Ask Dave-Hot Topics In Gay Dating

One man seeks input on three very commonly asked questions—see what our expert columnist says.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I am a 24-year-old gay male who's interested in your insights about gay dating and relationships.
Managing a friends-with-benefits (FWB) relationship is an intriguing concept.
Specifically, I'd like to know your thoughts in these three areas that everyone I know seems to struggle with:

Friends with benefits. What do you think of that concept? Does it ever work? What are the downsides?

Hookups vs. dating? How do you know if a guy is interested in you or just your body? It seems that every guy I date is interested in the physical part only. Then after they have you, they debate whether or not you're a keeper. How can I manage that?

Being "just friends" if dating doesn't work out? It's frustrating for me when dating a guy doesn't work out for whatever reason after a few dates and he says he wants to be friends. I don't want to say no, because you don't ever know if there's potential there. But it's weird, especially if you've been intimate and known each other on a "more than friends" level, if only for a short time.

Any suggestions or insights you have would be much appreciated.
– Richard W.

Dear Richard,
All three questions are definitely hot buttons for gay daters. Here are my thoughts on each one:

Friends with benefits.
Managing a friends-with-benefits (FWB) relationship is an intriguing concept. It's attractive in theory, especially for those who aren't interested in (or ready for) a serious relationship, but want some sort of close connection. The reality, however, is often disappointing.

These are the common reasons that FWB gets complicated. Someone wants more. Someone wants less. Someone doesn't tell the truth about what he really wants. Someone's afraid to ask for what he wants for fear of being judged. Circumstances change. Attachments form. Boundaries get crossed. The list goes on.

Does it ever work? Yes, it can. But the downsides are finding someone who's at the same place as you, accepting the inherent limitations/boundaries, and managing ongoing expectations. And you need to be honest about all of the above... and communicate openly and clearly about these issues.

Hookups vs. dating.
How do you know if a guy is interested in you or just your body? The short answer is that only time will tell.

Sometimes it seems like gay dating is a fast-paced blur of new faces, fast hookups and players. Gay men are sometimes like kids in a candy store.
It's a vulnerable time, and you want to choose your words carefully.
Finding a guy who wants to focus just on you for more than a fling can be hard for those who take dating seriously.

Now, is it always like this? No. Is it possible that our sex-drenched culture blurs the lines between hookups and courtship more than ever? Yes, but obviously we can't generalize about the whole community. So play your part: There are ways to be clearer about what you want and present that in both your off-line persona and your online dating profile.

There's no foolproof way to guard against men who are either deceptive about or disinterested in the kind of slow-to-form connection you want. But keep your faith. As you give the search for Mr. Slow and Steady another try, these tips can help you avoid ending up with Mr. Fast-Paced Hookup by mistake:

Be aware of obvious hook-up settings. Of course you can meet guys who are looking to date vs. hook up in bars and chat rooms. But it's smart to be aware that certain settings like these lend themselves to hookups.

Create a smart online profile. Online dating profiles give you the chance to state what you're looking for upfront before you meet. They provide a more targeted forum for you to find men who share your standards. Make sure your profile spells out who you are and what you want (for instance, "I'm looking to date slowly, as friends first, as we see what develops"). Be clear that you don't want to waste anyone's time, including your own.

Screen your dates better. Along with the initial flirty banter, find out more about each prospect before you invest your time and energy. Talk over the telephone before you meet, and reinforce what you want relationship-wise. Set up your expectations and boundaries ahead of time. If Mr. Maybe pushes for something else, move on.

Being "just friends" if dating doesn't work out.
I understand your frustration when you're on the receiving end of the "let's just be friends" end-of-dating conversation. And I agree with you that you don't want to rule out the possibility of friendship, especially when you've just shared a brief but heartfelt connection.

But even after a few dates, it can be disappointing at best — and downright sad at worst — to have your romantic hopes dashed. It's a vulnerable time, and you want to choose your words carefully. That's why I think it's best to agree to be friendly, instead of committing to being friends. Being friends implies more, such as a certain commitment of time and energy. Also, it's hard to gauge sincerity at this transitional time. You might feel hurt and unsure. Your newly former date might be giving you the "friends" speech just to let you down easily. Keep in mind that over-committing is the quickest way to kill the chances for a true friendship down the road. Taking it slow and carefully monitoring your emotions — and acting upon them — is a wiser path to take.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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