What changing relationships mean for men and women.

Bromances aren’t new. Early American presidents often wrote endearing letters to other politicians and close male companions, like Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. However, after WWII, homohysteria drastically changed masculinity norms, and male friendships suffered as a result. In recent years, male friendships have come back into the spotlight with high-profilers Obama and Joe Biden, James Franco and Seth Rogan, and even fictional characters like The Hangover posse (yes, even Allan).

According to a study of 30 diverse, straight college males, men prefer bromance over romance. Men reported feeling like they can unabashedly be themselves with their bro. They feel less judged by their close male friends and engage in “no-boundaries” behavior, such as sharing secrets, expressing anxieties and love, or platonically sharing a bed. The participants also reported expressing emotions physically by hugging or cuddling, and they felt secure divulging personal health issues in their bromances. Men also reported feeling like they have to be more “manly” in their romantic relationships, and thus aren’t emotionally fulfilled with their romantic partners. It is clear, then, that men are more wholly satisfied with their male friendships than their romantic relationships. 

Bromances are a progressive step forward in redefining masculinity and eradicating toxic ideals of what it is to “be a man.” It fosters conflict resolution, as some participants reported it’s easier to confront and forgive your bro. It also encourages emotional vulnerability, stability, and growth with familiar people, especially for those men who aren’t comfortable being emotionally intimate with women.

Though bromances can be fulfilling and healthy for men, researchers do have some reservations. Men in the study sometimes used sexist and contemptuous language when referring to their romantic partners. They also displayed an “us and them” mentality that seemed to favor their bros over their romantic partners. This can be particularly deconstructive if bros foster bad behavioral patterns that can impact their romantic relationships, such as dishonesty and unaccountability.