When I first moved to San Francisco, I went out of my way to find a tennis partner so that I could not only get exercise but find a friend as well. I found someone right away (via the internet), and it took some time, but eventually we became friends. We started hanging out more and more outside of tennis–grabbing food or a drink, etc. I enjoyed his company. He’s gay, and since I’m sort of up in the air about whether I’m straight, gay, or both (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this), there were some awkward moments.
He picked up on my feelings–and confusion–and questioned me by literally asking if I was attracted to him. At the time, I was slightly attracted to him (I guess?), but since I just started dating my girlfriend at the time, I lied to him and said I wasn’t. I think he could probably sense that I was lying, and so, long story short, we had a falling out.
The relationship sparked again after the rainy season when we started playing tennis again. We just didn’t talk about what happened. Anyway, we started hanging out again outside of tennis, and I finally told him the truth. It went something like this–
I don’t know if I’m attracted to you or not. I do think I have the capacity to love both sexes, but I am in a committed relationship, so that’s not something I want to explore at this moment. I do think, though, that I want a deeper friendship. I may be confused on what I feel on the inside, but I know I would like to be closer to you. I’ve never had a deeper friendship, outside of a sexual relationship, and so I don’t know what that’s like. I may have been confusing the feelings inside–instead of liking you more than a friend, I still wanted to be friends, I just wanted something deeper. And I still do.
I caught him off guard, he didn’t really respond–in fact I think he changed the subject altogether–and I haven’t heard from him since.
Anyway, I sent him a brief email last week–
How are you doing? I’m on break from school and heading to Kansas City next week to see the family. It was sort of sunny today, and it made me want to play tennis. Anyway, I miss hanging out.
Again, I put myself out there. I guess maybe he either had deeper, sexual feelings for me, or didn’t have any feelings at all. It just hurts that I tried to connect with someone and got shut down. Maybe I came on too strong, too fast? I’m tempted to send him an email detailing everything that’s been going on, as he doesn’t know I suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder–but I probably should just let it be. I tried, at least.
Anyhow, the point of this post is just to highlight how difficult it is for me to make deeper friendships. I’m scared to let other people in because of experiences like these.
I’m proud of you that you were able to make a social effort. I know how difficult that can be. It’s up to him now and out of your hands. I wouldn’t take anything personally. Maybe he is attracted to you, but was scared off because you’re in a committed relationship. Talking about stuff like this is awkward for anyone. I wouldn’t let this experience deter you from reaching out to others in the future.
I agree. I may not have handled the situation all that well, but neither did he–sometimes I just lay all the blame on myself. It’s frustrating, as the one experience I had with someone of the same sex who I could get closer to, pushed me away. Maybe guys are just like that–they don’t want closer relationships. Maybe it’s an age thing too–guys don’t forge deeper relationships until they are older. I should probably stop worrying about it and just let whatever happens happen.
I actually experienced something similar when I was living in the United States. I became friends with an American guy at some social gathering. We would find each other and sit together in several courses, and we enjoyed each other’s company a lot. One day, though, things started to change when we were casually talking about homosexuality. I was just kidding, but I think I ended up forcing him to explore his sexuality. He must have felt uncomfortable, and he started to avoid me on campus. I was devastated because I liked him a lot. I think I was attracted to him, but I didn’t have to be romantically involved with him. I just wanted to be friends with him.
I’m sorry to hear that you encountered the negative reaction from your tennis friend, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with what you said to him. As ML says, he was probably scared and perhaps wanted to stop himself from being in love with you because you were already in a steady relationship. I think sexuality is a spectrum and that it is only natural for anyone to be attracted to both sexes, but still, it seems to me that many people want their sexual orientation to be very specific. You know, I am gay, but I always want some good friends with whom I can talk my honest thoughts and feelings. Of course, I don’t care about their sexual orientation because I believe a good friendship has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
I wish I lived near where you live, so we could meet in person and would hit it off right away. I hope what happened between you and your friend doesn’t stop you from looking for friends. Please know there is someone like me in the world who wants the kind of friendship you want no matter what people’s sexual orientation. You’re more than welcome to e-mail me with questions about homosexuality if you like. Take care, my friend!
“I think sexuality is a spectrum and that it is only natural for anyone to be attracted to both sexes, but still, it seems to me that many people want their sexual orientation to be very specific.”
I totally agree. People want sexual orientation to be so black and white–you’re either gay or straight. I do think there’s an in between and I do think there’s a lot of people out there who struggle with dealing with this in between because it’s just not talked about.
I’m sorry to hear that this friend isn’t being much of a friend. To me, I think the e-mail you sent was perfect. You completely opened up and were honest with him… he should have respected that – what more could you do? You at least deserve some sort of response back… I hope you hear from him… even if it means closure…
Thanks Christine! 🙂 At this point, I’ve lost hope in getting any sort of closure. I think the ties are severed between us.
I so admire you for talking about this with your friend. I think that most people never reach this level of communication with others, so perhaps this is a new experience for him. As you know I am totally into the Myers Briggs personality thing, and your personality type might have a different communication style than his. Or perhaps it takes him a longer time to process feelings and thoughts and he is working on this before he responds. I frequently can’t respond to things right away, I have to toss them around in my head.
When I was in my 20’s I fell in love with a friend, who was the same gender as me. She considered herself bisexual, I considered myself straight. I was truly in love with her, and we were really good friends before we began a physical relationship. I had to break off our relationship because, although I loved her and no one had ever loved me as much as she did, I was not attracted to her physically. I have never been attracted to women, but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with her.
It is so difficult, separating love from physical attraction and intimacy. To this day, 25 years later, I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t broken it off. Of course, our friendship was never the same afterwards either.
Wow. Thanks for sharing that story. Even living in San Francisco where there is no sexual “norm”, I felt so alone. Did I just want to be close friends? If so, what does that mean? I’ve never done that before. Or did I want more? Whenever I explore this issue with my therapist, I get extremely uncomfortable and, as of late, anger just comes up. My therapist sort of suggested I reach out to him and talk about my feelings, but, when I did, he ran the other way. It’s easy to blame my therapist, I guess.
We complain that people don’t understand, but we don’t tell them enough for them to understand. And then there are some who don’t want to know, and others who never get it. And explaining social anxiety is very hard, and not something I’d want to try if I wasn’t fairly confident of getting a positive response.
Good luck with the CBT and everything else.
So true. But I do want people to understand me. The problem, I guess, is I go from revealing nothing to revealing everything. There is no in between. I want to try working on revealing myself gradually to people so they don’t run away.
It doesn’t highlight as much about you as you think it does. What, to you, is a “deeper friendship”? What does that mean? The other person is not going to automatically know what you mean by that. Instead of concentrating on what you think of as your difficulties, use this time to concentrate on being honest with yourself and listening to yourself on more than one level. Find out what the desires are.
Because you’ve been locked in the SA loop where other people are given this strange amount of power to make you feel this, that and the other thing and you have to obsess about how you come across to them. Given that, it can then be hard to go away and look at what you really want.
You’re right- I don’t even know what I want(ed) from the friendship. A deep relationship could mean so many different things. Even though its really hard, I need to look at this closer in therapy. Thanks for the feedback. Again, you’ve given me a lot to think about.