WISH IT WAS YOU?
If your partner has a best friend that's a good thing, right? While women seem gifted with making friends, men often aren't and if he has one, shouldn't you support it? It's a touchy question. Among the various things that seem to make this true may include how we evolved as a species, our culture, and ethnic influences. This research sheds light on how gender effects our response to stress. When it's triggered in men, the "fight or flight" response appears to be favored while for women it looks more like "tend and befriend" behavior. A phrase first coined by Shelley E. Taylor, Ph.D.
NATURE OR NURTURE?
We are free to act differently than the culture's bias or our evolutionary tendencies. As mentioned in Matt Ridley's book, "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" just because men are hard-wired for violence doesn't mean they have to kill. It's also good to understand there are differences between the genders and it's possible and necessary to hold both concepts at the same time. That both genders need to strive to achieve and maintain equality in our culture while science shows us we aren't the same. Deborah Tannen's "You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation", talks about it from a linguistic point of view. Men engage in conversation hard-wired for competitive signals while women are hard-wired with a focus on cooperation.
An example would be when each gender comes to an intersection with a four-way stop sign. When I am in that situation, I want to wave the other person through the intersection. If a man is in the other car, he's also furiously attempting to wave me through. I always have to smile realizing were both playing out the evolution of our genes--being waved through is a sign of submission--something we instinctively hate. Women may instead be pleased with the offer to go first because their genes have placed a premium on cooperation.
THE FRIENDSHIP QUESTION
How one experiences friendship and what needs it fulfills may be bound up in our gender. That we experience the world differently as a result of our gender, and that it will always mean our behavior will be different because of gender. His friends help him define and maintain his masculinity and that's about gender, not sexual orientation. Every man needs to feel comfortable about and freely express his masculinity. If its ridiculed and devalued (or overindulged) there could be problems. Having a healthy sense of his maleness, he's able to bring that richness to the relationship. This will enhance the partnership just as women's femininity enlivens the male world with a wonder they don't fully experience alone (well, because they're male).
The research in the beginning of this post has a special message about women and their friends. Women's identity is so interwoven with their primary relationships (read partner and kids) that it may be hard for them to take the time and deal with their own needs or manging their own stress caused by those relationships. There may be few things more valuable to the women in your life, especially if one is your partner, than to help them find the space to cultivate those necessary relationships.
How do friendships shape your life? Do gender differences exist? Are they due more to culture? Genes?