“He suggested we grab that coffee that I had originally asked about. We are meeting next Thursday at his place!” I said to Alex—my psychotherapist. “That’s a date, right?”

His tone is calm and meant to be reassuring, practical and direct, but my insecurity receives it as condescending. “It’s a meeting Michael. For coffee between two men. That’s it. You meet for coffee and see what happens.”

He continues to explain how labeling it as a date sets up expectations of how it should go in order to be a good or bad date.

His point is that to see it as a meeting rather than a ‘date’ puts no pressure on either of us, and that we can determine through meeting one or multiple times whether or not there’s a spark/attraction.

I like this idea, and it leaves me hopeful, but the validation-seeker in me wants more—wants to know it’s a date—wants to know that someone is interested in me.

This immediately prompts me into debating whether or not I’m even interested in him, or if I just want the validation of knowing he’s interested in me. I decide my therapist is correct and viewing it as a meeting allows me to ‘interview’ him, and find out if I actually am interested.

Therapy is hard. When the dust of my stirred up insecurity settles after a statement like this, it’s easy for me to see that my therapist means well and is trying to help me look at things through a new lens. I first hear it as shaming, but then as the cut-through-my-bullshit wake-up nudge that it’s meant to be, and it gives me new hope of something different in my life.

So, I approached my last two ‘meetings’ with this mindset. The first of which was easy, seeing as the person had been in touch the day before and professed an attraction to me right after I had revealed mine for him. Without too much detail, the timing didn’t work for this one, but it was nice to know the feeling was mutual.

Now it was time for my Sunday coffee ‘meeting’. My gentleman friend and I had been acquaintances for three years, but had just expressed a mutual desire to ‘hang out’ together for the first time. We struggled for a bit to commit to a day, and finally settled on Sunday.

So I went to my Sunday ‘meeting’ with the open mind that it was in fact a meeting—an interview of sorts from both ends. And it went well. I would have felt a little more secure had the atmosphere of our meeting been a bit warmer, but it went well nonetheless. We had a lot in common, right down to our knowledge of some very obscure pop culture references.

And then we left and hugged goodbye, both expressing that we’d like to do it again.

But did that mean do it again as friends or a second date?!

I know I was willing to go out again with a bit more of a date-ish intention. But how about him?

Fuck! This is why I wanted to know right from the beginning if it was a date!

Back to the psychotherapist I went before even considering texting my ‘meeting’ again.

“Michael, you seem to have a desire to know for certain the way things are—a need to predict the future. Perhaps, without being passive, you need to wait and see what happens–what develops if you get together again. ”

Again, I take this as condescending, and then finally as the true statement that it was which was meant to help me.

I explained that from what I had witnessed among the gay couples around me over the years, it seemed that the guys I knew just got together, expressed an attraction for one another, and were couples from that point forward. And that when my therapist was telling me to ‘wait and see’ or ‘approach this as a meeting’ –which was similar advice from girlfriends of mine—it seemed like I was always being led to do something different. (Because I don’t have a lot of experience with dating, and I’m currently using my therapy to overcome my fears, I use the guidance of my therapist and close girlfriends as I face these fears and jump into the dating world.)

I believed the way I was being led to do things made me stick out like a sore thumb—or that by ‘waiting and seeing’ I would allow too much time to pass, wherein I would drift into the ‘friend zone’ with my once would-be suitors.

I questioned if it was my need for validation that wanted to know if our meetings were in fact dates, or if maybe it was because I wanted to fit into the role of how I believe most people are when they date.

His answer was his usual–that it was probably a little of each, but if I felt like I was doing things differently than what I believed was the norm, that maybe it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Maybe waiting and seeing was a good thing on both ends. Because in doing things differently, I’m being myself and not forcing myself into a role just because it’s what I’ve perceived as the norm. This resonated with me, because my life’s experiences have taught me that all outcomes are better when rooted in honesty and integrity.

So how do I ‘wait and see’ without being passive and letting potential partnerships pass me by?

My therapist’s suggestion (which I already inherently know inside) is to ask myself what I truly want to do in each situation—and do it. And if there’s fear around what I want to do, perhaps to include that bit of honesty in my actions as well.

In this situation, this could go something like: “I want to ask you on a date with me, but I’m also wondering if it’s too early to ask that.” His response to my honesty will definitely tell me a lot about whether or not he’s the type of person I would like to date.

So, I suppose this is my next step. To speak my truth to my potential dates. But it’s a big step! And I’m not even sure what I want. So maybe I’ll just wait…and see.

Stay tuned!

 

Michael

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2 comments

Reply

Hey Michael,
It’s impossible to hear your heart and your gut when your fears of rejection are up and your controlling wounded self is in charge. ️
Xoxo, Sharon

Reply

If I can offer of piece of self-work that I’ve worked really hard at figuring out! As a gay man approaching his late-middle 30’s, and spent enough time in my own therapy chairs & social workers offices, I’ve realized that not only myself but my age bracket grew up in a heavy shame culture around being gay, HIV/AIDS epidemic did not help that fear culture. Now as successful, middle age men, this recurring voice of ‘you are not enough’ plays out in social context which is very confusing when success on most other levels in life (career, health, friends….) have proven that we are indeed and often more than Enough. As the generation behind us disconnect more socially via excess viewing platforms yet show more daily lived gay pride this becomes the opportunity for growth to step into our own fear and show up with all our vulnerabilities and our strengths.
Brene Brown does some amazing work around shame, fear, worthiness & vulnerabity! How we show up bravely in the world, create resilience to our fear and become compassionate to our belief of worthiness in our lives if the truest act of courage.

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