As I mentioned in the first column in this series, the most common question I hear from gay men is “How can I find a boyfriend?” Occasionally I respond by asking “Do you really want a partner, or would you just like to have one? Some men think they want a relationship, but their behavior consistently makes sure that it doesn’t happen. Some guys, for instance, have a lot of first dates, but never go further because they always find enough “red flags” in anyone they meet to reject him before anything gets started. Some who say they want intimacy are afraid to make room for another person in their lives. Sometimes that’s because they’re still recovering from past hurts. Sometimes it’s because they want a relationship “in theory,” but fear the responsibility that a commitment to someone else entails. That’s why I’ve been emphasizing the importance of inner work as a precondition for looking for love. We have to have unambivalent and clear intentions about what we want, and we have to be relatively free of the fear of getting it, before we can be successful.
And once we’re clear that we really are open and ready to let a partner into our lives, it then becomes important to form clear intentions about who we’re looking for. The first step in achieving any goal is to visualize it clearly. In saying that, I don’t mean to endorse the popular New Age notion that all you have to do is conjure up an image of what you want, then “send it to the universe,” (as if finding love is like ordering Chinese take-out), and expect the universe to deliver the goods. Many people have tried to do this and found that it didn’t work. If it were that easy to find love, we’d all have great relationships by now, and all the computer matchmaking services would be out of business.
But we don’t have to succumb to magical thinking to recognize that we’re all powerful fields of energy, transmitting signals in words and actions, through body language, tone of voice, and countless conscious and unconscious signals. In more ways than we can ever know, we’re constantly drawing people to us or distancing ourselves from them. When we have unity of purpose and clear intentions we don’t send out ambivalent or confused signals.
The online personals sites provide excellent opportunities for learning how to send out clear messages because their format requires that we ask for what we want. One exercise which some have found helpful in achieving clarity is to spend some time writing a personals ad (whether or not they ever actually place it), focusing on honestly and specifically describing what they want. Here are some steps you can take to take to compose that description:
- Begin by asking yourself “Who is the man that I want to love?” Brainstorm, and list everything that comes to mind that you’d like to have in a partner. Be completely honest, and don’t censor yourself in any way. Work on this list in several sittings. What should he look like? What age range? What kind of values and lifestyles are you looking for? What kind of work does he do? What kind of psychological and emotional qualities should he have? And so on.
- Go through your list and rank the importance of each item on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 means essential and nonnegotiable, and 5 refers to preferences that aren’t absolutely necessary.
- Based on this list, write a paragraph describing the person you want to meet, making sure that your paragraph includes all the items you ranked as 1, as well as the most important 2’s and 3’s.
- Imagine meeting and spending time with the person you just described. Does your description adequately capture what you’re looking for, or are there items you should add or subtract?
- As an experiment, try to write one sentence which sums up your description, and then see if you can find a single word or phrase that describes the man you’re looking for. This phrase can be part of the headline you write for your ad.
- Next, ask yourself “What are the qualities in me that I most want my partner to value?” Make a list of these qualities and use it as a basis for a paragraph describing yourself to include in the ad.
If you like, place this ad, as an experiment, in one of the internet meeting sites. The responses you get will provide valuable feedback on how well you’ve actually communicated what you’re looking for, and will help you fine-tune your descriptions of yourself and your partner.
If you do this, and start to connect with potential partners, the most common challenge that you’re likely to run into is the fear of rejection. That will be the subject of the final column in this series.