Sunday, March 18, 2007

Best friends vs. boyfriends

My reparative therapist says that I need to connect with men. I need to find opportunities to be deep friends with them rather than just superficial. The idea is to meet my needs for male intimacy in a non-sexual way. This post isn't to discuss the merits of the therapy or this advice in particular, but rather to consider how to do this.

I've made some comments about having closeness with other guys and it being a good thing as long as you don't have sex. But I think you can still be in love with a guy in a way that contradicts the goal here without actually having sex. Basically, I'm wondering what's the difference between best friends and boyfriends assuming your relationship is platonic either way?

I imagine a best friend as someone I can call about anything, someone who knows me well, someone who supports me in my goals and situation. I see a boyfriend as someone who feels more a part of my life than a support... as someone who acts as if he has some type of claim on me (or me on him).

I don't know that I have any really good distinction worked out in my mind. Any advice?


Beck said...

What a great question!

You know my situation... you've watched my relationship from a distance - for the most part, per your definition, I have a "deep friend", one who I can call about anything, one who I can share with, one who supports me and encourages me to achieve my goals and inspirations... and I him. We are close in many ways! Much closer than casual associations. And it is a great thing and fulfills a ton of my "needs" - we both meet each others' needs.

It is only when I allow my mind, my desires and immature passions to get in the way of trying to make a "deep friend" into something more - that I cause myself angst and confusion.

It's a delicate line - for deepness involves genuine love and a closeness - but not a "commitment of ownership" as you describe. I do not regret seeking deep male companionship. I hunger for it! I am miserable with out it! I'm in heaven with it! I think it can be the most incredible blessing... and opening yourself to it to allow it to happen, to not be afraid of it, to be natural about it - is important, and therapeutic.

Now if I can just learn to keep it all in perspective and not mentally make it any more than the amazing thing it is... ;)

Kengo Biddles said...

-L-, you'll pardon my "swear", but dammit Beck, only MIKI is allowed to be gestalt with me! :)

-L-, I agree with Beck whole-heartedly...I just wish I could find someone to fit the bill. All my guy friends are superficial...oh, wait. I don't have any friends that I hang out in real-life aside Hyrum, and that's for only 20 minutes as I take him to work.


agirlwho said...

While the relationship has a lot of similarities, it is completely different because of expectations. You expect something from a boyfriend that you don't expect from a friend. Sometimes that includes physical contact (not always sex) but not necessarily. I treat my guy friends differently than I would treat a boyfriend because we're connected. He is important to me in a different way because he could be a part of the rest of my life. I think of him before myself. I want to be with him more than anyone else. If that was a friend, that would be an unhealthy, codependent relationship, but with a boyfriend, it's okay because you should want to be with each other that much. A romantic relationship is just different... you know it when you feel it. You have to be careful about what your expectations are, because if you have romantic expectations about someone and they don't turn out, that can be devastating and possibly ruin a friendship. A friendship and a romantic relationship might have a lot in common, but it's one thing that can flip the switch in your mind.

playasinmar said...

"This post isn't to discuss the merits of the therapy..."

Dangit! I had already typed a whole response by the time you said, "My reparative..."

I think you probably want to find friends that have something in common with you besides your orientation. If you have a hobby you can meet guys with similar interests there. That's how I met friends in high school.

drex said...

I've been pondering this recently, as well, and I think my thoughts more or less line up with Beck's as well. My situation is different because my relationship with my friend hasn't touched a 'dangerous' level at this point, but the sentiment is the same.

I also disagree a bit with agirlwho, because I'm the type of person who will put close friends before myself. Not because I value them equally with my girlfriend, but there's a threshhold to what you're able to do for people, and I think I peak at close friend and am forced to plateau from there on up the line. I don't know if I'll be that way forever, but I'd do anything for my close friends.

playasinmar said...

I find this situation a little odd. Does a straight guy want to have sex with every women he meets? Is he supposed to? Do we assume he does?

I can't imagine a therapist instructing a married straight guy to build deeper relationships with other women. It's like telling an alcoholic to try to hang out around booze more.

You know what your limitations are, L. Don't put yourself in a position where you might hurt your wife.

MoHoHawaii said...

We are men, and men need nonsexual male friendship. It's very important to our overall sense of contentment with life.

I have a steady boyfriend, and I still need nonsexual male friends (and nonsexual female friends, btw).

I think a lot of married men with SSA shut themselves off from the possibility of nonsexual male friendship for fear of where it might lead. I hate to say that I agree with a reparative therapist on anything (really, it's hard for me to do this), but I think the therapist is right in encouraging -L- to break his isolation.

Go for it, -L-.

Here's my advice: Don't focus on just one special friend, and you'll be less likely to have it turn into an unwanted romance. Find several guys you like and start spending time with them (sports and projects are a good start). You could join a club or athletic team of some kind.

jessica said...

I wish you good luck. You can try out this therapy. No harm in making friends in a non sexual way. I have many male friends I just love to hang around with but there is nothing sexual going on between us.But I think its difficult to have a boyfriend who is your best friend.
Do drop into my blog on friendship Wishes for a collection of lovely e-cards and info that exemplify the bond of friendship.

Scot said...

I find this topic to be one in which I feel I just don’t get it.

I’ve always had a very close group of male friends, but I can count on my fingers the number of times I ever found any of them sexually attractive (and they ain’t all ugly ;-)). Even when I did, I’m sure I never wanted to do anything sexual with them. In fact, all the young crushes I had were outside my group of friends: the cute shy bookish kid, the soccer player, the rebel... I remember when I came out, one of my buddies who was toying with bisexuality asked if we could mess around and I thought something like, eeeww, you’re my friend; you’re like my brother, gross!

I didn’t say that, though :-).

I just politely said no, that’s not what I wanted from our relationship, and we went back to being good friends and are to this day (and he now has a girlfriend and a kid and I’m so glad I wasn’t amenable to that…. Awkward, right.).

Tito said...

Before I comment on your remarks, L, I had a thought as I read MoHoHawaii's remarks about “reparative” therapists — particularly his / your (I guess I'm talking to you now, MoHoHawaii :) ) comment, "I hate to say that I agree with a reparative therapist on anything." These are just some generally thoughts I had, MoHoHawaii. I pretty much agreed with everything you said.

… Okay, so I started responding and, as isn’t out of character for me, my response went longer than what is probably appropriate for a comment… So, I’ve included my comments as a blog entry which can be found here, if anyone is interested:

-L- said...

Well, I may not have been as clear in my original post as I should have been. I'm not concerned about suddenly slipping up and having sex with a best friend. I am concerned about being infatuated with a boyfriend regardless of whether there's any physical component.

I was going to say something along the lines of what MoHoHawaii ended up saying too: that one way to tell is whether there is one best friend to the exclusion of others. If there's one guy that I want to share everything with, then it's not a good sign. But, I don't think I'll be joining any sports teams. I'm not really up for humiliation right now. ;-)

-L- said...

FYI, here's Tito's link. (The one my technically challenged friend butchered!) ;-)

Tito said...

First, who you calling technically challenged?! :)

Second, I hear what your saying. For me, though, it's not something I really worry about. The infatuation part, I mean. I do feel concern when I start to sense problems of co-dependancy, but I have "man crushes" all the time that feel pretty innoscent and not unhealthy.

As part of that, I totally concur with what MoHoHawaii said about not focusing on just one special friend... and that, when that's the case, there's less likelyhood that it will turn into an unwanted romance/infatuation.

playasinmar said...

"I'm not concerned about suddenly slipping up and having sex with a best friend."

No? Why do parents typically not allow their daughters hang out with their boyfriends behind closed bedroom doors? "Suddenly slipping up" has to be a concern when you seek to become "deep friends" with men you may be attracted too.

"If there's one guy that I want to share everything with, then it's not a good sign."

What kind of "deep friendship" are you seeking, exactly? I’m aware not everyone defines friendship the same but sharing everything is usually a mark of a close friendship.

-L- said...

Well, playa, there's always the chance that I'll have accidental sex with someone... you're right about that. So, I worry a little bit. But I've managed not to do it in 15 years, so I sort of think it's less likely as a problem for me than merely falling in love with a best boy friend. Which has come close to happening a couple times.

Chris said...

Avoiding sex is the easy part. Falling for someone may happen whether you like it or not.

Thrasius said...

First of all, thanks so much for your comment. I am honored by the fact that someone so popular in the queer-o-sphere has time to see what is going on with me.
Second, I love your blog.
Third, this post on boyfriends is thought-provoking and important. I think you can be in a boyfriend relationship with a guy, even if you aren't being physical at all. If both of you are sexually attracted to each other, and the sexual attractions are driving your behavior, wanting you to be together ALL the time. In my mind I call this an emotional relationship. It's a difficult topic though, because I think every person in the world wants at least the fulfillment that comes from an emotional relationship. It has been difficult for me to seek out close guy friends without getting scared or frustrated because of this issue. In the end, I just end up feeling lonely and not wanting to seek out close guy friends out of fear that I will develop an attachment that is sexually-driven. You described it well when you say that in a relationship you start to feel like you have CLAIM over someone else and I think that means you would feel hurt or jealous if they developed other close friendships. Anyway, you gave me a lot to think about. Thanks.

Jason said...

What I've found to be helpful is to squelch infatuation at the get-go of any friendship. I don't know if my experiences represent something universal, but as I become friends with guys, esp. ssa guys, the infatuation feelings--if they appear at all--start really quickly. And then I just stomp them out using various techniques. Usually just being aware of them, deciding that if feelings of twitterpation continue I'll abruptly just cut off, and making myself not obsess does the trick for me. Then, once annihilated, those feelings never seem to come back and I can have a genuinely good frienship.

It's when I let the feelings go--when I planted them, fertilized them, gave them room and board, and, in the excitement of it all, just let them take their own course that I ran into problems. But really, early on they're quite manageable, I've found. It's worth the extra attention in those early moments of discovery. After that, having an "intimate" connection is no longer a problem because it's a proper intimacy, which is very nice and stress-free. (Tell-tale sign: if a friendship causes you no stress, and you don't find yourself thinking about it a lot, you're probably in good shape. Conversly, if you're constantly thinking about it, and feeling stressed--yikes.)

One caveat though... the one time I did let the feelings really get out of control, that particular friendship for me was irrecoverable. I think there are times when it is wise to cut your losses and get out of a friendship that is problematic for you. At such moments, it's helpful to be clinical about it. There are plenty of great potential guy-friends out there. You are not "meant to be" friends with someone. Heck, many G.A.'s assert there's not even necessarily one spouse that's the right one. There's simply no point in risking salvation for a buddy for whom you can't control your feelings. If you ask yourself whether a friend means too much to give up in favor of complete righteousness the answer is "yes" then you're kind of in trouble I think. It's like my aunt once said to me about a friend of mine: "the fact that you're so loathe to give this friendship up speaks volumes..." Though it's really hard to admit, I think we all know when the line between good-guy-friend and emotional-addiction is crossed. If the line has been crossed, stop the friendship. In the end, you'll save everyone a lot of grief.

Wow this ended up being a long comment....

MoHoHawaii said...

I think there are times when it is wise to cut your losses and get out of a friendship that is problematic for you. At such moments, it's helpful to be clinical about it. There are plenty of great potential guy-friends out there.

I winced when I read this. How might it feel to be on the receiving end of "clinical" and suddenly be dropped like a stone? What if your friend has sincere feelings of love and friendship for you?

This kind of attitude gives closeted guys a reputation for cruelty.

Jason said...

If wincing is your reaction at the thought of a poor guy getting cut-off in favor of his former friend being completely true to his wife and family, then wince away, my friend. Wince away.

What makes me wince is the knowledge that families--people's children and wives--are abandoned because of reckless emotional exploits and "friendships." It happens, tragically, relatively often. And not just in the gay world.

I guess what makes one wince just depends on which side of the line-in-the-sand he or she is standing on ;-).