His question was an honest one. No ill intentions, no wild presuppositions. Simply put: a curiosity stemming from lack of education. More in passing than direct, a side statement within a side statement.
But it was still a question. And it had to be answered.
Why do SSA guys need strong male friendships?
My friend Mick made this question in passing, his phrasing more akin to: “I’ve heard SSA guys are more in need of strong male friendships.”
Perhaps I just turned his words into a question because I needed to answer it; doing so would allow me to point out, tactfully, a flaw within his statement. But first, I wanted to answer the statement straight on as it stood, hoping the answer would morph naturally afterwards.
“Strong male friendships can help SSA guys who have, for so long, felt less manly due to their attractions or perhaps felt marginalized for some other reason. Maybe the friend makes up for a lack of a male figure in his own life. Either way, the male friendship can help a guy understand that he is truly a guy, no matter what his attractions or interests may be.”
Mick nodded and opened his mouth to speak as I continued.
“Honestly, though, it’s the same way any guy needs friends.”
His eyes sparked a want for elaboration.
“Every guy, no matter what his attraction, needs a male friend. Truthfully, everyone needs close same-gendered friends. It’s no different than your attractions or struggles. We need someone else who understands.”
My friend nodded in agreement. Mick is smart; I think he got what I was saying.
However, his assumption or side statement or hidden question is a common belief. There’s this idea that SSA individuals are “more in need” of other people — particular straight people.
After all, aren’t opposite-sex attracted (OSA) individuals living the life SSA folks want? Even lots of SSA individuals who don’t want to have a same-sex relationship buy into this concept that some same-gendered OSA individual is the saving hero we need for our unwanted attractions.
We SSA guys often look for a Superman figure to save us and make us straight, it seems.
But that’s silly. Seriously, it is absolutely ridiculous how often we SSA folks chase around OSA individuals like they’re some pot of gold to be claimed. It’s not every SSA person — but I think many of us would agree we’ve believed this lie at some point in our lives. I have. My belief led to codependency issues, broken friendships, and a whole bunch of heartache.
Kind of a sucky pot of gold.
Every person needs someone else. We all need relationships and friendships with people of the same gender and the opposite gender, too.
We all need friends who are OSA, SSA, or anywhere else on the sexuality spectrum.
No matter who you are, you cannot live without relationships. We were created to be social creatures. Some of us need two friends; others need two hundred friends.
Either way, we need other people.
My friend Mick admitted that he has three close guy friends he knows he needs. I have the same.
Perhaps OSA Mick and SSA Dean aren’t that different at all.
Do you feel more relationally “needy” than other men? Have you made progress feeling less like an outlier and more like anyone else who needs strong relationships?
* Photo courtesy fouseyboy, Creative Commons.
Dean, I do think I am more emotionally needy than the average guy, mostly because I do not have a wife, girlfriend, or children. Those needs are definitely getting met in the context of Christian OSA and SSA male friendships. I know straight guys won’t make me lose my SSA, but they often help me feel more like “one of the guys”, which means so much to me.
I agree that all men need male friendships, it is just that many of us with SSA don’t get the usual types of friendships that go along with marriage and family, so we need friends more.
I appreciate your perspective, Marshall. I would counter and say that perhaps your desire for more relationships is driven by an aspect of your personality rather than your physical attractions. I have several OSA married guy friends who have tons of friends and others who have only a few. I know single OSA individuals who also vary widely in their friendships. I believe that one’s extroverted/introverted tendencies drive that more. Your relationship status and attractions may contribute, but I don’t believe they are the driving force.
On the flip side, I would say that SSA guys do approach friendships differently because of our struggles with our attractions. There can be a deeper sense of trust/intimacy in our relationships, especially with the those with whom we have shared our struggle. Our friendships might look different in that manner, but I don’t believe that correlates a “need”. Perhaps it’s a debate of semantics- but I believe that clarifying the vocabulary can actually be helpful to guys who struggle with either codependency or loneliness or contentment.
I can very much resonate with Marshall. I’m a single guy, in college, living alone. It can be very lonely at times, and I try to fill the gap with friends at school. But, it can be very painful to watch families and couples walking around, or talking about family stuff which I have nothing to contribute towards. So, those friendships become my lifeline. I’m sure some were beginning to become unhealthy, with too much dependency either on my part or theirs. One relationship I was able to take a step back and discuss it with my friend. It wasn’t easy, and definitely a rocky time in our relationship. But ultimately, it was the best thing and now we’re closer than ever in a healthy mutual way. Th other relationship I felt that my friend was super needy, always calling or texting me. I didn’t deal with it properly and I probably have lost that friend. I sent him a text to apologize, but he never responded. I hope he’ll heal and reach out to me, but it is what it is. I’ve also had close friends get married, and that was always very painful for me. Though, I’m not really losing a friend, but he won’t be there like he was before. Friendship can be painful, but ultimately it’s what I need to be healthy.
When I went to my first SSA conference this past November, the conference concluded with the founder and a therapist both talking about how to best “mitigate” SSA, not to cure it. They spoke and admonished that the best course of action is an SSA guy gaining relationships and hopefully friendships with OSA guys. They warned that relationships among SSA guys can turn sinful towards satisfying physical/carnal desires. I can see their point. The only exception they mentioned was an SSA mentorship that has a seasoned SSA mentor disciplining a younger SSA mentee.
In my case, I do have valid OSA friends whom I hang out with and socialize. Yet the degree of our friendship seems to reach only a certain level of personal intimacy (if you can call it that) where we share stuff, but nothing so personal that we couldn’t disclose it to others. What I guess I’m saying is my relational “neediness” being satisfied seems to be proportional to the degree of vulnerablity and openness I have with my OSA friends. We managed to master the love language of quality time together, but fail to express words of affirmation or physical affection. It’s like that unspoken rule is in effect: “boys don’t cry, hug, show emotion, etc.” This stagnation would eventually cause me to want to act out sexually with our gay guys to fufill that void in me. But I’ve heard enough stories here and elsewhere that acting out won’t bring about the positive relational impact I’m looking for with a guy. Currently, I have made progress, but this progress is at a standstill. I need to reach out beyond my comfort zone and make new connections — SSA or OSA.
While, I’m glad that these therapists clearly stated that it would “mitigate” ssa and not cure it, I still think it is biased to say that the only reasonable relationship to have with another ssa individual is if they are some kind of seasoned counselor or mentor. I believe that type of stance simply for the sake of having it is immature. Now, if you feel that all your relationships with other ssa individuals have gone awry then by all means take care of yourself. I just think that is something that each individual should navigate. Everyone is different. And on top of that we’re talking about other Christians aren’t we? Shouldn’t we have enough honest communication to be able to say “such and such probably isn’t a good idea / it makes me uncomfortable”? Shouldn’t the other individual in this relationship respect our stance on how we are choosing to live out our sexuality in accordance to God’s Word. The problem isn’t that both people are ssa, but that one or both have problems with self control, discipline, and respect for boundaries.
If you never actually put yourself in a position to stretch your muscles for example, they will never get stronger. I’m not saying, be reckless and “test” yourself, but don’t avoid things prematurely.
I’m with Ashley- I’m not sure I like sequestering relationships between SSA individuals of the same gender to such a struct standard. I have several close relationships with other SSA guys. We have personal boundaries and are open and honest about our comfort zones. As well, I am always transparent with my wife regarding my friendships with anyone, OSA or SSA, of any gender.
I would definitely encourage you to make those healthy connections. Remember that lust only wants to get more while love wants to give more. Thank you for sharing your struggles with us, Eddie.
Oh I tend to agree with you Ashley and Dean. I can understand where they were coming from as to avoid being placed in situations that could be precariously sinful. But I can’t see isolating myself from SSA guys just for the sake of preventing either of us from “acting out.” This is where I can’t be in compliance with their recommendations. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
Now, on the one hand women, I think, are perceived as needy in the first place, and not only that but codependency is the first thing thrown in your face when you start talking about ssa as a woman. And it’s a touchy subject for me because I know that it is an issue with women in general, but it shouldn’t be the scapegoat for our attractions.
And while I believe you are absolutely right that all people need strong same gendered friendships, I do think that we are probably more aware of it. Like we are more conscious of that need than most. Our straight counterparts need it, but most of the time believe that their significant other will fill that space, as for us even if we do get married (as you and I both have) we are aware that they most probably will not.
So I think it’s two fold, we are not necessarily more needy than others, but just more aware of that need maybe.
I really like how you said it- “more aware of the need”. I believe that is perhaps more proper verbiage. I appreciate your phrasing, Ashley!
And I hope I didn’t come off as treating codependency as a scapegoat. Having wrestled with it for so long, I know it is a real issue for some that can be projected on others unfairly based on unhealthy stereotypes. Someone who truly struggles with codependency is extremely different than someone who simply is close to another person, even if they have an attraction to that person’s gender.
I am aware of that. I wasn’t saying that you were implying that if that’s how I came off. I too have struggled with it over the years, but I find it is something that needs to be worked through. When I can differentiate between “I’m attracted to this person” and “I’m attached to this person” it helps me act accordingly. When we throw everything in the same bucket we ruin friendships that could possibly be made healthy or we possibly trust feelings we shouldn’t
Thank you for your thoughts, Ashley! And I just wanted to be sure I didn’t misconstrue my statements on codependency.
Dean, this is an excellent post. We do need friends, some of us need less than others, but the need is there no matter what your attractions are. I know straight, married guys that are always starving for male friendship. We need to step out and risk getting our hearts tromped on. It is so worth it. I have had a friend for 17 years that is married and straight and I would have to say that if I do have a best friend, it is him. He lives about 8 hours away from me now, but he was an associate pastor at my church 17 years ago. He is almost 20 years my junior, but he persisted in becoming my friend against the worst resistance I could put out. When I first met him, I found him both physically attractive (in a Brad Pitt sort of way) and personally obnoxious and arrogant (as in I am all that). I made my best efforts to push him away as he pushed even harder to become my friend. He seemed to sense my need without saying as much and I also think he saw me a personal and professional challenge to his vocation. He had been hounding me to go fishing with him for weeks and I finally capitulated. We spent an entire day together getting to know each other and the fishing was good too. Later I went to his house for dinner and enjoyed his family. His wife is hilarious. It seems that she initially felt the same way about him that I did. She never got over her attraction to him, but I did. As we got to know each other, the negative desire left me. I began to view him as a very spiritual man and someone that I could trust.
Before he moved on to ministry elsewhere, I told him about my SSA issues. He was the first brother in Christ that I shared that information with. He laughed at me. He said he thought that was probably the case since early on, I would get red faced around him. Our friendship just got better after that. We still talk almost weekly. I miss him not being here, but he is doing good works elswhere and I am sure that is pleasing to the Lord. I recently retired at the ripe old age of 59 and I will probably be going down to see him and his family this summer some time…to go fishing of course. There is nothing like a good argument in a fishing boat with a preacher that’s not afraid of anything. We are good for each other and we love each other.
Bottom line here…take the risk, endure the emotional ups and downs and make a friend or two in relationship that lasts. It can happen. I had to wait until I was 43 for it to happen, but it did.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jeff! You are blessed indeed to have such a long lasting friendship with such a man as your friend.
I’m an SSA Christian and I would like to know if my same sex attractions will diminish if I had close male friendships. I don’t feel like have that closeness with males
I certainly feel more prone to codependency than OSA guys.
I am sorry you struggle with that, Tristan- I am right there with you in that fight. Stay strong and remember that God is the one relationship you can always count on.
What to do when the “cool people” feel threatened by having gay friends, what the husband or wife thinks of the situation.it does do much for filling the needs for friends, the tight relationships with guys that may be problematic in many christian anti gay environments. then questions if living in that ideal of being soulmates is it ok to live in the one house, as long as it is separate rooms, what about sleeping in the lounge area, sleeping in a shared room with own bed, pushing them together, sleeping together with vows of no sex, hugs are ok, kisses maybe, what about, going to things like a thanks giving, (depending on the country), Christmas, going on a trip? for people from christian environments there’s a contrast living in a world short of religious ideals. side a side b (side a relationships are ok, side b they are wrong) with contrasting takes on lgbt relationships, even though there is the reminder of being in Gods image.
I think what matters, in every relationship, is whether or not you are honoring Christ. Codependency and extra-marital sexual relationships- neither honor God because they place our own desires above Him. They are essentially ideology. That is what is important in every relationship- same-gender friendships, opposite-gender marriages, and so on.
Ok, maybe letter of the law, if you’re not married, they wouldn’t be extra marital. it was supposing the person subscribed to side b ideology. ( I don’t see the world where faith and relationships converge that way) it has been as tedious challenge but have wrestled with ex gay ideology, milder versions that accept variation of sexual orientation, but prohibit relationships on religious grounds. I’ve found peace with God in side a ideology, (people, and churches that accept the reality of relationships, in another sense, pull back from being the enforcers of personal morality.) it means stepping off what is explicitly permitted, but is contrasted in what the bible doesn’t prohibit is permitted vs what it doesn’t permit is prohibited.
I can agree we shouldn’t add to God’s commands. But the guidelines in Scripture regarding sexual relationships (married or not), and even the outer boundaries of friendships (between same genders and different genders), are clear. Every ideology that claims to be Christ honoring should submit to that.
I’ve personally always been extremely outgoing and extroverted (and as a result emotionally dependant). Even though I never had many close friends when I was younger, I still had friends and loved to please people. Nowadays I have close friends, most male. I guess that’s why no one really suspects my SSA: I act like a guy and hang out with guys. I know this is a struggle for a lot of other SSA guys and as glad as I am to not have it (except maybe a little, but most peg me as just weird and not “gay”) I do wish I could better understand it.
Same is in my case. I have many osa friends. I do not have feminine mannerisms, I am more of a masculin type of person, love some sports and do manly jobs. I love relationships with women including sexual. I don’t like colorful and strange clothes.
But as you said, not everyone is like us.
Some of my friends are obviously gays. As i also believe it is different to be ssa and to be gay. It is clear when they walk or talk. How they dress. So they have come out without words. And their lives are often very difficult. They are gay type not SSA type people. And they love to be in relation tip!with men. It is seems natural to them. They say they hate touching woman or thinking about woman body parts. It is disgusting to them. They have no desire to try any romantic or sexual kind of relation tip with women.
So everyone’s case is unique.
I like your comment that we all need friends that are OSA, SSA or anywhere else on the sexuality spectrum. And they need us too!
This is an excerpt from a book that I read in 2016. It is long, so my apologies for that. It is relevant to this discussion though.
The Need for Men to be in Community
(Excerpt from A Bigger World Yet ~ Faith, Brotherhood & Same-sex Needs by Tim Timmerman)
“Friendship is the antidote for the alienation that is inevitable in our culture, as we know and are known.” ~Sam Keen (The Fire in the Belly)
[Sam] tells his own tale of how he and a group of about a dozen men have been meeting every week for a dozen years. …Speaking of the GROUP Keen writes,
“Over the years, outsiders have observed the profound effect the group has had on its members. A cocaine addict for two decades kicks his habit. A man on the verge of suicide, heavily medicated by his psychotherapist, stops the medication, fires his therapist and is filled with hope. A son, defeated by shame because he could never live up to the expectations of his powerful father, stands tall and creates a business that fulfills his own dream. A husband who is reduced to jelly by his wife’s anger stands his ground and learns the art of loving combat…”
When asked the secret of the changes of the men in the group, Keen says,
“The superficial answer is that we don’t do anything except talk about the things that matter most to us, and listen to each other. We laugh a lot. We challenge each other. But a more profound answer is that almost by accident we discovered the missing ingredient that is necessary to the health of the male psyche as vitamin C is to the the health of body — the virtue of community. Medicine. What I found was that men in our culture share a common experience of growing up male and as a result I no longer feel left alone in my struggle.”
Keen echoes directly David Richo’s observation that:
“The experience of choice combined with the support from others offers the best conditions for departure from the depressing sense of yourself as a victim. Instead, you get on with your life in a powerful, adult, and confident way.”
The men in his group listened to and challenged one another, and they were able to make different life choices when they received the support they needed from one another. Keen goes on to write,
“Within the community of men, I have learned that men’s loneliness is a measurement of the degree to which we have ignored the fundamental truth of interdependence… There is no way we can recover a secure sense of manhood without rediscovering the bonds that unite us to others and reaffirming our fidelity to the “We” that is an essential part of “I”. To pretend that a man standing tall and alone is virile is to base our view of manhood on a metaphysic of separation that has been shown to be an illusion to almost every advance of the physical and social sciences of our era.”
Timmerman makes this conclusion:
“…all men desire to have brothers who know them and walk with them in this life. Any man who would say he doesn’t is either asleep or dead.”
Great words, Alan. Thank you for sharing!
I find the hardest thing for me is to be satisfied with friendships with OSA men. For years my neediness either caused me to walk away from friendships or avoid trying to make them. It didn’t help that I had few interests in common with them. I dont play sports or watch them. But this has led me to think that maybe the problem lies with me and my expectations of such friendships. I do have a few close OSA friends and find their friendships fulfilling now…when I’m having a good day.. Haha.. but we bond over things other than sports. And I find I am growing in this area. But I still notice that neediness inside.
Expectations are a huge part of friendships- it has such a strong influence how we all approach our interactions with others. I’ve noticed, for myself, many tensions came from vastly different expectations of the friendship. Aligning those not only brought peace and healing, but it also brought fulfillment from the friendship even if it wasn’t a close relationship. I pray you can find that balance and resolution, Brent. Thank you for sharing.
Ugh. “Do you feel more relationally “needy” than other men?” That was so much of college for me. As I was just barely starting to talk with a few people about my story, I found myself wanting to spend time with those guys, and eventually questioning myself. I frequently would ask them to let me know if I was making them uncomfortable. And would sometime not participate in events/conversations, wouldn’t reach out when I was down or lonely? WHY NOT they would ask. Because I feel like I just need you…like I’m some weak little kid who can’t manage on my own, and why would you want to spend more time with me?
Reality check. Most of the guys who have become my closer friends DON’T care about my hang-ups. Once we’re friends, they want to spend time with me… and yet it’s hard sometime to believe this, because I still feel like I’m being more needy of time, emotions, deep conversation than your “average” guy.
Progress? Yes. It’s been a prompting of the Spirit, a reminder of the good friendships and conversations that have happened and a surprising (even to me) boldness to get out there and be vulnerable (again) and try things in order to connect.
I went through the same stuff, especially in college. Although I at some points went the other way- reaching out too much. Not that I didn’t need friends or that it’s wrong to reach out to them. But I was doing it constantly instead of taking time to work out some feelings and such on my own. Your reality check is a great point- your close friends won’t be bothered that you struggle. They’ll be there for you no matter what.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kevin! You know, it could make a great blog post… 😉
“Do I feel more relationally ‘needy’ than other men?” I don’t even have to chew on that one, Dean! There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind… I do indeed sense my “need” for at least one close male friendship. It’s probably more “needy” than average, by my own perception of it. But I’m hoping at the same time that I’m not over-the-top “needy.”
After my last close friendship ended, I’ve also got a lot of open emotional-wounds that haven’t completely healed yet. Truth be told, I actually feel like I’ve digressed a lot in my own maturity level regarding friendships, because of how deeply hurt I actually was by that episode.
The old cliche says that “hindsight is always 20/20.” But such clarity is a difficult thing looking backward in this case, because my former “best friend” also refuses to speak to me about why he so suddenly abandoned me.
That means I am left with all sorts of unanswered questions and self-criticizing assumptions filling my thoughts. I know… This probably already sounds a lot like a “pity-party.” But it’s really not. It’s “thinking out loud” in the form of writing, and I well know just how incredibly critical of myself that I am. So I’d have liked some honest answers to my inward questions moving forward, that’s all.
I honestly don’t think that’s too much to ask in “soberly” valuing myself as a child of God, is it? I mean, the Apostle Paul told us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. But he never suggested that we shouldn’t, in fact, think of ourselves highly! Nonetheless, I remain very “guarded” in my openness to new friendships right now, without those answers.
So, “Have I made progress feeling less like an ‘outlier’ and more like anyone else who needs strong relationships?” Hummm… How’s “I don’t know,” for a completely honest answer?
One convincingly honest part of me says that I’m no different than any other guy who desires a committed, close, and truly long-lasting male friendship… that a real “friend” would have talked to me instead of just dumping me like that. But another voice inside of me suggests that I’m probably just way too “needy” in friendship, and so I can’t blame any OSA friend for eventually giving me the cold-shoulder like he did.
“No man is an island”… I don’t want to be alone, but I feel lonely all the time.
I can’t ever seem to connect with others. The people I have in my life, I feel meant to serve, but they won’t ever be my friend. It always seems like the people I want to connect with, like me, but don’t have room for me. I feel fated to be without friends.
It feels like what God wants for me. I have to learn to be satisfied with loneliness, learn to put the ache inside me to rest. That’s the peace I need, some rest from the aching.