Challenges in Gay Dating: Common Struggles and How to Deal

Doublelist Team

February 13, 2023 12 minutes read
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Every rose has its thorn, every road has its bumps, and every gay relationship has its ups and downs. No matter your partner or situation, you will experience challenges in gay dating. Some of those issues arise from outside sources, others from differences between you and your significant others. Some problems aren’t that different from what straight daters go through, while others are specific to the gay experience.

We’ll get into all that and more in this blog post. Sit back, relax, and dive into our hands-on guide.

Is There a Difference Between Challenges in Gay Dating and Straight Dating?

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Yes, there’s a difference between the challenges in gay dating and straight dating. Just like there are differences between the joys of gay vs. straight dating. Now, does this mean the two are complete opposites? No.

Some things are the same, regardless of your sexuality. For example, some people are more high maintenance than others, struggle with trust, can’t align schedules, etc. You won’t escape the difficulties of a romantic relationship just by being straight. But you may have additional hardships from being in a queer dynamic.

Challenges in Gay Dating That You Don’t Face in Straight Relationships

Below, we’ve pulled together three roadblocks for same-sex relationships that straight daters don’t encounter.


1. Challenges in Gay Dating: Everyone Else’s Opinions

Listen, if you’ve dated, odds are you’ve run into someone who has a hot take on your relationship or partner. It’s just the way it goes. People on the street might look and make assumptions. Or it can come from people you know. Like a parent nagging you to marry or your best friend not liking your partner. So what makes this an issue unique to gay dating? The reasons behind everyone else’s opinions.

All of the things we mentioned above still happen to gay people as well. But what doesn’t happen to straight people is the extra judgment for being in a queer relationship. Even though many people are far more accepting these days, we still live in a cishet-dominated world. Being out in public and facing these interactions are all challenges in gay dating.

So let’s go back to some of those examples we gave you earlier. Picture you’re a gay man holding hands with your boyfriend as you walk down the street. If you were straight and people were staring, you might write them off as nosy.

But as a gay couple, you’re worried they’re staring at you because they’re homophobic. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable in the area you live in anymore. Or you don’t want to leave home alone in case you’re in danger. Or dealing with this behavior just adds to any anxiety or mood disorders you already have.

Now picture that same mother who, if you were straight, would bug you about marriage. If you don’t come from an accepting household, maybe she’s badgering you about being gay. Or maybe she doesn’t talk to you at all anymore.

To be clear, these scenarios don’t always happen. But because homophobia and transphobia still exist, outside opinions may impact your relationship.

2. Out vs. Closeted Gay Dating Problems

Another one of the unique challenges in gay dating is the out versus closeted dynamic. You don’t need to worry about being “out” when you’re straight. Why? Because that’s what many of us grew up with as “the norm.” But queer people go through the process of coming out, aka, openly living as an LGBTQ+ person. This process is unique to each individual. Everyone’s on their timeline, and everyone has their definition of “being out.” Here’s how this can add to the list of gay dating problems.

Say you’re a lesbian. All your friends, coworkers, and family know your sexuality, and you don’t mind going out publicly with your partners. Now, let’s say you dabble in gay online dating. You meet a woman, become sexual partners, and soon move in together.

All of this leads you to believe that she’s out. But then the holidays roll around, and you discover that she isn’t out to her family. Or an important work function comes up, and you can’t attend because her office doesn’t know she’s gay.

We know it sounds like we’re just describing the plot of a rom-com. But these are real situations that come up and strain relationships. These issues arise in part due to those same societal pressures around queerness. But also, you and your partner may also be at different life stages.

Perhaps dating someone who’s not fully out makes you feel like they’re ashamed of you. It might bring up your old negative feelings from when you were in the closet. On the other hand, being with an out and proud partner could be intimidating if you’re not out yet. While there’s no right or wrong to this particular gay dating challenge, it’s important to keep it in mind.

3. Common Gay Dating Issues: Legal Restrictions

Last but not least, third on our rundown of common gay dating issues that differ from straight dating: legality. There is no country or state where straightness is illegal. Living in fear that engaging in any straight relationship or act might cost you your life or freedom is nonexistent.

Unfortunately, homosexuality remains illegal in many parts of the world, making legality one of the major challenges in gay dating. In some places, being gay isn’t necessarily a crime, but they’ve banned engaging in same-sex behavior. Living in any of these countries makes the possibility of safely finding a lasting gay relationship nearly impossible. Most people in these places don’t have the luxury of moving to a more accepting country.

But here’s the good news: there are 32 countries with legally protected marriage equality, and those numbers continue to grow. Additionally, american gay daters can celebrate that 71% of Americans support gay marriage (a record high). On top of that, as of December 13, 2022, gay marriage is now federally protected in the US.

While not every gay dater’s end goal is marriage, this is comforting information. If your country legally protects gay unions, it’s a sign of living in a more accepting situation. This gives queer folks a supportive environment and a happier mindset when approaching their romantic life.

How to Avoid Common Dating Challenges

We’ve walked you through the challenges in gay dating that differ from straight dating problems. Now, it’s time that we talk about how to avoid common dating challenges. These problems have more to do with dynamics within gay relationships and focus less on outside pressures. In other words, these are the more day-to-day, nitty-gritty problems that can come up.

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1. How to Solve Challenges in Gay Dating: Discuss Exclusivity ASAP

We’re not saying that every gay couple is out here debating the polyamory hierarchy. And no matter your sexuality, you should always clear up the “what are we?” question. But whether or not your relationship is exclusive or open is one of the common challenges in gay dating, specifically. Many LGBTQ+ couples think of or participate in nonmonogamous activities more than straight couples.

For example, a 2021 study discovered that 30% of gay men are in open relationships versus 3% of straight men. This may be because the adult population of men tends to be more sexually active. Or because the gay community has a more fluid approach to love and sex.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to remember that you and your partner may have different expectations. You may be comfortable with casually dating multiple people at once, but that doesn’t mean everyone is as well.

The last thing you want is to assume you’re exclusive while your partner is still surfing gay dating apps. Avoid hurt feelings, lost relationships, and stress by having an open and frank conversation from the get-go. And be sure to check in with each other regularly in case feelings change.

2. How to Solve Challenges in Gay Dating: Establish Safety and Trust

Another one of the big challenges in gay dating comes down to safety and trust. This can mean different things to different people. But for now, we’re going to focus on practical, physical safety and trust.

This comes up a lot in online dating or hookup sites. Any kind of virtual dating has risks. But because LGBTQ+ daters are part of a targeted population, there are additional dangers. You’re putting yourself out there every time you have an online interaction. You’re chatting with strangers or possibly a computer that now has access to your intimate details.

For that reason, it’s important to always proceed with caution. Ask yourself, do you trust this person with your personal information? How about compromising pictures of yourself? Do you know you’ll be safe meeting up with them in the real world? In this scenario, it’s best to stick to hookup safety and casual dating safety to avoid dangerous situations.

3. How to Solve Challenges in Gay Dating: Prioritize Sexual Health

Now that we’ve covered one aspect of safety and trust let’s get into the sexual side. Sexual health is among the major challenges in gay dating. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates continue to rise among gay and bisexual men. Obviously, the stats on this don’t mean that only gay and bisexual men get STDs. But they are at an elevated risk.

The important thing is to use this information to make better dating decisions. Here are a few preventative measures to follow in order to keep your sexual health up:

  1. Always use protection. We know it’s exciting to go bareback, and hell, it feels better. But it’s not worth sacrificing your health and safety for a few minutes of pleasure.
  2. Have a real conversation with your sexual partner(s) about testing. Share your stats with each other before doing the dirty. If they don’t want to play ball, that’s a major red flag.
  3. Use and drink responsibly. It’s no secret that alcohol and drug use impairs judgment. You don’t want to make a decision under the influence that your sober self regrets.
  4. Limit your intimate partners. We promise we’re not shading the casual daters and poly folks. The truth is, the fewer partners you and your partner have, the less your risk of contracting STIs.
  5. Seek Medical Care. If you already have an STD, don’t freak out. Many infections are treatable or even curable. Or, if you’re interested in preventing diseases like hepatitis, look into vaccination options as well. Talk to a medical professional to find the best treatment or preventative plan.

4. How to Solve Challenges in Gay Dating: Mental Health Check-Ups

Nowadays, mental health is challenging for many. So what makes this specifically one of the challenges in gay dating? For one thing, the statistics. LGB men and women adults are twice as likely to have a mental health condition than their heterosexual peers. Trans adults are four times as likely.

Several circumstances and events contribute to the prevalence of disorders in the queer community. Part of that is that LGBTQ+ people are a minority status group that faces discrimination. Some of this is large-scale, like being singled out by government officials, businesses, and religious groups. Other instances are individuals like parents throwing a kid out of their home for their identity and the trauma that it creates. Regardless of the root cause, many queer daters have psychiatric disorders, anxiety disorders, or substance use disorders.

Any kind of health issue is bound to affect your relationship. Mental health is no exception. If you’re experiencing any of these struggles, seek help from a licensed professional. If you’re dating someone exhibiting signs of any mental disorder, support and encourage them to get help.

Note: If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call, chat, or text The Trevor Project to speak with an LGBTQ+-friendly trained crisis counselor.

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5. How to Avoid Challenges in Gay Dating: Fix Bad Sex

Fifth on our rundown of the challenges in gay dating is bad sex. Every gay person on the dating market has their sexual preferences, fetishes, and fantasies. And sometimes, even when the emotional connection is there, the physical isn’t.

After all, what do you do if you’re both tops? Or you’re dating a pillow princess, and you’re tired of doing all the work? Perhaps your partner has a drastically higher libido than you.

The best thing to do is talk it out. Have you ever heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease?” If you don’t speak up, your dating partner can’t change their actions or work with you on a compromise. Sure, if it’s a one-night stand, it’s easier to just put up with a couple of awkward minutes and move on.

But if you want to build a lasting relationship (or just don’t want to have a bad time), say something. Be kind yet direct. Try a phrase like “It felt so good when you did…” or make your enjoyment known when they get it right. Or if things aren’t going right, a simple “Please stop” works too. If you’re still not feeling it, it’s okay to call it a day. There is plenty of fish in the sea.

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