Dating can be hard enough at times, but the situation can be made that much more challenging for those single gay men who represent the age 40 and up crowd. In a society where youth and beauty are highly valued, many middle-aged men report feeling segregated and unappreciated in dating pools, making it difficult to meet and sustain relationships with potential dating prospects. The problem can seem even more compounded in the gay community in which the emphasis on youth and brawn is amplified, causing many mature gay men to feel undesirable and like outsiders within gay circles. They feel unwanted and that their age hinders them and limits the pool of men available to them for dating, particularly when they report being rejected by men in their own cohort for younger guys. Ageism, or discrimination against someone because of his age, plagues many different layers of our culture—and it also can and does rear its ugly head in the gay dating world. This “over-the-hill” mentality is very damaging, robbing us of the opportunity to really experience life, take risks toward goals, and make the most of what we have (if we let it!). This case is illustrated in the comment of a former 29-year old client: “I turn 30 later this year and then I officially am old! I’ll never have a boyfriend now! I feel like my life is over and it’s all downhill from here on out!”
It is hoped that this article will prove all that wrong and provide you with some tips for maximizing your midlife dating success! While the reality is that ageism does exist and there are obstacles in the dating jungle (at any age), these hurdles do not have to dictate the outcome of your love-life. In actuality, your stage-of-life puts you in an advantageous position to conquer this adversity. With your life experience and history, you probably have a greater repertoire of coping skills, resiliency, sense of self, assertiveness, self-esteem, and an expansive support system and resources. This will take you far and makes you a very good catch!
So let’s push aside those fears that you won’t be able to attract someone after you reach a certain age. Let’s destroy that stereotype that all older gay men are unhappy, lonely, and camp out at the local strip bar every night “trolling.” It’s nonsense! YOU make your life what you want it to be and “you’re only as old as you feel”, as the “old” saying goes. Midlife is sexy! And here are seven tips to help boost your dating success as a 40+ single gay man to enhance your readiness for a relationship!
- STEP 1: CREATE YOUR VISION
- No matter what your age, this is the most critical first step. It’s very important that you take the time to develop a clear and vivid image of who you are and what you want out of your life, including your dating life. Are you seeking a long-term relationship and a life partner or just casual dating? What does the rest of your life look like? What would your ideal partner be like and how would your relationship function? Your answers to such questions will help give you the direction you need to accomplish your goals, giving you a measuring stick to keep you on track and assess your status. How much of a gap exists between your idealized vision and your current reality? Do the work that’s needed to bridge that gap and begin the process of identifying your needs, differentiating between those that are negotiable and non-negotiable so you can more adequately screen future dating partners for their suitability with your vision.
- STEP 2: BEFRIEND THE MIDLIFE CRISIS
- Erik Erickson is best known in the psychology field as having developed eight stages of psychosocial human development that we all pass through as we age through the lifespan. Every age group has its own unique challenges and developmental tasks to conquer before being able to successfully move on to the next stage. According to this theory, such hallmarks that exist for the middle-aged man include nurturing close relationships, career management, household maintenance, creativity, and commitment to family and the community. Having a sense of purpose and passion and being able to impact the world with one’s talents is a central feature. For more information on this theory, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson's_stages_of_psychosocial_development . As gay men, many of our developmental tasks were skipped or neglected because of our retreat to “the closet” in coping with the homophobic society we live in. Successful integration of your gay identity into your sense of self allows you to then address those developmental tasks that were suspended until you were ready. So the next step for you is explore any developmental tasks that still require mastery from earlier years and start working at them. For example, a middle-aged man who comes out later in life will likely experience the adolescent tasks of exploring his sexuality and practicing man-to-man relationship skills, causing him to feel like a teenager again. Perfectly normal in gay male development, no matter what your age!
And then the next step for your success is to discover something that you can do that will give you a sense of meaning and purpose and begin to express that. Find your calling and live it out. This will be your legacy of sorts and is a great way to solidify your identity. This will help anchor you during your dating trials and can be one of the top ways of meeting a compatible partner. Your passion and “zest for life” will be magnetic and you’ll likely be meeting others with similar interests and philosophies in the venues you pursue.
The illustrious “midlife crisis” strikes those men who experience anxiety and apprehension at realizing they’ve lived half their lives and begin to question and contemplate what they’ve accomplished in their lives thus far, fearing that not much time is left to live their visions. Midlife is the perfect time to revisit your original vision and tweak it so it more accurately reflects who you are now and the man you’d still like to become. Reframe this time in your life as a time for growth and opportunity, not something to be abhorred. You have control over shaping your life into something spectacular and fulfilling!
- STEP 3: DESTROY THE MONSTER IN YOUR HEAD
- What we say to ourselves impacts our mood and behavior. The “monster in your head” is that little voice that whispers (and sometimes screams) negative statements about yourself and the world around you. Our internal dialogue impacts whether we look at life through a lens of optimism and hope versus pessimism and negativity. Examine your self-talk as it pertains to being middle-aged and your views on dating and gay men. Create a list of all the thoughts that come to mind about these topics unedited. If you have such thoughts as “I’m too old to find love”, “All the good ones are taken”, “I’m going to be all alone”, or “Nobody will find me attractive, I’m 50!” then your monster needs an ass-kicking. Don’t fall into the trap of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Begin creating a list of counter-statements or affirmations that will defeat this negative thinking. The more you believe these myths about midlife dating, the more you are setting yourself up for sabotage and it’s important to begin challenging these beliefs by taking stock of true-life success stories or by taking risks and creating your own triumphant victory. Refuse to be held victim to such deprecating thoughts and start developing a mindset around midlife as a positive time in your life to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- STEP 4: EMBRACE YOUR AGE
- There’s no point becoming preoccupied with your youth “in the days gone by.” You’re as young as you feel and resisting the fact that life changes will only keep you arrested in your development and is a recipe for unhappiness and regret. Learn to accept all the physical and emotional changes that accompany midlife and be proud of who you are and your story. Do your best to reduce ageism and ensure that you yourself are not behaving in ways that perpetuate this type of discrimination. For example, if you utilize personal ads as a venue for seeking dating partners, make sure you are honest about all aspects of yourself and don’t fudge on your age. This will increase your odds of attracting more compatible people responding to your ad; remember, it’s quality and not the quantity of your responses.
- STEP 5: ALIGN YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT VENUES
- Where do you meet other quality guys?! No matter what your age, this is one of the most common questions surrounding dating and it all boils down to your vision and values. While picking up other men in bars could be a viable approach, it’s a difficult setting to do so because there are so many guys to have to sift through and screen to determine their suitability with your vision for a life partner. The key is to match your values, needs, preferences, and life purpose with a venue that has some of these qualities and characteristics. This way, you’re surrounded by other men who share at least some semblance of your vision; that makes you one step closer to possibly finding someone who’d be a “good fit.” Examples might be volunteering for a worthy cause or advocacy center, joining a support group, participating in a sporting club, becoming active in a gay-friendly church, signing on to a personal ads site that caters to the middle-aged crowd, etc. The possibilities are endless, but self-knowledge about your vision and passions is a critical key to its success.
- STEP 6: BUILD YOUR SUPPORT TEAM & MENTORSHIP CLUB
- Nothing helps you through the trials and tribulations of dating better than a solid support system of friends and people who care about you. Invest in current and new relationships with friends and family to give you that boost and sense of connection that we all need. Make sure to look for other midlife gay men who display positive dating lifestyles or older gay couples who can be looked upon as role models to keep them visible in your mind and to help motivate you to see the possibilities that abound. You could even become a mentor yourself to a younger gay man to “give back” in some way and form other positive alliances.
- STEP 7: BE PROACTIVE AND HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF
- Dating is not a passive activity. You must be proactive and go after what you want or the likelihood of success is minimized. Develop a strong resource bank of dating skills and behaviors that will promote the chances of more positive outcomes. Strengthen your social skills, build more assertiveness and comfort with boundaries, enhance your self-esteem and body image, resolve unfinished business from the past, and get yourself into good physical and emotional shape. Get yourself armed and ready for love!
Gay dating success can be yours in midlife, and at any age! By incorporating these seven steps into your dating plan, you’re well on your way to increasing the odds of success. Know yourself, develop a positive and optimistic mindset, build your repertoire of dating skills and behaviors, and live your life to the fullest! This can be the best time of your life; don’t waste another minute!
For more information on gay midlife and dating, here are a few resources that might be of interest.
For more elaboration on the concepts of vision, dating venues, and dating skills: “Conscious Dating: Finding The Love of Your Life In Today’s World” by David Steele. Campbell, CA: RCN Press. 2006.
Literature on managing issues related to the gay midlife: “Golden Men: The Power of Gay Midlife” by Harold Kooden, PhD & Charles Flowers. New York, NY: Avon Books. 2000.
http://www.graygay.com -and- http://www.grayandgay.com
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©2007 Brian L. Rzepczynski
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Brian Rzepczynski holds a master's degree in Social Work from Western Michigan University and is also a Certified Personal Life Coach through The Coach Training Alliance. He launched his private coaching practice, The Gay Love Coach: Man 4 Man Coaching Services (http://www.TheGayLoveCoach.com), in 2003 and works with gay men, both singles and couples, on developing skills for improving their dating lives and relationships. He publishes a free monthly ezine called "The Man 4 Man Plan" that has helpful articles, tips, resources, and an advice column relating to gay relationships and dating. He is also the co-author of the 2005 self-help book "A Guide to Getting It: Purpose & Passion."