THE BLOG

Gay/Straight Friendship: Is It Possible?

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

QUESTION

Do you think a friendship can really exist between a straight woman and a lesbian? I want to believe so, but I am finding that maintaining one is difficult. I am a 48-year old gay woman who has a 27-year old straight friend. We met at work about two years ago. Although there is a large age difference between us, Chelsea and I seemed to have a lot in common. She also told me that most of her friends and boyfriends have been older.

The gay/straight thing has caused a bit of a conflict during the course of our friendship. I will admit I have had feelings of jealously regarding her boyfriends but Chelsea never really wanted to talk about it. She would just hang up the phone on me if she didn't like my comments or advice. I treated Chelsea as if she was my girlfriend, paid for dinner, plays, etc. and she liked it.

Recently our friendship has fallen off. An everyday phone call has now become once in a while. She doesn't return my emails for days, if at all, and it seems as if I have to do the asking if I want to see her. Chelsea never asks me to do anything and she has stated she is just too busy with work and her social life in the Hamptons.

What I thought was a solid dynamic friendship is now looking like crap. I truly feel I should just let Chelsea go and if she contacts me in the future, maybe I will respond or maybe not?? I am very hurt and depressed because I do not know what happened or what I did wrong.

Thoughts??? Thank you for your help.

Sandy

ANSWER

Dear Sandy,

You are really asking a broader question: Regardless of gender, can a gay person and a straight person sustain a friendship? The answer: Yes, absolutely yes. Differences in sexual orientation don't necessarily negate the possibility of a close friendship.

There may be a variety of reasons why your friendship with Chelsea isn't working. I can only speculate; you sound somewhat confused but you may have more insight than you think. Could it be that you have less in common than you first thought? Could the age difference be more meaningful than it first appeared to be? Could Chelsea be feeling cautious about mixing work and friendship?

Or - -is it legitimate for Chelsea to feel that you want more than a friendship from her, especially when you were jealous of her boyfriends and treated her like a "girlfriend" rather than a friend? Every friendship depends on two people establishing boundaries that are mutually comfortable. Perhaps, you inadvertently made Chelsea uncomfortable and she's not sure how to end the friendship.

Be upfront with her and ask her if she's uncomfortable with your relationship for any reason. If so, see if it is something that can be discussed and resolved. If not, you will simply need to let go -- but you should feel better knowing that you tried to straighten things out. In the future, you may need to be more honest with yourself and with other women about whether your own feelings with a straight friend are platonic or something more.

Hope this is helpful.

Best,
Irene

Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and her book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Breakup With Your Best Friend, will be published by Overlook Press in September, 2009. She recently co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008). She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog.