Dating is a topic which consumes many a single gay man's spare moments, but in an uncertain world filled with apps, distractions and guys who disappear quicking than you can say the word 'ghosting', it can seem trickier than ever to navigate the world of modern romance.
Many of us end up stuck in a dating rut, dragging ourselves to a weekly drinks appointment with a new recently-swiped match. So how can we break the cycle and ensure we're not wasting our time on dates which are doomed for failure?
To help beat the dating blues, we asked Jacqeline Burns, founder of high-end gay matchmaking agency The Echelon Scene, for some expert advice.
With more than nine years experience of matchmaking and extensive research into the factors which can make or break a romance, Jacqueline is the gay love guru we've needed all these years.
Jacqueline Burns is the founder of high-end matchmaking agency The Echelon Scene
Here's her advice for saying goodbye to serial dating and hello to a love life with lasting potential...
Serial dating: How much is too much?
Jacqueline: "Serial dating is going on numerous dates at the same time which aren’t necessarily leading anywhere and getting into a pattern of dating for dating’s sake. If you're looking for a long-term relationship you should date in a more considered way, contemplating each date you go on before and after.
"The trap so many people fall into after having a bad date and feeling disappointed is thinking that if they juggle several potential dates it will numb them to the feeling of disappointment and soften the blow. Often the thinking is that putting all your eggs in one basket is risky emotionally: Serial dating is effectively 'risk mitigation', but unfortunately you are decreasing your investment in each date you go on, lowering your chance of success. It becomes a doom loop, so to speak.
"A better strategy - and one that we follow at The Echelon Scene - is to discuss feedback after dates. If the date didn’t go well, try not to take it personally and instead look at why. Contemplate this information before launching right into another date. I tell my clients they can meet two new matches at once, but once they start getting into the third or fourth date with someone they must hone in on them and give it a fair chance. Going on one bad date after another is counterproductive: pause, consider and choose your next date wisely.
"If you are looking for a long-term relationship, you should go on a few carefully considered dates: roughly one date a month and only with someone you are genuinely excited to meet. If there is no spark, move on. This happens to the best of us. Don’t lose hope and remain calm and positive until you find another date which excites you."
Dating apps: A blessing or a curse?
"Online dating is great, if not taken too seriously. As a matchmaker who has been in the industry for nine years, I see online dating as a fun game. There have been studies which show the conversion from a match to a message is only 4%, whilst even fewer after that go on to meet. Online dating is a useful tool for expanding our network above and beyond the people we know, which is especially useful if you grew up in a small community where there aren't many LGBTQ people.
"However, I find that apps can allow us to lose focus on what we value in a relationship. My recommendation is to allocate no more than an hour per week to having a sift online to ensure you remain focused on your values, what type of person you’re looking to meet for the long-term (beyond the physical) and only swipe 'yes' to those who meet that criteria. Of course, the very tricky challenge is how to discern those things online. Technology cannot replace human instinct.
"Although dating apps can be fun, my matchmaking agency for gay men, The Echelon Scene, is the antithesis of dating apps: It is totally offline, personalised and thought-out. We do the matchmaking. I meet everyone in person to identify their character, values, energy, lifestyle and appearance, so I don’t waste any of my clients' time and ensure they are going out on great, fun and compatible dates."
Bad dates: what are the tell-tale signs?
"I always tell my clients that conversation should flow naturally: It should be random, funny and flow naturally between different topics. Dating is about seeing If there's an emotional connection and having fun. 'Checklists' of questions and talking about exes are typical no-no's and a clear sign the date is heading in the wrong direction. You should feel comfortable enough to be able to breathe and enjoy it.
"For you, think about how you date and connect with people: Are you listening? Are they smiling? Are you both laughing? Make sure you’re asking questions and getting to know them, but in a natural way. Act as though you are with one of your friends.
"Also, don’t drink too much, before or during the date."
Too picky vs not picky enough
"If your romantic ideals are all focused on the physical, or all focused on the emotional, then you need to balance them out. Often, my clients can be extremely picky, but as long as I understand what is driving their focus, it is fine. Focus on understanding yourself and your values so you can look for someone who complements that. Do not make long checklists of exact body shape, height or career: remain open-minded while being clear about who you are and your needs."
Hitting the re-set button on dating
"Bad dates can impact people far more than they acknowledge and should not be taken lightly. And yes, negative cognition brings about more negative. This is why I focus on quality and not quantity with each of my clients at The Echelon Scene. If you’ve had a series of bad dates, you need to examine why and break the pattern.
"If you’re stumped, try asking the date afterwards via text why they didn't want to take things further, and use this learning constructively. Take time to work on yourself, whether that’s by working out, meditating, seeing a therapist, speaking to friends, spending time in nature or getting massages. Learn about yourself, your likes and dislikes and get back to feeling good and thinking clearly. Then make a list of your needs, not your wants. Ignore past lists you’ve made, write down what you really need in your life. And restart. A matchmaker or a therapist can help with this. You can reach out to me directly for advice [email protected]."