Is same-sex dating the same as heterosexual dating? Yes and no.
Anyone who wants a long-term, committed relationship goes through similar challenges. However, as an LGBTQ individual, you have unique needs and concerns. You may face discrimination at home, at school, or at work. The traumatic severity of these experiences varies, but can sometimes impact self-worth and self-esteem. In turn, these can affect your relationships and dating life.
New same-sex marriage laws and a more progressive society have empowered the LGBTQ community to get married, have children, and create families. They’ve also allowed the community to redefine what commitments and families can be.
Despite these steps forward, challenges remain for same-sex couples. Unlike heterosexual relationships, which historically have a well-defined path towards marriage, there are few models out of there for same-sex couples. Whether you want to get married or not, it’s tough to know what to do next without guidance or role models.
In many ways, people in the LGBTQ community face the same challenges as their heterosexual counterparts. It takes the same effort to find a suitable partner, build a strong, long-lasting relationship, and improve that relationship over time.
On the other hand, coming out and the reality of oppression impact LGBTQ individuals in specific and concrete ways. This may affect how you look for and find a suitable match.
The rise of the internet and social media
The availability of the Internet and apps have dramatically changed the way people find their romantic partners. Dating sites and apps have replaced bars, restaurants, and other social spaces where same-sex couples would normally meet.
Because finding a partner has become 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 more gay and lesbian couples than ever before.
But, online dating has influenced how people make decisions about their relationships. Due to a bombardment of possibilities, people may be less attentive to more suitable partners and more vulnerable to connecting with incompatible partners. This is especially true for those who want a long-term relationship.
Too much choice
Additionally, the illusion of endless possibility and choice may make people more apt to discarding a good relationship if it doesn’t immediately fulfill most of our needs. Why try if there might be something better out there anyways?
Well, this mindset isn’t entirely true. Dating is complicated because 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 of our flaws. Yet, the reality is that relationships take effort and consistent repairs. As in any relationship, once the romantic stage gives way to the next stage, conflicts over differences may arise. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.
What does oppression have to do with dating?
As a sexual minority, people in the LGBTQ community are at high risk of stigmatization, discrimination, marginalization, and violence. Sometimes, they suffer at the hands of their own parents, siblings, and other close relatives.
Exposure to oppression can be internalized. This instills shame, self-hatred, and self-deprecating behavior. In turn, it may affect dating behaviors. Some people in the LGBTQ community may have a tendency to repeat patterns of rejection and blaming or stay in an unhealthy relationship for too long.
The coming out process can also affect dating. Dating challenges depend on when an individual started the coming out process. The more recently a 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. You may be out to some people 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.
People of color who identify as LGBTQ
If you also identify as a member of an ethnic minority, you may be exposed to multiple layers of oppression. And, studies show that discrimination against ethnic minority gay men and lesbian women can be perpetrated by their own families. Because of cultural values and a 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.
Tips for Successful Same-Sex Dating
Despite the challenges, love can last. With the right attitude and the right tools, you can find a longterm relationship.
- If you’ve been out of the dating scene for a long time, get help from a dating coach or a counselor. You can look for same-sex-specific dating advice online. First dates can produce anxiety, so it helps to do your homework and be prepared.
- Try to date someone who is in a similar coming out stage. The future success of a relationship is more likely if both partners are at or around the same stage. If you are out and your partner is not, you can become 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.
- If you are looking for a long-term relationship and not just a hookup, rethink your relationship with social media. Many social media platforms are not love and commitment friendly. Instead, they focus on hookup culture. This can affect how your dates view you.
- Be clear about your monogamy versus nonmonogamy 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.
- Don’t move in together too quickly. Sometimes, we make decisions about living together without really deciding. It just happens. Many same-sex and other LGBTQ couples report that they started living together because their lease was up or because they spent a lot of nights together anyway. The decision to live together is an emotional and financial decision. It shouldn’t be made on a whim.
- 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. Those experience can damage your self-esteem. 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, 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 things that make any 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 to get on the right track.