Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On complicated friendships

When I was in ninth grade, I spent biology class goofing off in the back of the room with a table of all guys. These kids were some of my great friends and biology was full of excellent times dissecting pigs, telling jokes, and listening to the guys talk about the beautiful girls that made their lives miserable (ah, junior high...). One day they made an anti-girl club called "Chica de las Muertas" and they let me be an honorary member since, in Aaron's words, "You're practically a guy when you hang out with us."

I'm not going to make this an analysis of my relative girliness or manliness, I'm quite comfortable with being a girl. However, I have a lot of experience being "one of the guys," and I love it. Historically, I've found it easier to establish and maintain friendships with guys than with girls. I tend to be less intimidated by guys. Since coming to college and living with roommates I've gotten much better at building wonderful friendships with girls, and I adore my female friends. To quote Nacho Libre, "They are my heart." But, being in a female-dominated major and living with 5 other girls, I often have moments where I need to escape the estrogen cloud I live in and get a breath of fresh, testosteroney air.

However, attending a university where dating and marriage are highly stressed and becoming  more aware of my sexual attraction to men and my desire to someday be married to a man has made my friendships with guys...complicated. Whenever my friendship with a guy passes the surface level my brain goes into heavy over-analysis mode, trying to decide if this deeper level of our friendship means we're going to fall in love, get married and have a passel of young'uns. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Every romantic relationship I've ever had has come from a process similar to this one, and I since I hope to marry someone I consider my best friend, I'm sure I'll continue to use this process. But what if I become really good friends with a guy, but for some reason or another, we don't end up dating? Maybe there's not enough physical chemistry. Maybe our worldviews or personalities conflict. This is the point where I start to stress out. A lot.

I have a tendency to invest a lot of emotion into my friendships. I don't make friends quickly or easily, but once I do, I get very attached. So if I have a male friend with whom I've built up a certain degree of trust and emotional intimacy, I tend to get very scared of losing them. Because in BYU culture, many people seem to think that the primary role of cross-gender friendships is to find a spouse, and once you've found and married your one true love, you have no need of other friendships. In fact, having close friends of the opposite gender after marriage is often frowned upon as an "emotional affair". So if I have a male friend who I love platonically, but am incompatible with romantically, our friendship is more or less doomed as soon as one of us falls in love with someone else. Not wanting to lose the friends I've become so close to, I'm tempted to force myself to fall in love with my male friends so I don't have to lose them. This becomes a problem when no matter the amount of affection, there is insufficient attraction. Or when one party doesn't reciprocate the attraction. Or when I have several really awesome guy friends who I want to keep. 

What I wonder is, am I making this too complicated? Why can't I have the same joyful, pressure-free friendships with guys that I have with girls? One reason I'm hesitant to start dating anyone right now is because I'm afraid to lose all of my wonderful male friends, but maybe I don't have to. I mean, things would be different, but...they're my friends. They're important to me. And I like to think I'm important to them.

Readers, what do you think? Are platonic male/female friendships ever sustainable? Why or why not? And whether or not they are sustainable in the long term, how do I stop freaking out and enjoy spending time with my male friends while I still can? Give me some wisdom here, friends. I'm lackin'. 

4 comments:

  1. (I had to re-post because it was showing as "unkown")
    1. Karissa, you're awesome. 2. Your feelings seem not only reasonable but also logical. 3. It's tough from the point of view you're looking. I wonder if you can look at it in a different way (which I think you suggested or inferred in your text). By looking back through one's life, it is likely that one will see all their friendships fluctuating in emotional closeness and frequency of contact. It's a truth that's accepted by everyone, or most people. Friends come and friends go, as it is said, but that doesn't mean one's love for them has to. As of now, I don't think I could advise you well in terms of choosing to date one of those friends or not. However, I would trust in your ability to gauge whether or not such friendships are truly pulling you in the direction of a romantic relationship.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah so I now read your blog Karissa. I hope you find that flattering rather than creepy... Anyway I really like what I've read so far. I think you blog for some of the same reasons that I do. I've thought a lot about this stuff that you wrote about in this post, as well. Actually, I could almost-- almost, but not quite-- mirror this very post, except me talking about girls. Of course, I've never really had problems with dudes, think they're great and all. But all I'm saying is that what you're saying resonates.
    And... chances are you won't stop freaking out about hanging out with your dude friends until whatever's making you freak out goes away. Since it appears to be anxiety about marriage and your future, that might be something difficult to ignore. But I'm still good friends with some of my friends that are girls who are still married, and here's the trick of it: I made friends with the husband. It probably helps that I don't seem like a threat whatsoever, though. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gaaah! yes I can see your problem! Join a folk dance team, that is what I did to solve the problem, you dance with a whole bunch of different guys, you have good relationships, but you don't want to date them. Also you can start hang out with freshmen, all they want to do is have fun. On a more serious note I don't have a good answer for you, we are at that point when we are trying to meet our future spouse and you do that through dating which isn't really conducive to establishing friendships with people of the opposite gender. yeah sometimes I agree with you and wish I was back in high school.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dustin: thanks for the perspective. You're great. :)
    Matt: definitely flattered that you read my blog, even more flattered at the perceived similarities between your blog and mine.
    Lyss: I think working at the cannon and then at heritage custodial has eliminated any desire I ever had to be friends with freshman boys. How about we just watch weird foreign films and eat ice cream instead? Every day.

    ReplyDelete