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Why Dating is So Hard for Gay Men in New York City: My Personal Journey

Living and dating in New York City as a gay man is like riding a roller coaster blindfolded. Exciting? Definitely. Challenging? More than you’d imagine. Fun? Yes…. but is the hassle of dating worth the reward?

Ultimately, I guess it is. Dating is a lot like a game—especially in such a driven and competitive city like NYC.

When I first moved to NYC, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people. It felt like the entire world was condensed into this one city. The possibilities seemed endless, and that was both thrilling and paralyzing. And that’s just in the gay dating world—I’m sure it’s even more extreme for heterosexual dating.

With so many potential partners when I first moved here, I found myself caught in the paradox of choice, where having too many options made it nearly impossible to settle on just one person. That’s a common issue with NYC’s dating scene. There’s just too many options.

The fast-paced lifestyle here doesn’t help either. Everyone seems to be rushing from one appointment to another, juggling demanding jobs and careers, social events, and personal ambitions. Finding time for dating feels like trying to squeeze water from a stone.

I’ll often meet someone interesting, but our conflicting schedules make it nearly impossible to meet for second or third dates, leaving promising connections to fizzle out before they even begin. Sometimes one of us is traveling, or away for the weekend. Or busy with weekday evening plans. Finding time is one of the biggest reasons why dating in NYC is so challenging.

High expectations also play a significant role. New York is a city of dreamers and achievers, and that competitive spirit seeps into the dating scene here, too.

It often seems like everyone has a checklist of criteria for their ideal partner, and while it’s good to have standards, it often feels like we’re all searching for unicorns. The disappointment of not measuring up—or of others not meeting my own high standards—is a recurring theme.

Then there’s the issue of transience. People come and go from NYC constantly. I’ve had a few promising relationships that ended abruptly because he had to move for a new job or decided, or just left because the NYC grind was just too much. The city’s revolving door can make it hard to build something lasting when the future always seems so uncertain.

The diversity of the dating pool in NYC is another double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s incredible to meet people from all walks of life, but on the other, it can be challenging to find someone whose culture, values, and habits align with your own. The cultural melting pot that is New York means there’s always something new to experience, but it also means navigating a complex web of differences.

Another hurdle is, of course, the hookup culture. With apps like Grindr and Tinder, casual encounters are increasingly the norm for gay dating. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it can make finding a serious relationship more difficult. Many guys are more interested in the thrill of the chase rather than in settling down, which often leaves me feeling like I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist.

There’s also the matter of the non-monogamous dating lifestyle. I can’t tell you how many guys I swipe on in the dating apps that are already in relationships and just looking for fun. While my ideal relationship may or may not be an open relationship, I find it difficult to find partners looking for a committed relationships (whether open or not) because so many are already in their own and just looking for fun.

Navigating social circles in such a large city is also tricky. Breaking into established groups or finding new ones where I feel comfortable and accepted is more challenging than you might think. Social events and gatherings are often dominated by cliques, making it tough to forge genuine connections. And making friends in your 30s is just not that easy any more.

Financial stress adds a whole other layer of complexity to dating in NYC. The cost of living in New York is notoriously high, and planning dates that don’t break the bank became a challenge. The financial pressure to maintain a certain lifestyle often overshadows the simple joy of getting to know someone. Dating in and of itself is expensive: bars, restaurants, taxis and Ubers… it all adds up.

Lastly, there’s the dependency on technology in the modern dating world. While gay dating apps are a great way to meet people, they also make interactions feel impersonal. Swiping left or right reduces potential partners to mere profiles, stripping away the depth of human connection. Conversations often stayed superficial, making it hard to form a meaningful bond.

Dating in New York City has been an incredible journey, full of highs and lows. Despite the difficulties of dating here, I’m still hopeful. It’s definitely a lot of fun meeting a variety of guys in a lot of different situations. But hopefully I’ll meet my forever guy here too.