Anyone remember the dining room scene from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”? A bowl of food is put in front of the Beast, and in typical beastly fashion, he just digs in like an animal. Then, Belle tries to demonstrate how to eat properly. The Beast attempts to mimic her and ends up just making it worse.
That’s how I felt when I first started trying to interact with women. It’s not like I had been in a cave all my life or had ignored women altogether, I just didn’t get friendly with them. In fact, oddly enough, I found them threatening.
I don’t know what it was. Even to this day, that whole mindset perplexes me. Whatever it was, I just did not get along with women well. I was drawn, even in non-sexual platonic ways, to men. Now, I have plenty of friends of both genders, with more close female friends than male, which is a good balance. It didn’t happen easily, though.
How Much Does She Need to Know?
When I first started to try and be friends with women, I felt a little like the Beast– clumsy, sloppy, completely out of control, and embarrassing to be around. I’m sure part of it had to do with the shame of the struggle I faced. Another part of it was the emotion. The stereotype is that women are just so emotional, they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Not this woman, just every other woman on the face of the planet (or so it felt).
As I’ve said before, pornography can warp our understanding of what women are. When we indulge in pornography, we are, albeit not intentionally, buying the lie that women are sex objects. So, of course, it is going to be difficult for us to build friendships with women! We don’t even see them as people, just bodies. Well, when those bodies want to go out and grab a cup of coffee, what on earth are we supposed to do?
One of the biggest questions I always asked myself was how much should I share?
Is it part of the Code of Womanhood to have some all-nighter where we blurt out our deepest darkest secrets and sob uncontrollably while downing chocolate and blowing through Kleenexes? If that’s the requirement, then no thank you, I will be happy to stick with the guys.
Well, no, that’s not the requirement. There is no Code of Womanhood that mandates you play Truth or Dare with a room of complete strangers. There is nowhere that you have to fess up to everything in order to go out for coffee or lunch. You do not have to don a nametag that reads: “Hi, my name is Susie and I’m a porn addict.”
Finding the Balance
There is a balance, but that’s the thing, we don’t balance well.
At least, I didn’t balance well. It was all or nothing. I would either blurt out everything and then leave, embarrassed by my own confession, or I would judge others for their weaknesses, tricking myself into believing I somehow had it all together.
Without being careful, we run the risk of becoming emotionally codependent on women, or despising them altogether. I’ve fallen off both sides of that cliff. Here’s something you need to understand, and it will help you:
You don’t have to tell her.
Do I encourage women to tell someone? Yes. That does not mean you have to tell everyone. Obviously, I don’t technically have that luxury, but even doing what I do, there are some women I will openly discuss this with and other women who find out via second-hand sources. If she is offended by the fact that you didn’t tell her, she needs to get over herself.
If you do decide that you want to tell someone, or its something that comes up in conversation somehow, or even if you’re getting ready to tell an accountability partner, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. It is OK if she’s shocked.
This is not something we talk about as women. We don’t talk about porn; we don’t talk about masturbation; we don’t talk about lust; we don’t talk about sex. We talk about cute boys and crushes and wedding dresses (well, at least all the other women do).
When you decide to own up to this struggle, be prepared for her not to know exactly what to say. Remember, we aren’t talking about it, so of course she’ not going to know how to respond. Her brain is going to be flipping through the choices for ‘proper’ responses: “Please?” “I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “Bless you?” “Thank you?” When she can’t find a ‘proper response’ (because there isn’t one), be prepared for those words that hurt: “Why?” “WHAT!?” “Ewww.” “Really!?” “Oh.” “Ummm…”
Know that she isn’t saying them to hurt you. It’s part of her processing. Two seconds ago, she had never heard of it, and now she is staring into the eyes of someone who lived it. You have essentially flipped her world on its head. If she isn’t shocked, it’s probably because she’s met someone before you or she is someone just like you.
2. For Heaven’s sake, don’t tell her everything, as in everything.
Boundaries and balancing- two things many female addicts don’t seem to be good at. She’s recovered from her initial world-flipping shell-shock. You, in your relieved exuberance, decide now is the perfect time to tell her exactly which kind of porn you watch, or how exactly you masturbate, or you recount some erotica you just finished. Stop that. In all seriousness and love, zip it.
There is a fine line here between honesty and glorifying sin. I’m not advocating that you lie to her, but no woman worth telling (save perhaps a therapist) is going to ask for nitty gritty details. When you start going shock jock on her, all you are doing is hurting her and, in a way, making yourself feel better by making light of what you do.
3. Don’t keep bringing it up.
I was going to say your life doesn’t revolve around this, but for some of you, it actually might. If that’s the case, do please find an accountability partner who can help you focus on Christ. As for your friends, remember, she has a life full of pains, heartaches and joys. While this struggle may be the biggest thing in your life right now, it is not the biggest thing in hers.
Are you going to screw up? Yep. Are there going to be awkward moments? Most definitely. Will you lose potential friends who can’t seem to get over the shock? Possibly, but understand something:
It is far better to be genuine with a few friends than to be superficial with many friends.
This journey of freedom is a journey of restoring us to who we were created to be– women. There is no better way to know what that should look like than to walk that road with a few good women.