Posted: 17 Apr 2012 05:20 AM PDT
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.
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!
[ Continued Tomorrow - Part 2 ]
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
The suggestions and feedback offered in this column are but one perspective of multiple approaches to dealing with problems or challenges. Information provided in articles and advice columns should not be used as a substitute for coaching or therapy when these services are needed. None of this information should be your only source when making important life decisions. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a particular problem, nor should it take the place of a consultation with a trained professional. It is your responsibility to consult a professional prior to making any life decisions.
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, contributing author to GAYTWOGETHER, is one of the leading love coaches for the gay community. As a licensed dating and relationship coach, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, DHS, MSW has over 18 years experience as a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in helping GLBT individuals and couples develop and maintain successful and fulfilling intimate relationships. He holds a doctorate degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Western Michigan University. He also runs a successful private therapy practice, Personal Victory Counseling, Inc.http://thegaylovecoach.com
thanks Brian and Michael@gaytwogether.com