After a week on Fire Island in the Fire Island Pines with my NYC queer family, I’m thinking about the importance of queer friendship — especially for gay men.

I just got back from a week on Fire Island in New York with my New York City chosen queer family and it was freaking amazing.

On this site, we talk a lot about relationships. That’s usually shorthand for romantic and sexual relationship. But also, there’s more to relationships than just sex and romance and I think friendships are an important part of every person’s life.

This is especially true for queer men. So I want to talk about the importance of friendships, for queer folks, and how that will support your dating life.

Whatever your relationship status or relationship configuration is—single, dating, married, polyamorous, monogamous open, or something else entirely—friendships are crucial. Here’s why.

Friendships are important in and of themselves.

There’s more to life than finding and keeping a romantic relationship. Humans crave connections, we’re social animals, and we’re sort of built to have a web of relationships.

Expecting one person to fulfill all of your needs is just unrealistic.

It’s also unnatural. Friendships really are like what make life worth living. And it’s so important for you to have people in your life that you can show up to that you can bring your whole authentic selves to, that you can be vulnerable with, like life is hard.

You shouldn’t have to go it alone, you need people that you can share your hopes, your dreams, your insecurities, that will see you and love you, and support you, and respect you. Friendships sort of provide the foundation of our life, our whole life. They’re important, regardless of whether or not they’re helpful to a romantic or a sexual relationship (and I think they are).

Your friendships can help you find a romantic partner

Your friendships are a place to practice loving and supporting people and receiving love and support. There’s a myth of the rugged American individual: pull yourself up by your bootstraps, do everything yourself. But it’s just that: a myth. That’s not how it really works.

You’re going to need to learn how to be there for people, and sometimes that’s uncomfortable. Sometimes that takes practice, that takes work.

Friendships expand your social network

They might provide more opportunities for you to meet folks that might be a good romantic or sexual partner. They can introduce you to dates, whether those are blind dates, or ones that come organically after meeting through your mutual friends.

Friendships are another way to meet folks with whom you might have a relationship. While we’ve talked before about how Grindr and other hookup and dating apps can be really useful for folks (I’ met both of my boyfriend’s on online dating), they aren’t the only way to meet guys, even in this day and age.

Your in-real-life connections can support and supplement your online dating adventures

You’ll have more options for folks to date if you have solid friends. If you pick good friends, they are likely going to have good friends themselves So long as you keep good people around you, those are also good romantic partners for you.

Your friendships act as bit of social proof

You want to date someone who’s a good person, and your potential dates, or boyfriends can look to your friendships to say, “Oh yeah, this person has good people around him, I can trust that hey will take care of me well, because I can see how he takes care of his friends well.”

Friendships are also going to support your relationship once you’re in a relationship (or if you’re already in a relationship, or have multiple relationships). Relationships take work. Sometimes there’s difficulty, sometimes there’s conflict, and your friendships are going to be there for you and help you weather and get through those tough times.

Your friendships enhance, rather than compete with, your romantic relationship.

I know that for me, my friends have served as cheerleaders from my relationships, like they want to see me happy. And so when I’m in a relationship they’re of course supporting me as a person, but also supporting this relationship. They’re also going to support you in those tough times that you’re going to be a shoulder to cry on. They’re going to be someone to get excited and geek out with. They’re going to listen to you ramble on and on and on about your amazing date.

They’re there to support you and cheerlead for you.

Remember: it’s just not possible for one person to support and meet all of your needs So when you start dating someone, make sure that you don’t ditch your friend group.

I see that happens way too often. And that puts way too much pressure on this romantic relationship. And it’s not good for yourself.

Humans create this sort of network of connections. And so putting all of your attention only on one person is going to put unnecessary and unhelpful stress on that relationship.

I am so, so, so, so thankful for the friends that I have, many of whom are sort of like in real life friends that I get to see on a day to day basis. Others are friends that I met in real life, but who are now scattered across the country and around the world. And we connect and spend touch via text messaging and Skype calls and Google Hangouts and seeing each other when we can. I even have a few friends that I’ve only ever known virtually, and those are important, too.

Having this mix of friends has been so amazing.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took me a long time to figure out how to find friends, how to be a good friend, how to keep friends, to figure out what was important to me, and my friend relationships. So if you don’t have a friend group right now, that’s okay. I have been there too. It does take some work. Commit to the process.

Finding and keeping friends is kind of like dating, right? You’re going to meet people and they’re not always going to be a good fit for you, your personality or your interests, your values. And so keep looking. There are people out there who are right fit for you. Find those friends with, you can have a soul connection with because they are the stuff of life. I wouldn’t trade my friends for anything in the whole world.