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Shrink Wrap: Sexless in San Diego expected to “play the field” after becoming single again

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Sexless in San Diego writes:

I'm a single gay man in my early 30s. After having spent the majority of my adult life in a relationship, the single scene is sort of new for me in the last couple of years.

I was expecting a period where I'd "play the field," have some fun and date people before deciding to settle down again. But all I meet are guys who want to settle down immediately. Ordinarily that would be flattering, but recently it has just gotten sort of frustrating because these guys also seem bound and determined not to "give it up" too soon for fear of "screwing things up with sex."

So basically, I get dates full of guys campaigning for the position of "boyfriend" - but with no happy ending to show for it.

Is it my age group? Is it me? I'm not a commitment-phobe, but how am I supposed to know if I even want the guy as a boyfriend if I have no idea if we're sexually compatible?

Dear Sexless in San Diego:

Getting out of a long-term committed relationship can take a toll on your heart, and starting another relationship might not be what you are ready for.

Give your heart a time to heal and get to know yourself in this new world of singlehood. The single scene is full of many ups and downs. The excitement to see what’s out there, the fun of doing whatever you want, and exploring how to “play the field” are one of benefits of singlehood.

You probably give off a positive vibe that others are attracted to and they want to settle down with you. This isn’t a bad thing to have, but it just makes this singlehood time a bit more challenging.

Don’t pull away; some people hold on tighter. The more people come off as “hard to get” or pull away, it becomes more intriguing to others and they may want to hold on tighter and tighter. Find a middle ground, with clear messages that you are interested in others, yet not ready for a committed relationship.

Be straight up with the guys you date. Clearly tell them that you are simply dating right now, not looking for a serious relationship.

If you aren’t ready to settle down and you are fed up with guys campaigning for the position of “boyfriend,” you might want to re-evaluate and see what message you are sending. Are you being extremely clear about your dating position?

Examine whether the behaviors that you express through text messages, frequency of contact, non-verbal cues and opening up, send the proper message. Make sure that you are clear and consistent about your lack of readiness to settle down. Don’t lead them on. The more the men know what you are (or are not) looking for, the easier it will be on you and the men you date.

Good news … you are a good catch and these guys recognize it and they simply don’t want to blow it by making it all about sex.

The gay scene for men has sex as the main focus; however, it appears that they want to do everything in their power to avoid blowing it with you. Dating is a time to get to know other people, pick out qualities that you like and dislike … including how compatible someone is in bed.

Get clear about what you want with your dating life.

You aren’t looking for a relationship, yet you also don’t want to be single and dateless … carve out an understanding of what it is you DO want. Are you simply looking for a one-night stand with a “happy ending?” Or are you open to the idea of falling in love, but you haven’t found the right man yet?

We all have our own ideas of what we want and don’t want in relationships. Figure out what matters.

Ending a long-term relationship might leave you feeling excited to experience sex with others, you might want to see what you have missed out on, or you simply might want to get to know yourself in a new way.

Know what matters to you about the sex. Is it simply to have someone touch and hold you, or is it to be expressive and try new things? It is important to see how compatible you are sexually, as well as emotionally. Determine what you really want and see how it fits with your dating.

Jennine Estes is a marriage and family therapist in San Diego. She has appeared as a relationship expert in Redbook Magazine, Social Work Today Magazine, Glamour, San Diego local news stations, and more. To learn more relationship advice from the author Jennine Estes MFC#47653, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw or her San Diego Couples Therapy website.