Words by Mark Reed | @Mark_Reed88 

We all want to meet someone great and have our fairytale romance, but how many men do we actually connect with?

When you’ve experienced being in the closet, unable to pursue or even acknowledge your true feelings, does that make finding that special someone even more urgent when you do eventually come out? Are we desperate to be loved?

I tend to think that most people want to find love in some form of a relationship. And gay men, for the most part, are no different. I actually think a lot of gay men, myself included, want to have a loving relationship more than most because we’ve been denied it at some point in our lives.

Lots of us missed out on having teenage crushes, flirtatious text messages, dates at the cinema.

Formative experiences that heterosexuals get to engage in, but many young gay men miss out. We were romantically starved, denied the chance to experience love in our youth.

You might say that this is true for lots of straight people who lacked confidence during their school years and never had much experience of love either. And this is true, but young gay men are at a bigger disadvantage.

We didn’t have any healthy gay role models who were in loving relationships. The next generation of gay babies might be luckier in this respect. We’re also damaged by growing up in a society which has engrained a nice little niggling thought, ever present in our minds, that a gay relationship isn’t a real relationship.

We’re always trying our hardest to convince everyone else, but also on a deeper level, ourselves, that our love is as valid as heterosexual love, that happiness is possible in a gay relationship. We still have to tell ourselves that we can have these things because, until quite recently, they weren’t possible.

So we’re not only hungrier to have a loving relationship because we’ve had to wait, we also carry the fear, whether consciously or not, that love might not even be possible for us. It’s not the best starting point for a healthy relationship, is it?

When I finally had the chance to come out and be myself, I was so ready to fall in love. Completely, dizzyingly, hopelessly obsessed with finding someone to make up for the years I’d lost, for the heady kisses I’d never had, for everything I’d missed out on.

But I had no experience, no idea what a good relationship looked like, and the fear that there might be no love to be found there anyway.

If I could go back now, I’d tell that nineteen-year-old to calm down, relax, and focus on yourself for a while. To quote The Supremes, you can’t hurry love, no, you’ll just have to wait. Better focus on the laughs and fun along the way than fixate on finding Mr Darcy right away.

Sadly, I wasn’t around to give myself that advice and so I went on to make some particularly bad choices when it came to men.

I tried to convince myself to like guys that, deep down, I really knew that I didn’t like in the first place. I would go on dates and tell myself – in my tipsy, love-hungry state – that this guy was awesome, the one I’d finally bring home to meet my parents, the person I’d watch terrible TV with, who’d make me cups of tea in the morning, this guy right here was most definitely that guy.

Cut to date two. Oh fuck, this is not that guy.

I wanted it to happen so much that I could convince myself that this would work, that this had to work, and unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. 

On the other end of the spectrum, I pursued guys who were just nasty, the kind of idiots who undermine you to make themselves feel better, who keep you at arm’s reach to feel in control, and constantly, constantly disappoint you.

And yet, I was the bigger idiot for sticking around, hoping to cast these guys as the perfect boyfriend in the loved-up fantasy sequence that was playing on repeat in my head. But that’s all it was, a fantasy, fuelled by a desperate need to be loved.

What I’ve come to learn, with years of painful experience, is that love can happen for all of us. Gay men included. But we face an uphill struggle because of what we’ve experienced during our lives – the shame, the memories of suppressing our true selves, and all the emotional crap that we carry with us throughout our lives. That’s why we need to spend time working on ourselves first, and not just spending all our energies looking for love.

Focus on your friendships instead. Focus on your dreams, your projects, the things that will make you happy, fulfilled and proud of yourself.

They’ll all make you a better version of yourself, one who’s finally ready to have a healthy relationship with himself, and hopefully a cute guy too in the long run.