Young men get more emotional satisfaction out of “bromances”—close, heterosexual friendships with other males—than they do out of romantic relationships with women, according to a small new study published in Men and Masculinities.
Intimate male friendships have become more socially acceptable in recent years, say the study authors, and that’s largely a good thing. But they caution that the shift could lead to weaker bonds among dating or married couples, or even reduce the likelihood of men and women pairing up at all.
…To find out how much bromances mattered, they surveyed 30 heterosexual men who were second-year college students and had been in a relationship before, or were currently. The group was homogenous, to be sure; besides all being straight college students, all but one of the men were white, and all had a sports-related major.
The authors found that every one of them reported having at least one “bromantic” friend—with whom they engaged in “no-boundaries” behaviors like sharing secrets, expressing love or sleeping in the same bed—at some time or another. 29 out of 30 men said they had cuddled with their bromantic partner.
…..Overall, the students reported feeling less judged by their close male friends than by their girlfriends. In the words of one participant, “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.”
…Men in the study also said it was easier to overcome conflicts and share their emotions—like when a grandparent dies—with their guy friends, and to discuss sensitive health information. 28 out of 30 said they would prefer to discuss personal matters with a bromance than a romance. “If I found a lump on my testicle, I’d talk to [my bromance] rather than my girlfriend,” one interviewee said.
…The fact that men are finally comfortable getting close with one another is a progressive step forward, say the authors, and they suggest that men may benefit greatly from long-term, same-sex friendships—especially if they’re not comfortable being emotionally intimate with women.
…The authors even suggest that these changing cultural norms could even have implications for where and how men choose to live—opting to move in with a male roommate rather than a girlfriend, for example, thus delaying or disrupting relationships that could eventually lead to marriage and starting a family. “Lovers are temporary,” one study participant said during his interview. “A bromance can last a lifetime.”