“What does a healthy a friendship look like?” is a question I am often asked by women who struggle with same-sex attraction.
When someone struggles with same-sex attraction, forming close friendships that honor God can be incredibly challenging. Women who struggle with same-sex attractions often have difficulty forming deep friendships without becoming emotionally enmeshed or eroticizing their relationships. “How close is too close?” may continually run through their minds as they are trying to navigate what healthy boundaries look like.
It may even seem impossible to have close female friendships that honor God. The fear of getting too close to another woman can cause women to avoid close friendships all together.
The problem is this tends to exaggerate the intense desire to have a deep connection with someone. We are wired for connection, so when we avoid getting close to anyone (out of fear or regrets from the past), we starve ourselves of the connection we were designed by God to have.
We are created for connection.
While this deep need and ache for intimacy can only be filled by Jesus, we were designed to have healthy close relationships with others as well.
For many years I avoided close friendships with other women my own age, because I was afraid of getting too close. I had a friendship right after high school that became emotionally enmeshed and then later evolved into a sexual relationship. As a result, even years later, I was only comfortable making friends with women who were my mom’s age. That was safe for me, but it also intensified the mystery and allurement of what it would be like to form a friendship with other women my own age.
It wasn’t until God started healing my heart that I found myself slowly “testing the waters” with a couple different friendships with women my own age. This was terrifying for me, but I have found incredible healing in my own heart even through the process of developing these friendships over time.
I learned that I am able to have close friends that do not become emotionally enmeshed. I am able to have close friendships without eroticizing them as well. I am able to share my happiest experiences along with the most trying times of my life with them. I am able to be vulnerable and real. I am able to pray for them during difficult times, and encourage them when times are tough. All the while, I continue to point them to Jesus, as they do the same for me. This has been an imperfect and long process for me, but I am so thankful to have found some wonderful friends along the way.
In the process of learning how to build close friendships with women my own age, I put a lot of pressure on myself and was driven by fear much of the time. I want to share some of what has helped me over the last several years, not as a “rulebook” to follow, but as encouragement while sharing some red flags I learned along the way in my own journey.
I am hoping this will be helpful for you or a loved one who is attempting to develop healthy, godly friendships as well:
- The most important thing you can do is develop an intimate relationship with Jesus. The more you know Jesus intimately, the less you will go to other people to fill what only Jesus can fill. As I developed intimacy with Him, this started the process of trickling down to my other relationships. It started with Him, though!
- Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance when choosing close friends. We all have acquaintances, but when it comes to your closer inner circle of friends, this is where you will need His wisdom. God knows your heart better than anyone else, and He knows who would be a healthy friend for you.
- It would be beneficial to invest time into two or more close friends, rather than just one. For those of us who have either been in a sexual relationship with another woman or an emotionally dependent friendship, the temptation is often there to form a very close relationship with just one person (very quickly). Gradually sharing your heart and emotions with more than one person can help tremendously. I have a couple women right now who I consider to be very close friends, and this has been an incredible blessing to me.
- If you find yourself wanting to be someone’s “only” friend or most needed friend, this is a red flag for you to pray about. This does not mean you need to end the friendship, but take these kinds of situations to God. He can show you what to do. Healthy friendships are ones that allow the other person to have other friends in their lives without competition. These kinds of feelings can certainly surface, but if/when you see the need for exclusivity trying to creep into a friendship (on either end); this is a great opportunity to take the situation to Jesus. Trust that He will show you what to do. Again, He knows your heart better than anyone!
- It is great to have friends who come to us for help and guidance, but a healthy friendship is also one that doesn’t set the person up for always relying on you for advice or help. It is certainly not wrong to give people advice or to encourage them, but make sure you are pointing them to Jesus as the ultimate One who gives help and comfort. Jesus is a perfect Savior. You and I (and every other human) make terrible saviors! If you ever find yourself wanting someone to be dependent on you, (or vice versa) this is another red flag to go to God about as well.
- There were times when one of my friendships would feel like it was going to a deeper level, and I would get scared and back off. This is ok! It is part of the process, and sometimes it takes some time to trust yourself (and God) enough to move forward when a friendship starts to grow closer. It is wise to be cautious, but as I took these situations to God, it became easier and easier.
- If/when dealing with any kind of sexual temptations, fantasies or anything like this concerning a friendship, take this to God in prayer. It would be wise to take a step back for a little while, so He can show you what is going on in your heart. For me, God showed me years back that what I was really craving was intimacy with Him. I didn’t understand how that was possible at first, but when I started finding this with Jesus, I found myself less tempted in this area.
Our culture teaches us that sex is the ultimate way to experience and express connection and love. I am here to tell you that I now am able to have that closeness and connection with other women that I always wanted without sexualizing everything. This is not being “less” connected, but it is very much the opposite. The friendships I have now are rich and satisfying to me.
I have learned that I can love other women without sexualizing my friendships or fantasizing about them. Seeing them the way God created them to be causes me to see and love them more purely. This has been a process, but I want to encourage you it is possible!
I hope these suggestions encouraged you. This is all a process and it will not be a perfect one! The Holy Spirit will help you through this and be there to teach you along the way. You do not need to be afraid of yourself or your feelings. It is all part of the process. Just keep taking everything to Jesus. He will not shame you or condemn you.
You were created to have close relationships. That is why you have such a need for them. There is grace available for you to navigate through this with others and with the Holy Spirit guiding you. I have found so much life, joy and richness in my close friendships, and the same is available for you.