You Need Help: I Miss the Social Intimacy of Church

feature image photo by Luis Alvarez via Getty Images


Lately, I’ve been really missing the intimacy and consistency of church. I have one very close friend whom I see pretty often. But other than them, my social circle feels pretty shallow as far as closeness goes. It’s been hard to feel constantly rejected but then again I don’t wanna be resentful as I also get being busy and tired in this v draining world! I feel hurt though and I don’t know how to tend that feeling. I don’t have the time or money to start a hobby group/regular outing. And the issue is more with the friends that I do have, rather than a lack of ’em. All of my friends from v different places, and bc of code switching (btwn queer, poc, cishet white) + social anxiety, I’m not super comfy at the thought of chilling w all my friends at once (also I live semicloseted w homophobic fam so finding a space is an issue, esp wintertimes).

It also feels like such an isolating issue, bc I don’t wanna talk about it in a way that feels like pressuring/guilting my friends to chat/hang out more! I don’t really feel comfortable in spiritual places so that’s not it. I’m just nostalgic for a social infrastructure for deep friendships, where you can just hang out low pressure (/no planning!!!) several times a week and say I love you brother/sister/sibling knowing that you are loved back. I’m neurodivergent (bpd) and miss the established social protocols! And I’m very very slow to trust/thaw (literally YEARS) around new people (side effect/overcompensation of psychiatric treatment for borderline I think).

How can I build meaningful and lasting friendships? How can I open up to people more quickly but still gradually enough to be healthy and natural? And how do I avoid veering into resentment when I feel like my local queer community is flaky af?

Thank you!!


I really see myself in what you shared with us and all the questions you’re asking. I, too, come from a religious and spiritual background that I was actually extremely invested in. Overtime, I grew to let go of that label and embrace more of a holistic spiritual practice. Similar to you, the whole reason I held on to spiritual communities so tightly is to ensure a safety net of those deep familial friendships. For me, it’s all about the community, and it sounds like you might feel the same way. We aren’t alone in this feeling, so why is it so hard to find? And why does it take so much time and effort to replicate that same sort of community in a non-spiritual space? I’ve been asking myself that for years.

I’ve moved all over the United States (and world), and I’ve put in countless hours to create spaces like this. When it comes to queer community, especially queer POC community, it always starts off promising, but it never gets to an intimate level. I often feel like I can’t ever find a cross-section of all the things I’m looking for. There’s no world in which I could bring all my friends together in one place for the same reason — it would involve too much code switching and weird social dynamics. Even if you wanted to bring all your friends together, it sounds like it wouldn’t be the most ideal with your living situation. In addition, you’re neurodivergent which adds a whole layer of complications I understand because I have bipolar II. Before I found the right medication cocktail and strict lifestyle regimen, it was really hard for me to plan or engage in anything social.

I’m gonna be honest and tell you I don’t have all the answers for you. I’ve been searching for them myself. I have a few ride-or-dies, but they all live states away from me, and it’s not like they could just come over and doom scroll alongside me for hours; an effortless type of friendship that requires no limits, no masking, no social energy. However, we both know that doesn’t just happen. Over my many years of moving around and making new friends from scratch, I’ve taken on the mentality that I must meet the universe halfway. If you put yourself out there and — for lack of a better word — force friendship to happen, intimacy will grow. That’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s not necessarily guaranteed to work. At the end of the day, it’s almost like a game of numbers. We date around to find a soulmate (if you’re monogamous), and eventually one sticks. Finding those really deep friendships are the same. Most of them aren’t going to be super ride-or-die solid. If you’ve been friends with someone for a while, and the intimacy isn’t there, I honestly think that it just means they’re a different level of friends. The ones we’re talking about are special people. It’s not to say that you don’t need or want other friends, but there are certain friendships that are almost magical.

Knowing where each of your friends stand can lead to a slippery slope of — as you put it — “veering into resentment.” When people don’t show up the way you want them to, it feels personally hurtful and then adds more weight to the hopelessness you’re already working through. Maybe this isn’t great to say, but I’ve built up a lot of resentment over my own flaky AF friends. I’ve also been the flaky AF friend. On my better days, when I don’t feel like holding a grudge and being petty, the way I avoid cultivating resentment is by remembering all the times I didn’t show up for people (I was extremely depressed). I know what it’s like to choose not to do something with a friend because the idea of leaving the house feels impossible. It has nothing to do with the friend who asked me. So, when I’m the friend getting ditched, I try to think about the bigger picture of what might be happening in their lives, and sometimes I even send a text like “hey I know things are really hard for you right now…if you want I can drop food off or we can literally doom scroll in each other’s company and not say a word to each other.” Taking all expectations out of social engagements sometimes helps.

For me, it’s just helpful to categorize my friends into tiers of “closeness” and know who I can go to for what. A YouTuber I used to follow once said her rule of thumb is to only publicly share 10% of what’s going on in her life. When I’m out meeting new people, I like to play by that rule in terms of emotions and trauma dumping. I won’t bring my trauma or concerns or sadness into a new friendship, but rather, share more relevant feelings, like the loneliness that exists in our world in 2023. It’s only 10% of all the big feelings I’m feeling in that particular moment. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve gone up to people and said “hey I just moved here, and I’m looking friends. How do you make friends in this city?” Or even “Are you looking for friends?” It sounds creepy, and sometimes it comes off that way, but I often just try and engage with people in a very real way. Most people in their adulthood who don’t have a family or a spouse are also struggling with making friends.

I’ve assumed you’ve looked through your local groups like book clubs, meetups, Facebook groups, or even local bar events. The key to all of these is not necessarily what it is but the consistency in which you show up. Overtime, intimacy will build just by seeing the same faces on a regular basis. I might be going out on a limb here, but have you reconsidered what joining a spiritual space could look like? I don’t say that to trigger you, but it’s something I’m currently considering myself as an ex-religious person. Spirituality can look different for everyone, and I’ve often found that even going to places like a social justice group within a Unitarian church or a yoga class or even a pole dancing class regularly helps build that sense of community. I’ve found a similar sense of companionship by redirecting my energy into something that feels like it’s productive in more than one area of life.

I wish there was an app for this specific issue, but it’s really about compatibility and timing. A lot of it isn’t in our control, and we can only put so much energy into what we can control. I’m sorry if this wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but know that you are not alone in feeling this way.

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Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 71 articles for us.


  1. I love this! LW, I have ADHD and I second the advice to join an existing regular class/meetup. My weekly community choir rehearsals are my “church” – I’ve been going for ten years and I’ve developed a solid group of choir friends. The secret for me was to start helping out with little jobs like making the coffee. Having a task gave me confidence, structure and a reason to talk to people, and overall made me feel more like an “insider”. There’s always something that needs doing and everyone loves a helpful person! It’s like a cheat code to finding community.

  2. I want to thank both the letter writer and the Em Win for the complexity and honesty and overall vulnerability.

    Many facets of this resonated deeply for me. I didn’t have close friends in church, but I did feel a sense of community, warmth, and how family was supposed to be.

    The reason why I could only get so close was mainly because of me – even though some were homosexual and/or accepting. Overall, I felt an implied we must strive to be perfect. I didn’t feel comfortable showing any difference let alone imperfection.

    This is especially true because I live with a family that’s intolerant of almost anything. Maybe some in my family are open minded, but I don’t live or have to interact with them regularly.

    Oddly enough the most religious members of my family were more loving of people in general. While the worse ones weren’t believers at all. Church was more a social thing. While they didn’t go to church often, I didn’t want my worlds to collide with some friendly church goer inadvertently revealing anything. Hence, I kept some distance.

    I wonder if any of your associates are going through something similar and that’s why they will only be so deep a friend with you.

  3. I totally agree with Em Win, and I am trying desperately to not repeat what was said… because I really want to say the same exact things, but know I shouldn’t.

    Hence, I will add getting involved with online communities using an (I don’t know why I want to say a rather than an) username that is not easily identifiable as you.

    Getting involved somewhat anonymously will allow you to feel more free to express your feelings. I am sure you can find topics of discussion here, tiktok, reddit, etc. While you may not be able to hang out as you would in person, you can enjoy quicker, easier emotionally intimacy without the coordination of schedules and such.

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