Love is blind. When a guy grabs our attention, we can be willing to overlook all manner of shortcomings in the hope they’re, ‘the one’.
Of course, this is not the prerogative of gay guys only. But years of dealing with internalized homophobia, of being made to feel ashamed of one’s natural feelings, can leave many in the queer community floundering when it comes to forging significant partnerships.
“Folks ignore red flags because the quest to be partnered is so ingrained in us by society,” says New York City-based psychologist, Dr Tony Ortega.
“This is even more prominent in the gay community as being in a relationship will normalize us against our heterosexual coupled peers. Single people are often considered abnormal. We fear being alone and single. We attend gatherings and the first question asked of us is usually, ‘Are you seeing someone?’
“The pressure is on to be partnered so sometimes we will overlook and/or minimize red flags for the sake of being in the relationship.
If you’re ignoring or making excuses for any of the following ‘red flags’ – those signs of potential trouble ahead – take a step back to reassess the situation.
1. He’s not over his ex
“I remember when I was dating my last boyfriend, I ignored how he was not over his ex from about six months prior,” says Ortega.
“One Friday morning, he texted me something along the lines of, ‘Some days, I just wish I could get in a car and drive away and get away from it all’ in response to a dream he had about his ex.
“I had initially thought to myself, this is a major red flag but convinced myself that I was being way too picky too early in the ‘relationship’. As it would turn out, this would have been an opportune time to leave what eventually became a disastrous relationship.”
2. He doesn’t speak to you with respect
“Pay close attention to how your potential partner speaks to you,’ says Ortega. “Do they talk down to you? Do they ask for your opinion? Do they actively engage with you to get to know you or do they spend the majority of your time together talking about themselves?”
He goes on, “When you bring something to their attention, do they listen or do they deflect? Does he listen and acknowledge what you say? A healthy relationship allows for healthy confrontation. If your paramour is unwilling to listen to your concerns about them, you may want to think twice.
“If you catch a whiff of being belittled, this may be a red flag.”
As a side note, it can also be illuminating to note how he treats service staff. Does he talk down to waitresses or cashiers? You can often tell a lot about a person from how they treat people who have little or no power over them.
3. He needs to be drunk or on drugs to have a good time
Drunken sex can be great sex. But sober sex is great sex, too. If he’s only interested in sex after he’s taken something “to help unwind” then it’s worth finding out why.
“Does their personality change drastically when they consume alcohol,” asks Ortega. “You may also want to pay attention to the stories they tell about their escapades. Are these stories always about getting high and having a great time?”
Oh, and if you’ve both got a substance abuse problem, that doesn’t mean you’re magically compatible and guaranteed a happy ever after. Sorry.
4. Your friends and family dislike him
Those close to you are likely to have a more impartial view of things. Pay attention to what they say.
“I’ve seen many an older guy get with a much younger guy, often in need of some quick money,” recalls Paul Thorn, British author of self-help manual The Broken Heart Toolkit.
“His friends point out to him the red flag they can clearly see. ‘He’s only after one thing. It’s not in your trousers, but your wallet!’ My advice, check out what your close friends think of someone. If love is blind, then hopefully lust isn’t deaf!
Of course, if your family are homophobic as hell and think no man is ever going to be as good as a nice woman, do not turn to them for advice about your latest paramour.
5. He wants to keep you a secret
“Do they keep you away from their friends and loved ones?” asks Ortega. “Many men remain closeted from their loved ones. Or maybe they have some sort of secret they are trying to keep from others. Even worse, at a function, they may introduce you as ‘my friend.’
“If your paramour is not able to introduce you as you are, this is a sure sign that they may not be as committed to the potential relationship or they have secrets they are keeping from their loved ones that will eventually cause problems.”
6. Controlling or abusive behavior
Controlling behavior can include any sort of emotional manipulation. The term ‘Gaslighting’ has been used to describe the way some people attempt to distort someone else’s perception of reality.
“One of the biggest red flags has to be domestic violence,” says Thorn. “One whiff of anything like that and you should hit the abort button. Accepting such behavior, even once, sets a precedent and an abuser will always try and push the boundaries to see what he can get away with.”
“It’s OK to make mistakes,” says Thorn. “However, only a fool will not learn from them.
“Judge a man on his actions rather than his words. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.”