Since Season 2, Episode 16 of “Parks and Recreation” aired in 2010, women have been celebrating the sisterhood every Feb. 13. As Leslie Knope describes it, Galentine’s Day is all about “ladies celebrating ladies.”

Meanwhile, an article from 2021 has a more depressing diagnosis for American men: They are stuck in a “friendship recession.”

Do men need a holiday to strengthen — or create — male friendships?

Findings from the May 2021 American Perspectives Survey reveal that men are significantly less likely than women to receive emotional support from their friends. Surveys conducted on 2,019 American adults reveal that 41% of women receive emotional support from friends compared to 21% of men. Nearly half of the women have told a friend they love them over the course of a week while only a quarter of the men have. And 48% of women reported sharing personal feelings or problems with a friend during a week compared to 30% of men. There are also, surprisingly, no generational differences on this — all men, no matter their age, are just as unlikely to have shared personal feelings or problems with a friend.

Even at work, men fall behind when it comes to friendship. A Deseret News article from 2022 finds that women are much more likely to have close relationships with their co-workers than men are, and “research shows that people who establish close friendships where they work are generally happier, more engaged and less apt to be looking for other employment opportunities.”

But why do men really need other male friends? Can’t they just rely solely on women to fill in the gaps?


While men may feel more comfortable opening up to women, male friends can provide perspectives and support that women can’t provide for men. It is also unfair to place all of the emotional burden on women. “Men put too many of their (shall we say) ‘emotional eggs’ in a woman’s basket. But relationships are complex, and the more you’re able to embrace different contexts, the more you bring out different sides of yourself,” says Daniel Ellenberg, a relationship expert and leadership trainer, in an interview with Greater Good Magazine.

Friendships between men can also teach men how to better interact with their own emotions, validate the emotions of others and debunk the myth that men shouldn’t be vulnerable. When men see other men modeling healthy emotional behaviors, it gives them permission to acknowledge their own emotions.

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“It’s not that men do not need or want to talk about their personal triumphs, commiserate about their disappointments, or share their insecurities,” writes Daniel Cox, the director and founder of the Survey Center on American Life. “Rather, men more often feel they cannot rely on their male friends for it.”

Despite all of the evidence that men are struggling with friendship, male friendships grounded in loyalty and devotion are captivating in literature and media. Think Achilles and Patroclus. In “The Iliad,” the two friends are inseparable. Achilles describes Patroclus as “he whom I valued more than all others, and loved as dearly as my own life.”

Think Frodo and Sam. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” when Frodo’s spirit is about to give up from the weight of the ring, Sam proclaims, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” In the era of the male friendship recession, how can men form bonds like these?

Enter: Palentine’s Day.

“If you want a closer friendship, you have to pay the price, which is to reveal more about yourself.” — Daniel Ellenberg, Greater Good Magazine

Men are lacking the vital emotional component of friendship. Maybe men need their own designated holiday to sit down, connect face-to-face and build stronger male friendships. While men often connect with each other through activities, Cox points out that “Activity-based friendships endure only so long as the activity does.” Friendships need to have an emotional foundation as well.

Activity-based friendships can develop into meaningful relationships — weekly basketball games or other activities are a great place to start — but at some point men need to open up with each other and start vulnerable conversations.

“If you want a closer friendship, you have to pay the price, which is to reveal more about yourself,” Ellenberg told Greater Good Magazine.

The New York Times recommends several strategies that men can use to gradually form deeper friendships: Express appreciation, take the initiative to intentionally gather, use activities to start connections and check in through text periodically.

Deep friendship needs to be intentional, and it requires effort. As Brené Brown puts it in an episode of her “Unlocking Us” podcast with guests Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, “Meaningful connection requires meaningful work.” And Friedman adds, “Who gets anything nice without working?”

If men could celebrate Palentine’s Day with the same gusto women celebrate their female friends on Galentine’s Day, I’d be willing to bet there wouldn’t be a male friendship recession.