In my last two posts, I’ve addressed particular issues that arise as women who’ve been married to gay men re-enter the dating process. But there’s another arena of relationships with men that also needs some consideration, and that is the value of friendships with men.
I’m not going to call them “platonic” relationships, because good ol’ Plato was a thoroughgoing misogynist. The friendships I’m talking about are built on chastity, yes, but also on mutual respect and affection.
Several friendships with good men have been immeasurably important to me, as I’ve gotten over the trauma and the destructive influences of marriage to a homosexual. These men have demonstrated enjoyment in my intellect, found me an attractive and companionable conversationalist and comrade in our various shared interests (usually religious or political). Each in his own way has helped to restore to me some of the sense of my value and worth that the DH’s rejection and contempt had chiseled away over the years.
Friendships with men are wonderful things, but let’s face it: they’re loaded with dynamite and so must be handled carefully, prudently. And we’ve got to get it straight right off the bat: men cannot be the sort of emotionally intimate companions our women friends might be.
The reasons for this are twofold. First, sexual tension is an ever-present possibility in all relationships between men and women. It’s an especially huge factor for those of us who’ve lived in the affection-less environment of marriage to a gay man. As I said in my last post, sex and affection become terribly confused when we’ve been without affection or sexual love, and it’s terribly easy for us to lose sight of the boundaries between the two.
There are some pretty common-sense ways of reducing the risk. Avoiding talking about sexual topics and making sexually-charged remarks are two of the most important ones. You see, making sexually charged remarks too easily get translated as come-ons; they entice us into wanting to push the parameters just a little bit further… and then, you’ve compromised your principles, you’ve compromised and probably lost the friendship (for a while, at least, but probably permanently) and you’re still alone and trying to figure out what the heck real love really looks like.
Yes, some people will think you’re a prude – but better to be thought a prude, wrongly, than to talk yourself and a friend into a sexual relationship that will inevitably damage your friendship.
The other problem is that our men friends are frequently married or they have girlfriends. In this case, the risk of sex is simply not to be entertained in any way, shape or form. We want our lovers to be faithful to us, emotionally and physically; therefore we OWE it to other women to keep their husbands in line – at least, in line with us.
There’s another aspect to the problem. In order to keep the integrity of the friendship, we want to include the wives, so we’re friends with the couple, not just the husband. But…
Often,the wives (or the girlfriends) are suspicious and resentful. We become, we are, in a very real sense, “another woman,” an emotional and social connection with their husbands that reminds the wives they aren’t the be all and end all of their husband’s world. They resent another woman taking a place in their husband’s life that rightly is part of their own spousal territory. Girlfriends are always afraid they’ll be found less interesting, less important, and dropped in our favor.
Just as often, they prove a terrible disappointment to me. -Most of my men friends, I knew from work or church (or more recently the internet), and when I finally met their wives, with whom I’ve been eager to be friends, the dynamic just wasn’t there: I’d grown close in camaraderie to these men because of the dynamics of our shared work or political or religious views, because of our similarities; they had chosen wives who were good women, but not of the same passionate disposition or quickness of opinion, who are more complementary rather than comradely – which meant that the wives often struck me as… disappointing, often uncomfortable and rather insipid.
It’s been much easier to develop friendships with a couple of married men after I’d become friends with their wives. But in both those cases, the wife is my friend and the husband is adjunct – a different scenario than the one I intend to address in this post.
Frankly? I don’t know how to get around these difficulties. Right now, I’m blessed with several delightful friendships with men, but these friendships are rather limited in scope because of the sphere of life in which they were developed. I’m not interested in pushing the parameters beyond those specific and limited spheres. It’s comfortable and there’s a degree of safety there.
Others might disagree with me, but this is where I am right now, and I offer it to you not as a rule for life, but as an option to evaluate for your own use.
Next up: Chastity.