Vail Man-to-Man: Isolation not an unusual feeling among men
Vail, CO Colorado
Q: I moved to a major city a couple of years ago for a great job opportunity. The career move has paid off. Unfortunately, where I once had a lot of friends and participated on community boards, etc., I now feel fairly isolated and it has taken a toll on me. I have lost confidence in myself and find that I am hesitant to put myself out to meet people.
At the same time, I am noticing that I feel a real need to connect with other men. I cannot explain it very well, even to myself. But I can say that I am lonely and I wish I could find men with whom I can have fun, talk about issues bothering us, and build friendships. Have other men expressed the same feelings, and, if so, what did you advise them to do?
A: First of all, you’re not alone, although it feels that way. The isolation you’re experiencing isn’t unique to those in big cities. Men all over the country, in towns large and small, share that same sense of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness. You’d think that with so many men in the same boat, they’d find a way to meet each other. If only it were that easy.
The factors that make it so difficult for men to meet each other make up a long list. There’s the way we’re wired, how we’re socialized, how we’re marketed to, what’s socially acceptable, what’s culturally endorsed, pride, ego, homophobia, and a fundamental lack of support for what men truly need – honest, open communication with each other.
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Yet despite all of these challenges, we can still be the men we want to be, create the lives we want, and affect change in our communities, one man at a time.
In addition to the challenges that all men face, you’re also confronting the paralysis that can set in when we experience a big change in our lives. Whether it’s divorce, a death, change in career or uprooting and moving to a new location, that change can leave us disoriented. After we focus in on taking care of the most important details of settling in, we will often find ourselves disconnected from others, too overwhelmed or fatigued to make additional efforts, and resigned to just letting it be.
So this is what I tell other men: get into action. It’s the only way to get what you want. You need to make some commitments, be held accountable to them and then continue to do that until your life and relationships look the way you want them to. It’s not brain surgery, but it isn’t easy, either.
That’s why the first thing you need to do is to put yourself where other men like you can be found. These guys can hold you accountable and support you, just as you can offer that same support to them.
It may be intimidating, but that’s just the way it is. You can’t let feeling foolish or needy keep you from asking for what you want. You can start by looking at your interests and finding those who have already organized the things you want. For instance, biking, hiking, and gardening enthusiasts are already getting together. You can find them on the web through all sorts of sites, like meetup.com.
Another great place to meet like-minded men is through community service projects, like Habitat for Humanity. And of course, look for a men’s center or men’s groups in churches and temples.
The most important thing to remember is that these other men need and want the same things you do. They need camaraderie, support and the opportunity to have a lot of fun with other men. And most of them share your same sense of dread. They fear looking needy, weak or – one of the biggest fears for straight men – gay. Grow up. Is it more important to “look good,” or to get what you want?
That’s the question you need to ask yourself every time you want to quit because it’s getting uncomfortable. Be clear about what you want, make commitments each week to make progress, and I guarantee you will soon not be the same isolated and unhappy man you are today.
Wayne M. Levine, M.A., is a life coach and mentor for men, women, couples and families. Email your questions to MantoMan@BetterMen.org. Learn more about men’s groups and retreats at http://www.BetterMen.org.