Experimental Dater Northstar is back with another enlightening take on the differences between gay and straight dating. This time, he addresses the issues faced when a relationship comes to an end in a close-knit community.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
I was talking to a straight friend of mine a while ago, and she had a slight dilemma. Her sister was getting married, and two guys who she’d dated for a quite considerable amount of time both assumed that they’d be invited to the wedding (she’d dated them at different times, and there’d been no cheating or overlap between the two). They both knew the sister well so it was a reasonable assumption on both of their parts, however my friend was adamant that only one of them would be allowed to attend – under no circumstances did she want her current boyfriend to meet her ex, no matter how well they knew her sister, and she was left in a dilemma over who to invite.
Talking to my straight friends this seems to be a fairly common approach – a complete separation between a new partner and an ex, and in general a complete break from the ex themselves. In the gay community however this level of separation is much harder to achieve. I’d always assumed that the gay percentage of the population was around 10% (one of those accepted wisdom types of things), although recent census data seems to put that figure closer to 3%. Even looking at the higher figure that’s still a very small percentage of the population, and as such it’s a lot harder to put distance between yourself and an ex.
Adding to this in particular is the social circle factor – if you and your ex share the same circle of gay friends, you can be loathe to make a clean break at the risk of cutting yourself off from a chunk of other people in an already small community.
All of which is to say, in contrast to the relationships of my straight friends, exes in the gay community can tend to be a far more lingering presence, and in practical terms it helps if that’s a fact that you can adjust to.
In my own case, when I met my last boyfriend I was at a birthday party for a guy I’d briefly dated a couple of months previously. After that, while I was in a relationship with my then boyfriend his ex would also pop up on a semi-regular basis; they shared the same circle of friends, and inevitably he’d be at some of the same parties. Initially I found this incredibly awkward (they’d been in a relationship for two years, whereas we’d only been together for a few months when he started to make his appearances), however over time I accepted it as a fact of life. With a smaller community it’s unrealistic to expect that people will completely cut themselves off from their shared social circle in response to a break-up, and that means the presence of exes socially is somewhat unavoidable. Accepting this made the parties where we were all in attendance far easier to enjoy, and while there was always some lingering awkwardness it made things far more pleasant in general.
The other aspect to all of this is that it also encourages finishing relationships in a more positive way – when you’re likely to be seeing your ex again in the future, you don’t really want things to end in bitter recriminations. Obviously this doesn’t always lead to exes remaining friends, and there will always be cases where relationships end badly and none of the above is possible. However it can encourage people to remain polite acquaintances at the very least, instead of risking becoming slightly acrimonious strangers.