One of the developmental tasks of all adolescents is to establish productive relationships with their peer group and to understand and manage their sexuality. Dating provides fertile training ground for these teens for learning about themselves and how to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships as they continue to mature and grow. Due to growing up in a homophobic society, most gay men as teenagers had to keep their sexualities hidden for fear of social backlash and further damage to their already shaky self-images. Some boys chose to distance themselves completely from dating, while others chose to date their female peers to more easily “fit in” and be accepted. For some, there was no other choice for them but to date girls, while for others it was an attempt to extinguish their feelings they had for males. Very few gay men had the luxury of being able to openly date other gay males as teenagers and to live authentically.
Fortunately, today’s generation of gay youth are experiencing slightly more liberal attitudes and acceptance from their peer group about being gay, but there’s still a long way to go. As a result, many gay men as adults remain perplexed and confused about how to date other men. Without training, education, and support, many gay men are forced to “wing it” as they mingle and mate with other men, leaving many of them unsatisfied with their dating experiences and wondering if they’ll ever find a loving partner to settle down with.
What follows is a tips list of things for gay men to keep in mind as they go about meeting other men in pursuit of their Mr. Right. Add your own to the list and keep it handy as a quick-reference guide as you embark upon your dating adventures to promote greater success in your romantic life.
Dating Success Tips
1. Live your life to the max! Creating a full life puts you in charge of your own happiness and puts less emphasis and dependency on finding a relationship to make you whole. You must be whole as a person first before a healthy relationship can be cultivated. By developing yourself, those internal feelings of zest and fulfillment will show on the outside as well. Very attractive indeed!
2. Know who you are, what your needs and values are, and what you stand for. This will take you far as you delve through the dating world. Having a clear vision and purpose will help to keep you centered and grounded on your quest.
3. Examine your relationship history and determine what behaviors worked for you and which ones didn’t. Identify the obstacles that prevent you from engaging in the kinds of relationships that you want.
4. Don’t confuse chemistry with compatibility. While that “chemical spark” is important, a person’s enduring qualities are what really help to lay the foundation for potential long-term relationship success.
5. Determine if you are really ready for a relationship and assess your true motives. One of the biggest relationship “sabotagers” is not being able to be fully present, being distracted by other needs or issues, and having other priorities that compete with the relationship. Determine if you are “dateable” and develop goals to accomplish true relationship readiness. Develop your self-esteem and create a vision for how you’d like your life to be.
6. Don’t stay in a dating relationship that’s not working just for the sake of staving off loneliness or fearing hurting the other’s feelings. This only robs both of you of precious time that could be better served improving your quality of life in new directions. Learn to be assertive and direct with your needs and feelings.
7. Don’t bail out of a dating relationship at the first sign of trouble. Relationships take hard work and conflict is actually a necessary precursor to deeper connection and intimacy. Assess what’s missing and what the barriers are and determine if negotiation is possible. There can be no growth without healthy conflict; however, know the difference between that and when the relationship really isn’t a “goodness of fit.”
8. Be proactive in getting what you want and take responsibility for what happens. Conquer your anxieties about taking initiative. Don’t stand on the sidelines hoping someone will make contact with you. Make that move yourself and choose to approach someone if you’re interested. Internalize the mantra: NO MORE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES!
9. Face your fears of rejection directly. A turn-down for a date has nothing to do with you as a person; it has everything to do with the other person’s projections and needs. Know that you are worthy and deserving.
10. Build your support network. Surround yourself with positive people who will affirm you and support you. Family and friends provide a much needed source of connection, love, and fun that can truly enhance your life as a single gay man.
11. Be careful of casual sexual encounters if your goal is to meet a prospective life partner. Typically sexual release is the primary aim of such encounters, which can confuse and disillusion you to the type of men available, believing that gay men only want sex and nothing more significant or with depth. Put yourself in situations where you are more likely to meet men with similar goals and if you choose to “play along the way,” always practice responsible safe sex.