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Many gay men lament the challenges they have with meeting dating prospects and maintaining those relationships once established. It’s one of the primary problems singles share in therapists’ and love coaches’ offices around the country.
From the moment we’re born, society socializes us to find a mate and live happily ever after, but this is a much more arduous feat than is glamorized in fairy tales, romance movies, and the media. It’s not a walk in the park for our heterosexual counterparts either, but as a community, we gay men face unique challenges that pose even more obstacles.
Why is it so damn hard?! From my clinical experience and the literature I’ve read, gay dating is so difficult because…
Numerous studies have been conducted since Alfred Kinsey’s 1940s research into sexual behavior was published that indicate that approximately 4% to 10% of the population in the US is of a homosexual orientation. Simple Google searches can bring up the results of these countless studies, with some statistics hovering just above or below these conclusions.
So what does that mean for single gay folks looking for love? The pickings are slim since the numbers are not in our favor, and it’s made even more difficult when you factor in geography, with gay men living in rural areas having the most challenging time meeting anyone. While we may not have control over this particular condition on the percentages of our existence, there’s one factor that we do have control over that complicates this matter of scarcity even further, which is…
It seems that many of us create laundry lists of must-haves for what we desire our Mr. Right to possess in terms of personal attributes and qualities.
While it’s important that we have an idea of who we’re looking for to ensure he aligns with our value systems and attractions, it seems our community has a tendency to easily discriminate against anyone who doesn’t measure up to particular superficial standards. This further creates a scarcity problem and imposes more limits on who’s available in the dating pool.
Either by reading dating personal ads or by overhearing conversations by gay men in public domains, you see or hear things like “I’m only interested in younger guys,” “He must be a hung top,” “I only date within my own race,” “He should be very good looking,” “I’ll only date guys who are white-collar workers,” “I won’t date anyone who has HIV,” etc. The lists go on and on.
Of course, we all have unique attractions, preferences, and boundaries, but when we date through a binary lens, we rob ourselves of opportunities to meet people who might actually be great partners for us. How many amazing could-have-been relationships have been lost because of rigidity in partner selection criteria? That’s a tragedy in a community hungry for companionship and unconditional love and acceptance.
According to the American Psychological Association and numerous other studies that support these findings, LGBT individuals tend to suffer from more mental illness and chemical dependency issues than the rest of the population.
This likely stems from being a marginalized group that is discriminated against, which leads to internalized homophobia and issues with low self-esteem. Our gay community also tends to glamorize the party-and-play (PNP) culture, further contributing to the potential for substance abuse problems.
It’s obvious how psychological problems can manifest as a result and how many troubled individuals turn to substances and/or addictive behavior to self-medicate and cope. This further complicates the dating landscape when we don’t have healthy prospects to engage. This is both a micro- and a macro-level problem that needs intervention.
American society doesn’t teach us how to date — it’s basically a wing-it, fake-it-til-you-make-it, and trial-by-error approach that we’ve had to espouse. This lack of education and training in dating and relationships puts all of us, regardless of sexual orientation, at a considerable disadvantage to finding a compatible mate.
To complicate matters, the glamorization of sex in the gay community with its tendency to eroticize all aspects of being gay reinforces a hookup culture, which only serves to distance us from real forms of intimacy and connection. For those truly desiring a long-term relationship, this can create frustration and a major barrier. We’ve become so conditioned to lead with sex that we’ve become disconnected from a more heart-centered approach to love and dating, which can sabotage a great relationship before it’s gotten off the ground.
As outdated and vintage as the term courting may sound, this old ritual to dating — which has now become a lost art form — at least provided a framework and foundation toward establishing a bond and creating a connection with someone. I believe a revival of courtship is needed in these contemporary times to promote more successful dating practices and provide a structure for relationship development that seems to be lacking nowadays.
Go to any bar or gay social function, and you’ll see men standing alone sipping their cocktails hoping for someone to approach them or men protectively surrounding themselves with their group of friends. The latter scenario ultimately makes them invisible or shields them from any real contact from men outside their circle who may find them interesting.
I’ve conducted polls on my site about assertiveness in approaching men, and the overwhelming majority of respondents indicated they take a passive stance when it comes to dating and only wait to be approached by someone to have a conversation that could potentially lead to a dating opportunity. Shyness and the fear of rejection were largely named as the reasons behind their lack of initiative in walking up and introducing themselves to someone they find attractive and intriguing.
This is another example of missed opportunities. Today’s technology of texting, messaging, and chatting on online platforms allows for hiding behind a device instead of having face-to-face communication and connection. This contributes to the weakening of social skills and flirting abilities that many of us in the relationship coaching industry have observed in our work with clients over the past decade or more.
And this fuels further traumatization and disconnection. Being gay in a homophobic society is hard enough with the maltreatment we receive, but when we turn on each other within our own community, this further traumatizes us and creates more distance, mistrust, and jadedness between us as individuals and compromises any chances for positive dating experiences.
It’s hard enough being gay, so why aren’t we more compassionate, understanding, and empathetic to others in our brotherhood who live the same marginalized gay status and experience?
Not to keep mentioning technology as a culprit, but the advent of texting and chatting within online platforms has caused a breakdown of conventional manners and social etiquette. We now say things on these platforms that we would never say to another human being in a face-to-face context. This has led to cyberbullying, harassment, and overt abuse that then leads to a myriad of other problems, such as depression and suicide for starters.
Words hurt. We need to start being mindful of how what comes out of our mouths will impact another in all of our exchanges, both in person and online. Good manners are sexy, and how you behave with others will always have a ripple effect on your life and theirs, both for the positive and negative.
These are just a handful of the reasons why gay dating is so difficult. Not all aspects of dating are within our control, but a great many of the above factors are things that we can change and influence from an individual, social, and global level. Where will you start?
Let’s start a discussion about this topic. Please post your comments below and share some of the dating struggles you experience to expand on this list of why gay dating can be so challenging. What kinds of solutions can you propose that might alleviate some of these troublesome factors?
We are all experts in our own lives and in our beliefs about how we can positively impact and create change for the better. Share your views so we can all dialogue together as a community with the intention of creating healthy alliances to bring about change through education and collaborative brainstorming for improving these conditions. Thank you!
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