Within relationships we come from so many different walks of life, which only add to various flavors of wisdom, love and value in our romantic connections. One such difference I find in my work, too often not spoken about, is the modern reality of partners dating with significant age gaps. It seems the only time this is brought to light is when we see a movie like “Autumn in New York” which paints a picture of this relationship being acceptable only when a young girl is dying, or “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, focusing more on the sexualization of a boy toy, and lastly “The Graduate” which shed light on the seductress older women can remain to be, but didn’t do much for exemplifying long lasting love, respect or any real connection outside of sex. I’m here to tell you, there is so much more to these “May-December” relationships than media sometimes portrays.
If you are reading this, you probably know someone in an age gap dating scenario, you may be considering one yourself or possibly you are trying to make the best of your current partnership. In that case, let me shed some light onto what you can expect (in real life) and how you can get closer to happy if you so wish to take this venture.
6 Tips to Manage The Taboo Tango of Dating with Big Age Gaps
- Get used to media references you will not know…and then ask-generational differences
So the two of you are talking and referencing shows or songs, the way we always do in conversations. He says “remember when Frankie Valley said you can take the guy out of the neighborhood but you can’t take the neighborhood out of the guy?” Uhhhh, no. I don’t remember because I wasn’t born (is the jerk answer). It’s okay to not know and sometimes your partner will forget, especially when you have so much in common your age is just not a constant on their mind. The better response is to find out about what makes your partner so excited about this, join in on their interest and, BONUS, add to your brain bank of cool things to know.
2. Highlight what you have in common-values are across the board
You know what’s interesting? Values are values and they pretty much look the same across generations. If you were raised to value good work ethic, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, putting family first, being honest, living in freedom or finding laughter in the little things, those similarities will connect you no matter how old you are. There are plenty of differences between us all but any of us who can find what is important to us is important to another will be drawn to their spiritual and philosophical equals
3. Consider health limitations – this could also include sex drive
Know what you are getting into before you commit long term. A natural progression with age, for both men and women, is that we slow down just a bit. Your older partner is likely to pump the breaks before you or your younger companion may want more than what you can handle in the way of sports, fitness, recreation or sex. On the other hand, this can work for you if, for example, when you were 25 you had the sex drive of a young race horse that was often never satisfied, but now twenty-five years later you have slowed down, for your standards, and have become the right tempo lover for your younger partner. Moral of the story, it’s probably better you met now as she/he would not have been able to handle you had you met any sooner. Some things do happen for a reason people.
- Learn from developmental differences – grow and expand your mind with each other
Life experiences make us who we are and they are never stopping. One benefit of sharing time with someone who is at a different stage of their life is you learning first hand from what they are going through. Maybe you have young children and they have adult children. Being a witness to the evolution in their child-parent relationships can open up your possibly pre-determined beliefs about how things should be by the time you and your children get to this stage. Maybe they have been working 20 years longer than you and have so much wisdom to offer about realistic expectations, getting ahead or even regrets for you not to repeat. The alternate concept applies if you are the one from a newer and rule challenging generation, you can show your partner a different and more progressive aspect of the world they may have been previously closed off to, now expanding their opportunities at a new type of joy. I promise, you both have so much to gain by sharing your transitional processes with each other and there is always room for growth on both ends.
- Challenge your assumptions about outside judgement-“people are looking at me”
In our daily interactions, we operate in and view the world in the scope of our own assumptions and beliefs. This may include the idea that you will be judged, assumed to be taking advantage of less intelligent because you are being taken advantage of. You might think you look strange to everyone else and often with this comes the constant seeking out of behaviors, attitudes or tones of voice from others that match up with our projections of “their” judgment of you. This….is exhausting. Do people judge? Yes. Will you sometimes be treated differently? Yes. Is your relationship the only reason for judgement and poor behavior?? NO! I can pinpoint at least 10 different reasons someone might appear to not be pleased with us at any given time of the day, but please….just don’t care. Let it go and take more of your time enjoying the fact that the person who is actually most important to you didn’t judge you for your age or choices, but rather appreciated all the parts of you that drew them to you like a moth to a flame. Embrace that.
- Hold your head high in any healthy relationship. You are your own life’s author and the story you tell is what others will read.
Choose to pepper your pages with the script of how you fell for each other, what you conquered together, when you were stronger because of your relationship, when you were changed because of what you learned and when you were healed because of the unrelenting love the two of you cultivated in your safe space. Be proud because ALL healthy relationships are faced with challenges and take real commitment, age gap or not.
Not So Taboo After All
Who else is doing it? Our President for one!