the dance between our masculine and feminine energies helps us balance both our romantic and platonic relationships. 

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