Being HIV positive doesn’t mean you can’t have romance in your life.
Let’s face it guys — dating can be a frustrating process when you’re single and in the market for a long-term committed relationship. Trying to find a compatible guy for romance and companionship can make you feel like banging your head against the wall as you struggle to figure out where to meet these men in the first place, and then to go through the whole screening process — it can feel like a full-time job!
But what happens if you are HIV positive and looking for love? I get letters frequently from single men with HIV who voice difficulties with the gay dating scene and trying to find people to date. Dating can be hard enough at times, but for those with health issues or disabilities, the problems can be compounded and the sense of hopelessness and uncertainty doubled as these men question whether love is even possible for them in a gay culture that seems fixated on shallow definitions of what make a man attractive and “viable.”
I’m not going to sugarcoat things. The harsh reality is that having HIV can complicate the process of meeting people for dating and can make it more difficult. The availability pool for dating prospects will be reduced because there are a percentage of men who will not date HIV-positive guys. That being said, having HIV does not condemn you to a permanent life of singledom unless you choose that lifestyle consciously.
The fact of the matter is that you can realize and live the dream of having a life partner if that’s your vision. Vast numbers of HIV-positive gay men are currently enjoying long-term relationships and you, too, can join these ranks if that is your desire. This article will offer some strategies and suggestions for improving your dating success and empower you to keep the motivation burning for your boyfriend quest.
First things first — getting out of your own way
The first step for any gay man who wants to find his Mr. Right is to ensure that he is ready for love in the first place, which entails making sure his life is on solid ground, dealing with any past “baggage” that could interfere with his efforts and ensuring he has the emotional muscles and skills needed to navigate through all sorts of relationships. The second step is to define his vision for what he is seeking in a partner, in a relationship and for his life. This provides a guidepost whereby you can measure your progress toward your goals and dreams. This requires a great deal of self-awareness and knowledge about who you are and what you stand for as you go about creating a list of your negotiable and non-negotiable needs that you then use to help screen potential dating partners for their suitability against your vision.
There is someone out there for you — but you have to be the best person you can be first and then find a man who resonates with your vision.
As an HIV-positive man, part of your readiness work will involve developing an acceptance of your disease. As with any illness or health issue, one goes through a grieving process; the degree to which you accept and feel okay with your health status, the greater your self-esteem can be so it doesn’t become a personal impediment in your dating efforts. Many HIV-positive men have shared with me that they feel “defective” and believe there’s something inherently wrong with them because of their status. This can be a huge obstacle to self-acceptance — but it’s more than just that. You will unconsciously send out certain “vibes” that reflect this poor self-image, which could work against your efforts to attract a mate.
It’s important that you adequately grieve your health status and work through any feelings that come up for you around this. This takes time and can’t be rushed. Remember that you are not your HIV. HIV is just a part of you and you have many other parts of your life that need feeding as well; spread the emphasis so there’s more appropriate balance and well-being. Having a strong self-esteem is an important prerequisite to dating and the impact having HIV has on this for you needs to be worked through. Feeling good about yourself will make you feel attractive and confident. Those are qualities that others will likely find appealing and magnetic.
Write about some of the ways that you feel having HIV has been affecting your dating life. If you can’t get a date, is it really because of your status, or is it perhaps something else about yourself that you could work on? What are some of the ways that you might hold yourself back from proactively dating? Do you possibly have fears of intimacy? It’s not all that uncommon for those men with intimacy issues to use their HIV status as a way to ward off closeness with others, even when they may feel that’s not the case. Develop goals for combatting any of your self-imposed barriers to dating or enlist the services of a trained therapist or coach for support and guidance.
Where to meet men
The obvious key to finding a partner is to put yourself in venues or situations where you will meet other single and available men; the more closely aligned the venue is to your vision, values, interests, and sense of purpose/meaning in life, the more compatible candidates you will likely meet. The important thing is to get out there and live your life, mix and mingle, and take proactive steps to meeting new people. Here are some ideas of venues where you could potentially meet other HIV-friendly men for dating and friendship:
• Use a personal ad as a way to really sell yourself and capitalize on your assets. What do you bring to the table? What makes you a great catch? Focus on positives and be unique, creative and captivating so you create an intrigue in your readers. Be specific about your non-negotiable needs to screen out mismatches. There are many POZ-friendly sites available on the internet.
• Volunteer for an AIDS organization or a gay community or health center. Join an AIDS walk or attend an AIDS charity benefit. Many community organizations sponsor events where you would meet other people who share like-minded values and missions.
• Attend an HIV/AIDS support group or create your own in your community if none exists. You could also form your own online forum as a safe meeting-place to discuss relevant issues, form friendships, and even meet and organize special events.
• Attend a gay-affirmative church, let your friends set you up, go to a Pride event, etc. You know the drill.
Dating navigational tips for the HIV-positive gay man
• Never give up hope. Having HIV is not synonymous with always being dateless. While it is true that some men may refrain from going out with you because of your status, there are also a host of other men who don’t view that as being an issue. It’s the same thing about someone who is short, or is overweight, or has green eyes — it doesn’t matter. Love is available to everyone. Be proactive in your search and take the initiative.
• As part of defining your vision, you will have to decide your own dating preference in terms of whether you feel comfortable just dating HIV-negative men, HIV-positive men, or if you’re indifferent to that. You will have a responsibility to any partner to disclose your status before becoming sexual. It’s best to reveal this earlier than later in your getting-to-know-you stage, but you will want to pace this at the level of intimacy you’re comfortable with.
• Rejection comes with the territory when you’re dating; learn how to become resilient in the face of this and avoid placing any expectations on the outcomes of your dating ventures. Remember this important point: if a man rejects you because of your HIV status, he did you a favor! You don’t want to be with him anyway. He helped you narrow down your screening for compatibility and you now have the energy to channel yourself toward more viable prospects. Your status was rejected, not you as a person because he didn’t know you. An HIV-positive status did not align with his needs list for a partner. Your needs and values didn’t match; it’s nobody’s fault.
• Build your social skills so you feel more confident in dating situations; strengthen your assertiveness; build a support system as a resource for companionship and support, find constructive ways to manage loneliness, practice good self-care of your mind, body, and soul, etc.
• Finding a boyfriend is not the pathway to solving all of your problems. Remember to attend to all the different parts of your life and enjoy life to the max, thereby taking the emphasis off of dating; snagging a guy along the way would then become an added bonus.
• Combat negative self-talk that might set you up for failure. If you think that nobody will want to date you because of your status, you could create the very situation you don’t want to have happen. The Law of Attraction states that we commonly get back what we put out there to others. Like attracts like. Avoid creating any of these self-fulfilling prophecies and adopt a more positive and optimistic mindset.
• During those difficult times when it seems like you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work, persevere. Try to take stock of what you’re thankful and grateful for in life and create a list of appreciations and affirmations that will help keep you centered and moving forward. Dating and securing a true goodness-of-fit with someone takes time and great care.
You can create the life you want, no
matter what your status is. The secret to success is to avoid succumbing to defeatist attitudes and to examine ways that you yourself may be contributing to your own struggles, since we can’t change other people or make them be our boyfriends. You only have power over your own life; capitalize on your strengths and work on removing barriers to your dating pursuits and eliminating self-imposed blocks. There is someone out there for you — but you have to be the best guy that you can be first and then go out there and find a man who accurately resonates with your vision.
— Brian Rzepczynski, Certified Personal Life Coach, is The Gay Love Coach: “I work with gay men who are ready to create a roadmap that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with Mr. Right.” To sign up for the free Gay Love Coach Newsletter filled with dating and relationship tips and skills for gay singles and couples, as well as to check out current coaching groups, programs, teleclasses, and the self-help book he co-authored, “A Guide to Getting It: Purpose & Passion,” visit www.TheGayLoveCoach.com.