I’ve received a couple follower questions on a related topic so I figured it was time for a blog post. Category is – how to navigate platonic gay friendships. My first follower mentioned a desire to have more gay friends, but noted how difficult it was to stay in the “friend lane” with some of them. My second follower described the sucky experience of actually starting out with the mutual desire to be platonic friends, it becoming more, and then the guy dumping him to date another mutual friend. These situations are, of course, nothing new if you have been gay for more than a week or so. Most of us seek love and friendship within the community and it becomes tricky to navigate how to accomplish both, separately.
I think the best way to talk this through is by outlining my advice for some common scenarios where “platonic gay friendship” is messy.
- Start out as friends; one of you wants to be more than friends.
This one is straight out of a movie, and for many, an ideal way to find a significant other. You start out as friends, build a great bond, and one of you wonders if it can become romantic because you already spend a ton of time together and love each other immensely. The problem is whether or not the other friend wants to take it to the next level or keep a great friendship going.
For the friend who wants to start dating, my advice is to really consider all angles of the situation. Have you experienced a romantic love before, and are you, perhaps, confusing it for the love of a friend? Do you feel a passion for this person that will translate intimately? How open are you with this friend – and if you share your true feelings, will it make things awkward if they aren’t on the same page? I would consider all of these things and even privately ask for the advice of third party friends who know the person to get a clearer picture. Sometimes you might hear information that will push you to make the move or enable you to reconsider altogether. If you feel strongly about your romantic love for your friend, I would ultimately express it if you feel comfortable – maybe in a non-creepy way (i.e. “someone asked me if we were dating because we looked cute together, thoughts?”). If you are good friends, you should be able to have the conversation and ultimately move forward or bounce back regardless, but it may take time or even a break in some cases to get back to where you were. After careful reflection, do what is in your heart, but be fair enough to understand that the other person may need time to warm up to the idea, get over that you brought it up, or even walk away from the friendship if they are freaked out.
For the friend who just wants to stay friends – be sensitive that your friend thinks the world of you and is probably extremely nervous to bring up this topic and put themselves out there. Regardless of how you feel, try to communicate it gently and honestly. That is not to say give them false hope. If you need to reject the idea of being more than friends, do so clearly because leading them on is in no one’s best interest. If you had never thought about the idea and have no clue how to feel, it is totally fine to say that. It is also common to want to avoid the idea altogether because you think the friendship is worth more to you than a relationship ever will be. With divorce rates where they are, I always tell my friends “a boo is temporary, I am forever – prioritize us accordingly.” At any rate, it does not have to be completely awkward if you just want to stay friends. At the end of the day, they will appreciate not losing you altogether more than being turned down in the short term. With time, a good friendship can survive one awkward question that is important to a friend.
- Start out dating or in a relationship, it ends, and you want to remain friends.
Another popular and even trickier scenario is having dated and attempting to maintain a friendship afterwards. H-o-n-e-y….been there, done that, but let me give a fair assessment of this. I think being platonic friends with someone you dated is possible, but that it almost always requires a clean break from the person to make sure you don’t get into an on-and-off or hurtful relationship pattern. Most people cannot date someone for years, have them be their everything, have the relationship abruptly end, and then be good, platonic friends the next day. In my first relationship (which was a year in length), I waited a brutal additional year and didn’t contact my ex at all to make sure my romantic feelings for him were over. We later had a rocky start to a friendship (because I still wanted him to feel some guilt about the breakup), but it evened out into years of being great platonic friends. We never overstepped our boundaries, even though it was a little awkward figuring out how to act the first times we hung out. Of course, five years of platonic friendship later, he would tell me his new boyfriend didn’t like us having lunch twice a year, and I would later block him from my life, but I digress. If you have a strong bond with someone you dated, and depending on how mutual or forgivable the circumstances of the breakup was, I think friendship can be accomplished so long as both parties want it, the romantic feelings have faded, communication is strong, and boundaries are respected. It’s a beautiful thing not to be enemies with your ex.
That said, I think it is important to recognize the many times it will not be possible to remain friends with an ex, and accept it. Many guys I have casually dated or even hooked up with once were not able to maintain friendships with me. Either the intimate feelings never went away or one or the other could not respect the boundaries of friendship. It is very tricky, and cannot work unless both parties are on the same page. Beware the common “I seriously just want to be your friend” ploy to get back in your life and back into a relationship. I am not friends and do not speak to the vast majority of the guys I have dated, if those statistics help.
- Can’t tell if he wants to be friends or more.
So what about the scenario where you haven’t dated, aren’t really close friends, but one of you is wondering what lane you are traveling in. I would say this scenario is ideal, because the stakes are low. You are not dealing with the potential of losing a best friend, nor are you dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of friendship with an ex. I would feel the situation out and give it some time. No one is well served by asking “is Ciara Promise agreeable for the first dance at our wedding?” the first time they meet someone (except me, of course – I hope my friends are reading this). Remain aware of all of the clues of the relationship. Did you meet on a romantic app? Did their profile already state their intentions (i.e. met on Tinder but the profile said only open to friends)? Is the person giving you any romantic cues or are you building a story in your mind? This would be a great time to tell a third party friend everything that has happened so they can help you decipher whether or not it is more than a friendship. Ultimately, don’t wait too long before asking “hey – what are we by the way?” …because it is no fun for one person to think a situation is totally different than what it is for the other person. Also, to the other person, don’t react like an asshole when you are asked that question. I think a lot of potentially great platonic gay friendships are lost because one person wants to be friends and the other doesn’t – but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is perfectly fine to say you are flattered, but would much rather have a lifelong gay friend than another 2 week relationship. Dick is abundant, friends are not.