In a relationship, need friends.
November 20, 2008 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a long-term relationship and I hardly have any friends. How do I get some?

I'm a mid-30s gay man. My relationship with my partner has a big problem: he has close to zero sex drive. I elaborated in this previous post, in which I slightly changed some numerical data (age, time frames) out of fear of discovery. The short version: we rarely have sex -- the last time was over the July 4th weekend, and before that it had been 2 1/2 years. We have an open relationship -- he doesn't mind if I play around, as long as he doesn't have to know about it. So I play around. A lot. But I'm not fond of anonymous sex without chemistry. I crave the intimacy that comes with sex, and I can't seem to achieve that intimacy with my partner. We're in couples' counseling, where we talk about sex and intimacy and all that good stuff.

So, I need more social intimacy and connection in my life. I feel like I need to get more friends. Neither my partner nor I have very many friends at all. We're both introverted (he moreso than I; I need more human contact than he does). We rarely socialize with others. On the weekend, he's content to sit all day at his computer or watch TV while I secretly go online and look for people to have sex with, because I feel so bored and lonely and neglected. In our counseling, we've discussed the fact that I feel angry that we never do anything on the weekend. Thing is, if I want us to go out and do something, I should come up with something. But I can never come up with anything. We do a lot of stuff during the week, though. We sing in a chorus together, we go to the theater, we have couples' therapy, I have my own individual therapy. And then Saturday and Sunday arrive and we do nothing. And I *hate* sitting around all weekend doing nothing.

Oddly, I don't mind sitting around and hanging out in gay chat rooms or looking for sex, because that makes me feel like I'm being social. But clearly it's not a "healthy" kind of social because it doesn't lead to real social intimacy.

So, again. I need more social intimacy in my life.

One question is whether we should be looking together for other couples to become friends with, or if I should go and find my own friends. Probably both. The problem with finding my own friends is that I worry that my partner will think I want to have sex with my friends. This is partly projection; I do, in fact, want to have sex with some of my friends. So my sexual desire keeps me from forming friendships; I'm afraid of getting too close to people who are not my partner because I'm afraid there will be sexual tension or that I will want to have sex with them. And if I'm not sexually interested in someone, I don't see the point in being friends with them.

As I type that, it sounds really bizarre. Why do I sexualize the idea of friendship so much? Probably because I'm not getting regular sex in my relationship.

I suppose someone might suggest that I get myself some female friends. But how do gay men actually *find* female friends? I don't want to befriend a woman who's just looking for her fabulous gay male friend. I am not fabulous. I'm not stylish, I can't provide fashion advice, I'm not good at the "you go, girl!" thing. (I probably have some internalized homophobia here.) I know that not every woman who has a gay male friend is a stereotypical "fag hag." So, I want friends who actually like me for who I am. How do I find them?

But also, I'm kind of nervous around women, because I don't totally know how to act around them without feeling like I'm being flirty. (Again -- am I oversexualizing?)

I live in a major U.S. city, by the way, so there are likely tons of options.

I realize there are several interrelated questions here. Feel free to answer any or all of them.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

So wait, based on this and your prior post: you don't have sex with your boyfriend, to whom you are not particularly attracted, for years on end. And evenings are spent with him watching TV and you cruising Craigslist, and you crave intimacy and friendship. Why, anonymous poster who can't answer, are you in this depressing relationship?

Because it sounds like what your looking for is what most people call "a relationship." That is: someone with whom you do things, have fun, share conversation, and have sex. Sounds like you not only need a new boyfriend, but a new counselor.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:51 PM on November 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

But how do gay men actually *find* female friends?

There are a lot of straight, gay-friendly females who volunteer for HIV/AIDS organizations. I think volunteering in general would be a good way to socialize without the expectation of sex. Sure, you'll probably see guys to whom you're attracted, but they're not there to look for sex partners. Plus, volunteering can fill some of that need for intimacy.
posted by desjardins at 3:00 PM on November 20, 2008

I'm all for the idea of someone in a relationship making friends outside of the relationship; I think it's a healthy thing.

But - and I am not a therapist, just an impartial observer -- the problems that you're having in doing this may indeed be coming from the fact that your relationship itself is not satisfactory.

I've actually been in your shoes. I was reluctant to leave someone when our relationshp got celibate for a year, because somehow I thought to do so would be a sign that I was fickle or that I wasn't being devoted or something. But -- my dear, life is too short. Staying with the man I was with for a year only got me more and more wounded -- I didn't realize just how deeply it affected me until after he broke things off with me finally, and I realized that I suddenly felt really, profoundly rejected. I felt unattractive, old, tired, used-up. And it was all because the man that was supposedly my boyfriend wasn't attracted to me, didn't want to have sex with me, wasn't interested in me...I didn't realize how much it had affected me until later.

It strikes me that trying to figure out why making friends is difficult for you when your relationship is off kilter like this would be like someone wondering why the pictures in their house are all hanging crooked, when the foundation of the house is sinking into a tar pit. You do not sound happy in this relationship itself. It's time for something to change -- either he needs to really step up and get himself out of this pit, or you need to realize that you simply are not a match for each other -- and then you may stop seeking in others the intimacy you're missing from your partner, and then that will free you up to make friends easier, because you don't have this extra agenda.

Good luck. Trust me, I know how hard this is, and I know how hard it is to think that maybe you're at your end, but this may be what you need to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:04 PM on November 20, 2008

From your previous post: I'm too afraid to break up and be single.

Oh honey, your emotional needs aren't being met, much less your sexual ones. While being single will be initially painful, it will really give you the time and space to figure out what you want from a relationship and go out and get it. It will also be a chance to meet people without any feelings of guilt hanging over you and perhaps forge some platonic friendships. If you're not willing to break up with the guy, please at least consider seeing a counselor on your own to work on some of your internalized homophobia.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:04 PM on November 20, 2008

Sounds like you need a hobby that gets you out of the house (other than sex). What are you interested in? If you join a running club or a knitting group or a weekend soccer team or anything, really, you will meet people you have something in common with and no one will expect sex out of the event.

Do more of the things you like, and make sure to do them with people, and friendship will happen naturally.

It's ok to find your friends attractive. I bet we all have some hot friends or friends who think we are hot, but since we are all adults, we can make choices about whether to act on those attractions or not. Remember that you have self-control and remind your boyfriend too, if he starts worrying.

As a side note, if you aren't getting emotional intimacy or sex from your boyfriend, what are you getting? Those are the main 2 perks of a relationship, if you ask me. Without them, you have a roommate who might share some financial stuff. I don't really understand why you are staying.
posted by rmless at 3:09 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why do I sexualize the idea of friendship so much? Probably because I'm not getting regular sex in my relationship.

Having a long history of dating , developing crushes, and generally fantasizing about having sex with my friends, I'm solidly in your camp here. For me, this isn't a problem at all -- affection is affection, and for lots of us there's a really fluid line between friends, relationships, and lovers.

On the other hand, if you feel like you're explicitly scoping out friends to make up for something that's missing in your relationship, that's a problem -- partly, because as you say, it makes it hard to connect to people outside of sex (it's also potentially *really* unfair to the people you might meet or hang out with) But why worry about it so much in advance? If you meet someone you like and are attracted to, and it leads to sex -- awesome! If it leads to platonic friendship, that's great too! If you start to feel like you're using them as a substitute for what you want your partner to be / do / say -- well, that's maybe not so good, and maybe you should rethink the relationship.

What attracted you to your partner, oh so many years go? Find people with similar traits, and spend time with them. Make it about the things you do, not the things you want.

The problem with finding my own friends is that I worry that my partner will think I want to have sex with my friends.

If this is the case, it doesn't sound like the "open" part of your relationship is so functional right now.

Seconding M.C. -- my experience is that when the sex falls out of the relationship, what you actually *have* is friendship. Unhappy, tortured friendship, complete with all of the crappy things about a failing relationship. Time to get a new boyfriend.
posted by puckish at 3:22 PM on November 20, 2008

I'm not in a position to comment on your relationship, but it does sound like having some friends that are "yours" rather than "yours and your partners" would make you happier.

As to where to find them - loads of options - your neighbours, people you work with, at your chorus group, possibly via theatre groups, via volunteering, joining a class in something you're interested in...

In general, people become friends with people that they share common interests with, whose company they enjoy, who make them laugh - gender and sexual orientation are irrelevant. I'm a woman, and I have friends of both sexes, and who are both straight and gay. They're people who I enjoy spending time with - their gender and sexuality don't come into it. Yeah, sometimes sexual tension is there as well, but if you value someone's friendship, then you get over it (and it can be fun even though nothing's ever going to happen!). On the female friends thing, what I'm trying to say is that girls don't go looking for a camp gay guy to be friends with just to tick a box - if they meet someone who they like, they'll be their friend. Full stop, end of story. Be who you are. If you're flirty, be flirty - nothing wrong with that! Don't overthink it...
posted by finding.perdita at 3:23 PM on November 20, 2008

I, too, think that the core issue here is that your relationship has become so unsatisfactory that it's affecting all facets of your life. Going through a breakup is inevitably painful, but that pain will eventually recede. By contrast, the pain of staying in a fundamentally unhappy relationship pretty much never gets any better.

That said, I'll address your immediate question of how to meet people. In my experience, volunteering and taking classes have always been pretty foolproof ways to have a great time and meet folks who, by definition, have some shared interests. What about jumping in to some of the anti-prop 8 activities that are going on all over the place? How about your local animal shelters or rescue groups? Take a class in something that strikes your fancy (writing or meditation or cooking or whatever). The point is to get out there, engage your mind and your interests, and find other people who are doing the same. Even one or two activities can help you fill up your weekends pretty quickly.
posted by scody at 3:40 PM on November 20, 2008

Oh, honey. What are you getting out of this relationship? How is he responding to the couples counselling - are you and he implementing the strategies your counsellor suggests or is it situation normal after you leave their office? The latter is not a good sign.

Maybe you're a 'relationship person' - I am, but always (in my experience, without children, a mortgage or other full-on baggage) the comfortableness (ie/ - it's easier to stay than to leave) just isn't fucking worth it. If it's just that, you need to bite the bullet and leave. Be by yourself for a while, enjoying all the anonymous hookups you want until you meet Mr Right (For Now).

Good luck to both of you.
posted by goo at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2008

I've already given you relationship advice here. So I won't go there, I would only add -- this is your life, y'know. No one is going to change it for you. If you want things to be different you have to follow through. If you can't change the situation then you're pretending you don't have control of your own life and that is simply not true. You are choosing to be unhappy, probably because you're afraid. It's called courage - and no one else can give you that, so moving on...

If you want to make friends you need to put yourself in situations in which you encounter people. It sounds like you're doing that. You said that you sing in a chorus - great, ask the person singing next to you to go to the theater with you and your partner. You hang out in gay chat rooms, so ask if someone would like to hang out sometime and suggest an activity and let them know you're interested in a non-sexual friendship. What do you like to do? If you like the movies, suggest a movie you guys could see and get a drink after and talk about the movie. Like hiking? Go for a hike. Craigslist is filled with "activity partner" ads. Reply to one that sounds kinda neat. Don't like to do anything at all ever? Okay, you have to eat, ask if someone would like to try a new restaurant with you or get a burrito together or something. It sounds like you don't really go out that much, totally fine, invite them to hang out at your place and make fun of Project Runway or something. Whatever. There are things you are doing now that you could be doing with other people if you only asked. It just takes a little courage. The worst they're going to say is no.

If you want friends you need to ask to hang out with people in situations other than the ones you encounter them in. No one is going to spend time with you if you don't open your mouth and initiate the contact. Don't go around expecting nice people to find you. That's really just not how it usually works. That's why people come here to Askme with the "how do I make friends" question all the time.

Don't want to meet gay people? Okay, suggest a MeFi meetup in your town. Why not? It's a group of people that have something in common with you. Just do it and show up, talk to people, try to get someone to hang out with you the following week.

You said you think about having sex with some of your friends. So what. I do too. I have some really hot friends. It's not that big of a deal, just don't have sex with them if that's not the kind of relationship you want to have. As for worrying about your partner -- invite your partner to everything you do. Yes, you probably will meet some people that are more 'your friends' rather than his, but so what you should feel like you can hang out with your friends and your partner at any and all times. That's why he's your partner and that's why they're your friends. If you're inviting your partner you shouldn't feel pervy.

And if I'm not sexually interested in someone, I don't see the point in being friends with them.

Then that's probably why you don't have any. Why aren't you friends with people you don't find attractive? That's just dumb and shallow.

You're welcome to mail me. I'm sorry if I sound exasperated here. I'm only trying to spur you into action. You just gotta take control of your life man. Stop walking around going through the motions. Wake up.
posted by Craig at 5:30 PM on November 20, 2008

I endorse everything Craig said, now and before.

And sweetie, you're seeing a therapist and a couples counselor and you're asking us for advice, too? Are you getting conflicting advice, or is it that you just can't do what your advisers suggest? Chill. You sound so nervous (that's not quite the right word) that I wish you could just hang out and relax for awhile.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:45 PM on November 20, 2008

How about partner dancing? Swing dancing is good option, or salsa if latin is more your style. They generally rotate partners during the class, meaning that you'll meet lots of women, and you get a dose of human contact that you aren't currently getting at home.

Once you are able to lead effectively, you can start social dancing. And given that dancing is generally girl heavy, you will have no trouble finding ladies willing to dance with you. If you're in a large enough city, there's probably enough social events to keep you busy one or two nights a week.
posted by kjs4 at 7:57 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I was recently wondering how things had turned out for you, thanks for the followup. I'd recommend you find a way to institutionalize social activity in your life, like a second job or a community college class or something. Once you find a situation where you get your social needs met, the shift in your relationship will be incredible and probably quite interesting. Good luck with the counseling.
posted by salvia at 3:55 AM on November 21, 2008

I'm a female and I have gay (male) friends who would never want to fuck me, but goddamn we have fun and we can talk about just about anything. I met them through theatre and I'm the last person who would be looking for a gay friend to cliche cliche cliche. They are just friends and I love them. It's easy, you just talk to people and find things that you have in common and you make each other laugh. Then you organise to meet them outside of the theatre (or wherever you met). Like, invite them around to dinner and talk, go to movies and talk afterwards, have coffee with them at cafes and talk. Sex is fun but it's not everything.
posted by h00py at 5:38 AM on November 21, 2008


You're not going to be mid-30's forever. Get the fuck out and enjoy life more. The only thing worse than being single is being in a shit relationship that makes you miserable and guilty. Don't stay with someone out of fear of being alone, that's just incredibly self-destructive. I had friends in a similar relationship, neither one would admit it was over, and they both suffered for years. After the break-up they are both a hell of a lot happier - and both are having a lot more sex. A big part of no sex drive is not being attracted to your partner. Dumping this guy will likely be a favor for both of you.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:03 AM on November 21, 2008

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