Male female friendships psychology

Why Male and Female Friendships Are So Different

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The research on who we become friends with falls very much in line with common sense. We are more likely to become friends with people who are trustworthy, similar to us, and who live physically close to us. We also prefer friends who are fun to hang out with and friends who like us about as much as we like them.

Friends are especially important in situations where we are living far away from family members who would ordinarily supply emotional support and assistance with day-to-day chores such as moving heavy objects around and caring for pets and children when we are unavailable. Consequently, researchers have found that changes in friendships usually accompany major life transitions such as going away to college or getting married, but if a friendship can weather these forks in the road it can help buffer the stress of life changes. In fact, friends are mentioned in studies more frequently as sources of happiness than are family, religion, or success in one’s career.

While what I have said above applies equally well to both men and women, there are some critical differences between the sexes in the way that they manage and define friendships.

Sex Differences in Friendships

Cross-culturally, men tend to report having a larger number of friends, but less intimate ones, than women. Women are also more likely than men to explicitly discuss the closeness of their relationships with their friends, more likely to identify someone as a “best friend,” and they also more easily distinguish “close friends” from people who are “just a friend.” Men generally seem to use the word “friend” more loosely than women, and they also tend to expect less from friendships than women do.

Psychologist Keelah Willams and her colleagues explored sex differences in friendships in a series of three studies published in the January 2022 issue of Evolution and Human Behavior. In the first study, 213 American college students rated how important it was for same-sex friends to exhibit behaviors or qualities from nine different categories of friendship benefits. These categories included things such as the friend offering social support, being able to help with finding new mating opportunities, and being a reliable ally during times of conflict. In a second study, 306 participants who were not college students (median age = 35.22) rated their same-sex best friend on these same categories in an attempt to see if real-life friendships mirrored the aspirations for friends expressed in the first study.

For the most part, the results of the two studies matched up pretty well. Men preferred that friends have wealth, status, and the ability to help them find new mating opportunities, while women expressed much more interest in friends who offered emotional support, who would help them hang onto the mate they already had, and who could be relied upon to “have their back” in a conflict.

In a third study, Williams and her colleagues presented 250 individuals with three different hypothetical amounts of money: $20, $40, or $60. The participants in the study were then asked to “design” a perfect same-sex friend by allocating money to the nine different friendship dimensions such that they spent the most money on the qualities that were most important to them and the least money on the ones that they cared less about.

When budgets were very generous, men and women did not differ much on how they allocated money, with everyone spreading the wealth around to get as much of the good stuff as possible. However, when budgets were limited, men invested much more in designing a friend who would be able to enhance their status and help them attract mates, whereas women spent more money on building a friend who would provide emotional support.

Evolutionary Explanations for Sex Differences in Friendships

Why would men and women have different agendas when they are looking for friends? The answer may lie in our evolutionary past.

It is believed that the day-to-day lives of men and women could be quite different in early human groups. Men traveled in groups more often than women as they hunted and engaged in raids, while women tended to stay closer to home, gathering food and supplies and caring for children.

Consequently, men came to value other men who were physically intimidating and skillful hunters and warriors. Having men like this by your side as you went into battle could be very reassuring, especially if they thought of you as a close friend. This may help to explain the lingering popularity that so often accrues to male high school and college athletes. Most modern sports give young men the opportunity to show off the very same skills–running fast, throwing things with speed and accuracy, tackling & wrestling, hitting moving targets with a club–that would have been highly prized in hunters and warriors back in the day.

Then, perhaps as now, a male could enhance his own status by having formidable friends and make himself more attractive as a mate.

Women, on the other hand, were often removed from the kinship group that they were born into because of “patrilocality,” which was the common practice of women leaving home to join their male partner’s tribe. Sometimes, this may have been voluntary, but often it was the unfortunate result of having been kidnapped during a raid. These women were thrown together in a place with no genetically related female relatives to rely on for help with child-rearing, food sharing, and mutual defense.

To successfully negotiate this challenge, women had to be quite astute in judging the character of potential friends. They should especially value friends who would be nurturing, trustworthy, and loyal. It would be important for the friends to be emotionally supportive and also for them to be a reliable source of information about the norms and politics of the new group. So, having friends who could supply useful gossip and who could be counted on to take your side in disputes mattered a great deal, because the new-found friends had to be counted on in all the ways that one would count on mothers, sisters, and cousins back in the native group.

The modern vestiges of this in female friendships can be observed in the meticulous attention paid to remembering birthdays and other life events, sending gifts and cards as reminders and reinforcers of the friendship bond, and regularly displaying cues of family-like investment as a way of advertising loyalty. Speaking from my own long experience with male friendships, these niceties are seldom of much concern among men.

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Exploring the Differences Between Male and Female Friendships

When I was out at dinner with my husband, he told me that our mutual friends of 20 years had decided to end their marriage. I wanted to know details: the why, the when, the where.

But he didn't have these details, and when I pressed for answers, he said his friend brought it up briefly with a group of close guy friends, then moved on to a different subject. Not many questions were asked; not many details were given.

If I was with a group of my girlfriends, and this topic was discussed, we would talk about the juicy details: the why, the when, the how, and the now what.

This specific example paints the perfect picture of the differences between men and women in terms of friendships.

The recipe for a female friendship

Female friendships thrive on intimacy and emotional connection. We, as females, want to talk about feelings, want to experience physical touch, want direct and dependent face-to-face contact. We want to feel emotionally connected and supported.

The research behind the importance of female friendships is strong. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, women with early-stage breast cancer were four times more likely to die from it if they didn't have very many female friends. Conversely, women with early-stage breast cancer with a larger group of female friends have a higher survival rate, regardless of the physical distance between these female friends. As women, we rely on each other to give advice, be a shoulder to cry on, be an emotional support system, hold and protect secrets, boost self-esteem, and lend a listening ear. Our girl tribes are strong, and as a result, a solid and healthy female friendship is something that every woman can benefit from.

The intimate, face-to-face relationships between women have a lot to do with oxytocin, the bonding or "love potion" hormone that is released from the posterior pituitary during childbirth and nursing. Studies have shown that when women are stressed out, they do not just resort to the "fight-or-flight" response but also release oxytocin, which allows women to nurture and "tend and befriend." It is believed that oxytocin is the reason why women have a natural "motherly instinct," and as a result, female friendships are based on emotional intimacy and connection.

"Women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect."

The recipe for a male friendship

Friendships between males tend to be more transactional. Men tend to value friendships that are more shared activity-based (playing basketball, poker, or golf, or watching a football game) rather than the intimate, face-to-face relationships that women have.

Men do not feel the desire or need to discuss every intimate detail and change in their life with a male friend. They also do not feel the need to constantly stay in touch, as men can go for long periods—months or even years—without having contact with a male friend, but still consider that person a close friend.

In contrast, if a woman does not keep in regular, close contact with one of her girlfriends, she most likely will assume the friendship has grown apart or her friend is no longer interested in having a friendship with her, potentially even assuming the friendship has ended. Although male friendships tend to be more transactional and less intimate than female friendships, male friendships are generally less fragile than female friendships. Men tend not to wear their emotions on their sleeve, not to question the motives of others, and not to feel pressure to disclose personal details and intimate secrets to maintain their friendship with another male. On the contrary, females bond through secret sharing and emotional intimacy, which can potentially create volatility in a friendship, especially if this sharing is one-sided.

While men may not share their deepest and most secret feelings with their close male friends, research shows they are more apt to share them with a wife, girlfriend, sister, or other platonic female friends.

Friendships are meaningful, regardless of gender

Humans are social creatures, regardless of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, and therefore we crave to be around others. Friendships help us create a community with like-minded individuals. A healthy friendship can teach us about joy, empathy, trust, honesty, integrity, communication, and many other key characteristics that we need to evolve in all aspects of society. Healthy friendships are known to decrease rates of dementia and obesity and increase longevity.

The impacts we feel when we don’t feel connected through friendship

When we don’t feel connected, we can feel lonely and isolated, which can stir up many negative feelings that may lead us down the road to depression and anxiety. Isolation can negatively affect our self-esteem, leaving us feeling inept or not good enough. As a result, we may not feel worthy of being in a friendship, and we may hinder meeting new friends.

We may even turn to alcohol and drugs to numb our feelings of loneliness. When we begin to feel lonely but do not have healthy coping skills to sit and deal with feelings of loneliness, we can quickly board a train going to deep, dark places. Sometimes feeling lonely is inevitable, but it is how we learn to overcome these times, and these healthy coping skills come with positive self-esteem, gratitude, and happiness.

Why are friendships hard to establish and harvest as adults?

Making friends as an adult is hard. We are no longer kids on the playground, and we no longer have high school and college to give us a wide selection of peers to befriend. Most adults meet new friends through work, but what if you work remotely, especially in this day and age?

Friendships are difficult to start as an adult for many reasons:

  • We don’t have a community to help us find friends within our peer group, and therefore it is harder to meet people in general without having a playground or a college campus.
  • As adults, we most likely have already established our likes and dislikes. We know what we want and what we don’t want. We most likely have experienced some rejection and trauma, and as a result, we are picky. We want to make friends with people we mesh with, and we want to make sure we trust these people. As a result, adults can be wary of making new friends, because they don’t want to enter into a potentially toxic situation.
  • We are busy, and trying to establish a new friendship takes a great deal of time, commitment, and effort.

Women's and men's friendship: 10 fundamental differences


A person among people

Male friendship is usually built on common hobbies and joint participation in some activity, and female friendship is based on personal relationships. While there are more similarities than differences in the dynamics of friendships, men and women view friendships and interact with friends differently.

Relationships between female friends are often very close and deeply personal, while relationships between male friends are usually not so serious. It is not surprising that face-to-face communication is more important for female friendship: friends communicate more emotionally, willingly share their thoughts and feelings, and support each other.

It is more important for male friends to do things together, “side by side”, than to communicate “face to face”. Their relationship with friends is not so close emotionally, mutual benefit plays a big role on the principle of "you to me, I to you." It also differs in how often they communicate with friends, are involved in friendly relations, what personal problems they are ready to discuss.

Men are more likely to bond through common activities such as sports, while women are more likely to share personal secrets with each other contact. Men may not communicate with a person for a long time and continue to consider him a close friend. If a woman has not communicated with a friend for a long time, she will most likely decide that the paths have parted and the friendship is over.

And although there is less emotional closeness in friendship between men, their relationship is not as fragile as that of women. Men tend to get closer by doing something in common, like sports, while women tend to bond with each other through personal secrets, talking, and spending time together.

Men make friends more easily because they do not suspect each other's ulterior motives and do not feel the need to share personal information to maintain friendship. At the same time, men who are not inclined to share their feelings with friends often willingly tell their wives, girlfriends, sisters or girlfriends about their feelings, with whom they maintain a purely platonic relationship.

1. Men are friends "side by side", their relationship arises and is maintained on the basis of common activities, activities, interests and hobbies.

2. Women make friends "face to face", their relationships arise and are maintained on the basis of emotional intimacy, communication and mutual support.

3. In friendships between men, there is less spiritual and emotional intimacy than in friendships between women.

4. Friendly relations between men are not as fragile as relations between girlfriends, that is, a man can continue to consider a person a friend even with long breaks in communication.

5. Women are emotionally attached to those they consider friends.

6. Men are more likely to remain friends after a quarrel or argument, and women are more likely to break off relationships.

7. Women need to communicate more often with those they consider friends.

8. Men are more likely to tease friends and make fun of them, considering it harmless entertainment.

9. Women usually try not to play tricks on their friends for fear of hurting them.

10. Men communicate more often in large companies, they have more fun together, while women prefer to go somewhere with just one good friend.

Of course, it cannot be said that these features apply to all men and women. These are rather general trends. Whatever your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, it's important to figure out exactly what you're looking for in a friendship. The answer to this question will help you understand whether it is possible to build the relationship with a person that you would like.

Text: Nikolai Protsenko Photo source: Getty Images

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They say that female friendship does not exist, and there is also an opinion that a man and a woman cannot be friends. Both statements are wrong. Friendship arises between different people, but the friendly relations of a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a man and a woman are different from each other. Every friendship has its own characteristics.


  • 1 Male friendship
  • 2 Female friendship
  • 3 Male and female friendship: differences
  • 4 Whose friendship is stronger

Male friendship

Male friendship is associated with strength, courage, mutual assistance. It seems that in fairy tales, myths, epics, cartoons and films, the existence of male friendship is emphasized exclusively. But it probably has to do with other gender stereotypes and sexism.

However, in our time in real life there are many stories about how men became friends due to difficult circumstances: “he saved my life”, “we went through so much with him”. Women's friendship often fixes attention on a pleasant joint vacation, emotional support.

This is one of the differences: women's friendship is warmer, more emotional. There are, of course, men who hug and kiss when they meet. For example, Italians, Turks, Caucasians and other nationalities with a "hot" temperament. Such a greeting is alien to a Russian man due to his mentality, but there are exceptions. In general, Russian men are more restrained in their emotions than women.

Women's friendship

Women love attention, which sometimes results in quarrels and misunderstandings between friends. Remember how some women get annoyed if their outfit matches that of a friend. Although in childhood, most girl friends love to be copies of each other. In adult life, if this happens, then with a hidden desire to look better than a friend in the same dress. Not all friendships look like this, but sexuality and emotionality often become a stumbling block.

As for the depth of friendship and the topics that are touched upon in a relationship, it all depends on the personal characteristics of the participants, and not on gender. Yes, there are women who only think about manicures and shopping. But there are also those girls whose friendship is more like a man's: emotional and physical help, memories of overcoming difficulties, discussing work, going to football.

Male and female friendship: differences

Thus, female and male friendship has the following differences:

  • Women's relationships are more emotional in expression. Men show feelings with restraint.
  • Women focus on personal relationships (for example, services in a beauty salon), the basis of male friendship is a common cause or hobby. It is more likely that men will be brought together by playing sports, and women by discussing the personal life of someone else.
  • For women, communication, a look at each other, an exchange of innermost thoughts is more important. Men value not communication, but actions that are performed shoulder to shoulder. Details of personal or intimate life are often hidden, there is an unspoken rule "if he wants, he will tell."
  • Male friendship is like a business partnership, cooperation. Women's friendship - for family, close, love relationships.
  • Women's quarrels and conflicts are more terrible, more dangerous than male contradictions. It's all about heightened emotionality.
  • Male friendship is tested and tempered in difficulties, female friendship is fed by a fun and pleasant pastime. Probably, there is some truth in the joke “the key to strong female friendship is different tastes in men and the same tastes in wine.
  • Envy, ulterior motives, gossip, jealousy, revenge and rancor are more common in female friendships than in male partnerships. I think this is caused not only by the gender characteristics of the psyche, but also by the specifics of communication between men and women.

On average, women need more communication than men. This is reflected in friendship: a man may not communicate with a friend for a month, but at the same time they both understand that friendship has not gone away. Women also need regular feeding. And if a friend does not get in touch for a week, then the first thought that a girl has is “she is no longer my friend, our paths have diverged.”

The same principle can be seen in the nature of communication. Men generally do not tend to focus on trifles, chew on the details of their personal lives, discuss any change, minor changes. Women, on the other hand, want to know everything to the smallest detail, because the impoverishment of communication with a friend, the lack of revelations and intimate details about every hour of life is perceived as alienation.

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