Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Facing outward.

This will be my final post for a while on emotional modesty...this one is meant to tie all the others together.

Here's where my story with emotional modesty begins: I never had any close female friends in high school.

Even when I did have them, it was not by my own choice (they befriended me and I just went along with it) and it was always a bit strange to me. But I acted like myself and never really discussed anything of any depth with girls. Girls were weird...guys I understood. The end.

When I got to college, I actually did get some close female friends, one or two of whom I felt close enough to share some personal things. Women were still more uncomfortable to be around, although not enough to be a deterrent. Still, it was never to the depth of my male friendships until my senior year. I started to change a little bit - mostly because at that time I was engaged in deep reflection about myself, and I discovered that girls tend to do that much more often than guys. Soon, I began to fraternize more frequently with women, especially after I discovered I had a lot in common with many of them. This would inevitably lead to some attractions, but I never considered that a bad thing even when I was eventually turned down. This is where I really began to fail at emotional modesty - and never knew.

It's really only after the past year that I've seen exactly how destructive this kind of sharing could be. I have become attracted to friends against my will, and some friends became attracted to me against theirs.

I actually had three pretty bad experiences in a row the last few months with emotional modesty.

In the first, we had the kind of friendship I would call the "fusion." We were emotionally intertwined and interdependent, leaching off of one another. Why? We were both lonely, and we both had the same reason for being lonely. It was like a firework...it blew up and fizzled out. We grew to like each other very quickly and grew to dislike each other just as fast. She got sick of me, and I got mad at her for it. It took quite a while to heal that friendship, and it's never going to be a good friendship again.

In the second, I did a little better. I was trying to incorporate some emotional modesty in that friendship, even though I did not at that point understand why...therefore, I stunk at it. This friendship was what I would call the "face to face" approach. It didn't work because as hard as we tried to keep a detachment about it, we were constantly faced with one another. That friendship exploded as well, but this one seems to be healing.

In the third, we were dangerously close to a "fusion" friendship. But this time, I think through some hard decision making (and discussion) I have managed to finally make our friendship "face outward." By this, I mean that we are friends without being emotionally intertwined to the point that we are acting like we're dating. We are looking more out at the world together, and not at one another. And we're great friends.

Before these events, I thought that because I never got attracted to girls who had boyfriends (even if we shared emotional things), it meant that this was possible in every guy-girl friendship. However, I am now thinking that this is an exception rather than the rule. The only reason I never get attracted to girls who have boyfriends is because I am practical and see a relationship as impossible in those situations, and my feelings cooperate with that. However, I am now seeing it as very possible that any other relationship with a girl can involve attractions where there has been mutual sharing of feelings - and that even though I have experienced it as a good thing, it is not always a good thing at all - because it has really damaged a lot of those guy-girl friendships no matter how well and how craftily I tried to fix it.

In my contemplation of this problem, it occurred to me how there is actually a real level of emotional connection between a boyfriend and girlfriend, and how I had built this connection with women before without any commitment to them other than as a friend. Only then did it occur to me how unfair that was, and how it would thus follow that I could only consistently share things like that with other men, as there is no danger of attraction there. The only really difficult thing about that is that most of the men I know who were open to discussions like that with me are no longer around. But it's not all about me.

Even if I were really, really good friends with a girl, our relationship would never and could never look like a dating relationship, unless we were dating. While we might from time to time share feelings, or even cry, those times should be few and far between. If that is how it must be, then that is how it will be.

There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream to face outward.

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