Friendship as a Man
WASHINGTON (Catholic News Agency) - Women have an uncanny ability to make friends and be a friend. A good way to put it is that women are, by nature, inclined to care. Specifically, women care about people. They intuitively are capable of entering into the inner reality of human beings. This makes them capable of friendship.
It does not surprise anyone that women make friends with other women so easily. They show interest in each other. They enjoy the sharing of personal information. They pursue with sincerity knowing more about the person behind the external presentation.
Men, on the other hand, are primarily interested in the outer world. By nature, men focus on the “what” more than the “who” in life. Of course, I am not saying that men don’t have the ability to “care.” I’m only pointing out that women have an easier time at friendship than men do. Men get to know each other through actions rather than conversation. They do not sit down and start sharing what’s going on inside or their likes and dislikes. They just act, and they talk within situations, and knowledge about that man is revealed as he goes along. That is why men are much more transparent than women. You can know what a man is thinking or what he wants because he externalizes himself. Women keep things hidden inside and are hard to read externally.
Why is this so important to consider? It is because in dating relationships and in marriage, there can be an overstressing by women to have a man be their “best friend” at a level that is probably unrealistic. I’m all for friendship in courtship and marriage, but the friendship required for marriage needs to be defined and understood. It cannot be understood to mean that a woman will be getting someone she can converse with anytime she wants and about anything.
To really get to know any person, there must inevitably be spoken conversation. The reason is that you can never “really” know what someone is thinking or experiencing at the personal level, or why they did something, unless they speak about it. Actions may very well reveal truths about a person, but actions do not provide all the information about the whole person. So men do have to talk and be able to make conversation with a woman. He can’t just be too shy and not a talker at all.
By definition, a person is a being who acts. So what someone does speaks about who they are. However, as human beings, we have a fallen human nature that inclines us to sin. And, in fact, we all sin every day. Should our sinful actions be what defines us as a person? It would be unfair to do so, because everyone is entitled to the freedom to fall from grace and be forgiven and given another chance.
How we recover from these falls tells much more about the person. Obviously, someone who keeps doing the same things over and over again is probably unlikely to stop doing them. So actions should be judged over time, rather than in moments.
This is the courtesy men desperately need from women today because men are more action-oriented than women. Therefore, men are prone to do more stupid things than women. Men need the benefit of the doubt from a woman if he is ever going to risk the level of friendship that women want.
Women have to understand, however, that men typically do not “need” the kind of deep friendship that women want. This is why it is important for women to have close female friendships. There are needs women have at the friendship level that should not be expected from a man. I realize that there is an ideal in modern marriage that a man and a woman be best friends, but this must not distract from the practical aspects of the vocation to marriage in the eyes of God. The two become one flesh, but not one person.
There will always be two unique individual persons in a marriage, which means the personhood of both will always be developing and forming. The friendship bond in marriage provides love, security, sacrifice, and interest in the other’s good and welfare. In this friendship they cannot help but grow closer together.
But it is impossible for a man to fulfill a woman completely, nor a woman to fulfill a man completely. First and foremost, only God can completely fulfill any person. That’s a given. But also, people need other people to continue making them the whole person they are called to be. Some couples have terrible problems dealing with what the other does outside of themselves.
There is a possessiveness that makes them hate when the person they are dating or married to does something without them or doesn’t tell them everything they expect to hear. They feel betrayed because they believe that true love means you do every single thing together and only share everything with just that one person. They also do not like it if anything they talk about together is shared with anyone else.
This is not what marital friendship is. Friendship does not mean possessing every single bit of information about the other, nor doing every single thing together or else love is not true or real. There are couples who do happen to have that. But many good couples have ended their relationships because they didn’t have this. And that is wrong.
Women will find it difficult to find a man who desires to tell her everything and wants to do everything with her. Some men might be like that but most are not. Men definitely have to open up more to women, but women definitely have the need of a friend they can open their heart to; to talk about everything.
Typically, women find this in another woman. That’s why there are so many happy marriages where each spouse has their same-sex friends. These friendships outside the couple enhance the person and make them better spouses to each other.
Women must not put so much pressure on a man to be a conversational friend they need. But men do need to talk more to women. Women need to have conversation. They need to know what’s going on inside. Many times a man does not even know himself enough inside to share himself. Women must be patient about that.
Don’t give up on a good man who defines who he is by his actions. Just because he does not talk as much as you would like does not mean he would not make a good husband and father. Make sure you have friends who make you a better person, and take that betterment and bring it faithfully into dating and marital friendship.
* Anthony Buono, married with seven children, lives in Virginia. He is the founder and president of www.avemariasingles.com and www.roadtocana.com. He also has a blog, www.6stonejars.com, that gives advice to Catholics on dating, courtship and marriage.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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