Are you creating community or looking for love?

gay-male-red-umbrella-5297-bsOne of the challenges for gay men, lesbians and others in the LGBT spectrum is that our close friends can also be candidates for intimate relationships.

Because we draw friends and life partners from the same pool, there is a much greater risk of disappointment and unpleasant experiences .While straight people can have friends of the opposite sex, often the buddies they hang out with are of their own gender – not relationship material.

Unique relationship challenges of being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender

As a minority, we also have a need to be in community with others like us.  In the process of creating community, it can often be unclear if you’re attending a community gathering or a speed dating event filled with your exes.

This poses a variety of challenges including not getting our friendship needs met and getting into intimate relationships that are a bad match for us.

If you live in a rural area or in a region where most people are not out, the size of the visible community near you can seem (or actually be) small. This situation often require doing extra work to maintain healthy relationships and let go of old wounds.

Navigate the risks through deeper self-awareness and clear choices.

The answer to this problem is having a deeper self-awareness, and making clear choices about how you navigate the risks.

First define what you want and what your goal is

Most people who are looking for good Chinese food don’t go town to the local pizza shop and ask for it. In relationships it’s easy to act like this, and then complain if the pizza shop served bad Chinese food.

Are you looking to expand your circle of friends or are you looking for that special someone?  There are many things these relationships share in common – like empathy and listening. Each serves a different function in your life, so your criteria should be different.

Even if your goals include both, take some time to get clear on which is your priority for any particular event or activity. It will change how you approach people. And you’re much more likely to reach your goal when you’ve got one.

Second, align with your values and requirements

As the years pass, your hobbies and interests may change, but your values and expectations in relationships are much more stable.

What qualities and personality traits do you value in yourself and others?  Is honesty more important to you than being polite – or the other way around?  Maybe you consider always being on time as the highest priority, Or like some people you may place a higher value on taking that extra few minutes to make sure someone in need knows that you care–even if it means being a little late?

By choosing your friends, dates and relationship partners based on shared values you increase the changes of things working out well, whatever direction the relationship takes.  You also increase the chances of successfully navigating changes or difficulties.

Related to this, what is acceptable and workable for you for friends vs. intimate partners? The criteria will probably be different for each group.  By taking time to explore this, you can set and communicate healthy expectations up front and avoid unsolvable problems in platonic friendships and intimate relationships

Third, carefully screen and sort your contacts

When you know what you want and what your values and requirements are it becomes much easier to screen and sort people.

It’s understandable that in many social situations you may meet others and not know at first if they are potential friends or potential dates.  In fact, what may happen first is that you get some kind of erotic charge or other positive chemistry when you meet them.

Rather than getting caught up in that (as good as it may feel), run the person through your filter of values and requirements.  Before committing to anything with them get to know them – a little.  Just enough to screen them and sort them into your potential friends or potential dates or the “no thanks” category.

Fourth, be consistent and persistent.

This requires self-knowledge and discipline. No doubt about that!

Once you’ve decide someone is friend material, but not a relationship candidate stick with that decision.  Engage in only the behaviors consistent with the category you’ve put them in.  If you are tempted to change your mind, set a specific date a few months away and don’t re-assess your choice until then. (Next week is too soon and can keep you caught up in the emotion of the moment. Three or six months would be better.)

One benefit of this is people will appreciate knowing where they stand with you.  No one likes to get mixed signals.

Ultimately all worthy goals are achieved through persistence.  Using your values and requirements and clear definition of what you want can support you in persisting and being consistent about screening and sorting people.

Conscious self-awareness helps avoid relationship problems

When your friends come from the same pool as your dates, and potential life partner, the risks of relationship failure increase greatly. A deep level of personal self-awareness is needed to navigate this successfully. To avoid disappointment and heartache, take some time to define your goals, align your actions with your values and requirements, screen and sort people.

The discipline of being consistent and persistent can lead you to surrounding yourself with people who you enjoy and can relate with happily and easily.

What is your experience?

Share in the comments what you’ve learned about the self-awareness and discipline needed to draw friends and potential partners from the same pool of people.


About Mark Reinert

Mark Reinert is a relationship coach and erotic educator who is fiercely committed to guiding gay and bisexual men who want to experience remarkable relationships, erotic fulfillment and solid self-confidence.

Since 2004, he has offered over 100 workshops and founded the Male Healthy Touch Club which has impacted thousands of men in North America and around the world. Mark's clients regularly report discovering new dimensions of wellbeing, self-acceptance and relationship connection. Mark is a member of the Relationship Coaching Institute and a founding member of the Gay Coaches Alliance.