Rebirth of a Male Friendship

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This is Part 4 of my friendship series with Justin. Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I also talked about Justin in the YOBcast Episode 006.

Surprisingly, the end of my friendship with Justin was not the end of the story.

I had destroyed our friendship by my unhealthy emotional dependence and demands for exclusive affection. Justin couldn’t take my antics any more, so he understandably ended our friendship.

Even though I’d admitted to myself that I was mostly to blame for the relational problems, I still felt hurt by Justin. It felt like he hated me and was treating me like an enemy. I couldn’t get him out of my thoughts, even months after.

I remembered the words of Jesus:

Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who abuse you.

As long as I felt like Justin was my enemy, I knew I had to forgive him, pray for him, and “do good” to him. At this point, he had become the lead singer in a local band, so I knew he needed a lot of practical help in promoting his shows. I decided to offer volunteer help with no expectations of anything in return.

When I texted him with my offer to help, I made it clear that I didn’t have to have any contact with him. I just wanted to work on whatever his band needed. He accepted my offer, knowing me well enough to realize I was serious about not demanding anything from him. I did my share of hauling equipment, arranging venues, updating his website, and selling his merchandise at shows.

Eventually, Justin saw that I was keeping my commitment to him, not demanding anything from him. So, he asked me to talk over our destroyed friendship.

We prayed together, and suddenly the walls went down between us. I asked him to forgive me for idolizing him in an unhealthy way and demanding his affection. He forgave me and asked to start over as friends.

We met together about once a week and made it a point to pray together every time. When the band members rented a house together, Justin gladly asked me to move in with them. We all got along well, and I felt loved and like “one of the guys” even though the others were straight and I struggled with SSA.

I thanked God for healing my friendship with Justin and also healing me in the process!

I have remained friends with Justin to this day. After he got married years later, he and his wife had a child and moved into a large house with extra space. Justin actually asked me to move in with them and be a part of his family! I lived with them four years, and I can genuinely say that I overcame my emotional dependence and learned to have a healthy friendship with him.

God is so good!

Have you experienced the pain of emotional dependency? Have you seen healing and relational restoration, or do you still struggle with emotional dependency and/or the loss of friendship?

* Photo courtesy Matthias Bachmann, Creative Commons.

  • bluzhawk

    Marshall, dang, your story with Justin turned out so good. Props to you on doing those things you did well to make it happen with no promise of anything. I’m reading between the lines, but it seems like you wouldn’t have had any regrets about giving the time and work if it had turned out differently.
    You’re a better man than me. Despite best intentions, I have real trouble navigating that my “doing good” is just a cover for something selfish. It’s still better to act, and treat people the way Jesus says to, and count on grace to make good any screwups, but the road can be difficult.

    • Yes, the road is difficult and there are definitely risks, but taking the unselfish approach has worked far better than either demanding affection or isolating myself.

  • Jeff Brady

    Marshall…glad you worked things out, both for yourself and your friend. I have to confess that I do not understand the whole emotional dependency thing. Perhaps it’s because I am too cynical about human nature, but I have never allowed myself to let that happen. There have been and are guys in my life that I like a lot and even love and respect. They are both straight and SSA. I would do most anything for them except become dependent on them. I do not trust anyone that much that I would invest feelings. Wouldn’t work. I have had roommates and I always hated it. I like being alone.

    • Emotional dependency has not been an issue for me either. I have the opposite problem—refusing to open myself up emotionally and be vulnerable with other people. It’s been a process learning that vulnerability is a good thing. That said, I do like having a roommate. I’d go insane if I had to live by myself.

      • Jeff Brady

        I have trouble finding time to be alone. It seems like there is always people about and I need my alone time. I’m an introvert (INTJ) and I find that people just suck the energy right out of me. I understand what you are saying about vulnerability and opening up. I have been trying to do that. I just never thought that anyone really wanted that from me. In my church life, it turns out that they did. I came out at church and everything changed. People wanted to know things about me now and they wanted to know me. It’s brought me closer many people because I shared, but some times I just want to run away from it.

        • I used to be a major introvert. Apparently that can change sometimes, because it did for me. I do need some alone time, but if I go for a while without spending time with people I care about things will not go well.

    • Jeff, I find that it’s worth the risks to be emotionally open and vulnerable with some people who have gained my trust. As long as I am not selfishly demanding their exclusive affection things usually go well.

  • E777

    This is amazing!!! Here I am writing again from South America (Sorry about my English) These days have been really difficult, I don’t pray, I don’t read the Bible. I am a disaster. And I miss my friend so much, I decided to separate from him more than a year ago because I felt that God was asking me to surrender that friendship. Now I am angry, even with God, because I miss my friend, but how can I establish a friendship again? I fear emotional dependency, I fear idolatry, it can happen if I don’t pray and have a relatioship with God. Finally I hate the fact that when I get close to him I start fantasizing about him, lust appears and I start to see him as a sexual object, that is so painfull, I don’t want to see him like that, I want to see him just as my brother. I want to have his frienship as my brother!!! no more as an idol or sexual object. This whole situtation of ssa is really painfull, sometimes I want to quit. My case is different than yours Marshall because He doesn’t know about my ssa, I just separated from him with no explanation and caused him a lot of pain. However, during this period of more than one year, he has tried to restore the friendship like 5 times. Each time I separate from him and don’t let him get too close, that hurts him so much. I don’t feel ready to accept the challenge of this friendship, he is attractive to me in an enormous way. I supposed that separating from him would kill emotional dependency and sexualization, but that never happened, in fact, I have more fantasies with him than before, I miss him more and in this last year, I have tought in this situation each day, I can’t take him out of my mind =(. Maybe God wants me to restore this friendship, but how can I know if I don’t have the strenght to pray? How can I restore this friendship if God is not the first thing in my life? I will surely gain an idol again……. I am desperate.

    • Fred

      I can certainly relate to a lot of that pain! A lot of the things you said literally sounded like the things I think. Praying for you!

    • Hi E777! A friend you are attracted to is the best and the worst. You want to be with him so badly it hurts. This is what happened to me and my best friend; but I was confusing sex and love. We never had sex (and it wasn’t for my lack of trying). Still, he never rejected me and I became more enamored. Then he killed himself, and I was left emotionally devastated. I am thankful to God that we never had sex, because se wouhave spoiled what we had. Only recently have been able to admit that I loved him. Sex would have turned our relationship from being emotional to that of just physicality, because there is rarely love involved with gay sex.

    • E,
      Your relationship with God is the first thing to think about. Ask God to forgive you because of Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins. You don’t have to clean up your life first before you ask Him to forgive you. God’s forgiveness is based on what Jesus did, not how good you are. Definitely ask God to change your heart and to help you resist temptation. Then you should have the strength to pray.

      Pray that God will help you, then trust Him as you talk to your friend again. As long as your friend is not attracted to you, it is very possible to restore the friendship, but only with God’s help. You have to decide to put God first and not idolize your friend.

      • E777

        I don’t think he is attracted to me, but a year ago I noticed that he was really attached to me emotionally, not in a healthy way, even when he is straight, how is that possible? What would be the purpouse of being friend with him if maybe he will be a source of temptation forever? Maybe I should only befriend men which are not atractive to me…… I prayed on Friday and also yesterday, but I feel no desire in me to pray more. Masturbation, Pornography and sexual fantasies are considerably strong, I love them =( I love my sin more than God, I am really desperate and sad ='( Maybe my friend has forgotten all this situation, maybe he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore, that would be fair, because I hurt him so much. Maybe He doesn’t miss me anymore because he doesn’t deal with all of this ssa problem, it is easier for him. I miss my friend and I hate the fact of missing a human being more than missing my GOD =( Forgive me Jesus =(