Working as a volunteer counsellor in Victoria, Bruce Chambers has noticed a troubling trend amongst many successful men.
On the outside, they appear to have fulfilling lives with their partner, children and career, but find themselves feeling lonely, isolated, depressed and anxious, and they can’t figure out why.
According to Chambers, some of the men have suggested that it’s likely because they don’t have any close friends. It’s a trend he’s noticed in about half of his male clientele.
“I think a lot of men notice their relationships with other men are not as close as women’s relationships with other women,” said Chambers, a counsellor for three years. “A lot of men may not understand that leaves them with a less fulfilling life.”
It’s a problem Chambers sees amongst men of nearly every age. Many have friends during their high school and college years, but lose touch as they enter various stages of adulthood whereas women tend to hold on to those friendships for life.
Chambers said men are typically taught to be strong and not talk about their feelings or problems, but such things are necessary to build meaningful friendships and connect with people. He’s also seen more men in their 20s move away from home and branch out into the world not knowing how to make friends.
“There’s a whole trend towards virtual friends. Some people have a lot of virtual friendships, but they begin to notice that it’s not very fulfilling and they long for face-to-face friendships,” said Chambers. “Online is a great way to meet people with similar interests, but the next step is to transition that into face-to-face.”
Chambers can relate to many of the young men. In his early 20s, he was one of those guys who ventured out into the world without any social skills and had no idea how to behave. He went to counselling where he was taught some practical skills. Those skills, he said, have made all the difference and he’s now better at friendships and found value in having those connections through life.
Through the Victoria-based Citizens’ Counselling Centre, Chambers now teaches other men the practical skills they need to build meaningful friendships. Starting Feb. 15, an eight-week group for men called Tools For Building Friendships, is designed to help men discover the benefits of friendship, see how other men handle it and learn practical new skills.
The sessions were first held last fall to a group of enthusiastic men.
“One of the things they were most enthusiastic about is telling their stories to other men, talking about their challenges with friendships, what they want out of friendship. These are very personal things for men to be telling other men and we spent a lot of time doing that,” said Chambers. “To hear someone having similar issues to yourself is really powerful to these guys. It really gives them a sense that ‘I’m not as weird as I thought and there are lots of lonely guys out there.’”
Tools for Building Friendship runs Monday evenings from Feb. 15 to April 11. If the program fills up, another one will be offered in May. For more information call 250-384-2934.