It should have been a normal friendship. But codependency had crept in. To the point that my identity was no longer alright unless it was just like my friend, Roman’s.
The email came after my last visit with Roman. I had spent several days with him at his house with his family. He still lived at home with his parents and siblings, all of whom I loved as my own family.
And my codependency was out of control.
It was no longer enough to constantly talk to Roman. It wasn’t even enough just to be around him. At this point, I needed to be able to hug him whenever I wanted. I had to be able to sit close to him, lean on him, put my head on his shoulder.
Honestly, I was probably only a few short steps away from finding even all of that not to be enough.
Now, Roman was not a physically affectionate guy. He showed his discomfort with my physical affection. I was aware and relented some.
But I still tried to show him physical affection when I could. I believed it was healthy. I told myself that this physical affection was necessary for us as friends.
After I left his house, I ventured away on a vacation with my family. I remember thinking how my time with Roman would help keep me going through my time with my family.
That first night of vacation, I logged into my email and found a new message waiting for me: it was from Roman’s mom, a woman I saw as another mother.
I won’t quote the entire email here. Not even sure I have it anymore. But here was the gist of it:
Dean, we care about you. But you’ve gone too far. How you are treating Roman is not healthy and has made all of us uncomfortable. We cannot let you into our home again until you are able to act appropriately around our son.
My world shattered.
I was hurt. I was in denial. I responded to her email by saying how wrong they were, how this was an awful way to treat me, and how I felt betrayed by people who I thought were my family.
Deep down, though, I knew who was actually in the right.
I lay in bed that night just staring at the ceiling. My identity had been ripped away from me, and I was left with who I actually was.
A man who wasn’t enough on his own . . .
Have you pursued physical affection to an unhealthy or inappropriate degree with another man? Have you struggled with codependency in a friendship or felt your identity being ripped away?
Dean, I have always greatly appreciated the candor and emotion-laden words you write. I connect very well with your writings – thank you, friend! For those of us who are (i.e., you) or were (i.e., me, widower) in a mixed orientation marriage, there is a longing to be more physically affectionate with the man of our choice – as we already enjoy such affection with our wife. We may tell ourselves it is “healthy” to engage in ever-more physical affection with our chosen man: perhaps to justify our longing; perhaps to make it feel like it is not “cheating” on our beloved wife; and perhaps to more fully experience what our gay celibate friends’ are raving about. But, I believe, for us MoM husbands, there requires an extra “guardedness” – a self-enforced, thin bubble, around us that celibate gays simply do not require of themselves. This bubble (no matter how thin) helps us honor our wife, our beloved gay friend, and our self. You need not beat yourself up over any transgression of the thin bubble – for you (and I) are indeed “a man who [isn’t] enough on his own.” Rather, we are men who crave physical affection (from both our wife and gay friend), and men who cannot ever be enough on our own – because we were made deficient by God: made for intimacy; an intimacy with as many people as there are those willing to provide it; and mostly, an intimacy with Him. Do not hang your head low; you stand loved my me, not condemned.
I think its something of a consequence I’ve suffered for not communicating boundaries properly with some people. I was close with some guys and we shared physical touch without a serious boundaries conversation. Something happened and I think they checked out, and I never was able to get the relationship back to the way it was. And they never explained why. Such a very hard lesson to learn
It is indeed a difficult lesson, Eugene. I’ve learned to be more open about affection needs and such in relationships, asking for permission and sharing what I could benefit from. It’s still not easy, but it’s better to do that than be hurt so badly in the long run.
Getting called out on that email must have been brutal. And your reaction was so human, hitting out but deep down knowing otherwise. That’s so true to life. And this, “and I was left with who I actually was,” being stripped down to what’s true, happens alot on this spiritual journey.
I’ve never been in a friendship like you had with Roman. Growing up, it always worked out that you could be physical with other guys like in sports or horsing around. Or you could have best buds that had your back. But together it changes everything, physical affection kills friendship. It was a line you never cross with another guy. It’s still a line now for me for better reasons, even tho I’ve read comments on YOB that guys have made it work.
Hopefully, there’s more to the story that you’re going to share. You’re a good guy, hoping you were able to reconcile with Roman and his family.
It was definitely brutal. And I might be a good guy now, but I was not always so. And there is more to the story yet to come…
I have definitely had unhealthy emotional dependence on another guy, but he never allowed much physical touch so that was never an issue. The unhealthy obsession I had with him was enough by itself to mess up the friendship!
When I do show affection with physical touch I make sure that the boundaries are clear and that I especially respect the other guy’s boundaries. Most of my straight friends will allow me to hug them, but not for more than a few seconds. Some insist on an “I’m not gay” seat between us at the movies and even at church!
Every guy is a little different, so I adjust for each guy’s boundaries. One of my friends will usually hug me but sometimes he will say “I am not in the mood”, so that day it is just a fist bump, LOL. I can’t remember a time when physical touch ever ruined a friendship with a straight guy, as long as I respected his boundaries.
My SSA friends usually hug longer and more often. Many times they have been open to sitting right next to me. Again, as long as we respected each others’ boundaries and didn’t get sexual, it didn’t harm our friendship.
Yeah, I believe it is definitely unique to each person what they are comfortable with. Some will be more open to physical affection while others prefer other forms of affection. It’s about respecting each person’s boundaries and communicating in a way they understand and prefer.
Marshall, I wish I could express half my thoughts in the measured, well-thought way you do. Thanks for your insights, as always.
Thank you Dean for being vulnerable and sharing a painful story…
Thanks, Dean, for sharing this experience. Ecclesiastes 3:5b came to mind as I read your blog. …A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing ;Notice it doesn’t say embracing in and of itself is wrong, only when it is better to refrain. That’s easier said than done. This takes time, time to get to know the other person…and yourself. Only you and the other person will know when it is, or isn’t appropriate.
I am so sorry this happened. I don’t know what I would do in your situation. I have had similar ones and I pretty much just shut down. I really think it has to do with the way people can show disgust toward each other, and if they try to convert it into loving advice it can still feel like they are disgusted with what I’ve done or who I am. I guess it’s just one more struggle to toss on the pile and pray that Christ’s love consumes it lights the way forward.
[…] led to many heartbreaks, like with my friend, Roman. It also meant misunderstanding my love languages for many […]