People put a lot of limits on themselves when it comes to dating. They may want someone who looks a certain way, who makes a certain amount of money, or who likes certain hobbies. Age is one of the biggest reasons people have for rejecting someone. There are people who only like to date people their age and won’t budge no matter what.
I confess to having a preference in this department as well. I will not date women who are more than six years younger than me or women who are more than ten years older. Years of dating experience tell me this is the right age group for me. However, I also try to be flexible. Dating is hard and if your preferences are carved in stone, you could miss out on a lot of great people. Therefore, if someone seems really fantastic I will usually waive my strict age requirements. (Though as a 36 year old, I’d never date someone less than 25 or over 50. That, I can’t see ever working, no matter how charming she may be.)
Here are my thoughts on what to consider if you decide to date significantly above or below your age:
I think the biggest challenge with dating young people is that they are not always so mature, and also they are in a different place in their life. If you are 45, can you really relate to a grad student? Do you really want to go out with them every weekend, clubbing and dancing? Will you really have a meeting of the minds? These are all things to think about and mull over carefully. I think it is particularly a bad idea to date a young person who has just come out, when you are an older person. The younger person is really not sure of herself or her sexuality at this stage, and you will wind up playing “teacher.” I think this kind of relationship only works if the younger person is extremely mature, or if the older person is slightly immature. Some of us may be 45, but act 25, and vice versa. But if the maturity levels are too different, this won’t be a relationship that succeeds in the long term.
If you are dating an older person it may work—but only if you are in your late twenties and beyond. Anything younger than that I think is just asking for trouble. As a young person in your late twenties or early thirties, you may not relate to others in your age category, and you may do better with someone older.
Whichever direction you go in, one thing you can’t worry about is what other people think. Friends, family or strangers may see fit to comment on your relationship—or even make fun of it. In the end, that doesn’t matter. All that matters ultimately is what you think of each other.
For a heterosexual couple, public displays of affection are usually no big deal. Nobody is going to get upset if they see a man and woman kissing on the street. But with gays and lesbians it’s a different story.
This is something I realized right after my first relationship. My first relationship was a heterosexual one, and back then, I never felt uncomfortable showing affection in public. But when I entered a lesbian relationship it became much more complex. I felt like all eyes were on me whenever I made any move towards my partner. Even kissing my partner in a deserted part of town by the water where no one was watching felt unsafe. After all, anybody could come upon us at any minute and discover what we were doing. And who knows what would happen then? (Yes, I do admit to being a bit paranoid.)
You may think I live in the Midwest but actually I live in New York City, and even in this liberated city, it is a very rare sight for me to see two men or two women being affectionate with each other, unless it’s at a club or other kind of gay event. Turns out it’s not just me—a lot of other gay men and women are paranoid too. And it’s understandable why: you simply never know the reaction someone is going to have. Just because you live in New York, it doesn’t mean everyone is pro-gay.
And then there are some gay people who don’t like being lovey-dovey in public, and it has nothing to do with fear. They don’t want to be put on display. They believe love is for the bedroom. That’s understandable as well. Just because you are gay doesn’t mean you are comfortable with public displays of your sexuality.
If you feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection, for whatever reason, discuss it with your partner. Don’t just reject him or her without giving a reason. That’s the worst thing you could do and will lead to major tension within your relationship.
Explain why you feel wary about it. Some gays and lesbians are afraid of public displays of affection because they’ve been harassed before while kissing a partner. If that has happened to you, tell your partner about it. It will help her to understand your fear better.
In addition, it can be a problem even if both of you like PDAs. You may not mind a public display of affection once in a while, but the girlfriend who constantly wants to grab your butt in public is a problem. She is trying to say to the world: “This is my possession and you can’t have it.” Do you really want to go out with someone like that?
Whatever you do, don’t let your partner pressure you into doing something you are uncomfortable with. Don’t let her make you feel guilty, or make you feel like it’s your duty as an activist to showcase your relationship in front of straight people. It’s not your duty to do that; it’s only your duty to be happy.
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Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to present ourselves in a positive light, we end up turning off potential mates. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, so here are a few things to avoid doing the next time you are out on a date.
1. Being too needy.
I think one of the worst things you can do on a date is to ask during the middle of it: “How do you think things are going so far?” It puts a lot of pressure on your date, and makes you look needy, like you need instant confirmation of how the date is going, because you are so insecure about yourself.
We may act needy on a date because there’s a lot of pressure on the date to be a success. Maybe you haven’t had a relationship in a few years and you really want this date to work out. What you need to do is put that pressure aside for a while. Don’t worry how the date is going, just have fun while it is happening, be relaxed, put your best face forward, and let the chips fall where they may. You can’t force love to happen, and trying to do so will only make you look like a weirdo.
2. Talking too much.
A good conversation is all about give and take. Listen to what your date is saying so you can respond correctly and create stimulating conversation. If you don’t listen to what he is saying and just spout stuff you want to spout the whole darn time, he’s going to notice and think you are a bore.
3. Not maintaining eye contact.
One of the most important things you can do during a date is to maintain eye contact. You may feel uncomfortable doing so if you are shy or self-conscious, but you need to get over that. Eye contact is a way of establishing trust. If you avoid looking at a person he will wonder what you are hiding. He might also wonder if you are even really interested in him. This is not the way you want to start off a date. On the same note, though, you don’t want to stare at someone in an obnoxious way. That will make them feel self-conscious and have them feeling defensive.
Most people want to be with someone who has a sense of humor. If you never laugh during a date, he is going to think you are too stuffy—especially if you are at a comedy club or a funny movie. And if he tells jokes, you should try to laugh or at least smile at some of them, even if you don’t think they’re rip-roaringly funny. It’s just the polite thing to do.
5. Not saying “I had a nice time.”
At the end of a date, you should say you had a good time, even if there were some problems. Always leave the date on a good note because you never know whether this is someone you may want to see in the future.
Religion is typically a controversial topic for most, but it’s an especially controversial issue for gay people, because of what religion often says about sexual orientation. This is a significant topic for me because, as the owner of a successful gay dating website (OneGoodLove.com), and as the friend of many gay men in relationships, I’ve seen firsthand how people’s religious beliefs affect their lives — and trust me, it’s not a pretty picture.
When your religious beliefs say that you are sinning simply because of whom you love, it can be a crushing blow to your self-esteem and happiness. I am a huge evangelist when it comes to being happy. I post happy photos of myself constantly on Instagram and Facebook to show friends that I’m having a good time. I know the mere mention of this may make you (or them) want to slap me, but my intentions are good. I am not trying to brag about my life; rather, I am trying to inspire others to join me in having a happy life too.
So it is hard for me to watch close friends and others struggle with the issue of religion and gay dating. I can hardly imagine how it feels to be told your whole life that being gay is wrong, a sin and a barrier blocking your way to heaven, only to realize that you are indeed gay and the object of so much misplaced hatred in the world. I was raised without religion, although I don’t consider myself an atheist today. I’m embarrassed to even admit my first religious lesson. I was at a friend’s family’s dinner, and they were praying. I asked my friend, “What the hell was that?” That’s how uneducated about religion I was.
Growing up with friends of all kinds of religions, I considered their belief systems something that has influenced them in a positive way. I respect all religions even if I haven’t taken the time to understand them.
My advice to my friends and others struggling with gay dating and religion would be to understand that the Bible was written in a vastly different time period and is not always meant to be interpreted literally. My advice would be to simply be a good person and trust that you will be loved by God on that basis alone.
It seems unfortunate to me that so many LGBT people have abandoned their beliefs because their church (or temple, or mosque, etc.) stood so firmly against who they are. It’s especially sad considering that religion’s main purpose is to provide guidance and happiness. On the other hand, there are progressive churches doing a great job serving the LGBT community — performing wedding services, or even just giving general support. I hope one day the controversy over gay dating and religion will be a thing of the past, but until then, we need to help each other get through the struggle.
Part of that is simply getting the conversation going. So you tell me, readers: How does one deal with religion conflicting with sexual orientation? Must a person’s religious beliefs be modified or abandoned if he or she wants to be a happy gay person? I especially want to hear from you if you’ve dealt with this yourself. Your answer could lead to salvation for all your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters out there. You might even save someone’s life.
Written by our co-founder, Nicholas Marlin.
Follow Nicholas Marlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nicmarlin