This very morning I will be got wet, muddy, and sweaty in a 3 to 4 mile long obstacle course called the Cahoots Duo Challenge. Cahoots is specialized in that each obstacle is meant to be accomplished in teams of two. My team, the Super Panda Brothers, consists of me and my best friend Ted. I’m excited for the challenge and for the experience I get to share with this close friend of mine.
A lot of men with SSA wish they had a best friend. I’ve definitely felt this way before but today I have so many close friends I almost feel like I’ve completely forgotten what that feels like. I’ve heard of men with SSA say it’s impossible to have a best friend and that is an unrealistic desire to have. Some of these men will decide to live a gay lifestyle to finally get their needs met and others will live bitter, single, and celibate lives.
I humbly disagree.
The desire to have a best friend is a completely normal one. The Savior had a very deep relationship with John. King David had Jonathon. Just because we have SSA suddenly means we can’t find men to be best friends with us? The thought is prosperous. I’d argue that men have had SSA for centuries. The difference we have today is a cultural shift that introduces same sex attraction as an identity, the introduction of homophobia, and thereby actually prevents men with (and without) SSA from getting their needs met.
Those are some pretty big obstacles to overcome but I truly believe that we can both individually and as a society overcome them. So how do we find a best friend? Let me share you my story and what worked for me.
Between coming home from my mission and moving to Utah I had quite the growing experience. I didn’t like being home. I felt like something was missing. It wasn’t just the mantle or feeling the spirit like how I used to. It was something else. When I came home I lost my community of men and felt alone. I didn’t have a mission companion. I didn’t really feel like I had that best friend I needed.
I then had a string of 4 friendships that all ended badly. About this same time I was looking into my SSA and child abuse for the first time in my life. It was an emotional roller coaster for me. I needed friends but I became emotionally codependent on each one of those 4 friends. (I was sexually attracted to all of them as well.) Most of them had no idea how to give that kind of intimate, platonic, healthy relationship.
What I didn’t understand that I understand now is that I didn’t either. I could not expect to find a best friend in any of those men because I wasn’t best friends with myself. I wasn’t confident or self-affirming. I didn’t really know who I was and so I tried to find me in other people.
Eventually, that fourth friend came into my life and I thought my world had changed. I thought I suddenly found everything I was looking for. I was still just trying to understand my SSA when this happened. We had a good friendship for some months but it eventually ended in tears and heartache. I emotionally suffocated this man but this time I was in a place where I could see all the damage I had done and how I did it.
I had never been broken before like I was at this point and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Why? Because it put me in the perfect place to look at myself and rely on the Savior’s atonement to bring me to a place of wholeness.
My scripture reading didn’t change so much or my frequency of prayers. What changed was the quality of my scripture reading and the quality of my prayers. Yes, the men before me did hurt me and they did wrong. But do did I. I needed to and forgave them for their wrongdoings that hurt me. But they didn’t break me. I broke me. My emotional dependency damaged me. I needed to forgive myself, not just them.
At this time I started to take time to understand who I really was and build a friendship with Stephen Larsen. I’d go to movies and concerts by myself–not to be influenced by others around me. Do I really like this music? What do I think of this movie? I also became more authentic in my journal writings.
This brought me to a place where I could be self sufficient for most of what I needed. We always need friends but this helped me bring down my expectations and separate my emotional wants from my emotional needs. I stopped being codependent and started being independent.
Then I moved up to Utah. I took the opportunity for a fresh start. I made friends in the Journey into Manhood and North Star communities and my life has been so blessed because of it. I have many close friends now both in and out of theses communities–men that have OSA and SSA.
I know that following a principle of self reliance that we can eventually find what it is we are seeking. Sometimes it takes time but there is always someone who comes into our life along the way. Even when I didn’t have a “best friend” I always had someone that was there for me. Our Heavenly Father loves us. We are not alone in this life.