Ask Dave-Now that he’s taken, men want him

One man wonders why having a boyfriend has brought prospective suitors out of the woodwork. Here, wise advice.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I am a gay man in my twenties and I belong to a gay bowling league. Before I met my current boyfriend, I was just another face in the crowd (even though I’ve belonged to the league for three seasons). I wasn’t
He comes to watch me bowl every other week.
some strange angel who dropped onto the scene from a mystery location. I’d put my best face forward and met guys, but never got my romantic interest returned, despite my flirting and asking them out. Six months ago, I met the guy I’m dating exclusively. He comes to watch me bowl every other week. The guys have taken notice. Guess what? Now I am Mr. Near-Popular and the same guys who ignored me now want to date me. Dave, I’m the same guy today that I was when I first joined the league. I haven’t changed. This is not the first time this has happened to me, either. What is it about a gay guy with a boyfriend that makes him so attractive to other guys? I need to know why this happens. Any thoughts?
– Puzzled in the Bay Area

Dear Puzzled,
I’d love to say this is a purely same-sex dating phenomenon, but it’s really a tale as old as time, applicable to both men and women, straight and gay. But you asked specifically why gay men are more interested when you’re taken. Of course, there’s no single answer. But there are lots of theories, so let’s explore answers to three common questions you might ask yourself in this situation:

1. Was it you?
You may wonder if there was anything about you that was different when you were single, either physically or emotionally. Of course, if you looked different then, that could explain why some men are paying more attention. But chances are it’s a change in your demeanor and you may not even be aware of the differences.

When you were single, were you always cognizant of the vibes you gave off? It’s easy for all of us to project insecurity when we feel bad about ourselves. Or did you come on too strong without your expectations in check? If you act a little desperate, joyless, angry, sad, or overly needy, don’t think it goes unnoticed. Remember that 80% of communication is non-verbal. Men sense how you feel about yourself and, like it or not, neediness isn’t a turn-on, especially when you’re looking for Mr. Right.

Nowadays, with boyfriend in tow, do you come off as less needy and more confident? Face it, that’s attractive. Do you feel less pressure around other men in the league? Without excess pressure, you all have a chance to be yourselves. As simple as it sounds, being yourself is enormously appealing.

2. Was it them?
OK, so maybe you never came off needy, then or now. Maybe it’s not you at all. Maybe it’s them.

Consider the following four possibilities knowing that, while they may be stereotypes, sometimes there’s a nugget of truth:
  • It’s human nature for men to want what we can’t have. Otherwise, romance seems too easy and not as exciting. Some men like a challenge, and nothing’s more challenging to a man’s inherent sense of competition than realizing that other men find you desirable.
  • Men are hunters. When the hunt is over, the fun is gone. As I note in my book, The Mandates: 25 Real Rules for Successful Gay Dating, “Since men are traditionally the hunters, gay men need to find a way to be both the hunters and the hunted. Successful hunters cannot be too obvious in their pursuit. The hunted cannot be too fey in their selection. Ah, therein lies the rub.”
  • If you are coupled, you are considered safer. Men can flirt with you without the danger of having to follow through. If you are a freewheeling single guy, they don’t have that option.
  • Some gay men might have self-esteem issues (can I see a show of hands please?) that keep them from being attracted to someone who shows interest and instead are drawn to what they can’t have, which reinforces their sense of low self-esteem. It’s a vicious cycle.
What does this all mean? If a man’s treatment of you changes based on your relationship status, there’s nothing you can do. My guess is that your frustration derives from
You won’t always know poor timing is the culprit.
internalizing your projections of how these men viewed you. But when you consider these four possibilities, doesn’t it feel good to know that you might have nothing to do with those projections?

3. Was it just timing?
Did you ever hear the joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. Why did the man cross the road? Who the hell knows? Why do they do anything?”

There’s not always a rhyme and reason to explain why men treat you differently in different circumstances.

While chances are slim that mere coincidence explains why several men who once ignored you now think you’re hotter than the U.S. Water Polo Team, it’s not impossible.

But for the most part, the different reactions you’re getting now might just be bad timing, the enemy of daters everywhere. During your first encounter, a guy might be focused on his bad day at the office, a recent breakup, or some hottie who caught his eye before you did. During encounter number two, his life might’ve changed and he’s looking at you with fresh (and frisky!) eyes. You won’t always know poor timing is the culprit.

Bottom line: Resist the urge to personalize how men treat you, since so many factors could be at play. The best way to avoid feeling frustrated by the different reactions you’re getting is to understand all the variables, most of which have nothing to do with you personally. Isn’t that a relief?

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at
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