How to Build Friendships and Community in Action

cover art for episode 115 with Elliott Rae on male friendships

Elliott Rae talks about how to build friendships, particularly male friendships, and community through shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face activities.

Being around friends is amazing. It’s an opportunity where you can get a bit of yourself that maybe isn’t so present around work or around family, you know, so it’s really important.

Elliott Rae

Elliott is the founder of the parenting platform MusicFootballFatherhood (MMF), called the ‘Mumsnet for Dads’ by the BBC. MMF is all about open conversations around fatherhood and works with dads through community events and content to discuss topics such as loss, masculinity, and mental health.

Elliott’s new book DAD is an Amazon Top 10 bestseller. DAD is a deeply moving collection of 20 stories that represent the diversity of modern fatherhood and challenges the traditional ideas of masculinity.

Elliott has been recognized by the United Nations for his work on gender equality and was awarded the #HeForShe award by UN Women UK.

Elliott presented the BBC One documentary ‘Becoming Dad’ in January 2022 and is a media commentator on issues around fatherhood and mental health, having written for The Independent and The Telegraph and featured live on Loose Women, BBC News, Channel 4 and Radio 5 Live. Elliott is also the co-founder of the Working Dads Employer Awards which celebrates employers who are supporting working dads. The first award ceremony took place in May 2022 in Parliament.

We recorded this episode on May 31, 2022.

Your Challenge Invitation

  1. List all the areas of your life where you allocate time, e.g. fitness, friends, family, church/spirituality, hobbies, etc.
  2. Draw a big circle on a piece of paper and place each of those areas in a pie chart. Think about what percentage of your month you give to each area to determine how much of the pie to give it.
  3. Are you spending your time in alignment with what’s important to you?
  4. The next level is to actually track how you spend your time for a day, week, month and see what surprises you.
  5. Another level is to ask a partner or close friend to do step 2 for you using the areas you defined in step 1. Does your chart match the one they drew? What stands out for you? How will you use those results?

Contact and follow Elliott at, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

To be part of a movement bigger than yourself, I think is key.

Similar Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

[00:36] Elliott’s friendship life
[06:13] Friendship as Life Changes
[10:06] Men in Friendship – Shoulder to Shoulder vs Face to Face
[15:17] Experiences of the Nature of Male Friendship
[23:02] Music Football Fatherhood
[31:55] Invitation/Challenge

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We need community and that friendship, that intimacy around us.

People engage in different ways.

Transcript of the Episode

[00:36] Elliott’s friendship life

[00:36] Damianne President: Would you mind sharing with us about your friendship life?

[00:39] Elliott Rae: friendship? life. So my friendship life has evolved over time, actually. When I was younger in school, I had a lot of friends. I guess in school, I was kind of a bit of a comedian so I got on with most people, had something in common with most people in terms of whether that’s getting on with people from different races or different classes or different interests.

So I was quite flexible. So I had a lot of friends in my younger years. I think at university that carried on as well. I had a core set of friends at uni, which I think was really important actually, and really shaped my experience and shaped me going from being a boy at school to a man. So I really am grateful for the friends that I made at university.

I think after university, what I found going into the world at work and growing up and everyone having their own families, maybe people moving to different parts of the world is that my friendship group got a lot smaller, got a lot smaller. And in my mid twenties, I spent most of the time working in music.

So I was in a band and doing producing with my wife. And a lot of my time was consumed with that. And I do remember at one point feeling like I wasn’t making an effort with friends enough actually. And there was one New Year’s Eve, a good few years ago now, maybe eight years ago, seven or eight years ago where my New Year’s resolution was to make more of an effort with people, either my friends or the people that I meet that are like minded.

 There’s a couple of people I had on my list and I, you know, made an effort to phone them or to arrange stuff and to try and build on those friendships. And I’m lucky now that the work I do, I actually posted about this on Linkedin this morning, but the work I do now, my work and my hobbies and my friendships collide.

So a lot of stuff that I will do around community events, my friends will come along. So I’m kind of lucky enough now where my work and my friendships are sometimes one and the same, and also that I get to meet a lot of interesting people through my work and end up sometimes making friends with them as well.

 So I’m in a lucky place now where I have my old school friends, but I have a good community around me. Also the older I get as well, I really value my own time and really value solitude and being with myself. So it’s always a balance. It’s always a balance between the two.

[03:02] Damianne President: So you have a family, you have a young daughter, is it?

[03:07] Elliott Rae: Yeah, I’ve got a six or a daughter and a wife.

[03:10] Damianne President: If we think about people’s abilities to have close relationships, then of course the fact that you have a family impacts what’s your friendship life looks like. So now, where does friendship fit into your priorities, and how do you… Yeah, let’s start there.

[03:27] Elliott Rae: Yeah, this is so interesting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and thinking about like in life, we have lots of different areas that we need to nurture. So we have our work and our business. We have our friends and our hobbies. We have a partner, our family, our health and fitness, life admin, you know, all these different parts of our life.

And we have to nurture all of them enough. And sometimes there’s seasons where you have to kind of go in heavy on one. But for the course of a year, we have to make sure that we’re prioritizing each at a right amount to sustain them. Because if we don’t, then it could all come falling down. For example, if we put all of our effort into work and business and neglect our health, then we can get sick and we can’t work anymore.

Or if we put all of our effort into our family and our partner and we neglect our friendships, then we can become isolated and lonely and lose a part of who we are. But if we put all of our effort into our hobbies, we can neglect our romantic relationships. So it’s really important for me to find the balance.

 I don’t think I have a ranking so to speak, but I think I do consciously think about making the effort to sustain my friendship groups and understanding the value in that. I think maybe a few years ago I was just working so hard and so caught up in having a newborn baby and work, and you don’t really have time for friends. Like I had some friends that I hadn’t seen for years, you know, best friends that I didn’t see for a couple of years. And it wasn’t that we’d fallen out or anything. It was just, we’re both really busy. And so we don’t prioritize it.

But I understand now, like being around friends is amazing. It’s an opportunity where you can get a bit of yourself that maybe isn’t so present around work or around family, you know, so it’s really important. And I think that that just makes you a better person. It makes for better relationships in your family anyway. And that’s why I think, you know, those different areas of our life, we have to really nurture them all.

I know some people will use this circle diagram, like a pie chart kind of thing. And they’ll put all the different elements of their life and the percentages and they’ll do it quite calculated around how much time they spend and, okay, what is the priority in this season? Do I need to do more here? And maybe that’s something that I will do. And just look at my life and say, actually, where do I need to prioritize more? But I have been thinking about it a lot recently. I think as we get older and as we become definitely as parents, we’re super busy and it’s very, very easy to not see friends for years and just think where the time goes.

[05:57] Damianne President: Yeah, one thing I find is that doing those types of exercises can reveal things, like you think something is one way, but then putting it on paper sometimes reveals gaps that you were not actually conscious of. So I always find those to be very interesting.

[06:11] Elliott Rae: Yeah, they are. 

[06:13] Friendship as Life Changes

[06:13] Damianne President: If we think about people in their thirties, forties, fifties, which were in that range, which is quite broad, I think one thing that comes up is that people are moving into different phases of their life. So maybe instead of having babies, you have children that are school age; maybe you have a bit more time. Maybe you’re not losing as much sleep.

Maybe in your forties. You have even more time and have your 40th year 50th, depending on when you had kids, kids are living home. So you may have different amounts of times to spend to friendship.

I think there’s kind of two pieces here. One is that even when life is busy, you talked about being able to be yourself and find yourself, that friendship is still important then to be able to be kind of in tune with that self care element and being who you are. And then also when you get into those areas where you have more space, then there’s the issue of reclaiming friendship. And I’m curious how you think about any of that since you mentioned thinking about friendship recently.

[07:15] Elliott Rae: Yeah, super interesting. So I was on a TV program the other day in January called Loose Women here in the UK. And I was on for a segment talking about my life. There’s a program on ITVS, generally four women on the panel when they have conversations. And they were reflecting that when it comes to divorce and relationships breaking down, in their opinion, they feel like women are a bit more prepared for that, because the way that they will design their life while they’re with their family, with their partner is they will make time generally for their friends. They will make time to see their, their friends and maintain those relationships and maintain, not just seeing their friends, but the deeper relationships as well. So they will have those open conversations with their friends.

Whereas for men, we are first of all, less likely to maintain friendships. When we do, it’s maybe more, activity-based like, you know, going to the football together or, you know, shoulder to shoulder relationships. So we don’t have that face to face. So when it comes to our relationship breakdown, we’re more on our own, you know, we have less people, friends to call on that we’ve maintained relationships with for years, you know? So you kind of like are starting again, or we kindling or finding your place. And I reflected on that and you know what, that’s probably true. To be honest, it’s probably true.

Even,, my wife’s here, and I look at how we are, and she is a lot better at making time for her friends and making sure that she maintains that. Like, I’m not terrible at it, but she’s definitely a lot better. And when I look at people around me, I can see that pattern as well.

 So Yeah, it is important because when we do get older and when we get more time for ourselves and the kids leave home or whatnot, or they’re just more independent, they don’t need us around so much, there is an element of what now, what next? And I’m always conscious of, I don’t want to get to a certain age where that happens and I have not nurtured relationships.

What I’m trying to do in my life is reach the point now where I have the time. And not wait for retirement or a certain time in my life to arrive and be like, oh, I’ve done all this work for this. Because I’ve seen so many people will do all the work finally get to that age and then get sick or die or get divorced or whatnot. And I don’t want to do that.

I want to live my best life now, you know. I want to enjoy my life now. I want to have the time now and be able to do that. Obviously, there’s always a level of sacrifice because especially when you’re a parent, you have to parent. But the way I’ve managed to design my work life is that I am in a lucky position now to not have a nine to five, not have to be in an office from a certain time period, to be able to have a little bit of flexibility where I can work from the gym, for example. I can intertwine my work with my friends. I can inspire my work with my family as well, you know, so it’s nice. And that’s something that I really, really appreciate.

[10:06] Men in Friendship – Shoulder-to-Shoulder vs Face to Face

[10:06] Damianne President: As you were talking, I was thinking is it that men have left less time or is it that they’re allocating the time differently when it comes to focusing on friendships, having time for friendships, or making friendships. You already mentioned that men tend to do things together rather than having face-to-face time, but is there something else in terms of how men allocate their time or what matters to them that’s a factor here.

[10:30] Elliott Rae: I think it is a couple of things. I think the first one is around ideas of what it means to be a man, those traditional ideas, a lot of time, are to be the breadwinner.

So I think a lot of men feel that pressure to work. That’s changing, it’s changing slowly. But I think that men traditionally have been the full-time workers. They’ve been the one to go out and earn money and whatnot. And so, they spend a lot of time working, dedicating time to that. So in terms of priorities, work, I think, for a lot of men, traditionally has been the number one priority in terms of where I spend my time. But also I think just as big is how we express ourselves and how we show vulnerability and openness and a willing to share challenges, which men over the years haven’t been so good at.

You know, men are a lot less likely to seek help for their challenges. For example, in the UK, we have the NHS (National Health Service??) talking therapies, where if you have challenges, if you need to speak, you can call this help line for free and get mental health support.

Only one third of those referrals or calls are for men. But when it comes to the suicide rates in the UK now three after four suicides are men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. So what that tells me is that we are less likely to bring up and seek support. We’re more likely to take our own lives. And I think that just shows us that when it comes to how open men can be, how much we reach out for that support, how much we share our challenges. If we’re going through a difficult period in our life, do we seek support early from professionals, from friends, from family? We don’t really. So I think there’s those two things mixing together, we get this outcome where we don’t actually nurture and make time for our friendship groups as much as we can.

When I was talking about the activity-based thing, I was reading about male friendships, and I’m really interested in male friendships and trying to, you know, do a lot of research about it. There’s this idea about shoulder to shoulder relationships, where a lot of men will do stuff together. So we’ll go to see the football, we’ll go to play pool, you know, we’ll do an activity. And funny enough, when it comes to designing services for men, basing around activity is a really good idea, you know.

We did a Dads Do Hair event last Saturday where we’ve got dads down and we got a hair workshop facilitator, and we learned how to do hair.

[13:01] Damianne President: Yeah, those pictures were really cool.

[13:03] Elliott Rae: Yeah, some of the dads brought their children. It was amazing. We learned how to do this activity, which was obviously, you know, shared experience. It was relevant. What was brilliant about that is it started off as a shoulder-to-shoulder thing. Like literally, we’re standing next to each other, you know, playing in the hair and stuff. Then afterward, we had a reading from our book, our book Dad, and turned that into conversations.

We had a book reading about identity, about masculinity, about parent roles, gender based parenting roles. And then we had a conversation. We split people into groups and pairs to go and speak face-to-face. And I think the shoulder-to-shoulder stuff is all good, but making sure we have the face-to-face time as well, where we talk to each other. Men are less likely to be like, oh guys, let’s go for dinner as a friendship group. Like I don’t think I’ve ever recently met my male friends and gone out for dinner with them. Maybe I have, but it’s not a normal thing that we would …

[13:58] Damianne President: Well, it’s hard for you to think of, and I can think of several in the last few months, right?

[14:03] Elliott Rae: Yeah. Yeah. You know, normally it will be doing something. Let’s go and do a class like a spin or a gym, or let’s go to watch the football or let’s go to take our kids somewhere, you know? Um, but as all men going out to dinner, we don’t generally do that. I’m sure it happens, of course it does, but it’s not a general thing that …

[14:22] Damianne President: Maybe go for drinks. Maybe that’s more of a stereotype.

[14:24] Elliott Rae: Maybe go for drinks, maybe go for drinks. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I think it’s about taking those shoulder to shoulder to face to face. So I think all those things probably account for, you know, men being less likely to dedicate time to friendships, to be honest. And yeah, for me, it’s something that years ago when I realized I was like, do you know what, there’s people that I’ve I’ve met recently I really like, and got on with. I need to make an effort with them. You know, friendships as you get older, because you’re not in the same school together, we don’t see each other everyday by just because being in the same college or you’re working together, you have to actually make an effort.

You actually have to ring someone and arrange something. And a lot of men just aren’t comfortable doing that. I remember I spoke to a guy a couple of months ago actually, on a panel. And he was saying that he would never call his friend and ask how they are. They would never call his friend and just ask and have a conversation. Like it’s always got to be about planning to do something. 

[15:17] Experiences of the Nature of Male Friendship

[15:17] Damianne President: Is that a proxy for concern, that the way you show care is by reaching out to, to ask to do something or is that piece missing?

[15:28] Elliott Rae: I really don’t know to be honest. I think there’s something in pride and sometimes asking for help can be difficult, even for me. It’s only in recent years and I’m quite, well, my mom was always saying I’m quite stubborn and whatnot.

[15:43] Damianne President: That’s how you survive in a Caribbean parent household.

[15:48] Elliott Rae: So definitely being younger, I find it difficult to ask for help. And I think there is something. We don’t want to ask our friends and we don’t want to tell them that we’re not doing well, because we don’t want to take advice because that could be seen as emasculating. So I think there’s something in that, but I don’t know. I don’t know what it was. When he said that I was like, that’s interesting. Cause I would call my friends and catch up, like I do I call and speak to my mates and like, oh, what’s going on. But when he said, well that’s really interesting. And I need to talk to more people and find out is that the norm, like do not call your friends just to catch up, for no reason, just to say, hi, how you doing, what’s going on, chat about stuff that’s happened that day, you know.

[16:25] Damianne President: That’s interesting. I wasn’t always aware of my father doing this throughout my life, but I did notice in the more recent past, maybe in the past 10 years or so in his fifties, that he was much more akin to calling friends and just kind of like telling them what’s going on with him and finding out how they are.

And I think part of it was some people started getting sick and needing help, and it’s obvious if somebody needs help if they’re sick, whereas mental health and that kind of thing is a lot more invisible. So I think that’s where some of it came from. But yeah, it’s kind of interesting to think about.

In my research, what I’ve found is that there are three necessary elements for friendship. So you talked before about shared experiences, which is one, and then there’s mutual caring, which is as it sounds, but in the third one, I think is what you’re alluding to might be missing sometimes. It’s the intimacy piece where you can be vulnerable with each other, and you can share things with each other that you wouldn’t tell a casual acquaintance.

 Some psychologists call this malienation and they define it as being a longing that men have to be in brotherhood, in fellowship, in friendship with other men. And there is really that estrangement from being part of an embodied and vulnerable community. What comes up for you when you hear that?

[17:52] Elliott Rae: Yeah. So what comes up to me? Funny enough, actually, I was watching a program and I love football and I’m really interested in not just their match, you know, not just the game itself, but everything around it, like the, the fan culture, player wellbeing, sponsorship, advertising, using football for social change.

We do a lot of events for football clubs. Um, and it’s so interesting looking at football and I was watching something the other day. I think it was Rio Ferdinand or another player. And they were saying that the hardest thing about leaving football was not playing, it was kind of going in every day and seeing your teammates and being in the dressing room um, having the laughs, having the dinner after the game, you know, celebrating together. Like that was the main thing that they missed; they missed that.

When you leave the game, you don’t get to play professionally. And also you’re kind of outside of that environment so that all that support or that comraderie has gone. And identity too. So it’s a big transition. And I think with a lot of players, they then go and like become coaches or managers to try and be part of that. Like even just Steven Gerrard said that. He missed the game so much that part of management was getting some of some of that back because you’re back in the dressing room, you’re back with people, you’re back in an environment.

And a lot of players have lived that life since they were young. So just get to like, you know, relatively young, 37, 38, and then all of a sudden that’s gone and you’ve got the second half of your life to live, essentially. So yeah, I think there is something in that in terms of we all do need that a little bit.

In my work now with music football fatherhood, we have a wider community who will come to events and whatnot. We also have a small group of people who’ve been there from 50 years now, who helped with my strategy or contribute, manage my social media and edit the website, that kind of thing. And it’s really nice.

We have a bit of that, even though we were all over the country. We have a WhatsApp group, we meet up every now and again, we’ll do things together. We’ve written a book together. So we have that kind of brotherhood, and we’re all kind of like minded in terms of our views and how we see the world and how we see parenting and stuff like that. So it’s really nice to be part of something, you know.

To be part of a movement bigger than yourself, I think is key. And I think that’s what we all need really, isn’t it? Like kinda before we started recording, we were talking about around the world, different cultural norms. And I think for the good thing that comes with being in London, one of the negatives is it’s very individual and it’s very kind of money, profit, convenience driven, which don’t get me wrong can’t be good in some ways, you know. I can order a delivery now and 15 minutes later, there’ll be a patty and jerk chicken at my door.

[20:45] Damianne President: Okay. Don’t make me jealous because I can’t get that here.

[20:48] Elliott Rae: Yeah, or some good coastal, some plantain, like that could be here. It’s 12, 15, 17; by 12:40, it could be at my door, you know, and it’s great. There’s some benefits, but it is a very lonely city. it’s a very lonely place to be and you could easily walk around, be surrounded by thousands of people in Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square, and you’ll will be completely on your own, you know? And I think in other countries where they don’t have that convenience, but they have a lot more community and people know their neighbors and they have time to stop and talk.

So, Yeah. I think it’s important. We all need that. I think it’s something that we all need. We all need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Like a lot of time you think about life and you think about why we here. Every now and again, I’m sure we all do, but you just think, wow, what is this all about? Like what is it really all about? Why am I here? Why am I the person I am? Why do I do the things I do? You know, maybe it’s not always good to think that deep because it can drive yourself crazy sometimes. But I do reflect sometimes like what, what is it? Why was I born? Why was I here? Why do I think the way I think? Why do different people get different cards dealt to them? It’s very interesting. And part of kind of coming to terms with those questions is being part of something else. It’s being part of a team, a group, a movement. It gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of understanding. It helps us answer those questions for us in terms of purpose.

So, yeah, I guess it’s interesting. We need community and that friendship, that intimacy around us.

[22:27] Damianne President: Yeah. Some people find this in religion, I guess, and that can be both affirming and welcoming for people and isolating for others. I think it’s interesting to think about what answers you come to for yourself, what choices you make for yourself, because often that’s what it comes down to. It comes to choice because there are elements that are unknowable, but we either have faith or we choose to make certain decisions based on our beliefs or based on our hopes of the purpose of the world, where the world is headed and our role in it.

[23:02] Music Football Fatherhood

[23:02] Damianne President: So you built music football fatherhood. What is it and who is it for? Because if somebody goes to your website, then we can see that there are lots of events that happen, that there is a blog, that there is different types of support.

[23:19] Elliott Rae: Yeah. So MFF is predominantly for dads who wants to think and reflect on fatherhood. That may be from the lens of identity and their role as a dad and what that means in that household. That might mean from a perspective of mental health and challenges around postnatal depression, or PTSD. It could mean from a place of race and how race and culture plays a part in parenting. It could be from a position of loss or miscarriage, and stillbirth. So it’s generally for dads who wants to reflect and learn and speak and read and listen to other people who are also in that same space.

We’re all about open conversations, open conversations around fatherhood. And we do that for content and community. So then the content in our blog, a podcast or our book, and community. And I guess I should say content for our documentary and our stuff on social media and community events through our online sessions called The Lodge and our community partnerships with football clubs called Extra Time.

So we do loads of really interesting content and community. And I think for us, it’s about going underneath; it’s about having the vulnerable conversations. Earlier when we said that sometimes people can’t reach out to their friends for certain things, I hope people can come to us and see us as a place where you could engage, talk, listen, learn either up close, or from afar and have that conversation maybe you can’t have with your friends.

It’s been running for six years now, I think. And that journey I was talking about, I’ve definitely gone through that, you know, gone through that journey of launching New Year’s Day in 2016. There was no plan when I launched, you know. I was experiencing my own mental health challenges from the birth of my daughter, which, you know, she was very sick. We spent the time in ICU. My wife was ill as well. I was definitely going through the challenging part of my life, the most challenging part, a hundred percent, and feeling like I needed an outlet.

So I started writing and blogging, and then over the years that developed and that change and that evolved. Personally, I’ve become more open and in touch with who I am and more open with being vulnerable in public. And I think the dad’s that are with us have gone on that journey as well. So over the years, we’ve definitely now got to a place of being comfortable with the vulnerability. And I think that is really shown in our book to be honest, our book, which we published last year.

[26:03] Damianne President: So in your music, football, fatherhood activities, what does it look like? The people tend to come more than once, are people members, like how does it work in terms of participation in this peer group, in this community?

[26:18] Elliott Rae: Yeah. So it’s very natural and informal. We don’t have a formal membership. Our activities are free. What I’ve learned is that people engage in different ways. So some people want to engage from afar, so normally just consuming content, you know, I bought your book and this is the way I meant it for me. Or I read the blog, and this is what it meant, or I watched a documentary and this is what I meant, you know, and this is how I’m applying it to my life. They always follow and always comment every now and again, or you speak to them every now and again, but they’re not actively engaged and it’s fine. Some people, they don’t need that. They take what they need from things.

Other people want to be more involved. They see MFF as part of their friendship community, if you like. So they will come to our events. They will come to the Lodge online every month and share, and then you get to know them on a quite personal level, sometimes become friends and people get to know each other, and they end up doing stuff together because they met through our online community, or you know, they take part in our Instagram lives. And they take part in our series of sessions, then you get to know people from there. Or they come to our face-to-face events, they come to dance, do hair, they come to extra time, and they see it as a part of their social calendar, if you like. So for us, there’s no formal requirement. There’s no payment. And I see myself and MFF as kind of like outside of the traditional structures.

And what I think is really interesting is when it comes to change, there’s a place for lots of different community organizations and different governance structures. So we are not a charity. We are a social enterprise, but limited company. So many people have said why don’t you become a charity blah blah blah, and for me, I find when you put that governance around it, and you have that accountability in terms of trustees and you’re taking funding, you have to do things in a certain way, which often slows down the process.

[28:14] Damianne President: So you lose your autonomy and your flow to some extent.

[28:18] Elliott Rae: Yeah. You can’t just decide to do something and do it. Like literally we can say, you know what, next week we’re going to hold this event and we’re going to do it this way and there’s no one to approve that, there’s no one to answer to, nothing. Do you know what I mean? We could say and we can do what we want, obviously, within reason. We don’t want to be inappropriate, but within reason.

Yeah, exactly. There’s no accountability apart from the moral accountability that we have.

[28:45] Damianne President: Yeah, I think being part of these types of organizations or being parts of clubs or activities like the ones hosted by MFF can be very rewarding. When I talk to male friends, they may say, oh, I want more friends, but all my friends do is meet and drink. I don’t really know where to find people who want to do things that I want to do. That comes up. Sometimes, the other thing that comes up is that people will say, oh, I feel a bit isolated. Maybe I just got divorced or maybe I moved and I need to make friends. So I’m going to join this activity. I’ll join this gym to make friends or I’ll join this group to make friends. And the thing is, as you were saying, a lot of those activities revolve around something specific, like they revolve around going to an improv club once a week and that kind of thing.

I’m not really sure how much time there is for intimacy if you’re going to an event where people are just watching something together, but not necessarily talking. So I do think that having peer groups, whether they be online or in person, and activities around that can fill in some of that space where men may feel, where anybody really but we’re talking about men in particular today, may feel alienated or isolated.

[30:04] Elliott Rae: Yeah, definitely. For me, say for example when we do extra time events like the Brentford one, I love football so I get to go and do a stadium tour at the premier league club. And then get to see the trophy cabinet and maybe meet the players and whatnot. And this is my work and I’m with my friends or people that I don’t know, but they’re going to become friends, or just people that I chat to that are like minded, you know? And that is so cool. It’s so cool. So yeah sometimes people come through a breakup or just difficulties or you change as you get older as well, like there’s so many people that I may not speak to anymore from my childhood. It’s not that we’ve fallen out or anything. We’re just fundamentally changed people, like what I enjoy doing now and the way I think is different to them, not better or worse, it’s just different. So we wouldn’t necessarily have much to talk about to be honest.

[30:56] Damianne President: Yeah. I think having a good friend, having a close friend is kind of the gold standard, but there’s a lot of research on mental health that shows that acquaintances and just having people that you could speak to on some basis, or just even rub shoulders with, or be shoulder to shoulder with are also very helpful for mental health.

So I don’t want people to get stuck on being like, okay, I need more friends in my life. I have to make friends. Yes, and also some of it is getting out of isolation, which could mean even acquaintances and people that you can talk to on some basis.

[31:29] Elliott Rae: Yeah, definitely.

[31:31] Damianne President: Your book is called Dad Untold stories of fatherhood, Love, Mental Health and Masculinity, which is the story of 20 fathers who share vulnerably their stories. There’s also the podcast that people can go to your website. The address is music, football, And all of those links will be in the show notes for people to connect. 

[31:55] Invitation/Challenge

[31:55] Damianne President: Before we end, I would like to give you the opportunity to share an invitation for listeners. So if there are men or if they are friends, sister, mother, of a man, do you have an invitation or a challenge for us?

[32:13] Elliott Rae: So the obvious one would be like, go buy my book, blah, blah. I’m not going to say that. I think it might be a bit broad. At the very beginning we spoke about that pie chart and we spoke about how we are spending our time and what we are nurturing. And so I’m going to do that at some point this weekend. So my recommendation or my challenge to everyone would be to do the same, to think about the different areas of life.

 For me, it’s definitely relationship there’s family, children, if you have them, it’s work and business, it’s health and fitness, it’s friendship, and hobbies, and it’s life admin. Can’t forget life admin; that’s in there as well- hate it, but you’re gonna have to do it. Then think about what is really the balance between the two? What’s the split and is that split going to get you where you want to be in the long-term? Is it serving where you want to be in five years or next year? And what needs to adjust? What do you need to do less or more of?

For me it’s a constant, it’s a constant, you know … My wife said I should do a workaholic test a few years ago and I did one. It came up as I was a mild workaholic, maybe like 2017 or something like that. And I was like, wow, I didn’t think that. But, yeah, that’s what it said. And so for me personally, it’s about working a little bit less, if I’m completely honest and doing more health and fitness, which I’ve been doing recently. I would say that’s my main thing, but I think it’s important for us to do it, especially based on the conversation we’ve had around the male friendships, around the ideas about masculinity, about work, about, you know, those kinds of things, and making sure that we do have, and we have factoring in into our week time to do stuff.

And sometimes the sacrifice can feel too great. But what I’ve really learned is life hopefully will be long and we’re trying to prepare for the future, living our best life now, but try to prepare for future. And for me, that means health and fitness is also to ensure that I’m able to work in five years, rather than just doing more work now, which might get some success at outcomes. It’s about, yeah, do that but also having an eye on the long game, like with friendship groups as well, you know, making sure you’re maintaining a friendship. So in 10 years when they go to university or whatever, I’m just not left here on my own; I have people I’ve grown with and that attachment and bond that I was aspiring to rekindle or start from scratch. So yeah, I think that would be my thing. That would be my thing. Like I’m sure there’s a template somewhere out on the internet. I will look for one. That will be my ask and my challenge for people.


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