As an older guy who’s experienced life and been around a bit, I often find myself being asked by my younger friends for tips on love and life. How do you do know when a relationship is right for you? What things should I do or not do? What are the early warning signals that things are heading south? So I polled some of my other “mature” friends about what advice they’d offer based on their collective experiences.
And here are some thing things we’ve have learned. Doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, the same principles apply.
As a young person, get to know who you are and what you want out of life before rushing into a relationship.
What are your priorities, your goals, what do you want to accomplish in your life? A relationship can either help or hinder those. But you gotta know them first.
Don’t seek someone to complete you; consider someone who can complement who you already are.
Don’t be attracted to someone because they make you feel a certain way, because in the long run, more often than not, they won’t make you feel that way for long. Be attracted to someone for who they are as a person. Are they caring? Are they easy to talk to? Are they a good listener? Are they motivated? Are they positive? Sense of humor? Are they responsible?
Happiness is not something you find; it is something you create. It is something you forge first within yourself and then with a partner.
No one makes you “feel” happy or sad or mad. You choose how you react to any given situation. Be proactive, not reactive.
Relationships do not come naturally. They take a lot of work. They need to be nourished. Ones that fail usually do so because they are not nourished. Good relationships don’t just happen, they are made.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
It’s the little acts of selfishness that kill a relationship. Watch for those — in him and yourself.
Make sure you are speaking each other’s “love language.” If your partner feels loved when you spend time together, yet you keep on buying her/him gifts instead, they aren’t feeling the love. If your partner feels loved by physical touch (holding hands, etc) yet you do the dishes for them as your way of expressing love, they aren’t likely to get it. Ask your partner what their love language is. Speak it. (If you’re not sure about “love languages”, google it. There are different ways we express love and understand that we are loved.)
If you seem to go through relationships like people go through paper towels, look in the mirror. Most likely the issue is not them, it’s you. Ask yourself what you may need to work on.
Step outside of yourself and ask if you would be attracted to who you are. If you wouldn’t date yourself, why would anyone else? If you don’t love yourself, why expect anyone else to?
Be some of the things you find attractive in others. Are you attracted to someone who knows how to communicate without using profanity? Then, is every other word in your vocabulary a cuss word? If you are attracted to someone who cares about their health, do you care about your health? Are you attracted to someone who is sweet, kind, able to commit? Are you able to do those things?
Save yourself a lot of hurt; don’t keep investing in people who are not willing or interested in making the same investment in you. As the expression goes, don’t make someone a priority who only considers you an option.
Money. Look how they spend their money, how they handle money, do they respect it or neglect it? If you differ with your partner on this foundational issue, you’ll be miserable.
Notice how he treats other people, even store clerks and restaurant servers. When people first meet, they are on their best behavior (even you), so seeing how he treats a store clerk can be revealing. In a few months, he will probably be treating you the same way.
Likewise, watch how he treats his parents, his family — because you soon will be considered family.
How does he handle real life? Does he have a job, a car, and his own place to live? If not, watch out! You’ll be supporting him, and he will drain you.
Watch out for substance abuse patterns. Does he drink a lot? Does he go out or party a lot? Are his weekends spent at bars instead of other activities? Does he do drugs, even just “socially”?
Is he a workaholic? People who are always “busy” will soon be too busy to spend time with you.
What’s his relationship with God like? Does he go to church? Without trying to sound like your Baptist mamma, a strong faith in God (in lifestyle, not just belief) bodes well for you. It helps in conflict resolution, in stability, it shows commitment. (Of course, a lot of rotten people go to church too. It’s just one more thing to consider.)
Lastly, do not, do not, DO NOT ignore the red flags or make excuses for them. Those early intuitive warning signals more often than not are definite indicators of trouble ahead.
Of course, these are just a handful of things we’ve all learned, usually the hard way. None of them is a guarantee for a “happily ever after” relationship. But prepared with a few nuggets of common sense based on the experience of your older brothers and sisters, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
GARY TAFT is a Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for the Gay Christian Network and for the last 6 years hosted an annual summer camping event for GLBT Christians known as “Camp OUT”. After 19 years of marriage, Gary finally reconciled his faith and same-sex attraction in 2003. Gary has four grown children and 3 grand children.