According to a recent survey by AARP, more gay men over the age of 45 are single than are in a relationship. Well, slap my ass and call me Nancy because every time I look around I feel that I see a sea of coupled men and just a few single older dudes, like me.
Then again, when I think about it, virtually every straight guy I know over 45 is partnered and many of my gay friends are single. Taking that admitted subjectivity into consideration, it’s a topic worth pondering.
I racked my brain and took it to the streets—so to speak—and here are some of the reasons that surfaced, from my own experience and coupled and uncoupled friends alike.
1. The AIDS pandemic
Many men my age and older lost loved ones to AIDS, and have consciously decided not to couple up again. Or don’t have the strength to open themselves up to such pain again. When I asked one friend why he was single, he said, bluntly, “my soul mates are all dead,” and left it at that. The heartache, the grief, the years of caregiving take their toll, and, tragically, many of us are war widows. The AIDS factor is crucial in understanding the lives and lifestyles of gay men who’ve survived and should never be underscored in any poll or statistic.
2. Been there, done that, grew out of the T-shirt
Once you reach a certain age, you’re more likely to know what you want and don’t want in a relationship. In your twenties, those mistakes are almost fun—especially when he’s hot!—but age translates to less patience. I think I speak for many when I say that I can tell after about an hour if the relationship has a chance (I jest, of course, it’s usually after about five minutes), and it’s not worth spending a chunk of your life living with the hope that you’ll learn to fall in love.
This is especially true with those guys who are perfect on paper—right looks, job, age, friends—but underneath aren’t a good fit. They don’t share your core values and beliefs and often make you feel more lonely than you did when you were alone. There was a time when I’d see those guys and jump right in. Now I find that goosebumps are a much stronger sign of compatibility than whether or not we both like Cher.
Related: Gay guys over 45 are way more likely to be single, survey finds
3. The times they are a-changin’
It’s easy to forget, what with gay marriage and gay rights and gay characters on TV and film, that there was a time, not so long ago, that long-term relationships weren’t at the front of everyone’s agenda. AIDS factors into this equation, but so does our upbringing.
No one asked me if I was going to get married to a man when I was a kid, and coupled gay role models didn’t exist. The few older gay men I knew were of the generation that often shunned monogamy and serious relationships, and those “institutions” linger. Whether subconsciously or not, many of us still view our lives as isolated and meant to be spent alone. Add the closeted men who came out late, and you’ve got one more group more apt to be alone.
When you’re straight, you are taught from a young age that you will grow up, fall in love, get married, have children, and buy a house. When you grow up gay in, say, the 70’s, you learn that your life is about survival. The over-45 club knows better than anyone that relationships are icing on the aging cake.
4. We’re born this wrong way.
There’s also a theory going around—mostly from coupled folk—that older guys who aren’t in relationships are simply asking for too much. They’re either too idealistic, hoping Prince Charming is still out there, or so set in their ways they aren’t going to budge an inch for anyone. Yet, there they are, day after day, wondering why they’re all alone for yet another New Year’s Eve.
There’s truth to this notion, although it’s often confused with another concept—that single guys are single because they refuse to settle. Some men are always coupled, and it’s just as easy to make the argument that they are unhappy with themselves unless defined by an else as it is that their single counterparts are too fussy. Both concepts are at play.
Related: How to deal with the depression that hurts so many older gay men
5. We’re happy this way
Many people find this hard to believe but some guys over 45 prefer to be single. And, unlike the straight world, going solo doesn’t have a lot of stigmas attached—it exists in both worlds, but less so in gay life.
The reasons are varied: A lot of guys I know have been through a couple of painful relationships and no longer have any interest in the work that comes with a partner. Many men over 45 have a well-established business and social life and don’t feel the need to add a husband to the equation. Lots of guys don’t want children and find marriage to be an outdated hetero institution.
Some guys prefer to have multiple partners without guilt, finding that you can get your needs better met by a combination of friends, family, and friends with benefits and tricks. So they just haven’t found the open-relationship strategy as appealing. Add hook-up apps to the mix, and sex has never been more accessible. Now, give us Netflix and get off our lawn!
Furthermore, studies show that coupling, especially different-sex coupling, is based on economics. Households benefit from two incomes, after all. But for men who are doing perfectly well financially on their own–maybe they have a high income, maybe they bought a house a long time ago when it was affordable, maybe they live in a rent-controlled apartment–that extra motivation is just not there.
As for me, well, sure, I’d like Prince Charming to come along. But I’d rather be single than have him be like the last one—a two-dimensional cartoon character that was so crazy he seemed like a piece of fiction…or at least a piece of work.
In the “happy this way” camp, ecstatically so. I worked tirelessly for marriage equality because I believe in civil equality and despite feeling that assimilation is the worst thing to happen to queer culture.
Hey Queerty, did you stop policing this forum? Because right above “Lucas Olofsson” just made a bigoted observation about an entire group that I thought was against Queerty Policies.
Oh, and that account is also posting links to a scam website as well as it has under a few other screenames.
DCGurl…the sissy nazi police…
In my humble opinion, you come out young, that burst of freedom is everything but you have goals and you eventually start dating with a purpose. I knew so many “Peter Pans” while single. One boyfriend confided that he never saw himself living past 40, it was just too old and pointless. I found so much selfishness in my community. I knew which of my friends would remain single even back in my 20s. So may gay men are stuck in boyhood, they never tempered or evolved all of that freedom to the next phase, never really developed couple skills, never became vulnerable and never planned for the next. The article points to cultural shifts with new laws and acceptance. I hope this mainstreaming helps the gay community to evolve better expectations for themselves. Even as a 20 something in WeHo, I knew there had to be more to my future than the pumped up pin ups boys on the cover of frontiers each week.
Some of the things on the list are relevant, but there does seem to be some factors I’ve noticed throughout the years that haven’t been mentioned here. Hetero worship, where you can’t or don’t want to develop legit and sustained passion and romantic feelings and comfort towards a dude unless you see him as straight or mostly straight, does anchor some men down for life. Having had your heart broken before and going through a tough break-up sometimes leads to individuals giving up on love for life. Having an orientation that is sexually very same-sex but romantically and emotionally not very same-sex can lead to indifference towards same-sex partnership. If you’re looking for monogamy (or even “mostly monogamous”) or maybe to start a family and you don’t have a decent amount of money or classic good looks then finding a partner who can give you those things can even more difficult. Some dudes, despite being out for many years, never push past self-resentment, internalized homophobia or depressive/anxiety tendencies. Those things can of course hamper relationship prospects. Having very specific preferences that are above your league or are not conducive to healthy long-term relationships is as well problematic.
Having said all this, most of my “older” friends are coupled. And the few single gays I know well do seem perfectly content.
As an older married gay man, I think that the reason why there are many gay men over the age of 45 who are single is simply that they don’t need to marry for emotional support, sexual contact, and don’t need to have a stable family for the sake of children. Also, women tend to be much more able to work towards a more long lasting relationship which helps with heterosexual men, but not gay men. Marriage is difficult and comes with many restrictions, which probably helps with longevity, but gay men have already eschewed the need for some “arbitrary” boundaries although the trend is reversing. It seems that the companion statistic would be the number of single lesbians compared to heterosexual women.
I think gay men, in general, are not great candidates for marriage b/c all they want to do is sleep around. They are always looking for something better. At a certain age, I realized that sex isn’t that important but companionship and love are.
Meanwhile, so many 45 plus gay men are still looking for a new hookup every night which is gratifying short term but not long-term and they end up dying alone.
The other problem is that men 45 and over want the 25 year old – not the men their own age which actually applies to hetero men as well. That is another recipe for disaster and kind of sad, really.
Thank you. This article fails to tell its readers the painful truth about the real reasons gay men are mostly single over 45. Most men (gay or straight) desire youth sexually. While emotionally, having an older partner who understands you as a peer is preferable, it’s rarely the case. Gay men also suffer from depression and Peter Pan syndrome which lessens the chances of becoming coupled. Gay men also have difficulty making new platonic friends after reaching a certain age. When making new friends involves the “gay handshake” which is basically sex before anything else, elder gays lose out the most. The sad truth is, life as an elder gay man will be miserable unless the gay community addresses its issues and begin to change the culture.
…but who am I kidding. we all know that will never happen.
@armandov: “so many 45 plus gay men are still looking for a new hookup every night” !!!
Honey, who has the energy? I assure you that’s NOT a problem (except maybe in your imagination!
@Black Pegasus: Ah yes. The “gay community” will never run out of typists who feel a strange compulsion to rearrange the entire gay community by typing a lot on the internet, telling us what to do, and sitting back to await results. Brilliant plan!
I didn’t find my soul mate until later in life and trust me, I took a lot of test drives. At 25 I didn’t know what commitment was.
most of this rings true on some level. i usually bristle at pieces like this, but i think this one is just soft on all subjects and does not really offend. i do fit most of the categories though. the sheer number of men who were lost to AIDS shrinks the dating pool for us. stayed closeted to an age where i may have missed the chance to learn how to couple with success. several significant relationships that have satisfied my curiosity for the immersive emotional experience. an introvert and likes my solo time and feeds my spirit that way. finally and happily there are some young attractive men who like older men, but don’t want to be committed to us beyond next weekend. i do spend occasional introspective moments wondering how happy i am and if finding someone is more rewarding and entertaining, or just demanding and stressful.
I identify with almost everything you say here (except I didn’t wait long to come out, really). Like you, I definitely wasn’t expecting a younger generation who are into this “daddy” thing, although I won’t complain about that, lol.
Introvert here also. People are exhausting! It’s tough enough I work 4 days a week; do I really want someone telling me what to do every weekend? 🙂 A recent foray into online dating showed me how the extroverts never give up their bullying ways: Do this, do that, jump thru this hoop, jump thru that hoop. Fk that. Certainly the PROCESS of finding someone is “demanding and stressful”… although it was probably much worse in pre-internet days for a gay guy over 45. I’m not blaming the internet & apps, per se, they can help a bit. Except it’s almost too much information, going in.
I especially like what you say about “several significant relationships that have satisfied my curiosity for the immersive emotional experience.” Yep, there’s that.
Just curious, When you’re happy single, how do you see yourself getting old(er)? How to keep from getting lonely?
I’m 59, and I HATE being single. But if this is my lot in life, all I will do is be the kindest, most loyal friend to the people who are important to me, so that when it’s my time to go, people will speak well of me. I think that’s all any of us could ask for.
Are you happy with your life as it is? Do you have a network of peers or friends? I’m in my 30s and even my friends are shady and envious. I’m honestly afraid of what’s to come as I grow older 🙁
@Black Pegasus: PolishBear obviously has a network of friends. I don’t know where you got the crazy idea that “Gay men also have difficulty making new platonic friends after reaching a certain age” (your post above). If I can calm you down a bit about THAT: there are Meetups, there are political gay groups, there are all kinds of activity groups. The platonic stuff shouldn’t be a big problem.
(Or as Queerty always says, the “plutonic” stuff!)
PLEASE DELETE THE ACCOUNT OF Lucas Olofsson – HE IS JUST ADVERTISING. WE ARE DROWNING IN ADVERTISMENTS AS IS, THE COMMENTS SHOULD BE THE ONE SAFE ZONE
I HATE being single and would like nothing more than to be coupled! But no one wants a 50 + older gay man who is bald and weighs 250#! I figure my Prince Charming died in the AIDS epidemic. I am more alone and isolated now than I was 20 years ago and expect that to only get worse. I have no more gay friends to hang out with. I am 26 years sober and have different values than I did 30 years ago. I’m not interested in the men on dating sites who only want my dick pic (when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all). I’m not into one night stands and I don’t want strange men coming into my home. Forget bars. So where do you meet men?
I’m not sure I understand. You start off by saying nobody wants you and then you end it with I don’t want any one-night stands. It sounds like an impossible list of barriers.
Good article. For many reasons, I’m single at 49 and one was a couple of bad relationships, another is I’m happy single. The one thing the author forgot was that many men in my age group seem to want to only date younger. And by younger, I mean men in their 20s so that they can recapture their boyhood.
Yes I agree. I’ve never been able to understand that. At that age If you’re obsessed with 20 somethings you just look pathetic. Very rare are they based on anything other then Peter pan meets.. I need $$ support.
I think this is a nice article, but at the same time, it doesn’t address what I feel are the true culprits that prevent older (or younger) men from maintaining long-term relationships… And that is most gay men do not possess the maturity and or determination to work through relationship problems. Everyone has relationship problems. It’s not unique to anyone. (Sex, money, time) It’s the same all over.
Yet, my straight friends will somehow get through it, not all of course, but more than those who don’t. However, most of my gay friends in LTR, who struggled at some point, were not able to get through the big hurdles. Instead, they opened their relationship until someone found someone else or until they ended up cold strangers to each other. It’s very sad.
The inability to work through relationship problems or perhaps our community not having the emotional skills needed, are in my opinion the larger culprits.
I’m 48 and here’s why my top five reasons I’m single:
1) I never get enough sex in a relationship.
2) I have zero tolerance for lies, cheating and deception.
3) Most guys don’t own a passport, can’t afford to travel, or just don’t want to.
4) There are many gay men have so many issues they need: a pill to wake up, a pill to leave their house, a pill if they see their own shadow by before 2 PM, a pill to enter their house and pill to sleep. When what they need is an orgasm, some Sanka and to get over themselves.
5) If you want to do something out of the ordinary, you like indoor rock climbing, yoga or volunteer suddenly most gay men have an emotional seizure and “just can’t right now”
That’s why I’m single. Oh and for the record Tina Turner got married at 70 and Barbra got married at 56 so shut it with your crap about “why you’re single at 45!”
And notice this survey was done by the AARP aka The Raisin Ranch Collation! Why doesn’t the AARP ask straight seniors about all those stories about “group sex” in nursing homes? Oh that’s not in the scope of AARP to ask about why granny’s gotta get it after 85 but you can comment on “why you think” gay men are single after 45 huh?!
Yeah I thought so…
*insert mic drop here*
LOL we need to meet!! I am 51 and agree – particularly the sex issue!! Perhaps another reason older men go after younger men and/or women is because so many people over 45 seem to have given up on staying in shape, fit and healthy – with I believe a direct consequence of having low self esteem and low to dead sex drive! Too tired for sex?! Are you kidding me?!!
@AndThenTheresMax: Thanks, I laughed for ten minutes over this! I’ve encountered the travel & yoga phobias, I even met a guy who tried to bully me into giving up meditation because it freaked him out, or something. (?!?)
Anti-depressants KILL the sex drive, and now 1 in 6 U.S. adults are on them. They don’t do much to cheer up anybody, but I think the point is to sell pills? Also I questioned AARP’s motives a few days ago when this first popped up on Queerty, but someone piously said they have the best of intentions blah blah… meh, I think you have the right take on it.
You left out #5 – a grown gay man who’s wa-a-a-y too worried about what his mom thinks (or worse, his dad) (or even worse, his older sister). Disturbing enough if he’s 30, and kind of disgusting if he’s over 50.
@williet: Ha — but judging from Queerty comments, if a guy over 45 is fat & out of shape, he is supposed to blame “gay culture” for not accepting him! It’s all the fault of “gay culture”! WA-A-A-AH!
You left out a common & pretty obvious reason: many gay men over 45 are only interested in younger guys. And while there are some young guys into daddies, they’re a relatively small proportion (and don’t often lead to serious long-term relationships).
I just read thru some of the other comments after posting my own, and see that a LOT of people pointed out the same thing. Very surprising that the author didn’t consider this.
The author touched on this by proxy…..AIDS thinned the pack. Most of the gay guys I know now are under 45, hell, most are under 35. When I look around at the 50 plus age group in the gay community, there just aren’t many people left standing there. So if I am to date or build a relationship…..where are the guys for me to select from? The pool is full of much younger men. If I limit my options to guys within 5 years of my age…….there are very few to work with. So it is easier to just not bother.
I know enough guys 45+ who prefer younger boyfriends, but I know more guys that don’t. And, while everybody gets to date and love whomever he wants, a lot of my friends and I find the bigger age discrepancies to be kind of gross–we’re witnessing “dirty old man” syndrome in the flesh. My point here is I don’t think so many older gay men are single b/c everybody wants a younger boyfriend– I don’t, and lucky for me, mine is not.
In my experience, it just helps to be conventionally attractive physically… If one is not (and I am not) it doesn’t really matter the age.
(Gay) Men are just shallow that way, that’s the harsh reality.
Although there is little new ground being broken here, I think most of the article is relatable. Thankfully I am not now single, having been with my partner for three years now. But most of what the author cites has applied to me in the not-so-distant past. And as many of the comments have pointed out, a big issue is the preference for much-younger guys. I bristle when people scoff at that preference, because I believe it is the natural result of many historical factors that are way out of the control of me or my generation. And at the end of the day, it is just as hopeless to try to talk myself into being attracted to a 50-year-old man as it was for me – for many years – to try to talk myself into being attracted to a woman. I suspect today’s 20-somethings, growing up in a very different world, will not face these issues to the same extent when they are older, but for now there is something of a lost generation where many will indeed be very lonely in their golden years. I would like to believe that in the end I have been one of the lucky ones, and I won’t be one of those lonely guys. But after the heartbreak of a couple of past relationships that proved too good to be true (and no, money was never an issue with any of them – those guys all came from affluent backgrounds) I have to admit that that possibility still weighs on my mind occasionally.
I’ll be 51 this year. Why am I single at my age? Well, I came out at age 48.
News Flash: I am 74, and single. I like it this way. My first partnering was eight years, I was 24; he was 19. We broke up 8 years later and remained very close as friends until he died in 1996 from AIDS. My second partnering was four years.
I fill my life with many activities: Work full time; read a lot; write a lot; lot at lots of photos of extremely HOT men, clothed and naked. I keep my finger on the political pulse of today, having served on various gay rights boards and having written for small gay rags.
It may sound trite or cliché, but life IS what we make it. I enjoy being alone; I never feel lonely. If the right man came along, I might give it a go. But, for me, that is not a pressing or priority concern.
Have been in relationships that have been 1 to 6 years, also my share of ‘one nighters’. Now in my 50s I do not want to be in a ltr or 1 nighers. Just happy to be single, and will stay that way till I leave this life. My K9s are my family.
Maybe gay men over 45 WANT to be single instead of dealing with the sorry selection out there in this century. Quite a few males are just horrible, shallow, vapid, vain, self centered ,obnoxious ASSHOLES!!! Maybe they are over the bs games and the “look @ me” toxicity fostered by the god awful “social media” sites and the generic dating/hool-up apps-which usually have the SAME people on them. Gald I found me a great man and left that BS world behind.
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