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Social scientists warn of a surprising new threat to heterosexual relationships

One of the tectonic shifts relationships are undergoing is the rise of “bromance” – an intimate relationship between heterosexual men that excludes sex.

Since the gradual decrease in homophobia and more tolerant social attitudes towards sexual diversity, homosexuality has become accepted as normal. Being gay is not outright stigmatized any longer and even heterosexual men are permitted to engage in behaviors that were previously attributed to and expected only from women. Many young men are more fashion-conscious than their contemporary female peers, yet they identify as heterosexual.

These changes in attitudes and behaviors have led to the rise of bromance: guys hugging each other, sharing secrets, sleeping in the same bed and generally behaving like girls. They are free to openly show affection for each other, something that was regarded as a no-no in previous times.

Why is this a problem?

Psychologists say these male friendships may pose a genuine threat to traditional heterosexual relationships.

The research study revealed a number of surprising findings

Professors Stefan Robinson, Adam White, and Eric Anderson of the University of Winchester in the U.K. interviewed 30 second-year university students, all of whom had experience (either currently or in the past) with a bromance as well as a romantic relationship with a woman.

The study was titled “Privileging the Bromance: A Critical Appraisal of Romantic and Bromantic Relationships” and reported online in the journal Men and Masculinities. It revealed some surprising aspects of this new relationship style.

The researchers set out to find out how heterosexual undergraduate men compare their experiences of bromances to their romantic relationships with women.

The biggest takeaway: many men find their close male friendships more emotionally satisfying than relationships with women. As one writer put its, young millennial men choose bromance rather than romance.

What do men get from these relationships?

Here’s the thing: men really get a lot from these relationships.

Bromances allow men to disclose personal matters, share secrets with each other that they don’t share with anyone else, openly express emotions and experience feelings of trust, love and  vulnerability.

What about sex?

Bromances include a lot of hugging and cuddling, even sleeping in the same bed, but no sex.

Since commitment in a romantic relationship is no longer a requirement for sex and young men and women engage in casual sex, getting sex outside the bromance is not a problem.

This state of affairs is troubling social scientists.

Dr Stefan Robinson, of the University of Winchester, said the results were ‘significant and worrying’ for women and warned there is an emerging culture of sexism and disdain in the way millennial men view the opposite sex.

“These heterosexual millennial men cherish their close male friends, so much so that they may even provide a challenge to the orthodoxy of traditional heterosexual relationships,” Dr Robinson told The Telegraph.

The bottom line: bromances, coupled with the ease with which men can now engage in casual sex, are threatening long term relationships with women.

The majority of men prefer talking about emotions with other men

In these responses you can deduce the reasons why long-term relationships between men and woman may be in serious jeopardy: 28 of the 30 survey respondents said they would rather talk about emotional issues with their male friends than girlfriends. The majority also said it was easier to resolve conflicts with men, and admitted they kept secrets from partners which they shared with male friends.

“Given that young men are now experiencing a delayed onset of adulthood, and an extended period of adolescence, men may choose to cohabit as a functional relationship in the modern era.

“Because heterosexual sex is now achievable without the need for romantic commitment, the bromance could increasingly become recognized as a genuine lifestyle relationship, whereby two heterosexual men can live together and experience all the benefits of a traditional heterosexual relationship.”

Men perceive women to be “regulators of behavior”

It gets worse.

“There are however significant and worrying results here for women,” Dr said Robinson. “These men perceived women to be the primary regulators of their behavior, and this caused disdain for them as a whole in some instances.

“Much in the same way that women are portrayed in contemporary cinema as objects for male gratification several of the participants spoke of women they knew in a generally negative way.”

What are we seeing here? Men having multiple relationships: one with a close male friend that he shares all his precious secrets with and a relationship with a woman, or women, that he shares only sex with. Any woman any time, but one bro back at home. Neat.

Is the rise of bromance really threatening heterosexual relationships as men find more emotional satisfaction from their friendships with close male friends than their relationships with women? The answer probably depends on the scale of bromance relationships. Are they really so prevalent that we need to worry about traditional romantic relationships being threatened? Let us know in the comments below.

For more inspirational articles on mindfulness and self-improvement, like Hack Spirit on Facebook.

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Written by Justin Brown

I co-founded Ideapod, a digital media platform that provides commentary on the ideas shaping our lives. To see my latest work, follow me on Facebook.

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