This is part two of Romancing a Friend. If you haven't read part one go to here. I wanted to share Meredith's story of exploring passionate language/love in friendships regardless of gender. The title is intentionally provocative.
The pathway for deep friendship is a conscious and intentional choice to desexualize passion and intimacy in platonic relationships. So many Christians today identify passionate language and love as something exclusive to romance and marriage because that's the modern romantic narrative.
Desexualizing is a deliberate and conscious choice to not let intense romantic intimacy sexualize all passionate language, longings, and desires. The way to do that is through an intentional opening up to passion in friendship with appropriate respect toward the other and their context. You too, no matter what your background is can open up to passion in friendship when it is appropriate and healthy to do so.
I loved Meredith's openness to express her value of embodied love and affection.
Romancing a friend is not some sort of thin veneer for a sexualized relationship or romantic couple trajectory. It is reclaiming the beauty of passion in friendship which so many Christian men and women have lost in the larger narrative of romantic ideology.
It would be no surprise to anyone who has read Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions that I long to see deep friendship to flourish (regardless of gender). Among certain friends, I myself have expressed passionate friendship love in letters, emails, texts, prayers with and for (including cross-gender friends) under Meredith's own common sense approach.
Here is Meredith's second post.
I started with my female friend--she’s my gender, and not married. Simpler and less intimidating that way. I began by reminiscing about how we met and how it made me feel. It was just an email. Nothing fancy. No perfume-scented stationery.
“I think of myself as being a Jonathan to your David. I saw you literally across a crowded room, and while it may not have been love at first sight, it was definitely longing at...second sight? :-) It was something that had never happened to me before--not with a guy, not with a female friend. It was unique. And then when we actually became friends, it was this scary, intense feeling of falling hard and fast into a friendship love that I didn't know even existed. I had this sense of wonder that someone so amazing would want to be my friend.”
I went on to tell her all the things I loved most about her--how beautiful she is, how I love her creativity, how wonderful it is to have a friend who never judges and is not shockable. Once I got started, it was easy to focus on all the great things about her.
Her response? “You have made my night--my year, my life. I will treasure this letter forever--I think the only gift greater is your friendship itself!”
Since then, we have both become very comfortable using passionate language with each other. One day, I even texted her line by line Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How Do I Love Thee” because she was having a bad day and needed someone to romance her. We love each other extravagantly, passionately, romantically.
My next effort was with my male friend. Trickier because of the problem of the language being sexualized. But as I said before, we have built up trust and intimacy over the years, and I knew he would receive my attempt in the spirit in which it was intended.
His birthday was coming up, and some time ago, he had commented that he honestly had no idea why I wanted to be his friend or why people (specifically me in this context) liked him. So I decided for his birthday, I’d give him a list of what I love about him.
A very small sampling of a large list:
“The mischievous gleam in your eyes right before you make an atrocious joke.”
“You're not stingy when it comes to praising your friends or supporting them. You've got this huge generous streak through you.”
“I feel respected and valued by you, and loved very much.”
His response? “Awwww, your email has to be the nicest birthday present I've ever
gotten. Or close to it. THANK YOU!”
Will I sometime try to use more passionate language with him? Perhaps. On occasion I have a little bit. But I don’t think a love letter has to be flowery to be meaningful. Just a list of reasons why “I love you” can make a person’s day, week, or whole year. In a world long on criticism and short on praise, such a list even simply-phrased is extravagance in itself.
So how do you start? Try this:
1) Think of a single emotion you have for your friend. Most of my closest friends live far away from me, so an emotion I often feel for them is longing.
2) Write down your emotion in a straightforward statement. “I long to be with you.”
3) Fill in the details. Why do you feel this emotion? What memories does it bring up? When do you feel this emotion--what triggers it? How is it connected to why you love your friend? Just start writing--even if it doesn’t feel elegant or seem romantic. Just be honest. Don’t pull punches, don’t hold back. Don’t second-guess yourself.
“Email and Skype are great. But there’s something about being with you in person. I love walking on the beach with you, talking and dodging the incoming tide. There’s something almost magical about it--our conversation flows so freely, nothing is awkward or tense. We share deep things, deep feelings, deep thoughts, and I can see your face. I don’t have to guess or imagine--you’re right there.”
Take a bit more risk, if you can:
“One of the things I love most about being with you in person is getting to hug you. Right now, my life being the way it is, most days the only person who touches me is my husband and a few quick hugs and a peck on the cheek from my adolescent daughters. Those are precious, precious touches. But I need to be touched by my friends too. I need to be held by you, and I need to hold you. Often, I wish that our culture was different so that if we just sat together for a half an hour holding each other, no one would judge, no one would think anything wrong. But as it is, I treasure every hug we share. You make me feel safe, cherished, respected, loved.”
4) Don’t talk yourself out of it. Edit, sure. If you wrote something you really think will be received badly, maybe tone it down. But don’t back away from taking a risk. You’ve gotten this far--don’t let your confidence get shaken now.
5) Send it. Email, hand-written, text message, IM--whatever you prefer. Just do it. No one ever lay on their death bed and regretted showing too much love.
In the comments section, if you decide to send a friend a love letter, tell us how it went. What was the experience like? What was the response? What did you learn about yourself or about your friendship? We want to know.
Good luck--and much love.