In my counselling work with the gay community, I am staggered by how many gay men report they have dissatisfying relationships. It seems to be the norm that gay men feel lonely, isolated and disconnected from other gay men and the broader community in general.
If they are part of the gay community, many of their relationships tend to be superficial, vacuous and consist of ‘fair-weather friends’. When the going gets tough, or they are in need, they suddenly find that their friends that are there for the good times are not there for tough times. This is of course a generalisation, but I hear about this from my gay clients more often than not.
As a way of helping you identify if you have dissatisfying relationships, I have compiled a list of some of the most common factors that play a part in relationships that do not work. If you identify yourself or your friends in any of these points, you may want to reconsider the types of relationships you are forming.
1. Look for the flaws in others.
I see this commonly in my work with gay clients. They are fixated on all the flaws they see in others. They experience a constant running commentary of judgements and criticisms of others.
What is really going on is a sense of insecurity. Because you feel insecure or have doubts about yourself, you project this on to others and become adept and pointing out all their faults. This is a way of defending yourself from sharing your own insecurities or vulnerabilities.
2. Surround yourself only with gay friends.
Research of gay men shows that those who are less integrated into society suffer from higher levels of depression, isolation, anxiety and loneliness.
If you only surround yourself with gay people, you are not experiencing a diversity of relationships, which can help you in your self-esteem, self-worth and confidence as a gay man. Have a look at your circle of friends and see how mixed it is. Perhaps you need to make more connections outside of the gay community.
3. Obssess about how you look, where you go and who you’re with.
I’m sure we can all relate to being concerned about how we look and who we spend time with at one time or another. What I am referring to is the gay man who rarely moves out of these concerns.
When you immerse yourself in this world over a long period of time, it can be challenging to form relationships of quality and depth. If you want to form relationships that have greater meaning, you need to look past the surface and start to care about who and how the people in your life are.
4. Don’t reach out to others.
If you are completely self-sufficient, you may enjoy the freedom and independence that this provides, however, you also miss out on what the people that care about you can provide.
One of the markers of a healthy individual is the ability to be able to receive as well as give. And to receive, you will need to let others in your life know when you need their help. If you are fiercely autonomous, you will not experience the love and care that others may have for you. You also don’t allows others to truly know you.
5. Self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
We know from research that gay men have some of the highest rates of drug and alcohol use in the community. This also directly correlates with the levels of anxiety, depression and mental illness in the gay community.
If you deal with your feelings by using drugs and alcohol, you significantly impair your ability to form healthy and functional relationships. You are most likely surrounding yourself with others that self-medicate. So it is a perpetual cycle of shallow relating, lubricated by chemicals that foster dependence over time.
6. Immerse yourself in the gay scene.
Remember the last time you were at a pub or club on the scene? What did you do? I’m guessing you stood around, consumed large amounts of alcohol and/or drugs, shouted in the ears of your friends and spent the night assessing other men on their good or bad qualities.
I am generalising here because many people go out on the scene for an occasional night out dancing or socialising with friends and have a great time. However, those that become trapped in the merry-go-round of the scene will very likely have formed many superficial relationships that have little meaning or value. A question to ask yourself is, would my friends on the scene be there for me if I was in a crisis? The answer to this question will indicate the quality of the relationships you are forming.
7. Don’t share yourself.
One surefire way to create deeply shallow relationships is to not share yourself. Don’t share your thoughts, feelings, dreams, vulnerabilities, wants, desires or needs. This will also ensure that no-one really knows you. And I mean the true you.
If you struggle to share yourself with others, consider what that is about. What blocks you from allowing others to know you and what do you need to do to reduce those barriers?
Are you ready to develop deeper relationships with other gay men?
If you want to discover how to create deeper relationships with other gay men, then you don’t want to miss our gay mens’ group therapy that starts soon. Go to our gay mens’ group therapy FAQ page to learn more or to register. Places are limited, so apply now.