One of the challenges in dating and looking for a life partner is that sometimes there can be confusion over whether someone is mainly a friend or a relationship candidate.
While this can happen to anyone, it is more likely among bisexuals, polyamorous and queer people, as well as gay men, lesbians and others looking for a same-sex partner.
This is because unlike those who are traditionally heterosexual and monogamous you may be looking for “hang out with” friends from the same pool you’re looking for relationship partners.
Whenever there is potential confusion between whether someone is a friend or a date, there is a much greater risk of disappointment and unpleasant experiences.
An extra relationship challenge of those who are queer, poly, LGBT or kinky
As a minority, those who are polyamorous, bisexual, lesbian, gay, transgender, queer or kinky also have a need to be in community with likeminded people. As a minority sometimes this community is hard to find. In the process of creating community, it can often be unclear if you’re attending a community gathering or a speed dating event filled with your exes.
This poses a variety of challenges including not getting our friendship needs met and getting into intimate relationships that are a bad match for us.
If you live in a rural area or in a region where most people are not out, the size of the visible community near you can seem (or actually be) small. This situation often requires doing extra work to maintain healthy relationships, boundaries and to let go of old wounds.
Regardless of orientation, navigate the risks through deeper self-awareness and clear choices.
Regardless of your sexual orientation and partner preference, the answer to this problem is having a deeper self-awareness, and making clear choices about how you navigate the risks.
First, define what you want and what your goal is
Most people who are looking for good Chinese food don’t go down to the local pizza shop and ask for it. In relationships it’s easy to act like this, and then complain if the pizza shop served bad Chinese food.
Are you looking to expand your circle of friends or are you looking for that special someone? There are many things these relationships share in common – like empathy and listening. However, each serves a different function in your life, so your criteria should be different.
Even if your goals include both, take some time to get clear on which is your top priority for any particular event or activity. It will change how you approach people. And you’re much more likely to reach your goal when you’ve got one.
Second, align with your values and relationship requirements
As the years pass, your hobbies and interests may change, but your values and expectations in relationships are much more stable.
What qualities and personality traits do you value in yourself and others? For example, is honesty more important to you than being polite – or the other way around?
Maybe you consider always being on time as the highest priority, Or like some people you may place a higher value on taking that extra few minutes to make sure someone in need knows that you care – even if it means being a little late.
By choosing your friends, dates and relationship partners based on shared values you increase the chance of things working out well, whatever direction the relationship takes. You also increase the chances of successfully navigating changes or difficulties.
Related to this, what is acceptable and workable for you for friends vs. intimate partners?
If you think about it, the criteria will probably be different for each group. By taking time to explore this, you can set and communicate healthy expectations up front and avoid unsolvable problems in platonic friendships and intimate relationships
Third, carefully screen and sort your contacts
When you know what you want and what your values and requirements are it becomes much easier to screen and sort people.
It’s understandable that in many social situations you may meet others and not know at first if they are potential friends or potential dates. In fact, what may happen first is that you get some kind of erotic charge or other positive chemistry when you meet them.
Rather than getting caught up in that (as good as it may feel), run the person through your filter of values and requirements. Before committing to anything with them get to know them – a little. Just enough to screen them and sort them into your potential friends or potential dates or the “no thanks” category.
Fourth, be consistent and persistent.
This requires self-knowledge and discipline. No doubt about it!
Once you’ve decided someone is friend material, but not a relationship candidate stick with that decision. Engage in only the behaviors consistent with the category you’ve put them in.
If you are tempted to change your mind, set a specific date a few months away and don’t re-assess your choice until then. (Next week is too soon and can keep you caught up in the emotion of the moment. Two to six months would be better.)
One benefit of this is people will appreciate knowing where they stand with you. No one likes to get mixed signals.
Ultimately all worthy goals are achieved through persistence. Using your values and requirements and clear definition of what you want can support you in persisting and being consistent about screening and sorting people.
Conscious self-awareness helps avoid relationship problems
When your friends come from the same pool as your dates, and potential life partner, the risks of relationship failure increase greatly. A deep level of personal self-awareness is needed to navigate this successfully.
To avoid disappointment and heartache, take some time to define your goals, align your actions with your values and requirements, screen and sort people.
The discipline of being consistent and persistent can lead you to surrounding yourself with people who you enjoy and can relate with happily and easily.
Keep yourself on track
Regardless of the type of relationship you’re seeking, it will be easier as you cultivate self-awareness and make clear choices.
Define clearly a vision of what you want. Make sure it’s something you can be excited about and is aligned with your values. Stay clear of highly unrealistic expectations. Be persistent and consistent in your search and in your quest for deeper self-awareness.