“Bromances” are reportedly on the rise, a new study in the journal Men and Masculinities discovered, which means that men are connecting with other men on a more emotional, intimate level. In fact, college-aged men are likely sharing more with each other than they do with their girlfriends.

The men surveyed described bromances, in contrast to romances, as being “judgement-free.” Some said that, in romantic relationships, “they could not talk fully about their interests, anxieties, health and sexual desires,” whereas, in bromances, they felt freer to share more.

So what exactly is a bromance? Men have friendships and men have bromances, but the two relationships are not one and the same. According to research, bromances have deeper connections than typical friendships, and they can lead to some pretty great benefits.

This study, which was conducted by the University of Winchester, looked at a group of 30 male undergraduate students who were majoring in something sports-related and considered themselves to be exclusively or mostly heterosexual. The participants answered a number of questions about how they understand same-sex friendships and how they would describe those relationships.

The study found a few characteristics necessary to categorize a relationship as a bromance: shared interests (such as having the same favorite sports team), emotional vulnerability and physical intimacy.

Every single man in the study stated that they were currently part of a bromance or had been part of a bromance in the past; some even reported being in several bromances. The distinctions between friendships and bromances were clear, with one subject mentioning that, “with a bromance, you can talk about anything; with friends, you can’t.” Participants compared bromances to everything from romances to brotherhoods.

“The most salient feature these 30 men described about a bromance—even if overly idealized—was that they were free of judgment,” the authors said. “[It] permits them to push the cultural margins of traditional masculinity toward more intimate and expressive behaviors than previously occurred between male friends.”

The openness of bromances isn’t only benefitting the men in them, though. According to Adam White, one of the study’s authors, more bromances could lead to a decreased presence of things like misogyny and homophobia. He put it this way: “Men, and particularly young men, often get bad press for a range of socio-negative behaviors… At the same time, we know men have a high rate of suicide and emotional restrictiveness may be a risk factor that explains these high rates. Therefore, it’s important to start to capture the stories and narratives of young men to better understand them; and the bromance—being a supportive and emotionally open form of close friendship—may be one way of reducing some of these issues that young men experience.”

Turns out you’re making the world a better place when you’re with the boys; how bromantic.

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