Starcrossed lovers Romeo and Juliet were the romantic standard for 400-plus years. Then I Love You, Man hit theaters in 2009 and a new archetypal relationship was crowned: the bromance.
According to Google Trends, the “bromance” topic reached its all-time peak popularity just two months before the film’s release. In the years following Paul Rudd and Jason Segel's on-screen courtship, myriad hetero-male love affairs have blossomed on screen and off, from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, to Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, to — of course — Barack Obama and Joe Biden. It’s also given us a term to retroactively categorize male friendships that we all knew had that special spark (e.g., Frodo and Sam).
At this point, the term has arguably jumped the shark: it's thrown around perhaps a little too liberally, thereby devaluing those bromances that truly have it.
The question, then, is “How do I know if my bromance is true?”
Luckily, there's an answer. On May 2nd, a study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles that attempted to define the term. As Broadly writes, "Researchers at the University of Winchester in the U.K. aimed to better understand the characteristics and implications of these male-on-male relationships."
According to the abstract, the study “provides the first known qualitative examination of heterosexual undergraduate men’s conceptualization and experiences of the bromance, outside research on cinematic representations.” The test group comprised 18- to 22-year-olds who identified as either exclusively heterosexual or mostly heterosexual. And all acknowledged at least one past or present “bromantic friend.”
Their findings determined that there are three main characteristics that define a bromance, which you can test your current friendships against below.
GIF from Baywatch
1. Do you have shared interests? (“You like that too, bro?!”)
While this is an obvious starting point for any friendship, the interviewees noted the level of interest is important. The study records one man, Samuel, saying, “Quite honestly, it can only work with someone who shares the exact same interests on the exact same level: whether you’re into sport, films, studying the same stuff, or whatever.” If you want to see every movie The Rock is in, but your friend only cares about The Fast and the Furious franchise, it’s not a bromance.
GIF from Game of Thrones
2. Are you emotionally intimate? (“I feel you, bro.”)
While the study makes clear that the love between these men is purely platonic, the emotional intimacy in all other areas is limitless. As a young man named Max says, “I feel free to tell [my friend] I love him, because I do. There is no attraction, but also no embarrassment.” This includes sexual desires. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your weird kinks, it’s not a bromance.
GIF from SNL
3. Are you physically intimate? (“Bring it in, bro!”)
This element is “viewed as nonessential to the creation or maintenance of a bromance” according to the interviewees, but the study also notes “physical intimacy was routine and enjoyed by these men.” In other words, bros want to hug it out, but they don’t want to talk about it. But the study also notes that physical intimacy may extend to hugging, kissing, cuddling and being comfortable sharing sexual partners in a three- or foursome (with women, of course). Apparently, if you’re not comfortable being naked around your friend, it’s not a bromance.
Main photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images