I enjoyed a thought-provoking conversation about Adult Friendships with Dr. Adam Dorsay, a clinical psychologist in private practice in San Jose, California where he specializes in working with Silicon Valley’s high achieving, high-functioning adults. Dr. Dorsay has appeared in the news and in documentaries and gave a popular TEDx Talk on men and emotions. He is the co-creator of an international resilience program at Facebook’s Headquarters and continues to provide resilience training in the high-tech realm to Digital Ocean, a cloud computing company based out of Cambridge, MA. He speaks to various organizations on a wide range of topics including Men’s Psychology, the Science of Happiness, Mindfulness, and Adult Friendships.
During our conversation, Dr. Dorsay referenced an article written by writer/comedian Melanie Hamlett (Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden; Harper’s Bazaar, May 2, 2019). The article highlights how many women find themselves to be the sole source of emotional support for their partners and how burdensome this can be for them. Hamlett suggests that because of what she refers to as Toxic Masculinity –the idea that straight men are socialized to avoid discussing emotions or connecting emotionally with anyone else besides their female partners. Toxic Masculinity stems from the shame that men experience around feeling “weak and vulnerable,” thus causing them to avoid deeper friendships and relationships outside of the relative safety of their partners. In her article, Hamlett writes:
“The idea of an “emotional gold digger” was first touched on in 2016 by writer Erin Rodgers with a tweet that continues to be re-posted on social media— both by women who married self-described feminist men, and by those with more conservative husbands. It has gained more traction recently as women, feeling increasingly burdened by unpaid emotional labor, have wised up to the toll of toxic masculinity, which keeps men isolated and incapable of leaning on each other.”
In our interview, Dr. Dorsay explains how many men he sees in his practice are highly intelligent and successful people who often have difficulty connecting with others, especially within male friendships. By examining their fears around vulnerability in friendships, they are able to become more engaged in male friendships, and consequently, their intimate relationships improve as well. He also cites research showing how important friendship is to our physical health; several studies suggest it is more predictive of longevity than any other measure including our genes.