The following piece is written by “Elliot N”, an anonymous member of Courage International. This is the second of a four-part series on the topic of authentic male friendship. Read Part 1 here.

Part 2

Now those enduring friendships didn’t just happen overnight and I discovered some common characteristics, seven of them actually, that I think can make and sustain great relationships with other guys.

These characteristics, I think, apply to all men, not just those of us who experience same-sex attraction. The reality is that all men need good friendships with other men – just like they did when they were boys. So . . .

First: Male friendships have to be DISINTERESTED. That almost sounds like an oxymoron. How can you be friends with someone you are not interested in? But it really comes down to – why you are interested in someone. Therefore, a bad approach to friendship is to look to get something out of a person that you aren’t necessarily entitled to. The forbidden fruit. For example, if you are in a room of people and see someone you are physically attracted to and say – I want to be friends with him because of his good looks – that’s probably not a good sign. You can’t have an agenda when it comes to friendship. You cross the line when you start to look at someone on the surface and think you just found your dream man. Now – does this mean that you can’t be friends with someone you find physically attractive? No. It’s just that physical attraction shouldn’t be the primary reason for friendship. Do you then just ignore someone you find attractive? No. All friendships require discernment and have to stand the test of time. And I firmly believe that getting to know someone of the same sex more personally helps to alleviate physical attraction. Once you discover a little about what’s going on inside that person, you may not find their appearance on the outside so attractive. Your dream guy is not so dreamy after all. It’s like having a brother. You know him so well from growing up together that you are only interested in seeing him fully clothed.

Now, the kissing cousin to physical attraction is emotional attraction. This guy may not be so physically attractive, but he could have an intense emotional appeal. This will also skew the way you relate to other men. After the initial physical attraction, OSA men fall in love with women due to a significant emotional appeal. Countless love songs are describing this. But, the emotional appeal between a man and a woman is different from that between two men. In heterosexual relationships, there is an emotional complementarity that makes the other person ‘the other half’. With men, that emotional need can never be met because there is no complimentarity. I’ve heard it said that this emotional attraction is like a tick trying to suck the blood out of another tick. I guess that most of us have experienced emotional attachments. And although they are really hard to resist, the relationship becomes miserable because our friend can’t give us what we need, and tries to get the same thing we are looking for, out of us. Pure misery. Unfortunately, the only cure for the situation is equally as miserable – total physical and emotional separation. Sigh.

Second: The best friendships need to be ORGANIC in their genesis. There is no way to put a timetable on how long it takes for a friendship to develop. Circumstances, opportunities, events, and proximity can impact how a friendship will develop. Once you begin to plot, scheme, and watch for the next text message – you set yourself up for a big letdown. My experience is that the best friendships take a long time to develop. Not centuries, but months or years. Now, you might be tempted to say: But I’ve fallen in love with this guy. I would challenge you to question if you haven’t actually fallen but in lust. Even if a completely heterosexual couple falls in love with each other, they still have to become friends before an authentic, long-lasting relationship can be sustained. I remember the first time I ‘fell in lust’. His name was Dean. He drove a muscle car from the seventies. He was blond, confident, handsome, and straight as a Carpenter’s Square. But most importantly – he genuinely liked me. I fell head over heels. As freshman undergraduates, we lunched together and sat next to each other in class. I waited for him in the parking lot to come out of class just for one last chance to say hi. Yuck! I started thinking about him all the time and tried to control proximity and opportunities to get together. But it was unnatural. At that time in my life, I had no idea what was happening but it was just awful because all my thoughts and even part of my daily routine at school started revolving around this one person. Needless to say, the friendship fizzled and we eventually parted ways because the emotional attachment provided no roots for an authentic organic friendship.

Read Part 3 here.