This continues my “Cuddle Chronicles” series. Check out Part 1, “The First Guy I Ever Cuddled With” and Part 2, “The First Guy I Ever Slept With.” This story unfolds my journey with same-sex physical touch as I experienced the crossing of physical boundaries for the first time. Possible content warning for abuse.

After getting my feet wet in the proverbial waters of cuddling with other men, I started feeling more and more comfortable with it. More and more brave. This newfound cuddling felt like a long lost exhale after holding my breath for years without any touch whatsoever with a male friend.

There was still an element of riskiness in this cuddling, of bated breath and incidental arousal, but the last thing I wanted to do with any of my SSA (same-sex attracted) friends was ruin the friendship by crossing that line — whatever that line was.

I figured I’d know the line and avoid the line if I ever saw the line or came close to the line. It just felt so comforting to manifest emotional closeness with physical closeness.

After meeting a local SSA guy, Brandon, we quickly grew close, and I felt more emboldened to lean into more touch with him. Brandon was a phenomenal hugger (not everyone is as gifted, I’ve since learned), and after our first few hangouts I honestly started feeling addicted to his hugs.

I needed his touch every week, if not every day, or even multiple times a day, and I felt increasingly antsy without it. Away from him.

Late one night, I texted him amid my said antsiness and loneliness; to my surprise, he was still awake and even offered to meet up with me. This was well after midnight. I couldn’t believe his willingness, his generosity.

I don’t know that I’d drive across town to meet a friend in his midnight despair. But Brandon was a special kind of friend.

We met up in the dark, and hardly a word was exchanged. I think I may have squeaked out a “hey” before falling into his arms, sinking into them. It felt as if all our other hangouts and hugs were the preamble for this epic one to ensue.

He held me.

And he held me.

And he held me.

For five, ten, twenty minutes, I’d never felt anything like it: safe, secure, seen, and warm.

And I only wanted more of it.

“Wanna sit down?” he said, and then with a chuckle: “My legs are getting kinda tired.”

I agreed, and we sat down — our already long hug growing inconceivably longer. Our arms re-wrapped around each other as we exhaled into each other’s shoulders. As if we’d both found the elixir for our many shared years of loneliness.

Another twenty minutes into this hug that never ends, now seated, and I still needed more. We shifted positions several times, our bodies feeling the strain of our prolonged postures.

Amid all the shifting, I found myself moving my hands to various places on his body. Not to clearly inappropriate areas below the belt. But to “less clear” ones.

I say less clear, but they were also quite clear. My inner voices blared unlike anything I heard while playing footsie with Cody. I knew this was a clear boundary being crossed — a physical boundary, certainly, and undoubtably an emotional boundary the longer this cuddle session in the dark continued.

Unlike Cody’s initiation of footsie with me, I was the one initiating the touch this time. I was the one crossing boundaries. Clear boundaries.

I shouldn’t have touched my friend there. I know it now, and I knew it then. I knew it while it was happening, but I had never before entered that frontier. I couldn’t resist the new trail before me.

I wanted to explore, so I silenced the voices. Pressed forward down the trail.

Brandon didn’t resist or push me away. Our extended touch kept extending. Extending. And extending.

Eventually, at some god-forsaken hour of the night, our cuddling session ended. I went back to my home, and he to his. “Good night,” our simple parting words.

I went to bed feeling fulfilled and iffy.

Like I’d just done a noble thing by reaching out to someone in my loneliness rather than numb myself with porn or masturbation or some other vice.

But also like I’d done an ignoble thing by taking advantage of a friend in his generous offering of love.

Or maybe like I’d second-guessed myself with Cody’s touch . . . maybe the questioned morality of this exploration with Brandon was all just in my head again?

~ ~ ~

The next afternoon, I received a text from Brandon:

We crossed some lines last night. I’ve been crying about it all day. We can’t do that ever again.

My heart sunk. Imploded. A brokenness barreling into me beyond anything I’d ever felt.

I was out with other people when I got his text, and I couldn’t think of anything else the rest of the day. I struggled to put on a straight face with the others, my attention consumed by my friend’s words.

I pictured him crying in his bed when he woke up that morning, or even going to bed crying right after leaving me; knowing I’d hurt him, knowing I’d been the one to cross physical boundaries.

It destroyed me, if I’m honest.

The next day Brandon agreed to meet up with me to talk, and I don’t think a second passed with him before I started bursting with tears. He grabbed a nearby paper towel roll and handed me sheet after sheet as I cried tears and snot into it.

“I’m the worst friend,” I stammered, and he did what he always did best. Love me. Reassure me.

“No, you’re not,” he said. He sat across from me with empathy and patience while I worked every tear and gasp out of my system.

Eventually, the storm ceased. My inner waves settled.

“I’m in a much better place today,” he told me, forgiving me. “We just have to be more careful.”

I nodded. I never wanted anything like that to happen again. With Brandon, with anyone. What an awful feeling to treat another human as an object for my pleasure. To take what I wanted and leave him in ruins.

I wish I could say our friendship thrived beyond that brutally honest check-in. But it was forever altered. He grew more and more distant in the weeks and months that followed, those once frequent, addictive hugs nearly disappearing altogether.

While I was hurt at the time, I also couldn’t fault him for his new distance. I can’t imagine I’d have reacted any differently.

I messed up. Plain and simple. And there are consequences for our decisions. Especially when other people are involved. When physical boundaries and emotional boundaries are crossed and swirled into the tornado of two hearts.

I just wish I’d have learned from my mistake when it came to cuddling with other friends, too.

Have you ever crossed physical boundaries with a friend? Did your friendship survive the lapse in judgment? How do you uphold strong physical and emotional boundaries with your same-sex friends, SSA/gay or otherwise?

  • I think the fear that I could ever make anyone feel like that has kept me from making certain mistakes

  • Wow that is a tough situation, I can imagine that was hard to go through for both of you. I have crossed a boundary with one of my straight friends and for a while it was quite awkward. We only recently talked about it once I admitted my ssa and so we were able to talk about it and thankfully move past it. Although it was awkward and I felt really bad about it for a while after it happened, we were able to have clearer boundaries and I am glad that it resulted in that, and our friendship didn’t change much other than that.

  • oooooof thanks for putting it all out there Tom! I love physical touch a lot. I also have to be careful not to get too reliant on those who are physical touch people as well. I find myself desiring to rely on the Lord for comfort, but there’s just something about a hug, the warmth of another body, that makes me feel safe and loved. ughhhh I long for a hug from Jesus himself! How unutterably amazing that would be!

  • Holy vulnerability! I’m sorry this happened during one of your experiences Tom. Mistakes do happen, I’ve never had any fully blown bad mess ups (no intercourse or inappropriate touching) but there have been times with others where we’ve agreed to tone things down a little. It sounds like your situation wasn’t exactly the worst either. Not to lessen the fact that it was a mistake of course. Sort of like Ashley said, the fear or ruining a relationship with something like this happening helps to keep one in line with their boundaries. I think when mistakes happen its important not to freak out too much and think you’re the worst ever. Its good to talk through it with your partner (which you guys did and that’s great) and say “no more this or that” and if mistakes keep happening then one should abstain from cuddles totally with that person. At least for a while.

  • A friend who always hugged me warmly crossed boundaries but I cannot give him all the blame; I liked it and did not push him away. Less than a week later, we did it again. He apologized later but then became quite cold; asked me to help him move, which he did suddenly, to the other side of the state. I have not heard from him since, in five years or more. I bear him no ill will, except maybe some hurt for his cutting me off in that manner. On my end, I’ve had to politely enforce my boundaries with others on several occasions…but we remain friends.

  • Thank you so much for sharing! I too question myself about this kind of thing due to one of my friendships falling apart because of my SSA. I was the one who established boundaries and that sadly caused my friend to walk away.

    Last year I started to become friends with someone very fast and we were having almost no physical contact. However I knew early on that I was wanting that from him and I was afraid to make any move and it ‘cross a boundry’. We were becoming close so quickly and we weren’t meeting in public so I was worried about that. Also I’m in college and within a week of meeting each other we were discussing being roommates the next year which again made me think about boundaries. After about a month I decided to tell him that I experience SSA but I was not living that out so we can still be friends. “I just want to set clear boundaries” I said. He literally responded with “okay” and we continued our conversation that night so I thought we were good. The next week he cancelled our plans to meet so he could “study for finals” but part of me was paranoid that it had to do with me coming out to him.

    After finals, school let out for winter break which was about two months. I did not hear from him the entire break. All that time I speculated whether this was because he just isn’t one of those people to text over breaks or if this had to do with me coming out to him. I relived every little interaction we had wondering if his silence meant anything or if it was all in my head. It gave me a lot of anxiety wondering if I just lost one of the few friendships with men I have ever had. Around Christmas I decided to send him a message under the pretense of wishing him a good holiday but really hoping to see if we were okay. He sent back a few brief messages which did not make me feel any better. After that I just waited and prayed that this wasn’t what it looked like.

    Weeks later the next semester finally started and he still had yet to reach out. That’s when I really started worrying that it was all over. After the first week of school ended I asked him via text if he still wanted to be roommates but did not address how distant he had been for so long. All he said was he was ‘possibly’ living with other people. That was it. He all but said “we are not going to be friends anymore and that’s why I haven’t interacted with you for two months.” I was devastated by his about-face and questioned all of my decisions in our short-lived relationship all over again. Even after preparing for his rejection for so long, it still hurt a lot that it was all real.

    Looking back I believe it was the right decision to communicate my boundaries despite its consequences. However I wonder if I scared him off by coming out to him and setting those boundaries too soon. I’m also not sure that living together would have been a wise decision in the first place. This experience has made me much more thoughtful not only about what boundaries to set but also when to set them.

  • Thanks for being so vulnerable Tom. I did cross the lines over 40 years ago with my college roommate. It was enticing, he didn’t move my hand. Unfortunately we engaged in mutual mb, which is embarrassing to admit, but we both seemed to want it. And here were two young men full of the Holy Spirit-how could that happen?

    Until God arrested me on Christmas break and He warned me big time that if I didn’t stop I would become a full-fledged homosexual. Scared me to death, and I went back to school and said, “No more”. He was angry.

    Our friendship survived and we are still very good friends after all these years living a 1000 miles apart from each other. But I wish I hadn’t led him there and I’ve asked his forgiveness and he has been gracious to me. This last year I shared that I did and do have SSA, but he didn’t relate. He said he never thought in those terms.

    One of the biggest regrets of my life, but it’s under the Blood.

  • I don’t get it, no matter how good I try. It was the two of you, right? Brandon did not push you away or protest.You had been cuddling with him before. So you did not force yourself upon him. How can you fault yourself for what happened?
    I can remember I once had a date with a “straight” guy. I was his first guy. While we were being physical with each other, he clearly enjoyed but afterwards he started crying. I felt bad. So I can understand your feeling, that you didn’t like it that Brandon felt so bad about it. After this happened to me, I didn’t want to be in a situation like that anymore. I decided not to date guys anymore who were not certain about their sexuality. But I did not fault myself for what had happened.

  • Is there a moment in the experience (not the explicit moment, but all time up until now) that you have shown yourself grace or forgiveness?

  • Thanks for sharing this, Tom. Boundaries are such a tough topic. Because most people are stuck on the “pro or anti” same sex marriage debate, boundaries for those choosing not to enter a same sex relationship are hardly ever discussed. Its great to have people share their own experiences and thoughts for others to learn from.

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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