Is same sex dating the same as dating for people who are seeking heterosexual relationships? Yes and No.
When seeking a long term, committed relationship if you identify as LGBTQ, you may go through the same challenges that heterosexual people do when it comes to dating.
But as part of the LGBTQ community, you also have unique needs and concerns. You may face discrimination at home, at school or at work. The traumatic severity of these experiences varies from person to person sometimes impacting self worth and self esteem. Severe oppression can also have an effect on relationships and dating.
Many people in the LGBTQ community are engaging in long term
relationships, having babies and creating families, redefining commitments and
what families can be. The new same sex marriage laws have made that trend
even more frequent and possible.
But whether you want to get married or not, you will have to deal with issues surrounding same sex dating. With few models to draw upon, and few people to guide you, you may face the challenges of navigating the emotionally complicated dating scene.
In some ways, people in the LGBTQ community face the same challenges than their heterosexual counterparts if they want to find a suitable partner, build a strong couple relationship that will withstand the test of time and if they want to improve their relationship when they hit a downward spiral.
On the other hand, the issues around coming out and the reality of oppression impact people in the LGBTQ community in specific and concrete ways that may affect how you look for, and find, a suitable match.
The availability of internet searches has dramatically changed the way people find their romantic partners and engage in same sex dating. The internet, specifically dating apps, has replaced bars and restaurants when it comes to how same sex couples meet, find a good match, and stay together.
Because finding a suitable partner has become a lot easier, LGBTQ partnership rates have increased dramatically in the last decades. Studies show that more than 60% of same sex couples meet online and there are many more gay and lesbian couples than ever before.
But online dating has influenced how people
make decisions about their relationships. Social media is filled with sites
that do not support long term relationships. Due to the endless potential
and variety, people may have become less attentive to more suitable partners,
and may be more vulnerable to finding partners who are less compatible. This is
especially true for people engaged in same sex dating and seeking long term relationships.
Additionally the illusion of endless possibility and choice may make people more vulnerable to discarding a good relationship if it doesn’t immediately fulfill most of our needs. Why is dating so complicated?We want our partners to be our best friend, fulfill all our sexual fantasies and desires, support our dreams, share our financial burdens, and accept all our flaws. As in any relationship, once the romantic stage gives way to the next stage, conflicts over differences may arise. Some couples break up at this point.
As a sexual minority, people in the GLBTQ community are at high risk of stigmatization, discrimination, marginalization and violence. Sometimes, they suffer in the hands of their own parents, siblings, and other close relatives. Exposure to oppression can get internalized instilling shame, self hatred, and self deprecating behavior. This in turn, may affect dating behaviors. Some people in the GLBTQ community may have a tendency to repeat patterns of rejection and blaming, or stay too long in a relationship that is not healthy.
The coming out process also could affect dating. Dating challenges depend on when the process of coming out started. The more recently the person came out, the more anxious he/she will be during the dating process. Issues of being "out" to family, friends and coworkers are different for each individual in the LGBTQ community. Some individuals are out to some people in their lives and not to others. This can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression and shame, particularly when dating someone who is in a different stage of the coming out process.
If you identify as LGBTQ and also as a member of an ethnic minority, you may be exposed to multiple layers of oppression. Studies show that much of the discrimination against ethnic minority gay men and lesbian women is perpetrated in the hand of their own families. Because of cultural values, fear of shaming their families many LGBTQ persons of color hide their same sex dating behaviors and may lead a double life. Dating under these circumstances may be more challenging.
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But love can last! With the right attitude and the right tools, dating can succeed and relationships can be long lasting.
1) If you have been out of the dating scene for a long time, get help from a dating coach or a counselor or look for same sex dating advice online. First dates can be anxiety producing. It helps to do your homework, and be prepared.
2) Try to date someone who is in a similar status when it comes to the coming out process. The future success of a relationship is more likely if both at around the same stage of coming out. If you are out and your partner is not, you can become intensely frustrated and resentful at your partner because of his/her inability to be open and honest about the relationship. On the other hand, the more closeted member of the pair can feel pressured to come out before he/she is emotionally ready. This can lead to anxiety and resentment too.
3) If you are looking for a long term relationship and not just a hookup, you need to figure out how to deal with your relationship to social media. So many of the social media outlets are not love and commitment friendly and are instead focused on sexual hookup culture. This can affect how your dates are viewing you.
4) Be clear about your monogamy versus non monogamy values and communicate them directly. Try to clarify your implicit expectations and make them explicit. Don’t assume that your idea of cheating is the same as that of your partner. Encourage conversations about your sexual preferences and sexual expectations. If you are looking for a long term, committed relationship, and you are the type of person who wants to be loyal and monogamous, find someone with the same values. A well trained sex therapist can help host these difficult conversations.
5) Don’t move in together too quickly. Sometimes, we make decisions about living together without really deciding. You start sliding into it and “It just happens”. Many same sex and other LGBTQ couples report that they started living together because their lease was up, or because they were spending a lot of nights together anyway. The decision to live together is an emotional, as well as a financial, decision and should not be made on a whim.
6) Seek counseling from a relationship expert if you have had traumatic experiences coming out, if you were exposed to discrimination in your family, school or work, or if you don’t have much support currently. Your self esteem can be affected and you may find yourself repeating the same patterns over and over again in your dating life. To improve your chances for successful same sex dating, do your self a favor seek counseling to unlock your potential and improve your resilience.
Finally, keep in mind that the things that make LGBTQ relationships work are the same as the things that make heterosexual relationships work: Attention to the relationship, a good sex life, kindness, respect, communication, compromise, trust, and safety. Be sure to seek the help of an expert in dating and relationships if you you want to be on the right track.
In our efforts to bring value to your life, or if you are not in the Chicago area, Couples Counseling Associates has developed a series of lessons that could have a major impact on effectively improving your relationship. We encourage you to dive into the series and discover how these resources can benefit you and your partner.
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All the mental health professionals practicing at 737 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2130, Chicago, IL 60611 or any other locations, are individually licensed by the State of Illinois and practice independently and separately. They have no legal relationship to the practices of each other and do not incur in liability for services of one another or to Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum.