Dating can be challenging for anyone, but gay men looking for a partner may find themselves facing a unique set of obstacles.
To begin with, men seeking to date other men have a smaller dating pool, as only an estimated 3.6% of American men identify as either gay or bisexual. Some men may be reluctant to make themselves vulnerable by approaching potential dating partners for any number of reasons, but particularly when they aren’t absolutely sure of the other person’s orientation.
Researchers also point out that, as gay men are competing with one another as rivals in the dating process, feelings of doubt and mistrust may characterize the early stages of many relationships and impact them negatively.
Many of the men I see who are over 30 bring the same issue to therapy: There is no one out there to date, so they might as well give up on ever finding a partner. While dating can certainly be discouraging, especially when you feel as if you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, giving up hope only increases the certainty you will fail. If you give up on searching for love, you are limiting your chances to find a partner and develop a relationship.
It is my belief that the way we speak about ourselves and our lives has a significant impact on the life we manifest. If we focus on dark and discouraging thoughts, we may be more likely to notice the challenges and difficult moments in our lives. When we focus on possibility and success, however, we may be more likely to notice the opportunities waiting for us. This can apply to all areas of life, but I believe it has particular importance for those seeking a partner.
When we wait for the perfect partner, for the right chance, to appear on the doorstep, we may find ourselves making any number of excuses to put our lives on hold in the meantime. Through these excuses, we may find ourselves giving up, in the end, and blaming others for our lack of success. Instead of waiting, why not make a commitment to yourself to look at dating itself as an opportunity, one that may lead to new energy in your life?
Getting stuck in a rut can be frustrating, and it can exacerbate mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and can also lead to thoughts of isolation and hopelessness. Discouragement and despair can also result. If you have come to dread dating and feel as if you have no new opportunities, or if it seems none of the men you meet are right for you so you wonder if you should even bother, consider instead some of the following strategies to make your own opportunities and build possibility into your dating life:
- Try releasing any preconceived notions you might have about how a date is “supposed” to go. Going on a date with expectations of what should happen may set you up for disappointment. It’s possible you could miss out on something positive, simply by not being open to it. If you go on a date with no expectations other than that of meeting someone new, you are more likely to be in a state of mind that will allow you to consider new possibilities and avoid repeating the same experiences over and over.
- View each date as an opportunity for growth. Not every date is going to be a good one. Some might be disastrous. You (and your date) might even realize immediately that it isn’t going to work out, but most of the time, you still might be able to enjoy yourselves. Instead of anticipating the possible ways a date could fail, instead try focusing on the ways it might succeed. Maybe the man sitting across from you won’t be your next boyfriend, but could he be a friend? What can you learn about yourself, about him, about your community from this date? You might gain a new point of view or be exposed to a culture and/or belief system different from your own. If you allow yourself to be curious and accept new challenges, you may find that you grow and expand, both as a person and as a potential partner.
- Depart from old routines that aren’t yielding results. If you use the same dating apps, visit the same dating sites, and go to the same clubs, you are likely limiting yourself. It’s certainly possible a new someone who just happens to be perfect for you will appear on the scene, but for the most part, pursuing the same plan will lead to the same outcome. Instead, try meeting people in new ways. Try volunteering, a new hobby, a different commute, or a new coffee house. You might also try reaching out to friends you haven’t seen in a while. Building a broader community of friends can help you meet new people, but maintaining relationships that aren’t romantic can also have a positive impact on your life in general.
- Get in touch with your community. This could be your neighborhood, your friend circle, or the LGBTQ+ community in general. By embracing the community you belong to, whatever it is, you may be able to find not only potential partners but also friends and a general sense of belonging. Both of these can have a positive impact on mental and emotional well-being, whether you have a partner or not.
- Pay attention to your date. For some, this may go without saying, but I encourage the people I see who are having difficulty dating to try, when on a date, taking the attention off themselves and focusing on the other person. Learn your date’s likes and dislikes, personal beliefs, and goals for the future. What are they passionate about and how are they sharing their passion with the world? By focusing on listening for the duration, you may find yourself better able to relax, release any anxiety, and enjoy yourself more than you might typically.
If you find yourself despairing the lack of available and interesting men in your area, consider whether any of these tips may be beneficial to you. Making the choice to go out and learn what opportunities exist in your community, what possibilities await you, can help you avoid becoming so focused on results that you miss out on the experience of life. Dating can be a challenge, and it can be stressful, but it is also an opportunity, one with many potential outcomes.
- Gates, G. (2011). How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf
- Russell, E. M. (2013, November 1). The 3 dating challenges for gay men. Retrieved from http://gaystraight.com/dating/gay-dating-challenges
- Russell, E. M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., & Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23395685
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.