I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Friendship (Part 2 of 2)

In reviewing my life, which I do occasionally, friendship has always been a large factor. What I didn't get was that I was the good friend. I pursued relationships, reached out to others, and they responded, but I don't think of them as my true friends, let alone best friends.

That's not to speak against them—but to face the fact that I wasn't able to accept others or open myself to them. When a significant piece of our lives remains hidden from us, as mine was, we don't know how to receive such relationships. Even more, we didn't know how to recognize such relationships.

I reached out for something I didn't have and didn't know how to receive. Maybe that's why I surrounded myself with people—and I did that a lot. One thing I did realize, even during my teens, was that when I had a serious crisis in my life, I had no one to tell or ask.

I lived with that paradox: I had many friends, but I had no true, deep friendship. When I was still in high school, I read Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Alone" and memorized the first lines.

They read this way:
From childhood's hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.
Why did that poem stay with me and touch me so deeply? I know the answer now. But it was an enigma then. And part of my tortured life was the secret I had told no one until I was 51 years old.

Like many other men, my sexual assault kept me isolated and unavailable.

These days I have a best friend and several good friends. I'm open to widening the circle.


Andrew Schmutzer said...

Friendship, what an important (and complex!) discussion for survivors. Approaching 50, I'm just starting to roll back my history of 'alone-ness.' Reaching out and forms of emotional intimacy have historically been terror-making for me. If average men live and die in relative loneliness, it's epidemic for survivors. So I'm very thankful for 2-3 friends I presently have who are moving into the realm of soul-enriching friendships. I now see that it's easier to put relationships in 'boxes' that are predictable--now I know that deep friendships rightly reach beyond comfortable categories (e.g., marriage, co-worker, etc.), into areas of life and living survivors can't manage. There's the hurdle! What a great friend, indeed, who would commit to love an emotional-leper.

Dan said...

well said Andrew!
I think I have some good friends, but if/ or when I tell them....will they be able to handle it, or walk with me as I/ we process it.