Value - And Work to Keep - Your Closest Friendships
I don’t believe anyone would disagree with one of our most beloved gay icons, Bette Midler, who sang, "you gotta have friends" in her 1972 debut album, "The Divine Ms M." That line continues to ring true for many of us in the LGBT community who may have found ourselves alone and afraid in a less than supportive world at one time or another.
Gay men and lesbians have felt tremendous adversity because the larger culture has challenged us on our "lifestyle choice" or demeaned us for it. So we especially understand how important it is to create a circle of loving and supportive friends through difficult times. My own gay and lesbian friends have described to me how they have created their own "families" from friends when their own family of origin distanced itself or outright rejected them.
I know I’m continually grateful for the good friends in my life who have stood by me in both good times and bad. Friends have stood as best man at my commitment ceremony. They’ve volunteered to be interviewed for a forthcoming book. And, yes, they have even tried to act as my matchmaker.
That said, it’s important not to lose a close friend by not following certain rules of decorum. A 2012 Huffington Post blog "The Five Laws of Gay Friendship" mentions "being tactful, sincere, and building good karma," and most importantly, to "get your own man and not to go after your friend’s new boyfriend."
Keeping in mind that one has to work on friendships and be mindful of etiquette, I can’t stress enough how vital it is that, if you ever find yourself in a serious argument with a friend, you resolve that dispute as quickly as possible lest you lose that friendship forever.
Unlike marriages or other committed relationship, where children, legalities and lots of other things actually force the partners to confront each other, a friendship doesn’t have any formal ties to protect it, only emotional ones.
When those emotional boundaries are disrupted, angry words can result in all communication breaking down, never to be restored. As a result, you have lost that friendship, which you will come to regret in time. I know I have.
I once had a wonderful friend who was not only there for me to talk to every morning but was also an amazing cook who would invite me over for delicious meals and companionship. She even went so far as to rescue my beloved Winston from the dog pound when he got loose from an irresponsible dog sitter. Not realizing that her feelings for me may have been more than friendship, I said the wrong thing to her one day. The resulting hurt feelings abruptly ended that friendship, one I miss even to this day.
So if you ever find yourself in a disagreement with a good friend, take the high road and try to resolve the dispute chop-chop, even if you feel you may be compromising yourself. "Losing face" or feeling that your friend was unfair is a small prices to pay in return for keeping the friendship. For in times of need, when the love of good friends becomes invaluable, you’ll be grateful you kept the friendship going.
In the words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, "I get by with a little help from my friends." So, never forsake yours.
Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.