Tuesday, November 29

Fear of Friendship

I'm trying to befriend a guy I recently met - mainly by finding things we have in common... things we can do together. It's not a relationship based on attraction; I just need more friends who are already my colleagues. He's an upstanding guy, and I'm trying to make it work.

Slowly I've felt like maybe I'm making headway... where headway really isn't much... getting a response when I talk with him, or coming up, twice, with something that we could do. It's something... but not much.

So it shouldn't have been surprising when he canceled on me today because he was doing stuff with another friend... and didn't invite me because he wasn't sure if I'd want to come... but surprise isn't the right word. What had been a good day suddenly turned about-face and went downhill from there.

The strange thing is that I know, completely, that to him there isn't a breach in our slowly-growing friendship. Difficulties in communication are totally normal for people when they're learning about each other, and we really don't know each other very well yet. We'll meet up tomorrow, and it'll be like nothing happened on his side. Everything is normal, and there's no need to be concerned. So why do I feel betrayed, frustrated, confused, or whatever it is that's inside my head? This doesn't really make sense.

Looking back, though, I don't think this is an uncommon experience. I don't get close to people very often - especially guys. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm afraid the relationship won't last even if I try. And then, when I actually do try, and the relationship shows any sign of need for improvement, red flags go off in my head instead of just being something to note for the future.

It could be because I've had people disappear on me before, without any notice. Relationships that seemed to be healthy from every aspect I could see that disappeared overnight, without a trace... and that left plenty of evidence that it was somehow my fault. I think the paranoia makes sense on that regard - having friends who move away so they don't see me anymore, others whose last words are that it's too hard to be my friend, and others that simply cut off all communication without explanation are good reasons to be paranoid about any sign that I could be losing another battle.

But does the paranoia, regardless of whether it's self-made or circumstantial, really help? Or is it just shooting me in the foot? For much of today, I've struggled to concentrate on anything for very long. And tomorrow, will it affect me? Is it something that I can even change? And the sheer act of writing a blog post on something so incredibly small makes me think that I have OCD.

I think that maybe this is a sign that I'm expecting too much from my relationships with other people... far too soon. And I guess that makes some sense... based on the friendship patterns that have worked and not worked for me in the past. Most of my friendships just disappear with the circumstances that brought us together. The only real friendships that have lasted a long time have been with God and a few family members. Right now, whenever I need someone to talk with, or consult, or if I have any need at all, I turn to God... and He's always there for me. He's always willing to drop anything to listen, and He will always take the time to understand when I need help. I can work, or go to the gym, or simply sit, and He is there - ready and willing and able to be a friend. My family is the same. And when I'm looking for friends, I guess I'm expecting them to fit that role, and that's what I find myself trying to offer as a friend.

But people don't always want an instant best friend - someone who treats them like family from the first meeting. And some people can't reciprocate, or aren't used to that level of trust... and while I want to be the perfect friend, and completely available to people, sometimes I'm not. I get lost in depression, and so busy that I don't check my phone for hours or my email for days.

That feels like the issue here at hand... and I think what I need to do is just realize what is happening inside my mind and come to grips with what is happening. As I slowly gain friends, they're going to be imperfect. They aren't going to know my thoughts unless I share them. They aren't going to know the frustrations and difficulties I face in life unless I tell them. And even if I do tell them, that doesn't mean that they will understand. They may not always be around for me. They may not ever really empathize or get what I'm facing. But one thing I do know - if I can be a friend to them, at least they will care about me... and they'll be able to slowly help me become a better person. And each person will have the ability to fill at least some small part in my life... and that's good enough.

Will I ever find a mortal someone who really gets me? I don't know. Hopefully, if/when I fall in love, that woman will be able to understand what's happening in my head, and I in hers, but I'm not sure that's very likely. Normal guys have enough trouble communicating and intuiting. :) But I think I'm making headway with the subconscious within me. People are imperfect. Relationships, even if they don't work out, are worthwhile. Don't be afraid to dive in, but remember to give everything and expect nothing in return. That way, everything I receive is a gift.


  1. "Don't be afraid to dive in, but remember to give everything and expect nothing in return. That way, everything I receive is a gift."

    I do not believe this is true. Friendship should be based on reciprocity. I would be super uncomfortable around someone who "[gave] everything and [expected] nothing." People want and rise to expectations. If there are none, then they won't value the relationship.

  2. Trev:

    I agree, completely... and I guess the answer is that what I expect from people should probably be somewhere between the extremes. I've lived in both camps, and neither one really works well. I don't think that I should expect a friend to be everything for me - like I expect the Lord to be; expecting someone to be my best friend and confidante has run people away in the past... and I shouldn't expect people to just be bystanders on the sidelines either (which is also an accurate description of some of my failures in relationships...).

    I think I've just had so many failed IRL experiences, on both extremes, that I'm not sure what I can or should expect from people anymore. Being hurt, regardless of whether it's purposeful or just coincidental, has probably made me want to avoid emotional pain. It's less painful to expect less in relationships, but as I expect less, I also become less engaged... real relationships make you vulnerable. So maybe the answer is simply finding something I can do to fix my feelings when things aren't going right.

    Thanks for the thought.

  3. Trev's observation is wise. Significant asymmetry in relationships does not seem healthy in the long term. I'll also venture another idea: I think your discussion of your difficulty with (male) friendships underscores the challenge you have before you: your mental and physiological makeup is suited for a romantic relationship with a man, but you have eliminated this as an option for yourself. You may never be able to fill your emotional, romantic and sexual needs (nor likewise give of yourself in those ways) adequately with a woman. I think a longing for companionship (pair-bonding) is common to virtually all people. But if you have eliminated from the start the opportunity to have a fulfilling relationship that is best suited for you as a gay person, then you may continue to feel a lack of satisfaction in relationships going forward.

  4. CJ:

    I'd add that, without the presence of God in the equation, determining to fall in love with a girl and have that kind of pair-bonded relationship seems close to impossible. Like running a five-minute mile. Or beating the world record in reciting digits of pi... except that there are people who have done it - people who have run a mile in five minutes and memorized huge numbers and fallen in love - really in love - and built successful families despite same-sex attraction. People who are and aren't religious - and who continue to show that it's possible. I think that falling in love will, for me, take a miracle and a lot of work... but I think that a lot of the things we take for granted in life take miracles and work - both our own effort and the intervention of God on our behalf. Life is about learning to trust in God, keep His commandments, learn to be happy... and as I do, happiness comes - building on itself each day.

    To paraphrase what Paul said, if the gospel isn't true, then we are the most despondent of all men. And I think that those of us who place emphasis on the active role that God plays in our lives - like I do, with relationships and an eventual falling in love - would be even more despondent. But God is real, and I know that someday it'll work out. I'm not despondent, and today, tomorrow, and the next day, He'll be with me. Yeah, right now my prospects for marriage are somewhat bleak. I can't keep a girlfriend for very long and have trouble even identifying who to date. It'll happen in the Lord's time. And, in the meantime, He fills in all the gaps.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. That's interesting, I have a lot of issues maintaining good friends as well. I think alot of times people just don't understand me, and I rarely understand them.

  6. I think, from the beginnings of this post, you are having success! Feeling like you're more emotionally invested in other people than they are in you is terrifying-- but I think it's a side effect of being lonely. It's uncomfortable to have a friendship where it's very obvious the other person cares more, just as it's uncomfortable to be the one who actually does care more.

    Regardless, don't downplay what you have done! You've made progress! You've invited him to do things and he has said yes! Friendship can be slow, and it takes two. I think you're right about not expecting things from people, but you should expect to be treated well. And you deserve to find people who understand you. I think they're out there for everyone.

  7. Man don't you see that with every post you are painting what you are doing as less and less natural??

    Why can't you make friends with guys? The same reason a lot of girls can't "just be friends" with guys, because the sexual attraction factor is always there.

    Admit to yourself who you are, embrace it, you'll see how many people will start to get you and how you will feel complete.

    Or just keep ignoring the experience of gay ex-mormons like me...

  8. itbcn8:

    That's just the thing. I am going against the natural man - we're all asked to put off the natural man and become like Christ... because "the natural man is an enemy to God."

    I've heard a lot of experiences of others. Good, bad, in between... painful, amazing, life-changing, miraculous... and instead of just discounting them as being "non applicable," every single one is worthwhile... because it chronicles choices, decisions, and consequences that I can learn from and use to guide my own future. There are a lot of guys with same-sex attraction who have left the Church because of a host of reasons. There are a lot who stay, and there are some who have managed to find peace and joy and hope and everything they need inside the Church. That's what I want. I'm not just looking for moral resonance, that I could get by changing my beliefs to better fit my circumstances. I'm not looking for acceptance. I'm looking for the route that will bring me closer to Christ and make me more like Him... no matter where that road takes me.

    It rips my heart out to see people who have bad experiences in life... to see people stop embracing their testimonies to embrace something else... and I always wonder what I need to do to ensure that doesn't happen, to me, or to anyone else. Everyone should have a personal relationship with God, strong enough that they can stand in front of a fiery furnace or a lion's den or a life of being alone and have faith that God will take care of them, no matter what the outcome. Everyone should have the peace that comes from knowing that their actions perfectly align with the will of God and the commandments from His prophets. And everyone should be able to see miracles and feel the love that comes from Him... but everyone doesn't.

    Yes, what I'm doing isn't normal by any sense of the world. I guess I'm not really trying to be normal... I'm just trying to do what's right.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  9. It is comments like you just gave that make me admire and love you. I know Jesus Christ, our living Eldest Brother, loves you.

    Thank you for always being honest and stalwart.

  10. I have an experience from the other end...as a straight person in a friendship with a gay person. I was friends with a woman (I am a woman as well) in my early 20s. At the time, I did not know that she had gay feelings. She was a fun person and a good friend, but she seemed so...intense...in her friendships. I'm not sure how else to describe it. She would get so down (reminds me of how you feel after this miscommunication with your friend) when situations like yours would occur. Much the same way as I would feel if a guy "ditched" me...upset beyond what felt typical. Eventually, I started subconsciously drifting away from her because the relationship just felt "off" from what I was used to. It made me uncomfortable.

    I'm guessing that you may be having a similar problem. My friend was the seemingly "perfect" friend (always kind and thinking of me), but the friendship just didn't feel like what I was used to. I think that probably the same-sex attraction makes friendships with the same sex harder. Even though you may not want a relationship with them, that attraction somehow changes how you interact with them (probably not the way typical guys have friendships with each other).

    It could be that you would simply be better off forming deep friendships with women at this time...especially if you could confide your feelings of attraction towards men to a woman. That would take away the aspect of "maybe someday we could be an item" from her thinking.

    I really admire how hard you work to stay true to the gospel. I know must be incredibly hard. I'm glad that you have learned to lean on the Lord. I have a dear friend who struggles with being single and older. While it isn't quite the same, I see many of her same feelings reflected in your posts. A desire for those close relationships, a sorrow for the loss of not having her own family, children, not having a close relationship with a spouse, and so on. Even the fact that she has to work hard to stay morally clean because temptation is always there. Similarly, one of my favorite quotes comes from Sheri Dew talking about her feelings as she faced a life of never finding true love. She said,
    "I pled with the Lord to change my circumstances, because I KNEW I couldn't be happy unless He did. Instead, He changed my heart."

  11. I am a women. You have the emotions of a women. That is how we behave. We analyze EVERYTHING. We wonder about everything. I have discovered that guys don't. They don't think about relationships. They just let things evolve. Or not evolve. I used to spend hours wondering about some guys tone, or why he called twice, and then not the next day. And on and on and on. Since being married, I can say with certainty, that guys don't think like that.

  12. One more thought: I do that with women as well as men. It is not about the sexual attraction I feel or don't feel. It's just the way women are wired.

  13. Anonymous 2:

    I may have emotional similarities to women, but I definitely wouldn't go so far to say I have the emotions of woman. I still think some of the emotions that were embodied in some of the women I've dated were completely opaque to my understanding. But I totally get your point. I definitely analyze relationships more than most guys I know (maybe all? I don't know them well enough to know their analysis style...), and I analyze some things more than the women I know.

  14. well gay mormon guy what does your heart tell you do what does heavenly father want you to do

  15. Unknown:

    That's often how I see myself. Unintelligible, and completely unaware. Not the ideal for developing meaningful friendships. Hopefully that's changing.

  16. Anonymous 1:

    Your story felt strangely like ones that have been a part of my life... and I wanted to thank you for sharing it with me here. I think that reflecting on it, and the feedback I've gotten from others in sharing pieces and asking how they apply to me... has been incredibly useful in seeing a part of me that I previously couldn't see.

    I probably won't take the advice to only or even primarily befriend women, or to confide in people about my deepest struggles just to build a relationship... but a number of thoughts have come that will impact my life.

    Thank you.

  17. "I would always be frustrated with all those relationships even when I was engaged. I had a ten year thing with this girl and I would often wonder why, even in those most intimate moments of our relationship, I would still feel really lonely. And it was just a few years ago that I finally realized that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things, and loneliness live together in the same experience..."
    rich mullins

  18. I have felt the same way. I am very close to certain members of my family, and sometimes have a hard time making friends with others because I expect the automatic trust and closeness that I have with my family. I have had to learn how to interact with others in a way that they are comfortable with, and is more realistic in our expectations from each other.

  19. I have a friend that I used to just be crazy about...trying to do things to make her laugh or smile. I even found this great activity that really suited her background, paid her fare and had lunch later. We had a great time, and she said we should do similar things more often. And she never calls me. NEVER calls me, never plans events or emails or anything. I realized that it was pretty one-sided, even though occasional circumstances will come up where she insists that she loves me as a friend. I think what I have learned is there are all kinds of different friendships. My best friend in high school and I married brothers; you would think we would be constantly in each other's faces, on the phone etc. Instead, we go weeks, even months, without talking, then at family get togethers we take up where we left off, as if we were still back in high school. I live in a transient ward, lots of college students coming and going. When I was in that peer group because of the ages of kids I had and my own age, we all would hang out for hours. Then they moved away, and that was that. I closed myself off for a few years, not making new friends because the goodbyes were so painful, and yes, even permanent in this day and age of facebook. Now I have come back around and am trying to meet people again with the thought: "How can this person's unique life enrich my own? What can I learn from her?" I know they will be leaving, but we all do eventually anyway, in death! I think I have probably backed-off a little in my efforts to 'wow' somebody with how well I know them. I do try to recognize when someone is showing love to me in their 'love language'. (You totally should read that book, if you haven't already. It's pretty spot on: The Five Love Languages.) And if I recognize that they are showing me love in a particular fashion, I will try to reciprocate in their own 'language'. I have a friend now who is very giving...so much that I almost can't accept it because she is so generous, but I have realized that her love language is a combination of quality time and gift giving. I felt like I could be 'equal' in our friendship when I gave her gifts and made plans to spend time with her. This is all very complicated, when I look back at what I wrote. I just mean, the friendship thing. But I guess that is my point, that there are different kinds of friends, different kinds of relationships, and often the Lord blesses us with the people He puts on our path, for however long. I hope you keep trying to make friends, but you probably already have a thousand on the internet who consider themselves to be your friend, even without meeting you.

  20. I very randomly came across your blog a few months ago and was touched at your faith, hope, and willingness to share your story. I was drawn to reading it, and didn't know why- I don't struggle with this trial and no one close to me did either.

    Then very recently I learned that one of my siblings deals with this. They are an active member of the church and do all they can to combat this temptation. But my heart breaks for them. I was talking with my mom and she mentioned that she feels she hears lots of stories about people who leave the church over this, but hears few if any stories about people who choose not to give in to temptation and stay strong in the gospel (we decided that those who DO may just not be very open with their stories). I thought of your blog and referred her to it. She was so grateful to hear of your example of faith and determination to overcome.

    Thank you for being an example and for sharing your story. It gives lots of people hope.

  21. An earlier post referred to over analyzing like women tend to do. I think that over analyzing and going with the flow may come more naturally to some, but I think that they can be learned as well. After some flawed and failed relationships I have learned to go more with the flow. And at Thanksgiving this year I learned that my little brother over analysis over relationships too. I was teasing him and told him:"your such a girl." His response was that he learned about relationships from his older sisters; how else was he going to act?

    Anyway my point is that it just takes practice and patience. If I can learn to take a chill pill, anyone can. What helps me is to keep reminding myself what the intention was, or (more often) that there was no intention behind the action/words.


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