When people discover I'm a dating coach, the reactions are all over the place, from those who think it's great to those who think it's ridiculous.
Wherever you may fall on that scale, here's one fact you probably don't know: Relationships offer incredible health benefits, and one of the surest ways to get there is through the dating doors.
Why did I get into dating coaching? Because I saw lesbians, my friends, suffering deeply from failed relationships, loneliness and isolation, in big cities and in small towns. I saw this story played out over and over in the 13 years since I came out.
Moreover, I experienced it myself with a serious bout of depression in my early years of being out and discovering how hard it is to find friends, let alone a lover.
In running community groups in two states, I've met LGBT men and women who described themselves to me as being suicidal, deeply depressed and desperate for any relationship that would stave off the emotional pain they were experiencing.
What I've learned in the ensuing years is how deeply this issue goes in our community and the power of a stable, committed relationship to change everything about someone's life.
LGBT people benefit from relationships in the same ways that heterosexual people do. A recent study found that lesbian, gay and bisexual persons in same-sex marriages are significantly less stressed than those not in legally sanctioned relationships, and that unmarried lesbian, gay and bisexual persons had the highest levels of stress.
This same study notes that married heterosexuals experience better mental health than unmarried heterosexuals. This is directly related to better access to health care, the greater sense of relationship stability that marriage provides, the many positive effects of intimacy as well as the overall emotional support and a sense of heightened self-worth that marriage provides to many.
If, as a group, LGBT people receive the same benefits of reduced psychological stress, isn't it possible the other benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy because of marriage would be experienced by LGBT individuals? It's a question posed in the study, which suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual persons are uniquely disadvantaged because we live with sexual minority-related stressors and challenges that heterosexuals don't have to face.
In 2009 the American Medical Association recognized that excluding sexual minorities from legal marriage actually contributes to health-care disparities in same-sex households.
The AMA is a highly respected group of doctors, and they agree that we need more than just committed relationships but legally sanctioned marriage. It is this level of commitment to another human being that contributes to our highest levels of well-being and health.
We are healthier when we are in a committed relationship. We have less depression when we are in a relationship. We live better lives when we have committed companions who share our journey, our joys and our sorrows.
What many single LGBT individuals want is a committed, legally sanctioned relationship -- a marriage -- and we don't even realize that one amazing outcome is living a healthier life.
When much of the world you live in continues to prove that it hates you, a strong, loving relationship isn't just a nice idea; it's part of surviving and living well.