A new study from Men and Masculinities found that "bromances" (close male friendships) give many men more satisfaction than than their romantic relationships.
Intimate male friendships are far from new: historical figures like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both shared incredibly close, heterosexual relationships with male friends. During the latter half of the 20th century, however, an increase in homophobia and the rise of toxic masculinity made such friendships unfashionable. Now, due to positive portrayals of bromances in popular culture and between celebrities, the friendships are experiencing a cultural comeback.
The authors of the study interviewed 30 heterosexual men to come to their conclusions. To be sure, the study was far from perfect: all 30 men were second-year college students with a sports-related degree, and 29 of the 30 were white.
But every participant reported having a "bromantic" friend with whom they engaged in "no-boundaries" behaviors like open sharing of secrets or expressing love. 29 of the men also reported they had cuddled with their bromance at some point in time. Though the scientists acknowledge further study will be necessary to showing whether these behaviors extend beyond this specific group of people, the authors published their findings in the scientific journal Sex Roles and focused in on the differences between bromances and romances.
Tim knows I love listening to Taylor Swift and Beyonce, but I keep that quiet [around my girlfriend] because she would judge me. I feel like I have to be more manly around her.
28 of the 30 men also said they'd feel more comfortable sharing a sensitive personal issue with a bromance than a romantic partner:
If I found a lump on my testicle, I'd talk to [my bromance] rather than my girlfriend.
When asked about the difference between their bromances and romantic relationships, many men reached a similar conclusion according to the study's authors:
There was a conclusive determination from the men we interviewed. On balance, they argued that bromantic relationships were more satisfying in their emotional intimacy, compared to their heterosexual romances.
While the development of positive male friendships is, by itself, a positive step for men, researchers worry that "the rise of the bromances may not altogether be liberating and socially positive for women." Participants in the study frequently used derogatory language towards their girlfriends, demonstrating a "us vs. them" mentality. Ideally, men should reach a point where they're comfortable becoming emotionally intimate with members of either sex, and most especially their own romantic partners.
For the participants in this study, at least, it seems we're not quite there. As one man tellingly stated:
Lovers are temporary. A bromance can last a lifetime.