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The balancing act of gay dating

two gay lovers

Dating, especially when using gay dating apps, is tricky. You want to be genuine, but you also want to make a good first impression. Sometimes it feels like you’re in a one man play, with constant costume changes for each date. There might be so many changes that you feel like you’re losing yourself. So, what is the correct approach to being yourself when trying to find that special someone? 

Mask on?

Should you act like something you’re not? First impressions are important, especially in the stop-and-go chaos that is online dating. You want your potential significant other to see why he would want to go out with you again, or even text you after the date. Naturally, you want your best self on display, the shining example of what you can be. Is inauthenticity the right approach, though?

Mask off?

On the other hand, the age-old dating wisdom has told you to “be yourself.” It’s quite easy to tell when someone is lying about who they are presenting as. It’s not attractive when the person you’re on a date with is putting on a show. Why would you want to go on a second date with someone who can’t be honest about who they are? Maybe it’s best to just show your date everything – no secrets, no masks.  

The ever-changing mask

Whether we notice or not, we are always wearing a mask. We don’t act the same way around our closest friends as we do around our grandparents – imagine grandma’s reaction if you talk the way you do when you’re out on Saturday night!  Our relationships just wouldn’t be sustainable if we always acted the same in every circumstance.

Being yourself means finding the balance between authentic and appropriate. You don’t want to perform, but you also don’t want to overshare. When you date, let yourself be who you are, but you don’t want to overwhelm him with everything. Reveal yourself in small bits but don’t actively hide the true side of you. If you try to conceal who you are, that hidden aspect will come out – and the revelation will just make things even messier.

Dating other gay men can make this balance both easier and harder. On one hand, you’re likely to have more in common because of a similar past – the coming out process, navigating the world as a gay man, being a part of the LGBTQ community. This might make it easier to connect. On the other hand, your similarities could create comparison or competition. Maybe you’ve dated the same people or are more likely to judge one another. Your similarities also give you the ability to have empathy – and that goes a long way in dating!

The active listener

You’ve navigated the gay dating scene and finally found someone you click with. You don’t need the matchmaker anymore, or the dating apps, so you can finally relax. No need to put in any more effort, because all the hard work is over, right?

Wrong.  Finding that special someone is not the end of your journey, but just the beginning. Starting a serious relationship means you are responsible for not just one, but two people. While in the dating scene, you had to focus on yourself. Now that you’re in a relationship, you need to make sure you’re not just listening to your own needs, but your significant other’s as well.

Create a safe space

Listening does not just mean hearing what the other person is saying, but also creating a space for them to feel comfortable sharing. Let your partner know you care by conveying positive body language. Don’t be looking at your phone or doing something else when your partner is talking to you – make sure your expressions make them feel like their words matter.

Save the lecture

Sometimes, your partner doesn’t need to be told what to do. Maybe they know what their next steps should, or already have a plan, but they just need to know they have someone on their side. When you listen, don’t just listen to their words, but try to understand what the purpose 

of their sharing is. Are they just venting? Are they actually asking for advice? Make sure your responses line up with what your partner needs in that moment.

Ask relevant questions

Listening is not just with our ears, but with our words as well. Sometimes your partner may just want you to sit and be with them as they explain what they are going through. Other times, your partner might need a response to show that you understand. Asking questions not only shows that you care, but also might help them understand what they are trying to express. Don’t approach it as an interview, though, or ask questions just because you’re “supposed to.” Even if the topic doesn’t seem relevant to you, it is relevant to you because it’s relevant to someone you care about.

Learn as you go

Communication is messy, no matter who it’s with. Even if you know someone better than anyone else in the world, they are still a separate person from you, with a unique mind and different ways of communicating. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to say the wrong thing, or not listen at some point in the relationship. What’s important is that you don’t view miscommunication as a reason to not listen, but as a teaching moment. Learn from these moments, and remember that listening, along with communication, is active, not passive.

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