We have always had mates, though the context in which we have referred to them has necessarily changed with the times. The word’s origins go back to ‘messmate’ and the act of eating together, and its various meanings have traversed broad swathes of life since then. These range from animals finding a mate or being found one for breeding, to someone’s partner in marriage. From our peers and fellows in different locales, our roommates and classmates to the subordinate or assistant as in first mate on a ship or a plumber’s mate, right through to its ubiquitous and informal sense today as a form of address or reference to a friend. It can also simply be one of a pair of any thing of any kind, and so carries connotations of connection and company, marrying and matching, of links, joins, fits hence its pervasive association with relationships.
But what of mates and men? Our best buddies can sometimes garner bad press and an even worse reputation in the eyes of our other halves. Typically speaking, at best they might spend countless hours confabulating with us on topics of immense vacuity like cars and football while at worst they would exert a terrible influence on us, keeping us out drinking, wilfully disgracing ourselves until the wee hours. Good mates though, are evidently more than just drinking pals or fair-weather friends but those who care about us, support and encourage us and have our best interests at heart. They stand as bastions of strength and reinforce our best inclinations, keeping us on course for the achievement of our goals and the betterment of ourselves. This is a responsibility which is best shared and only with those in whom we have faith and trust implicitly as the ripple effect extends to all areas of our lives.
From a partner’s point of view, our pals offer an intriguing perspective on the character of the one they love. How mates relate to and with each other and their shared experiences can be highly illustrative and informative as to what makes them the person they are and how their personality has been shaped. It puts our partner in a new light, revealing and affirming those qualities for which they are loved and appreciated. It is also our friends’ unique ability to bring out the best in us, uncover our hidden talents and give full space for our best attributes to emerge, as well as inspire new insights and clarify purpose where it might otherwise have not had the chance to develop. The company of friends affords the opportunity to engage interests and pursuits outside of the relationship providing an essential counterpoint and facilitating independence and balance within it.
Men’s mates allow them to add value to others’ lives and provide an ongoing basis for growth and development and though this is no less true for women and their mates; the stage, settings and scenery can vary greatly so as to obscure the essential truth behind it. It is crucial for our relationships to acknowledge and embrace these differences as they provide a platform to develop skills and qualities that benefit that relationship and contribute to its lasting prosperity. It is in our interests to be the best mate possible in all our relationships so that we can give the utmost to our partner. After all, a mate is simply one of a pair, two peas in a pod, a counterpart and contemporary, a first mate on our life’s voyage, our perfect match and best buddy and the one to whom we owe the best we can be.