Gay And Over 40? Date Smart
Are you a gay or lesbian at midlife? Find the romance you’re seeking with these smart strategies from experts and other single people alike…
or every 20-something entering a dating relationship full of wide-eyed wonder, there’s a 40-something back on the market, battle-worn and weary after a relationship ends. One is learning the rules; the other has “been there, dated that” and wonders, “Now what?”
“My 10-year relationship ended when I was 43,” says Daniel, 47. “I was suddenly
single with no clue how to date. I live in San Diego, where the single gay scene is hopping, so one night, I hit the bars. They were mostly filled with 20-somethings—I felt so out of place.”
|Stop the internal criticism about your being “too old.”|
It’s true that age is irrelevant when it comes to some standard-issue dating challenges, such as how to compete on a crowded playing field or, more specifically, find your MVP who matches your commitment level (not all gays and lesbians want to marry just because Canada says we can).
But, in other ways, dating in your 40s is a whole new ballgame. Hurdles don’t disappear; they just change. To get past them, maybe you need to get a new game plan. Here, we show you how to slide past three key obstacles to find love:
Obstacle #1: Rigidity
One advantage of age is self-awareness—when you know yourself better, you don’t waste as much time on bad dates. As Washingtonian Kevin, 42, says, “I am more careful about first dates and quickly nix pointless second dates. I recognize dysfunction faster now than I did when I was younger.” That’s smart time-management. But, if you aren’t careful, a too-stringent approach can prevent you from being open to love when it presents itself.
Solution: Ask your closest friends for regular feedback to make sure you aren’t becoming too stuck in your ways. Singles in their forties often experience “burned-finger-on-stove syndrome.” After touching the flame a few times, you learn that love can hurt. But as Kevin says, “I realize that love doesn’t happen when you’re overly guarded. Sometimes, when I’m concerned that I’m being too quick to judge, I check in with close friends.” Singles who don’t have (or don’t invite) intimate feedback from either a partner or close friends miss out on the emotional mirror that helps us grow and escape bad patterns.
Also, challenge yourself to try something new dating-wise every week or two: Try a new place to meet and mingle; chat with someone who isn’t your “type” and otherwise stretch your boundaries. You might be surprised at the positive changes that can bring.
Obstacle #2: Ageism
When you’re younger, dating relationships face challenges related to coming out, such as building self-esteem and rising above homophobia—but it’s easy to meet prospects. In your forties, after years of working on yourself, you’re once again struggling to gain self-esteem. The hurdle this time? Let’s get real: Ageism exists in the gay community. Self-esteem is the rock that every aging gay Sisyphus pushes up the hill yet again. “When I turned 40, someone gave me one
of those over-the-hill cards and I was depressed for weeks,” says San Franciscan Mark, 46. “My friend meant it as a joke, but that card made me confront my deepest fear: Was I really over the hill?”
|Get involved in your interests, and you’re bound to meet some great people, too.|
Solution: Confront your fears about aging head-on rather than buying into them. As Rik Isensee, author of Are You Ready? The Gay Man’s Guide to Thriving at Midlife, notes that “Within the gay community, negative stereotypes reinforce the belief that gay relationships are based solely on physical attraction, and that once youth starts to fade, we are unlikely to have any real or lasting relationships.” Avoid the trap by treating age as a number, not a mental prison sentence. Mark is a good example of someone who, in his words, “learned to tame the beast within. I stopped the internal criticism. Now, I focus on what I can improve, not on the number. I’m happier in my own skin.” It’s important to focus on being your best at every age, as well as the ageless characteristics (i.e., loyalty, humor, strength) you want in a great date.
Obstacle #3: A shrinking pool
What happens when the Olympic-sized dating pool you’re used to swimming in suddenly seems like a lap lane? “The dating pool gets smaller within people your own age because most available guys are partnered, or there are good reasons why they’re single,” says Kevin. In addition, the bar scene also starts to lose its allure with age, maturity and career demands.
Solution: Get thee to the Internet and quickly cast a wider net. That’s what Daniel did. “Staying at home got boring after three months,” he admits. “I accepted that bars and clubs didn’t work for me anymore. Online dating was a more comfortable way to meet guys closer to my age and have fun.” Thankfully, the stigma of dating online is gone. As Christina, 45, of Virginia, notes, “To meet other women, lesbians in their forties are going online. The Internet is bringing new hope to those of us who don’t have a ton of time or want to hang out at bars.” It works, too—she met her current partner via online dating.
Other positive ways to get out of the dating dugout and onto the playing field include volunteering and immersion in social and athletic activities. Follow the example of Stephen, 43, of Brooklyn. “I got out there and got involved in my interests—I took a course in art conservation and actually began going to gallery openings rather than throwing the invitations away. I was pursuing what I loved—and met some great dates, too.”
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.