There are a lot of men living solo. Yet, just as with singles in general, it is important to get beyond overgeneralizations about the “single man.” There may be those men who are contented and fulfilled living single, others open to partnership at some point, and still others, actively seeking intimate partnership. Even with some of these differences in mind, how do men live their lives single? What are the pleasures, and what are the challenges? What are the aspects of being single and male that differ from being single and female?
An Evening with Arthur
To get a perspective on these questions, we decided to spend an evening talking to one of our very thoughtful single male friends about his life.In his mid fifties, Arthur lives alone in his own condo, has a solid “day job”, and devotes himself to his passions- music and writing. He has solid relationships with his elderly widowed mother (for whom he is the primary caretaker, splitting his time between his place and hers), and good relationships with his siblings and their children. He has a variety of friends and a spiritual life. He has contributed time and energy to causes that are important to him. He dates women when he meets someone that interests him. All in all, he has a full and engaged life. So where does “being single” fit in?
Actually, Arthur doesn’t think about it much. He grew up in a family where being single was legitimate (several aunts and uncles from both sides of the family were single), and from what he saw of marriage, it didn’t appear to him to be the only road to building a fulfilling life. He loves children, yet never has had a burning desire for them. He has dated and had romantic relationships through the years, but hasn’t married. He isn’t closed to marriage, but doesn’t live his life with marriage as a priority. As with most single people he knows, he values friendships highly, acknowledging the necessity of working to maintain them.It seems to him that one or both people in some marriages may get along without strong friendships outside their primary relationship. Singles, however, are well advised to nurture friendships.
Arthur did note some challenges in being single, and tries to deal with them creatively. “Sometimes it’s hard to do everything yourself”. He joked, “It would be nice to have someone there to help with silly things like putting that extra leaf in the dining room table! More seriously, there is no “built in” partner with whom to share responsibility for scheduling time with friends, and to guard against too much aloneness, in his view, always a potential problem for single people. While he has several male and female friends whom he can call to confide in, sometimes he misses having someone consistently there to fall back on.
How about being male and single? Arthur imagines that some things, especially emotionally and socially may be easier for single women. He notes how socially active women are, even in old age. “Many of us grew up with fathers, who after a long work week, would typically leave the social arrangements to their wives”. He has several male friends, both married and single, who tend to talk about interests and “things” rather than feelings. Men can be more cautious and competitive, he observes, likely inhibiting their ability to socialize and communicate during times of fear, worry, depression, or disappointment.He reminisced with us about his youthful boys’ club, in which to be invited into the treehouse, you had to identify yourself as “friend or foe!” He noted that perhaps it is harder for men to share emotional experiences. Through both formal and informal “men’s work” he has connected with men who are willing and able to move beyond those emotional limits.
Towards the end of the evening, we discussed E. Kay Trimberger’s paper Single Women over Forty Create the Good Life, and wondered if the Six Pillars of fulfillment and satisfaction for women, was analagous for men? The Six Pillars are: 1)Make a home, 2)Find work that is economically sustaining and personally fulfilling, without being workaholic, 3)Create a network of friends and extended family, 4)Develop a community, 5)Find a connection to the next generation, 6)Acceptance of ones sexuality.
In general, Arthur could relate to all of them, and additionally noted the enjoyment he experiences in his relationship with wilderness, “wildness”, and nature, deriving deep satisfaction from time out of doors. He experiences pleasure in creating “things” and engaging in projects. It is also important, he feels, to connect with the next generation by teaching and mentoring younger people when appropriate.
The evening wound down and we had to catch our train, but we were left with the sense that there is a lot more to be shared about being single and male. So it is in the spirit of inquiry and sharing that we are pleased to open the Men’s Room on MySingleSpace.Welcoming insights, perspective, and research on what it means to be single and male