You may have been thirty, flirty and thriving, but now in your late forties you couldn’t get a guy to stick around. Over in the US the American Association of Retired persons found that from nearly two thousand gay men over the age of 45, 57% were single. We caught up with New York based clinical psychologist Dr Tony Ortega to ask for some advice on finding the one now that we’re no longer 25.
This 57% statistic is very scary for us who are getting up there and have yet to settle down. Does this figure reflect your experience of older gay men?
Yes and no. In my work with clients as well as interactions with my friends, I found that guys in their 20’s and 30’s are also having difficulties in the love arena. I think that studies like these create more hysteria for aging gay men. The issues of dating are complicated regardless of age. I believe that advancing technology has more to do with this statistic than age itself. Why settle down when the next best thing is only 543 feet away on Grindr? We have become a society of instant gratification and standing by your man has become quite the antiquated philosophy sadly.
As a professional who focuses on gay issues, why do you think a majority of gay men are still single when they’re getting on in age?
I think complacency is definitely a factor. Older guys become quite sedentary and just settle for a peaceful single existence than having to deal with dating. Another factor is something I encounter personally in dating which is older gay men are either seen as pariahs or fetishized. You will see some profiles say things like, “No one over 35” and others that say “no one under 40.” When younger guys approach you, it’s always “hey daddy” which can get quite boring after a while. I also have to address an older guy’s penchant for younger dudes. Going after guys half your age isn’t the wisest decision to make.
Do you think there’s anything about the gay experience that leaves people weary of committing to another person?
In my work with older gay guys, I hear a lot of complaints about not wanting to go to bars and clubs. Younger guys also seem to become tired of “the scene.” Body dysmorphia runs rampant in the gay community and not wanting to go out in public because you don’t have the ideal body is an obstacle in seeking out a potential partner.
Many gay men have moved beyond the traditional monogamous relationship, why do you think this is so appealing to gay men?
Historically, the one thing that gay men have been able to control is sex. Threesomes and polyamory have increased in preference to increase your sexual experiences. It’s a way to make increased sexual activity and diversity okay. I’m not saying that it is not an authentic form of relationship building. I think fear of getting bored in a one-on-one relationship may lead to opening the relationship up. We may love our partners immensely, but the fear of losing them because sex may become boring or routine can influence this decision. I’d also say some societal pressures have been internalized. If society thinks we are a bunch of whores, let’s legitimize this then by making it a relationship.
In our day and age, you can get anything to your doorstep at the drop of a hat. Could it be that maybe we no longer need an ‘other-half’?
I strongly feel that we are hard-wired to want to belong. I don’t think that we stop needing an other-half. We just have such accessibility that it becomes a low-priority desire since it’s too much work and I can just have one on my doorstep like an Amazon Prime shipment. No work at all, and immediate gratification. So do I think we no longer need an other-half? NO. But we have given up on authentic and deeper connections for the most part.
What would you say most guys are doing wrong when it comes to meeting the one, or keeping him around having met him?
We need to take a look at how we show up for dating and relationships. Are we owning who we are, or are we seeking these relationships to fill some sort of void, or is it because you think it’s something you need to do? I would definitely suggest that we check ourselves before dating and in a relationship. Do we realize that we are a whole person with or without the other person? Are we fully expressing ourselves in a way that honors us and the other person(s)? Are we working on ourselves?
In your book #IsHeHereYet, Being the Person You Want to be With you talk not only finding the one, but becoming the one. What’s the first step in becoming the man of your dreams?
The first chapter is “Getting Totally Okay With Who You Are.” I think the first step is really just to own who you are, defects and assets, regrets and victories, own it all. Accept what you can’t change. Thrive on who you are, and make a plan on where you want to see yourself in the future. The side effect of getting totally okay with who you are is leaving needing to be in a relationship and going on to wanting to be in a relationship.
To find out more about Tony Ortega and his latest book CLICK HERE.