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If You're Lonely, Don't Grin And Bear It

We can't survive solo, even if we're not in the wilderness.

06/11/2016 6:46 AM AEDT | Updated 06/11/2016 6:46 AM AEDT
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Diverse Bristol
Sorry Bear, but no man is an island.

My life isn't always the sparkly unicorn ride down a water slide of chocolate milk that it may appear to be. But if I was to take a stocktake of my situation, I am quite happy where things are at. For many others though, things aren't always as great.

One thing that has surprised me as I've got older, busier and more tied up in work commitments is I've become prone to random bouts of loneliness.

How can this be?

I am a happily married, engaged Dad of two young kids and employed in a demanding job. But outside of that, I am left with barely enough time to draw a picture of a unicorn rather than ride one.

I've got a theory that goes something like this; the longer a couple is together, the more they rely on each other for things they really can't expect within the relationship (such as neck waxing and a help with tax returns). This leads to disappointment which, left unresolved, becomes resentment, which soon places the frustration from those unfulfilled needs and desires within the relationship rather than external to it.

What am I talking about (besides my business idea of Wax 'n' Tax)? It's the fact that my wife, despite her being my BFF, is never going to give me the type of friendship I can get hanging out with dudes.

I'm not talking about the barbecued meats, ball-sport watching, outdoor survival, crime-fighting version of male bonding that department stores try to sell us every Father's Day. I am talking about the camaraderie that comes from being part of a band of brothers.

What tends to happen with men, though, is that we forget about the importance of each other and we retreat into our marriages, kids, jobs and community activities at the expense of those important friendships.

How important are they? Consider this. According to beyondblue, 75 percent of all suicides in Australia are by men. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for men under the age of 54, significantly exceeding the national road toll. Recent research is also now making links between loneliness and mortality rates.

While humans may be pack animals, men also seem to have an inner desire to be lone wolves, preferring to go it alone. It's no surprise when you look at our role models.

All our heroes are solo. In the 1990s it was Pete Sampras who was the constant talk of the tennis world, not the dominating Doubles champions and great mates -- the Woodies. Batman was always a little bit less cool the minute Robin showed up.

Perhaps one of the most celebrated icons of well-rounded modern manliness is Bear Grylls, a bloke who gets dropped into remote surroundings alone and left to survive. The premise of this show is that if we watch and learn, we too will be able to survive in the wilderness solo. But we can't. A man is not an island. At best we are all peninsulas, technically connected but trying to function as our own entity.

I have a good bunch of male friends... in theory. Do I see them often enough? No. The reason? Life. But that is just an excuse -- deep down it is about effort and prioritisation. I think men leave catching up with each other for so long that when we actually do need it, we are too removed and almost embarrassed to reach out and reconnect.

Men also tend to be proud, stubborn and intricate creatures. We all think we are far more complex and interesting than we are. That if no one else shares our unique mixture of traits of love for obscure Swedish post-hardcore, Moroccan seafood, bocce and the films of Mark Ruffalo then why bother?

So here's where it starts -- repentance. If I consider you a friend, and hopefully you know who you are -- forgive me for being a broken, crap, shell of a person. I suck at being a friend. Despite intentions and excuses and commitments, we can do better. I think we need to.

Let's talk about it.

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