Starving for friendship

growth Feb 17, 2019

As my self-awareness continues to grow, I've begun perceiving my same-sex attractions as symptoms of starving for friendship, as manifestations of long-unmet needs for connection with other men.

It's a common experience, I believe, for people to want to gorge themselves when they have denied themselves food for a significant amount of time. When I go for a few meals without eating anything, I start craving sugary or salty foods. If I'm not careful, I end up eating junk foods with abandon. I end up feeling full and satisfied, yet slightly miserable, because I met the basic need in an unhealthy way. When these cravings come, I know my body is trying to communicate to me that I have a need for healthy foods that must be filled. If I avoid filling the need, the stronger the impulses come to fill that need, and the more slanted toward foods that provide a quick fix the cravings become. If I instead take the time to prepare and eat healthy foods on a consistent basis, my need gets met but in a much more healthy way and I don't experience intense cravings for sugary and salty snacks.

As I've paid careful attention to my thoughts and emotions over time, I've realized that in me, my same-sex attractions appear to be a similar phenomenon. If I go for a long time without healthy interactions with other men, or an opportunity to get to know someone new comes up, my body's immediate reaction to the situation is intense desires for friendship which overflow into sexualization. My body essentially screams at me me "yes! I need connection! give me connection!" and tries to get me to fulfill that need for connection in any way possible, including through sex. Essentially, my same-sex attractions are basically signals that I am starving for friendship.

Now that I recognize my feelings and emotions as manifestations of an unmet need, I step back, look at my feelings, and realize that my body is just trying to get me to fill the need. So, I approach the need in a healthy way. I make the effort necessary to set proper boundaries and get the need for connection met. I make a new friend, I reach out and communicate, I try to fill that need in a healthy way, congruent with my faith and values.

If I look at my growing up years through this lens, I think there was a perfect storm of circumstances that formed to create a situation where I was starved for friendship with other males. After about the age of 11, I didn't do much, if anything, to fill my needs for frienship with other boys my age. I was rejected by a large number of my peers because I wasn't as interested in sports as they were, I thought very differently than they did, and it was hard for us to understand each other. I overidentified with girls, so they always seemed like brothers to me. I have a sensitive nature, which, in our culture, seems to be socially inappropriate for boys, so I suppressed my emotions and didn't learn how to understand them. With an unmet need for connection and low ability to understand my own emotions and what they were telling me, I interpreted my emotional needs for connection as attractions to other boys rather than seeing them for what I believe they actually were - signals of a need for friendship.

Today, when I spend the time necessary to form good friendships with other men, the signals of unmet needs for friendship become much less intense and they don't rise as often to a level of sexualization. In fact, because I now understand the feelings as a signal of an unmet need, my first thought now tends to be "oh, I must really want to get to know him better, he has a lot of qualities I wish I had, I want to learn those things from him" rather than "wow, he's attractive".

I have found that putting significant time into forming relationships with other men provides incredible satisfaction to me. It fills my needs. When my needs are met, the sexualized component is gone or largely reduced. I then have more ability care for and interact with my family because I am filling the holes I have from so many years of unmet needs for connection.

I'm not gay, I'm not same-sex attracted, I don't have a sexual orientation toward other men, I'm a man who never learned how to have friends, but desperately needs them.

I am, quite literally, starving for friendship.