I had this friend once. A good friend. A great friend, actually. I considered him my best friend, and that was after I swore off the label of “best friend.”
I didn’t have many guy friends growing up. It wasn’t until college that I really developed any close guy friends. It was all so new that I immediately considered any guy I knew to be my “best friend.”
You know what happens when you do that? You get hurt. A lot. And not always unintentionally.
I later determined, toward the end of college, not to use the term “best friend” anymore. It didn’t seem realistic.
No guy would ever want to be that close to me.
Then I met him. Let’s call him John.
John was not someone I thought I’d get along with originally. He was a jock that worked with youth at a church. He was a few years younger than myself and seemed to be that outgoing “popular” guy who garnered attention everywhere he went. However, I learned he was much deeper than that.
At his core, John loves people and loves serving them. He truly has a heart for ministry and desires to help people however he can. When we met, I needed help. A lot of it too.
I had yet to come out to anyone, still wasn’t officially diagnosed as bipolar, and I had little clue what to do with my life. I needed someone, and John became that person.
We never intended to become close friends. Truthfully! Our connection began as a mentoring relationship that never intended to have friendship as its goal. John and I didn’t have enough similar interests. I would struggle, he would help, and we would go our separate ways. That was it.
Well, about two years later he and I started working at a church together. Even outside of work, we were meeting at least once a week to talk and hang out together. Just us. It was our time to download and celebrate, complain and vent, and ultimately pray and grow together.
It was amazing! I had never experienced such an authentic and healthy relationship with a guy before. It was most definitely a blessing from God! I remember spending a weekend with him that was so much fun and such a great time!
And then the next time — well, we were both wondering how to keep ourselves from being bored around the other person.
Looking back, I still wonder: what happened that caused John to go from “best friend” to “somebody that I used to know”?
It seemed instantaneous. I used to spend over three-quarters of my time with this guy! What happened? Why am I now incapable of holding a conversation for more than a half-hour every other month with someone I used to spend hours talking with weekly?
Who is to blame? Who failed whom? And why did I let myself fall into this?
To think — I had a best friend once.
Have you ever had a best friend? Has the friendship fallen apart, or is it still going strong to this day?
* Photo courtesy shoa, Creative Commons.
People with more experience or knowledge about relationships may have better understanding of this. This never happened to me and the only thing I can think is that the weekend was too much. After that, maybe you both somehow felt that the friendship had gone as far as it could, and there was nothing more to share.
I don’t believe in the magical concept of a best friend either. I don’t think we were meant to have one and only one lifelong best friend. A spouse is different and I don’t like it when people refer to their spouse as their best friend because even with a spouse, relationships change. The only reason a spouse can remain lifelong is that the two of you commit to adapting to the changes together. Spouses can go through seasons when they bore each other and that’s okay. What becomes a problem is when you expect anyone, spouse or best friend, to always excite you and never bore you.
I believe that friends are meant for a season and when you enter a new season in your life, you need new friends. Friendship isn’t supposed to be exciting. It’s supposed to be for reflection. You reflect each other like mirrors. A good friend helps you to see yourself clearly. A good friend can even offer constructive criticism. It can be exciting when you find someone who can be that positive reflection but one frequent mistake people make is that they pursue the feeling of excitement instead of the friendship that caused the excitement. Focus on the friendship. Focus on being a positive reflection and teach your friends to focus on being positive reflections back to you. Do that and the excitement will come back but the excitement will be a side effect, not the heart of the friendship.
Practice the art of letting go. If you love someone, let him go and he will come back to you. However, if you keep pursuing the excitement or if you keep clinging to that best friend even though either you are he has entered a new season, then he won’t come back to you. He’ll be too hurt and you will too.
Holy crap you are right on the money! Everything you said is stuff I’ve been learning over the past few years.
Not entirely in agreement, especially on the spouse issue, though most of what you say is great. I was married 40 years and my spouse was and had become my best friend. Even after we separated we were still friends. We honoured, respected and loved each other through thick and thin. It was a commitment which somehow lasted and survived our separation, so when her health failed after we separated, I came back to help her. I couldn’t not do that because she was my best friend. I still hope to find that with a man.
I have several GREAT friends. I have a hard time making one of them “best”. The one I do call me best friend has been my friend since I was six! I have had several friendships “leave” several of them because they got married, but I still thank God for the roles they played in my life. I’m still learning how to recognise when it’s time to stop chasing after friendships, when it’s time to move on… :/
All of my strong friendships have become distant or have been completely lost or destroyed. I think when people rely entirely on another person to fulfill them on a heart-level, the relationship is doomed. This goes for any kind of relationship, whether friendship, marriage, family, or anything else. But when we are appreciative and grateful if/when a person does scratch an itch we have, and we reciprocate lovingly, and we give even when we don’t receive, then the relationship can be strengthened. But most people are so broken that they can only think of getting their own needs met, and they have not been taught how to set themselves aside to meet the needs of others without getting anything in return. Thus, we have broken friendships or no friendships at all, broken marriages, broken families, and so on.
I agree with all Kevin’s comments. When we come from a position of neediness and expect the other person to fulfill us, it is a recipe for disaster. Yet in a real sense, all of us come to Christ that way. And Christ is the one guy who can pull off that miraculous change. The good thing is, that He often uses broken people (like us) to be His body and bring about healing in our lives and other’s lives. Not sure what went wrong with Dean’s strong friendship that caused it to go sour. Probably something there that Dean couldn’t identify at the time. Perhaps it was something in “John’s” life that changed. Not many friendships remain really close through time unless the friends have a strong commitment to continue. I have some long-time close friends. They were the first ones I told about my porn addiction and my SSA. They continued to love and support me and have walked with me as I have gone through recovery from porn addiction and worked on my masculinity issues that led to my SSA.
Well said, Kevin.
I can relate to so much of this. Losing a “best friend” or going through a time of no close friends is excruciating, especially for my overly relational personality. When I first had the realization that friends aren’t always forever, my heart sank. Like Kevin has said, emotional dependency and self centered motivations lead to heartbreak especially when you don’t acknowledge the person is going to disappoint/have flaws. Letting go is so hard. I’m currently in the phase (or whatever you want to call it) where I have no close friends. It’s rough, but it pushes me to lean/rely on Christ, the ultimate friend who will NOT disappoint.
God has given me several close friends, but I hesitate to label them best or rank them in order. Some of these guys I still consider friends after decades. There is one guy I once called best friend but I developed an unhealthy emotional dependence on him and the whole thing predictably fell apart. That story eventually had a happy ending so I will definitely post about it in the future.
Great post, Dean. Best friend… those two words have been problematic for me most of my life. I always wanted someone to be a loyal and consistent “best friend” to me as a child, but they never lasted as long as I wanted. When I was in high school and a college, “best friends” burned me worse than anyone else. I guess that’s because I put too much value into one person at a time. Now, I have many many great friends. They satisfy what I have always been looking for. If only all of my close friends lived in the same place!
Too often when we feel a liking for someone and want them to be our friend, we focus solely on that one person and it can mean that we put too much pressure on them. That kind of pressure can scare off even the most wonderful people. Too much neediness and too many expectations can ruin friendships. All of us need a group of friends, not just one friend. Wise words Noah!
Wow Dean! I don’t understand what went wrong with your relationship with “John”, but I feel the pain you expressed as so real that it happened yesterday. I know that we all need others in our lives and the connections are important. So when we get burned, the answer is not to give up on relationships and become “islands” but to seek God and to seek other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are meant to love one another and while it is messy here on earth, it also opens us up to seeing God work in our lives and in the lives of others. We are in essence “in training” to become more and more Christ-like and prepare for an eternity in heaven with God and all of these messy, hard to love people.
“Best friend” is such a heavy label and one I’ve tended to use less and less over the years. Even though I still long for some guy who can fill that role, I know that he alone could never fill all those deep dark hurts inside me (even though I’d like to think he would). Thanks for writing this, friend, and for being so open. You inspire me.
[…] you’ll recall, John was my best friend (or a facsimile thereof). Things between us have been rough as of late — meaning I try to […]
I think one of the things about a “best” friend or even a close friend, is that you have to have a balanced commitment to each other. It can’t be all give and no take or vice versa (usually the latter). I had a good friend who I really wanted to build relationship with, but when I realized it was all me doing the giving and never him, I let it slide, and pretty soon our relationship all but ended. We have very irregular contact now, and it will never be anything more because he is not commited to pursuing the friendship. That’s ok! I just moved on. You both have to really want to be there for each other even when it’s not convenient.
[…] The first person to ever hear my entire story — the complete saga of my struggle with all its nasty details — was John. Yes, my good old best friend John. […]
I JUST wrote about my college friend on another blog post here a few hours ago and it was EXACTLY the same scenario. Jock, extremely popular, first close male friend, I considered him a mentor, he was 2 years younger and I never thought we would be close friends. We drifted apart and now he won’t answer any of my emails, texts, phone calls or FB messages since our last conversation. I mourn severed relationships forever. I suppose the difference was that I considered him my best friend but he did not. I know he did think of me as a close friend though and he cared about me very much. He didn’t confide in me all that often though, however that increased over two years.
[…] for three minutes straight. So many emotions flooded my spirit. After I collected myself, I called my friend, John, to share it all with […]
[…] Dean’s “Best Friend” series start with Andy: yourotherbrothers.com/2015/12/09/my-best-friend-for-never […]
[…] with a few guys in college. My first time coming out to someone who actually stayed in my life was my best friend, John. One of the reasons I feared telling him was because in all my past experiences, every other person […]
[…] wish I could say that John has been my only attempt and that it’s his fault he isn’t my true brother. But it’s not. I could list off […]
[…] Dean’s first post about “John”-slash-Andy: “My Best Friend for Never” […]
My best friend-I’ll call him Pete. He, too, was younger than me, almost four years. That’s a huge difference in age in teen life, but he was not a usual guy. He grew up on a farm and drove tractors at seven years of age-he was much more mature than his age would indicate. He was a communicator, like me. Man that guy could talk, and yes, we did constantly. Our hearts bonded in a way that I had never bonded with anyone before. We loved to be with each other and we talked about anything and everything, except of course, about my SSA. I didn’t really know I had SSA at the time, I just knew I wanted to lie with a man and thought every guy probably struggled with that. Curiosity. Experimentation. I know what you feel sexually when you have an orgasm. That kind of thing. Was I attracted sexually to Pete? Yep, from the git-go. I remember sleeping over at his house. His parents were all in favor of this four year-older guy sleeping with there son. I was a “strong” Christian and they saw how good we got along. They saw me as a positive influence in his life. Ha! If they only knew even today. Unfortunately, that next morning after we had a good nights sleep he popped out of bed and pulled down his underwear. He showed me how one ball hung lower than the other. Exhilarating for me! This guy doesn’t have any problems exposing himself. He was handsome and teen-strong, a great body. I had just tasted the apple Eve gave me, my thoughts went wild thinking of the possibilities. I truly loved Pete, deep down. He gave me the affirmation and love that I had always wanted from my dad. We began to wrestle, just playful teen horseplay as anyone from the outside would attest, but my heart and penis thought otherwise. I am ashamed to say that I would often reach between his legs and feel his package through his Levi’s or shorts. He didn’t seem to mind and he would get an erection almost as often as me-it felt so good. I then began to bring myself to orgasm every time we wrestled-dry humping. Did he know? I’m sure he had to know, but, of course we would never talk about it and he never confronted me. Finally, after about 3 years of great friendship, bonding, really love between two guys, I finally thought to myself: “I think I finally trust him enough to try something with him and he won’t tell his parents or our church.” One afternoon alone in our apartment after I coaxed him to wrestle and we were both raging, I did it. Pulled off everything from him, he laid back, and I manually brought him to completion. Finally, my dreams fulfilled. It was exhilarating and damning at the same time. Someone is going to kill me for this, God is going to remove His spirit from me. I felt so, so, bad and guilty and ashamed. My self-loathing was at a fever pitch. I chalked it up to teen guy stuff-curiosity, experimentation. It was only onetime-God will forgive me. I repented. Alas, not to be. The next evening he took his foot from under the covers of his bed and he thumped my back-end as I got into my close-by bed. He showed me he was naked and raging. He wanted it again. It was too much for me to say no. This time he did me, too, and it was way too good. I thought, “He really does love me, he wants to give me pleasure, too.” We never said a word to each other throughout about 30 times of this activity. We knew we were sinning and even though we were both talkers, we couldn’t talk about our sin. I finally heard from God and one night as he went after me again I said “No”. We both knew it would escalate. We loved each other and each other’s bodies way too much. I wanted a wife and family, not this. He wanted marriage and kids. So, I stopped it and never looked back and never re-engaged with another man. Have I wanted to recreate those times again. Yes, I confess. But not the feelings of guilt and grieving God (or sin against my beautiful wife for that matter). I still love Pete as a friend after over 40 years. He lives a thousand miles from me. He has three successful adult children, as do I. I have six grandchildren, he has two. We talk every few weeks and months. He dominates our conversations and I know he loves me as a man. A few years ago I felt prompted by God to call him and apologize about the thing we did that we never talked about. I was the older guy, I felt bad I led him down that road. So sorry. But, our conversation was strained. Awkward. He forgave me, “That’s OK”. I knew from his words he had placed that episode under the Blood and, in his mind, cast as far as the East is from the West. I still love to hear his voice, and I know if I called him right now, he would answer and get on the first plane out to see me. Love in action between two Christian brothers who unfortunately fell. Man, I miss him. But, God took what was broken and turned it around. Pete has encouraged me with his words more than once in our years together. I value his friendship. There is a friend who is closer than a brother.