Do you ever wish stories would end at the right moment, right as it gets good? Not stories in books or stories on the screen, but the very stories of your life.

You get the job promotion or academic honor and everyone cheers for you, and you never feel more accomplished.

You go with loved ones on the best vacation ever, and you’re never as close as you are on the beach or in the cabin with them.

You make a breakthrough in male friendship and connection after being an outcast among your gender your whole life.

If that last one sounds oddly specific, well, welcome to Your Other Brothers. We do have plenty of triumphant stories here. Lots of heartbreaking ones, too.

And sometimes those stories are one in the same.

~ ~ ~

His prayer over me is one I can never un-hear, intonations and truths forever settled in my marrow. I still feel his hand on my shoulder as he pronounces every word:

You’re a warrior, Tom. The armor you’re wearing is too big and too heavy for you, but you’re doing it, you’re putting it on, you’re going into battle, and you’re a warrior.

Chase would go on to walk me through some of my darkest, yet most formative days as a young adult. He regularly spoke truth into my life — you’re capable, you’re hilarious, you’re good — and touched me with regular nudges and hugs. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have survived the start of a new life and a new season without Chase walking and talking and prophesying me through it.

It was intoxicating at first. His reassurance. His sturdy, masculine frame. His wisdom. His very presence.

Indeed, I felt I was being spoken to and touched by the very mouth and hands of Christ — a feeling rarely ever felt among other men my age.

If only the story had ended there.

My friendship with Chase turned obsessive, addictive. Like a drug I could never stop craving. His wraparound hugs. His unafraid look into my eyes. His willingness to stand with me when no one else would.

I needed it, all of it, and when I didn’t get it, I was lost. Soon, I started fantasizing over him.

His affirming touch, perverted.

His brotherhood, sexualized.

His worth as a man of God, mattering nothing if he wasn’t my own.

Weeks and months passed between texts and hanging out. His restoring voice of yester-season vanished, replaced by voices of old.

You’re not a warrior.

You’re not a man.

Why would a man want to be your friend?

When I heard he moved away without telling me, I knew then what I’d already known to be true for months but could never quite admit:

Our friendship — this brotherhood that broke two decades of shackles — was over.

~ ~ ~

Another friend similarly spoke truth and love into my life like no other. His was a more affectionate love, and he was never shy to hug or hold or otherwise caress me in the presence of others or alone in his living room.

Adam loved me and loved others more than anyone I’d ever met to this point. He couldn’t stand to see anyone on the sidelines, couldn’t bear to see me do life alone. He challenged me to go deep, to share vulnerably with him and with others. He ran on city streets and nature trails with me, worked out at the gym with me, and made me feel more like a man in the smallest yet most momentous of ways.

He played such a pivotal role in my emotional, physical, and spiritual development as a man. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without him.

When Adam hit a rough patch in his life, maybe I couldn’t be there for him the way he needed me to. Maybe he was too overwhelmed to deal with me anymore. Maybe I failed him.

Nonetheless, he decided he didn’t want to be my friend anymore.

I’m not entirely sure who was more to blame, and this not knowing still plagues me.

~ ~ ~

I’ve since forgiven both guys for whatever faults they played in our broken friendships. I’m not entirely sure I’ve forgiven myself for my own roles, whatever they are, but that’s for another post or therapist.

Time heals all wounds, I hear. I’m much better now. But time is slow.

Because of these two broken friendships — life-giving though each most certainly was — I now look at all friendships through a hyper-critical lens.

He’ll never last, I say about this one.

He’d bail on me much quicker than Chase or Adam, I say as I refrain from texting or calling or doing anything to push the friendship forward.

If he really wants my friendship, he needs to pursue me harder, I demand of him without his even knowing.

I hesitate to reach out because, well, I’m convinced my initiative won’t be reciprocated. That’s what history has shown. How can you rewrite history?

But I am a miracle, honestly. As the kid who always pined after the other boys in the locker room and on the football field and across the classroom, I was never “supposed” to have another man be my friend. I was too messed up, and they were too put together.

And then it happened.

It happened multiple times.

And it was so, so good each time.

And then it was so, so not.

But male friendship did happen when I never dreamt it would. I hope this leaves me more with the confidence for the potential of brotherhood rather than damnation to cycles of brokenness — though I’m not entirely sure where I stand right now.

Hope is hard.

I want to believe in redemption for my masculine anxieties, inferiority, and shortcomings. Forget the same-sex attraction; that’s hardly the biggest piece of my puzzle.

But how hard it is to believe when what I’m left with are these shadows of faces and echoes of words and the warmth of a hug long removed and now grown cold.

Have you experienced the loss of a pivotal male friendship? How did you cope and move past it? Do you struggle to open yourself up in friendship with other men?

* Photo courtesy elBidule, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • I lost one pivotal male friendship when I became jealous and obsessed with him. It was painful but God made something good of it as I learned from it. I plan to tell that story on YOB sometime soon.

  • I lost one pivotal male friendship when I became jealous and obsessed with him. It was painful but God made something good of it as I learned from it. I plan to tell that story on YOB sometime soon.

  • Ugh! This almost started the water works … I’m not even sure how I coped and moved on, I know it was God of course but I can’t say exactly how or when. I still yearn for that bond/friendship, some days more than others. “It doesn’t even have to be the same person” is what I tell God when I pray about this part of my life. Some days I feel like something is missing, someone. Like when something big happens and I want to share the news with a guy friend, I realize I struggle thinking of who to text/call. I usually end up keeping the news to myself. I try to open up an connect with other men but I struggle with it. The fear of it ending in a painful way again or the fear of rejection is what gets in the way.

    • I’m sorry to hear of your own experience in this arena, Bidkar. You are certainly not alone, brother. I feel that fear too. I pray you take baby steps to overcome that fear. We need connection in this life.

  • Hey Tom, that was one good piece of writing. Y’know what was more painful than the stories? It’s reading that you’re not sure you’ve forgiven yourself for you’re not sure what. Hey man, I only know you thru reading your stuff, but you seem like one of the biggest hearted guys here. You should allow for the possibility that Chase and Adam’s moving on had little to do with you, or not as much as you’re thinking. I’m thinking they had it good that you were their friend.
    Growing up, our family moved every 2 -3 years so moving on never felt like loss just something that happened. My last move with family was the middle of junior year of HS. We moved to a small town where almost everyone at school had grown up together. It was the first time it occurred to me that you could even have long term friends. So maybe my perspective’s a little skewed, but that things change never took away from all the great things that happened. I’m just really grateful they happened and for the guys they happened with. Hey, you weren’t asking, but my vote is that you go with hope.

    • Thanks, B. You’re right in that I’m probably overblowing the possibility of my role in the broken friendship. I actually do consider myself a good friend these days, though it’s taken a while to get to this point. All part of the journey, I suppose. I’ve moved around a lot like you described, and I’m wondering what a stable existence (5 years? 10? 50?) for a change might do for my pursuit and building of friendships. I guess time will tell.
      Hope is hard, but hope is hard to kill.

      • Hope’s a marker for me that I’m doing OK. . . that I’m strong enough to risk getting crushed. We need hope to keep going, with people and with God.

        • I always want to downplay it in my head/heart that the blog isn’t real community, but hit me this morning you guys are my true brotherhood facing SSA in Christ. Just want to say thanks to you and the guys for starting this.

  • Well Tom, you did it again. I totally agree with Bluzhawk. A very good piece of writing and those 2 men were very blessed to be your friends. You have nothing to be upset about at least not in my book. I have been in such situations myself and it is hard. This path we all travel is hard enough without us killing ourselves with guilt. You probably were a great friend to them. There is no telling what a great friend HE has wating for you down the road.

  • Friendships that haunt us are tuff. Especially when you know that you did at least part of the wrong. I have a couple of those. I have some that “ended” when it was good and what not and now that you say it wasn’t too ad that way, but I got a couple that weren’t so simple. My first being my best friend from high school – it was basically the female version of that first guy you described. Thank God I was never physically attracted to her (I wasn’t even aware of my attractions at the time) but I was definitely obsessed. She was my everything. We were each other’s everything but she was more mine than I was hers. When we were finishing highschool she started putting me limits and what not and that really distanced us for a while, but in the end it was good. We’ve been able to stay friends, I still love her deeply, her hugs are still alleviating, but she is no longer my everything and I don’t feel alone when she’s gone and basically I don’t NEED her anymore that way.
    Another was just like 3 years ago. She was the girl that walked into my life and made realize that I could no longer deny that I was attracted to women. I stayed away from her for a long time, but in an immature way I guess I decided to “face up” to my temptation and be friends with her. We hit it off more than I expected and at first it was actually great. Everything was fine for a good while. Like, it wasn’t her pouring into my life but me pouring into hers and I thought that I was doing something good and trying to keep my attractions in check as much as I could. Then she kind of fell into depression and it crushed me way too much to see it and I was waaayyy too attached at that point and was blind to how manipulative she was. My husband said my face would glow when you mentioned her name – that hurt me so much to know that it was true. I promised her the moon and back and that everyone could turn their back on her and I wouldn’t, but after about a year and a half of distanced toxic friendship I had to just back away. She was so bad for me, and I loved herore than I should.
    The first story I’ve told a lot, but that second one far far less because if how embarrassed I feel about it; about the fact that I was attracted to a woman while recently married and so very blind to my own feelings. Live and learn I guess. What I can say is that that type of intense attraction has not happened since. Maybe I still get a little obsessive in new friendships, but I know my limits and how to check myself and be honest with myself more now.

    • Thanks Ashley, as always, for sharing your story from the female though still very human perspective. I’m glad to hear you’ve gained some clarity and wisdom over the years. I believe I have as well.

  • This certainly started the water works. Excellent writing (and living) Tom! I lost two pivotal relationships years ago. I didn’t realize at the time that I was emotionally dependent. I was just overwhelmed by the good feeling. I coped poorly by going into a defensive mode for many years and didn’t really move past it. When I faced my SSA years later, I knew I had to establish some healthy male relationships as part of the healing, so I am working on that now with some success.

    • Keep it going, MI. Despite my friends’ inevitable leaving, I’ve discovered such healing in my SSA struggle while in friendship with those two guys. Something magical happens in connection with fellow men of God.

  • I posted the full story on my blog eight years ago. In brief, it started as a friendship he initiated. He may have sensed I had fallen in love with him. It has even occurred to me that he may have been in denial about SSA on his part. But he broke it off without saying why, and I was devastated. It took years before I was really over him, but it has happened.
    I’m not actively looking for friends. I let relationships develop or not (mostly not) without putting great effort on my side.

    • I had a similar thing happen with a friend that read Confessions with me. I didn’t think I was in love but was too attached emotionally. I’m sorry for that devastation.

    • Thanks for sharing, N. I hope you find a healthy balance of “letting relationships develop” and taking initiative where necessary. That’s the balance I’m learning myself right now. It takes both to make friendship happen.

    • I experienced something similar, with a much younger guy, over a short period of about 3 weeks. Never even shook his hand, but boy his rejection was devastating.

  • For a long time I had a huge struggle with (and still do often now) with being able to be friends with anyone in a deep/consistent way outside of a church function without being attracted to the guy… One of my most healing friendships was with a guy I met in bible school that happened to start after me as far as enrollment goes… He happened to be the older brother of my roommate, and when he moved in, something just clicked in friendship… I’ve never had anything friendship-wise before it or after it. I wasn’t attracted to him AT ALL, but we skated, played disc golf, played on worship teams, and laughed hysterically while playing video games together. We didn’t even have to be doing anything to enjoy each other’s company. Over time we opened up to each other about our deepest crap, and there was some crap lol. He didn’t struggle with SSA which was great, but he had his issues and vice versa that we fought for each other on.
    He ended up moving as did I later, and we’ve reconnected a few times since… I don’t know if he considered me his best friend or even one of them, but I didn’t care, in fact I don’t feel emotionally attached like I can’t live without him, but I do dearly miss spending time with him.
    I guess I just wanted to write this to encourage you all that it is very possible to have deep friendships with guys, even ones you aren’t attracted to that are fulfilling… I’ve been praying for a friend/friends like it since I moved and I haven’t really connected with many too deeply which is hard, but I’m surviving alright. I now kind of avoid investing too deeply into any guy I’m attracted to because I can grow dependent VERY easily, but I at least know now I don’t have to for it to be a satisfying relationship. (Sorry if I have bad grammar, I’m not gonna go over and edit this comment because I’m in a hurry lol)

  • Your story reawakens the echoes of grief in the caverns of my heart. I’m so sorry, Tom. I so know the drowning man’s clinging panic. I’ve also learned to be compassionate with myself when I feel that. I’ve learned in a few cases that my best buds and I can hold on through my emotional upheavals. In my earlier experiences of this, I experienced plenty of sexual feelings toward them. After agonizing years tormented by fear of rejection and great hunger for their affection, we came out into a place where I calmed down and became secure in spite of their time and emotional limitations. Sexual thoughts evaporated when I got to a place of secure attachment with them. I have a lot more I hope to write about here, but I send you and our other brothers my prayers and verbal hugs

      • Thanks, Tom. I’m not sorry to have it reawakened. This is good grief, turned to good ends–another chance to share and heal. Past experience leads to hope that isn’t disappointed (Romans 5).

  • I might have mentioned it elsewhere here, but a life lesson I’ve come to learn the hard way is: “relationships change.” Yes, a tough realization and gosh how I wanted those periods in my life to just go on forever. Yet, if I remain at that same point indefinitely I would become stagnant and fail to grow. There was never one relationship I had with a guy; however, I did have friendships with multiple guys. Of course, nothing sexual. I was just looking for brotherly love friendships. Speaking personally, after the relationships took a turn, not necessarily for this worst, I simply moved on to seek out other relationships with guys either through work, church, or even school. As far as the struggle to open in friendship, I don’t let my SSA dictate me. Yes, it is a part of me although it is not ALL of me as I don’t let it define me (advice from another blogger). People still see the real me and I certainly play off with some false “macho” or masculine persona. I truly view myself as masculine male and I don’t necessarily want to bring all my baggage to the table. Take me in with small doses, not big gulps. Yes, I’ve got issues and my friends and family know it just not all of them. I’m sinner with a messed up life too and possibly more so then a lot of guys here. Nevertheless and despite being an introvert, I engage with the human race. We all need relationships, no doubt. The thing was I was always looking (and still am) and if relationship happens then it happens. If not, keep looking and engaging with people. In Tom’s own words, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety or healing — it’s connection. Look for connections.

  • Give me their addresses- I’ll grab a baseball bat and make sure they can’t walk away from anyone again. They may not walk again, period, but that’s beside the point.
    But to be serious, my heart breaks with yours, Tom. I’ve been there with friends leaving. It hurts. It hurts badly. And makes you lose hope. I pray you grow stronger form this and that God brings along brothers for you that won’t walk away from you.

    • YAY physical violence! But seriously, thanks for your support, brother. I know I’m not alone in the whole friends-leaving-me department, and it’s a comfort to know this. Helps me put relationships in perspective.

  • Oh god this article hits so close to home it’s painful. I’ve had so many instances of trying to reach out to people and just when I think I’ve connected with them, they stop responding to my texts and I never see them again. Makes me wonder what on earth it is that I’m doing wrong. I recently had a roommate that I hung out with slit last fall. Then at the end he suddenly announced he wanted to move to live with other friends and he doesn’t even respond to my texts anymore. And Tom I emailed you about the guy who broke off the friendship after 3 phone calls. Like others have said, the worst part of these is not knowing why these ended. How am I supposed to learn from these experiences if I don’t know what went wrong?

    • I commiserate with you, Brian. It’s hard when you can’t really pinpoint why a relationship failed. Sometimes personalities just don’t click like we think they “should” or even do. I’m trying to take failed friendships less personally when it comes down to geography or personality differences. Life is too short to yearn for people who don’t want to reciprocate, whatever the reason. Prayers for you, brother.

  • Interesting thoughts Mike. I’m trying to figure out if it’s completely true. I think it is to a certain point. I was talking about this with someone recently. While it could seem plausible that a higher percentage of unattractive, shy, people don’t have a lot of friends, it seems like attractive, athletic type, cool guys, while having a lot of “friends” often lack real deep bosom friends. A bunch of really shallow friends could almost leave a person more drained than no friends.
    I thought of this article about Justin Bieber for example.
    Maybe an extreme example! I tend to way overthink things like this. 🙂 I do have attractive friends, and some that aren’t as instantly likable, but have grown into meaningful relationships.

  • I do have some close male friends who are attractive, and I don’t think I am sexualizing their friendship.
    I have watched as I and other SSA guys let sexual lust contaminate an otherwise good friendship. Sex always destroys those friendships. If I value a guy’s friendship I just don’t let things get sexual because the friendship is too valuable to lose!
    Attractive guys sometimes actually don’t have good friendships with other guys. They tend to have many shallow ones, but actually desire deeper ones. Sometimes they are glad to form a long term emotional bond if they find a trustworthy friend.
    Be that trustworthy friend! Consistently give without demanding something in return.

  • As usual, these YOB posts resonate deep with me. I could write a book in response, but I’ll briefly say that I’m in near “isolation mode” with guys. Not directly because of SSA (I have no sexual attractions for guys my age) but because of inferiority feelings, jealously (of their relationships such as marriage) and past bad experiences.
    Up until 8 years ago I had no close friendships, fortunately I found some support web sites and have a few recovery friends – but no one local. The male friendships I had in the past did not fail because I got too needy, but usually because I kept at a distance. I really don’t trust myself (again not SSA) but because I fear being too needy, or revealing “too much”. Revealing my brokenness/inferiority. Rejection is extremely painful for me.
    My “best man” at my wedding was a work colleague I used to go fishing with. He was married – and actually spent some time with me. I really wanted what I thought he “had” and that further motivated me to get married. But alas my marriage never has come close to what I saw he had (and I mostly blame myself). Later when his son was older he spent (appropriately) much more time with him riding dirt bikes, etc. and I felt left out – but of course had my own family to keep me busy. He later got a job with a company I worked for in the early 80s, and I suspect learned of my “gay” past from them (I was outed by the owners son – but that’s another long post). We haven’t had any contact in 20 some years.
    I recently quit going to my church’s men’s fellowship meetings. I had really “tried” to connect for the last 10 years – but often felt “outside” and alien. And had resentment issues with the leader (another post), and felt excluded from “guy activities” and felt jealous when they shared how supportive/loving their wives are. I finally stopped going, and only one guy has even bothered to email me saying I was missed. And that was in a work-related email.
    I appreciate how you guys focus on “what is God teaching me” in these painful situations. I tend to come back to “God just wants me to be alone”.

    • Glad to have you with us, Jim. I know God doesn’t want you to be alone since He stated so of man in Genesis, though I’m sure it must feel that way with failed relationships aplenty. I’ve been there time and time again. I pray for solid brothers in your life, wherever they may be found. On this journey too.

  • Mike, the way attraction works for me is that if the other guy is not attracted to me I will not want to force anything against his will. I can usually successfully resist whatever sexual stuff I might feel.
    The 2 attractive guys I am thinking of are both straight so there is no mutual attraction .
    I do not advocate friendships with attractive guys if it causes you overwhelming temptation!

  • I’ve had two similar experiences with two friends from my past and both of them ended in the dreaded words “you make me uncomfortable and I don’t want to be friends with you anymore.” My first experience was with a guy named Samuel and it was much like your experience with Chase. It started out as a simple brotherhood and ended in an obsession that lead to the severing of a friendship. My second experience was with a guy named Jacob. He was the first person I ever came out to and he told me that he was gonna walk through it with me all the way. Until one day when people started telling him that we hung out too much or that we were too close and looked like a couple and he came to me screaming one night and told me he never wanted to speak to me again. Ever since then I’ve had trouble trusting guys that say they wanna be friends with me no matter what. I’ve told myself many times, “this friendship will never last”. And I’m sad to say I still struggle with this.

    • Ugh, Luke. That must have been such a hard thing to hear from multiple friends. I’m so sorry. I don’t have anything to say other than you’re not alone in your relational issues. You always have a spot at the table here with us. Prayers and love, brother.

  • Can we really expect our straight male friends, or even straight female friends or SSA friends to fill a void intended for a mate or partner? Essentially that is what we are asking them to do. I know that Jesus changed the nature of what it means to be a friend, but I think we expect too much from friendship. We all have this void in our lives that is impossible to fill because what we really want is a husband, and I think that’s true, even for you guys that are married to women. Perhaps I jump to conclusions there. If so, I apologize. We want someone we can go out with, watch the football game with and then go to bed with. We know that last part should not happen and even though we try not to make that happen, we end up acting more like a jealous marriage partner than a friend. Forgive me, but we turn into bitches. I do not know what the answer is except to enjoy these boys while we have them because eventually they are going to think we are way too affectionate to be their friend.
    It’s why so many of us have few quality friendships with guys.

  • This came through in the digest, but I can’t find the comment here:
    “The Daily Ground Hog | Friday, July 8th | View on Your Other Brothers
    Can we really expect our straight male friends, or even straight female friends or SSA friends to fill a void intended for a mate or partner? Essentially that is what …”
    I sense another void in me that is not a desire for a spouse. It is the hunger for an affectionate, nurturing relationship with an admirable, masculine man. I finally realized another word for what I wanted was “father,” someone who looked like the twenty-something young dad I had, but wasn’t alternately un-involved and passive or else angry like him. You’re right that no one man (other than my failed dad) is called to fill his shoes, but many men can provide pieces. The Bible lists “your friend who is as your own soul” among brother, son, daughter, and wife as the closest relationships a man may have (Deuteronomy 13:6).
    With a few guys I’ve been able to accept the boundaries/limitations of my friends to fill my voids not only from my father but also insecure attachment in infancy. These friendships are enduring beyond ten, even twenty years. All these guys were attractive to me, by the way. Many included sexual feelings at first, until my fearful insecure heart calmed down. I see my sexual feelings as an attempt to palliate my emotional distress. When the core emotional need/insecure attachment is addressed, the sexual thoughts disappear. In a few cases, like my high school buddy’s twenty-two year old, there never were any sexual feelings because I never had great angst about my relationship with him. In these friends who have endured, it was important for me to hang on and work through the difficult feelings we’ve been describing. It was also important for my friends to be able to push back my neediness at times, and maintain boundaries. I thank the Father that a few of us succeeded.

  • Wow Tom, once again you have really spoken directly to an issue I struggle with. I do realize I’m prone to emotional dependency. I’ve had a few really close male friendships that have ended and it’s been difficult for me to regroup afterwards. I’m starting to realize that there are a lot of other men out there to have close friendships with but I’ve gotten more gun shy about pursuing them. The latest one is a man at my church who I opened up to about my ssa. He accepted me and it seemed like we were forming a close friendship. I was really excited because he is a man who is about as far from being ssa as I know. But, in the last few months, it feels like he is pulling away and when we talk at church, if feels like he just wants to say hi and then be done talking. I want to ask him if there’s something I’ve done, etc to cause him to pull away but I just can’t get up the courage to ask him because I’m too fearful of what he will think about that.

  • Just found your blog and glad to see the honesty and openness here. A few months ago a friend of a friend befriended me. He’s in his early 30s and I’m in my late 40s so there’s a bit of an age gap but I’m very young at heart so many of my friends tend to be younger than me. I’m single with elderly parents and typical worries that come with mid life and job uncertainty. We all need friends in our lives and not just the surface kind although surface friends can be good too. Friendships don’t have to be deep 24/7. “Breezy” guy’s guys buddies can be fulfilling and I have quite a few. I have grown to be fairly comfortable with my life and friends, however, when I was younger I was often accused of coming on too strong – too much, too soon, too fast – and things often got messy with friends pulling back on me. Rejection hurts at any age and if age has taught me anything it’s to let friendship develop naturally.
    I had met my new buddy several times over two years but only with our mutual friend present. The first time I hung out with my new buddy I invited our mutual friend to join us to help ease this transition in our blossoming friendship. Our mutual friend and him aren’t that close because he gets into “funks” and needs to be alone a lot due to lots of childhood neglect and other issues. I’m a compassionate and emotionally open person and so I prodded him to open up to me the first night we went to a local pub together by ourselves. That, he did. He told me about his childhood neglect/abuse by his step mother, his STD from sleeping around with too many women, and his ongoing suicidal thoughts. It was a lot to take in all at once. He also said that he’s a loner but needs connection to others and it’s an ongoing battle with him. He isolates himself often with video games and drinking alone and describes himself as a manboy. He has some good buddies. I’ve met most of them and they’re typical dudes. Kinda boring. He told me that he opened up emotionally to one of them who pulled back on him. They still hang out today. He’s also opened up to another one of them who didn’t pull back.
    Well our friendship began around three or four months ago and went from zero to 100 pretty quickly. We spent every weekend together and texted each other numerous times daily. He’d stay at my place so late that there were no more busses for him to get home so he’d crash on my couch a lot. We’d drink, play music, talk, binge watch TV and open up to each other. My other friends would pop by and it almost seemed like we were a couple at times or in some weird type of bromance, whatever that means. As the weather began getting nicer, I introduced him to a nude beach that I’ve been going to for many years. He has a lot of social anxiety so we’d usually find a quiet part of the beach. He is the type of person who will leave a group situation if things get too uncomfortable so I tried hard to make him feel at ease. We kept running into a hippy buddy of mine at the beach and would go swimming or play naked water Frisbee or card games while listening to music and drinking beer. We got close. He didn’t like the nude part but he participated reluctantly. I nearly cried in front of him once when talking about my elderly parents who have health issues.
    Soon I began noticing awkwardness and his texts became almost passive aggressive where he’d say he had no plans for the weekend but then when the weekend came he’d say he was just bumming around far away from me and his texts were spread farther apart and vague or non-committal as in “We’ll talk later” which is a round about way of saying “No, I don’t want to chill with you today”. He would turn down my invitations to the beach or to my place and started inviting me to join him and his other buddies which typically involved an arcade or pub. I declined and began hanging out with my other friends more and cultivating some new acquaintances. He was pulling away from me but didn’t have the balls to let me know directly due to his avoidant personality. My own childhood insecurities of abandonment kicked in and I got overly anxious to spend time with him, probably to an unhealthy degree. It’s been weird for almost two months now. I finally told him on the phone that I was really confused and he said he was confused too and said, “I feel like you’re my boyfriend”. I told him he has intimacy issues. We’re both at fault and he’s a lousy communicator and conflict avoider. When I look back on the last few months, perhaps I was wanting too much exlusivity with him but it was also because I didn’t want to abandon him if he was having suicidal thoughts. He’s a super nice guy and his hugs are genuine. He used to text me things like “You’re not messed up. (Heart) u” but I pushed him away because I let things get too close and too intense.
    I began a lot of Googling and taking notes on emotional dependency, childhood neglect, trying to read as much as I could on his issues and my issues. One article I read said that people with avoidant attachment styles are likely to end friendships when they start getting too intimate and use indirect strategies to do so, such as avoiding direct communication about the real problems. That’s definitely him. I just really want to be his brother, not his boyfriend. I hate the word boyfriend just as much as the word bromance. Another article I read said that “when a man does seek intimate friendships with other men, they have to find those who are willing to risk showing intimacy, frailty, insecurity, all things that society eschews in the self-sufficient male.” Being counter-cultural takes balls, it’s scary, you can get hurt and it can really push men away. He somehow thinks texting small talk is fine but hanging out with me isn’t. I told him I don’t want a text-only friendship and to call me when he wants to hang out. Well, it’s been nearly a week and I haven’t heard from him. That’s the longest it’s ever been. It’s been a difficult week but I’m spending more time with my other friends and learning to let him go. If our friendship is going to survive it will be different moving forward, either more emotionally distant and “light” or perhaps he’ll learn to discuss serious issues rather than avoiding them. I also need to give him more space and not come across as too needy or clingy. Closeness between men is very tough but I can tell you that it can be worth it. I have a very close buddy that I’ve known for 20 years who is like a brother to me although it’s taken decades. Time will tell. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  • Thanks so much Tom for sharing…your posts always bless my life…I remember when I was in 6th grade there was a boy who lived down the street who was such a nice guy. He was from a Christian family and was so kind and sensitive. On the last day of school, he said goodbye…his family was moving away. I remember getting off the bus and crying my heart out about losing a friend. I pray that my heart will always be tender to friendships…yes, they may be gone one day for whatever reason, but I think I would miss out on a blessing if my heart becomes cold towards friendships…even when there is pain and hurt…

    • Aw, shucks. Glad my posts can bless you, Dave. Sorry about that hard goodbye you had as a kid. I’ve been there, too. Hard to stay optimistic about friendships for the future when the past is riddled with pain and separation. But new mercies each morning…

  • I haven’t had quite this experience, but that is usually for one of two reasons. Either 1) I put up walls around me between me and my closer guy friends, afraid to get too close, because I don’t want to get too attached; or because I expect that if we get too close they will be uncomfortable with it. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to lose those two friendships, Tom. But at the same time, as I read that, I was slightly jealous, wishing I had had a couple friendships like that in the first place. I’m too afraid to show some people how much I need them or want to spend time with them, and I’m sometimes too careful with physical contact because I don’t want it to come across “the wrong way” or feel weird to the other guy. Like I want it so bad, I’m afraid of it. The other reason is 2) The other guy never lets us get close. It might be because he’s not as interested in the friendship as I am, or has other priorities, or whatever else. In one case, I went a little too far out on a limb and was a little too vulnerable, and my friend took a step back. It didn’t damage the friendship really, I just knew I had said too much.
    Another experience I have is that, as I look back, I can identify different friends in different periods of my life that were more important to me than my other friends at that time. I can think of one in my life right now, even. I wonder, sometimes, if this feels similar to when straight guys have a crush: thinking more about that person, wanting to spend more time with them, enjoying one-on-one time (non-sexual). Or do straight guys feel that way about other guys sometimes too? I’m opening up about my SSA later in life than many (age 30), and part of that is because there are a lot of times I don’t know which of my feelings are normal and which are due to SSA.
    I also feel, though, that having close guy friends helps reduce the SSA and normalize my feelings towards other guys. It’s a delicate balance, I suppose, a precarious line to walk.

    • It’s a double-edged sword, Bryan: the making of close, intimate male friendships and then the losing of those friendships. Gosh. It’s brutal. Such blessings, but such brutalities. I can’t escape both sides of the story. Some days I revel in the former, and others I mourn on the latter. But it’s all part of the journey, I suppose. Yours too!
      So glad you’re here with us. I look forward to hearing more from you, brother.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Tom. Your posting is the epitome of “where I am” at present. I hope the length I anticipate for my reply doesn’t go overboard. But I love to communicate through writing, and I already know that I will camp out here for a while as I reflect back and share about why your story is such a familiar one to me. It’s something I’ve needed to express for a while, now, but haven’t had that opportunity… I think it’s time I did.
    His name is Oscar, and I have to remind myself that he’s still my brother in Christ. But he was also once my brother and best friend for a span of five years.
    The night I met Oscar, I’d also had one of those same kinds of God-prompted moments where you don’t know someone, but it feels like you’re supposed to reach out to them. Oscar was attending the same church as me and my family do. In fact, he still does. So I still see him every Sunday. That is what makes the grieving over the loss of his friendship so incredibly painful, I believe… being reminded of it on a weekly basis, I mean.
    But, going back to the night we met, ours being such a large congregation, I’d never met him prior to that. He drew my attention that particular evening because he seemed down over something. So I introduced myself to see if I could do anything to help.
    Oscar willingly shared with me how he’d become separated with his wife, and his hopes that someday they would mend things, so that their marriage could be restored. I prayed with him and committed to continue to do so, for as long as that took, or until he chose to set aside that hope.
    Over the next couple of months, I checked with him regularly about it, and we went for coffee a couple of times too, where he opened up even more, shedding tears as he shared his pain with me. Without thinking about it, I reached out to take his hand as he cried, and he seemed to appreciate my presence in that difficult moment.
    We grew closer and closer, and eventually I also opened up to him about the struggles I’d had with homosexuality and SSA issues. That mutual vulnerability we shared opened the door for us to talk about all sorts of “guy” things that require trust and confidence in each other, to even bring those topics up… lots of the same kinds of things I’ve seen posted here on YOB. And we did talk about such things, often.
    One of the great things about Oscar is that he grew up in Mexico, away from our overly sexualized culture here in America. And he’d never struggled with any sort of SSA issues, so I truly valued his opinions and perspective as a man.
    One of the intimate things I asked Oscar about was his take on male-male affection, knowing that I certainly longed for it in friendship. He was very open to it, and agreed that we could share affection with each other without shame. And so began what would become one of the most fulfilling periods of my entire life, in friendship with someone; and then one of the most painful I’ve ever experienced as well, as our friendship began to fade away in its final year.
    On a side note, at about the ninth month into our friendship, Oscar’s prayers, (and my own on his behalf) were answered, and he and his wife did indeed mend things, and their marriage was restored. This added a new dynamic to our friendship of course, in making it more difficult to spend guy-time together. But we managed the changes well, and I was truly happy for my brother that his hopes had been realized.
    As I said, we talked about everything with each other, and the topic of nudity eventually came up as well. I confessed that I wanted to be more comfortable being naked around other men, and that I desired it to be like a brother thing… no big deal. Oscar assured me that it wasn’t any big deal, and it never should be. And he also assurred me that the time would come in our friendship when we’d both have the opportunity to be naked with each other, and put to rest any curiosity I had about it.
    That day eventually came one afternoon while I was at his home, and we were just drinking coffee and talking. I wondered about the whole nudity thing again, and asked him if we could see each other naked? There was a really short pause while he considered my question, and then he smiled and answered, “Let’s do it!”
    So we stood up at opposite corners of the room, and shed all of our clothes in front of each other. I was on “Cloud Nine” at just the thought of how much trust Oscar was giving to me in sharing such an intentional intimate moment with me. It was so fulfilling just to stand there facing one another, and become so vulnerable to each other.
    But then Oscar did something truly amazing and completely unexpected. He raised both his arms in the air in kind of a “so what” manner, and he smiled at me as he said, “Ya see, bro! No big deal.” And then he intentionally walked back across the room to where I was still standing, butt naked, and wrapped his arms around me in a warm and non-sexual embrace, as he full-body-frontal-hugged me. That 10-second naked hug was perhaps the single most affirming thing that any man before or since has ever done for me! And I will always love and appreciate Oscar very deeply for how he handled that shared moment with me, that day.
    Now our open affection with each other had included hugging of course, but also holding hands at times, and often kissing each other on the cheek, or non-sexually on the lips, when we’d greet or say goodbye to one another. We did this in front of our wives and very publically, even at church. We never tried to hide it until both of our wives expressed that they were not comfortable with us being so open about our affection toward each other in public. And so we agreed to “hide” those expressions of our brotherly love toward each other, and became more reserved about the settings where we continued to show such affection to each other.
    I remember how this circumstance almost immediately began to make me have a sense of guilt all over again, as if we were doing something wrong in expressing our friendship in such open affectionate ways. And I remember being a little resentful toward my wife about it too. But I got past it.
    The second summer of our friendship, we planned a three-day camp trip together, just the two of us. I was sooooo looking forward to that “guy” trip! Being a father of two daughters, it makes me the lone male in a household full of estrogen! So these rare moments of total testosterone were rare and meaningful to me… moments that I truly coveted.
    Before the trip, I asked Oscar about our sleeping arrangements, and how he felt about sharing a tent and cuddling. I confessed that I desired to, but wasn’t sure if it was okay or not. But once again, Oscar assured me that there was nothing to feel guilty about in sharing affection with each other that way… that we would not be doing anything wrong.
    And, perhaps, that is where I went wrong, when I asked, “But cuddling naked is probably not okay, right?” And to my surprise, Oscar said that he didn’t see anything wrong with that, either. I was elated, but I still had my doubts. I mean, I wanted such affection between two men to be “okay” and non-sexual, but I wasn’t sure in my own heart. And I certainly didn’t want our friendship to be damaged by “pushing the lines” of innocence.
    During that camp trip, we enjoyed two full nights of such cuddling, and it was one of the most peaceful and enriching, male-bonding experiences that I’ve ever shared with anybody, brother or friend.
    Today, I am completely comfortable and guiltless about our time together that weekend, though I’ve never shared it with anyone. Many of the posts here at YOB have also reinforced my personal feelings about such things. But I don’t wish to be judged by people who simply could never understand what was shared, or how affirming it was to my own heterosexual masculinity, without them reasoning that it was a sexual interaction because of the nudity involved. But “that” is not for other people to understand either. I don’t need the undetstanding or acceptance of other people to have inward peace about such things, when my own conscience is assured in Christ that me and Oscar never had, nor did we ever desire to have a sexual interaction with each other. And I will always love him for being willing to share such a vulnerable intimacy with me.
    Over the remaining period of the five years that our friendship lasted, me and Oscar got matching tatts, pricked our thumbs to become “blood brothers,” and even went into business together for a year-and-a-half. During our business venture is when Oscar started to noticeably pull away from me, though.
    Then, quite suddenly, one evening after Oscar had given me an unsolicited hug at church… something he’d not done in such a long, long time, I later expressed my honest and affectionate gratitude to him in a text.
    I got back a text from his wife, accusing me of being a threat to her marriage and her family, and telling me that my texts made Oscar “extremely uncomfortable.” Her text ended with instructions to never communicate with Oscar again… and yet I still attend church with he and his family!
    I was at a loss to understand what had just happened. And though I’ve practically begged Oscar to face me and tell me plainly what it was I’d done, so that I could apologize, he never has. And he’s never given me that opportunity, even after a year passing by since the text from his wife.
    The latest news I hear about them is that they’ll all be moving away this October, for Oscar to take a new job opportunity, about two-and-a-half hours away from here.
    It has taken me well over a year to resign myself to the probability that our friendship is truly over for good, though I still sometimes hope for reconciliation. But I’m having lots of trust issues since this happened… and lots of self-doubt about many of the SSA issued I thought I’d finally resolved. In short, this season I’ve been in… well, it just sucks! No other way to put it.
    Looking back, I am starting to identify all the ways I became too emotionally dependent upon his friendship. But the way in which Oscar ended our fiiendship has also been cowardice, and certainly without “Christian” method. Oscar rejected me, and that hurts very deeply.
    On the bright side, I’ve made personal corrections along the way, and I see the intended moments of growth are there to remember fondly, as I reflect back upon my friendship with him. If it weren’t for so many remaining and unanswered questions, I might be over it by now.
    Sorry this post was so long! But for anyone who reads it all, thank you for allowing me the grace to share it all.
    Blessings to each of you.

  • I can relate. I became obsessive with the first guy that broke through in my life and accepted me. We had a great relationship. We’re friends for about 4 years. Then he left & I haven’t heard from him since. He blocked me. I’ve forgiven him and myself. I still miss him but it was for the best. I think the Lord removed him because he had become an idol to me. This is the problem we have, especially with men that we are attracted to. I’ve had male interaction w brothers since then but nothing that quite so inspired me as he did. We were intimate relationally & it was exactly what I needed but I started wanting more. And wanting more was my problem & we both knew it. Love needed to be set in order and it was not inside of me. Now I’m like.. is God going to give me another male friendship? I want one but I’m afraid I want one like I had and that’s not what God desires for me. I must settle within myself that there is a line between men that shouldn’t be crossed, it just shouldn’t. And learn to accept male friendships for what they offer and not what I want them to be. I think I long for a wife really. That’s where my deeper needs and desires will be met by God. Not in a man. Duh.

    • Gosh, that first guy who “broke through” in my own life…it was intoxicating, having that attention and care. I have to believe God is always in the business of redeeming relationships, even if it’s not the specific relationships in question that have grown obsessive or failed entirely. I have to believe that he’s redeeming our overall course in relationships if we’re open to learning and growing and leaning on Him.

  • This summer, I lost a best friend in an extremely cruel and cutting way. I loved him like a little brother and vice versa – or so I thought. The loss of that friendship wounded me so deeply that it took me about 4 months to move past it, along with other awful consequences. And yes, I was suspicious of new friendships, but typically only those close to his age. It also adversely affected trust in my current friendships, but most of my friends were generously understanding. Ultimately, I see that God did it for my own benefit, as I am closer to Him in ways I certainly would not have been with that man in my life. I bless Him and glorify Him now for removing that man from my life, so I could grow closer in intimacy and spirituality with Him and His Son. ❤️❤️❤️

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