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Dear Therapist: I Have A Friend I Love, But He’s Trying to Date a Woman

Creator:
Published:
May 14, 2024
May 6, 2024
Read this advice for one man with a friend wanting to enter into a mixed orientation marriage. The man expresses his romantic feelings and concerns for his friend and receives an expert opinion.

Dear therapist,

Over the past four years, I have been in an emotionally intimate friendship with a man — let’s call him James. James and I are both practicing Catholics and both gay men. Which isn’t an easy thing! While our relationship has always remained platonic, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I pined for James from the get go. We have different approaches towards living as gay Catholics. I’d be open to a committed relationship with another man, he would not. I’ve had to make peace with the fact that, despite it being one of my most intense and intimate emotional relationships, it will never be more than a friendship.

Now comes the real problem. James recently shared with me that he was looking at entering into a relationship with a woman. He desperately wants a family and to be “normal,” and believes he can “make this work.” He has shared with this woman that he is gay, but she is still apparently open to being in a relationship with him.

I was gutted when he told me this. There’s a range of emotions behind it — jealousy, anger, loss, fear — but also I’m just really sad for James. There’s a part of me that says, “Can’t you see that I love you! That I’m right here and ready for a relationship with you!” — but I’m also worried that he’s going to be disappointed if it doesn’t work out.

I’ve told him I’m worried about it and that I’m here for him, but is there anything more to do? Do I tell James how much I care about him? Or that I think this is a sad and destructive idea? We may have different opinions on how to live our life as good, gay Catholics, but I don’t think forcing yourself into a marriage is what anyone in the Church would want. I also worry about this woman – what sort of life is this for her? Do I say anything to her?

— Hopeless in Friendship

Dear Hopeless in Friendship,

First off, I admire your dedication to cultivating such a beautiful and intimate friendship, even when it’s difficult to navigate!

What you’ve been going through since James’ news about his relationship with a woman is so painful. It makes sense that you feel jealousy, anger, loss, fear, and so much more. I hear you trying to hold space for James’ desire to pursue this relationship, while holding understandable concern for him and pain on your own behalf.

You asked whether you should tell James about your romantic feelings for him. I can certainly understand your longing to do this. At the same time, because he has shared that he is not open to a committed relationship with a man, I fear you sharing this could be seen as an effort to undermine his values. Doing so could also risk severing your friendship, especially if he does end up marrying this woman. Further, it might actually make your expressed concerns for his relationship harder for him to take seriously, insofar as he can “blame” them on your feelings for him. 

It is one of the harder things in life to recognize the limits of what we can do for our friends when they are making decisions we wouldn’t make. It’s even harder when you know on a deeply personal level that forcing oneself to marry heterosexually is not a set up for a happy marriage. While mixed orientation marriages are more successful when the straight partner knows about their partner’s sexual orientation before engagement, it is concerning if a person sees the marriage as an access point to “normalcy,” rather than as a relationship to pursue for its own sake. I can also understand your concern for the woman James is pursuing, as the spouses in mixed orientation marriages do face challenges of their own. That being said, rather than raising your concerns with this woman, I would focus on building and maintaining your friendship with both of them, if possible. Then, as they discern the possibility of marriage, you can be a resource to them and can help them thoughtfully consider the benefits and challenges within that path.

Ultimately, my hope is that you can be gentle with yourself in the heartbreak you're feeling and confide in people who can validate and support you, so you aren’t left to carry the pain of this alone.

— Dr. Julia Sadusky, LCP

Creators:
Grotto, Julia Sadusky
Published:
May 14, 2024
May 6, 2024
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