When does a boy become a man? Is it an age thing? When you’re 35, perhaps? We know plenty of 35-year-olds who still act like teenagers. Go to any gay bar in the country and you’ll find middle-aged men squeezed into Abercrombie T-shirts proving it every night.
Maybe it’s an experience thing. As soon as you rack up enough real-world lessons, you start to view the world and yourself in a new way.
For gay men, it seems to be somewhere in the middle. Sure, age is a factor. A 45 year-old is more likely to be emotionally mature than a 25 year-old, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions.
In dating, the feeling of seeing a boy or a man can be dramatically different. We teamed up with our friends at Compatible Partners to offer some guidance on the two.
1. Grown up men don’t chase
Dating in your twenties and even through your thirties can feel like a flashy Vegas casino game. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, but you’re always standing at the table ready to swallow those complimentary cocktails.
Dating apps don’t help. We woof at each other, swipe one another and “load more guys” in a never ending carnival ride of sex and desire. Gaming dynamics are purposefully built into these hook-up tools to keep it fun, and to keep you coming back to chase the next hottest thing.
The idea of sex as a conquest is a boyish pursuit. But there’s a flip side to beware of.
If you’re interested in a man and he’s not going all-out schoolboy crush on you, you may need to make the first move. Let him know you’re interested, and if he feels the same, take it from there.
2. Grown up men know how to communicate
As guys mature, they tend to be more comfortable in their own skin. That translates into being more comfortable in general. They’ve had time to find their center, and are able to communicate directly and vulnerably.
As maturity grows, the ego tends to shrink a bit. A successful relationship winds up hinging on a devoted desire to give the other person happiness rather than taking from your partner what you think you need. These dynamics can get mighty tricky unless the channel of communication is wide open.
3. Grown up men would rather be alone than be with the wrong guy
Being comfortable on your own is a vital quality in becoming a man. The most successful relationships are two people spinning independently, together. One partner shouldn’t rely on the other to stand up straight.
In our 20s and 30s we might be looking for someone to create a new reality with, but as we get older it becomes more about sharing your already developed existence, and having someone else share theirs with you. Of course you still might end up falling head over heels for one another and integrating more deeply into each other’s lives, but it should be a fully intentional move — not just “because it felt OK.”