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Dating With an Age Gap?

Discussion in 'Family, Friends, and Relationships' started by Galah2, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. Galah2

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    As the title says, I'm wondering what your experiences are with dating across an age gap. For background, I don't mind much about age, in the sense that I'll date people who interest me only. I don't seek out partners who are younger/older/close in age specifically, but I've found a guy who I really connect with and we have a mutual interest in one another. We've been together for ~4mos now, and he's met my friends and a couple siblings.

    Thing is, he's got some years on me (20+) and I can tell he's a bit unsure about it. We've discussed it some, but I'm curious about what others see with these types of things. Specifically, what sorts of things have you guys found to be good/bad/unexpected/new about this? And what should I be aware of as far as his side/age is concerned? (I don't want to say or do anything naive that might irritate him haha) I plan on bringing it up with him again after I've had some time to digest it. TIA
     
  2. Chip

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    20 years is a *really* big gap. Maybe not if the younger person is 50, but if you're 30 or under... it's almost guaranteed unhealthy and unwise.

    Why? Because there are inherently so many differences in stage of life. Let's say you're 21 and he's 41. The younger person will be just starting their adult life. There's likely a huge imbalance in life experience, income, stability, and practically everything else. Values and goals are different.

    Almost without exception, these relationships are horribly unhealthy, with the older person being a caretaker/mentor. This inhibits the younger person from being able to grow and become self-reliant in a healthy way. There are often subtle (or not-so-subtle) control issues going on, and various power dynamics.

    There's another big piece: for someone in their 40s dating someone in their 20s... one has to look at the older person and ask what's going with him emotionally and psychologycailly that he wants to go out with someone young enough to be his son. It simply isn't a wise idea, and the failure rate for these relationships is enormously high.

    Now... since you are 4 months into it, it sounds like your mind is probably already made up, so at this point, the best I can suggest is to be aware of the above. The problem is, most people in these relationships don't see the problems (and, in fact, argue vehemently that the problems aren't there) until the relationship ends and then... if they are lucky... they suddenly see all of the dysfunction that was around.

    So certainly if it seems to be working then... it is what it is. I would suggest some serious self-exploration (the "I'm not attracted to people of any age" is almost always a red herring) and see what's going on that is attractive. A large portion of the time it is seeking caretaking, which is inherently not the healthiest of traits. And... keep your eyes open.
     
  3. Moonsparkle

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    Hi Galah2,
    20 years is a lot of years. 20 plus years basically puts you two in different generations, which means right off the bat there are inherent differences in the prism through which you have experienced and look at life. I am not saying this can't be overcome, but rather that it already puts your relationship at a disadvantage of sorts. Your thought that you don't want to be naive or say or do anything that might irritate him, could be quite telling. Expressing yourself, just being yourself always-- is a key component to a healthy relationship--restricting ourselves for fear of how the other person will react is not. And I will add that due to the age difference what your partner could view as being 'naive or irritating' likely is actually neither. It's about you being at the stage of life you are at! Surely you struggle with any of the issues we all did as young adults.

    I don't want to be negative and I am sure that in the course of history relationships with such an age gap have worked. But I think those are the exceptions. The risk of falling into the previously mentioned caretaker/child roles is quite high.

    You mention that you can tell your partner 'is a bit unsure about it.' Why is he unsure? What has he shared with you as far as his concerns? Both of you will need to sit down and discuss your concerns honestly.

    Age gap relationships can work, but the smaller the gap I think the easier it is. I had a long term relationship with a woman 10 years younger (39 and 49), that gap was not an issue. We were still both at the same stage of life, facing the same stresses and challenges. I do think though if she was 20 and I was 40 plus age WOULD have been a factor, no matter how deep our feelings. My advice would be to bring this up with him sooner rather than later, and have a real honest discussion. I wish you all the best!
     
  4. resu

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    How old are you? What do you mean you don't want to be naive? At 20 years younger than him, you may be relatively naive about many things depending on your life experiences. As others mentioned, such large gaps can introduce serious risks to long term sustainability. Of the three guys I've known who were in large age gap relationships, there were imbalances that could not be overcome.
     
  5. OnTheHighway

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    My husband and I are about 17 years apart. He is 30 and I am approaching 47. We started to date after only a few years from when I had initally embraced my sexuality. Lots of emotional issues gong on at the time with me. As for him, he had two previously failed relationships (one with a guy close to his age and another older than him); and he was looking for "the one" (as well as someone that he could look up to).

    The control issues mentioned above are very real, and left unattended can be quite disruptive. For our part, my husband acted mature beyond his years (notice I say "acted" rather than "was"), where I was working through my own journey towards self actualization and emotional maturity. In addition, my husband definitely sought the security of a mentor, while we both recognized he needed to maintain his own degree of independence.

    While we recently married, there was much work between us to reach a proper balance before doing so. Lots and lots and lots of open and transparent discussions (and even now we continue to have many, if not daily, open discussions about our relationship). Many difficult discussions certainly occurred, yet even more enjoyable and mutually beneficial experiences as well. Sometimes we fought, and other times we found peace and tranquility between us. From a financial standpoint, there is and will probably always remain a significant imbalance between us. But even there, by his choice (both brought on by personal pride and ego) he continues to work and adds to the relationship financially where he is able to.

    What we do well together is provide each one with emotional, intellectual and overall life support. He supported me as I worked to figure myself out, build my confidence and self esteem; and I support him in similar fashion while ensuring he maintains a degree of independence and self sufficiency.

    The relationship does take effort, as any relationship should. Lots of communication, trust and respect between the parties. A big risk, which is not even addressed thus far, is the prospects for either party in the relationship to grow apart as both of them "mature" over time. This is something that also needs to be taken into careful consideration. We have even discussed this very openly and honestly as well, and continue to revisit it regularly.

    I can appreciate the complexities that a significant age gap can have on a relationship. There are challenges. If both parties are truly committed to the relationship, if there is a real commonality of interests and life objectives, then I do believe such a relationship can work. But in order to work, both parties must put in a lot of work.
     
    #5 OnTheHighway, Apr 18, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
  6. looking for me

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    not to hijack, but it is related. im 50, I really like a guy who's 32. opinions? too much?

    tia
     
  7. OnTheHighway

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    Does he like you back? :badgrin:
     
  8. Rainbows~Exist

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    From an outsiders perspective it can seem odd or that the older half of the couple is taking advantage but but honestly if you like each-other and it feels right then pay no mind to anyone else...

    I recently stopped dating a 36 year old guy (I'm 18) and it was lovely while it lasted. We stopped seeing each-other due to the fact that he worked a lot (abroad too) and we hardly got to spend time together. I never felt like I was being 'groomed' or that there was an imbalance of power and I really believe we had a connection.

    ---------- Post added 18th Apr 2017 at 05:40 PM ----------

    From an outsiders perspective it can seem odd or that the older half of the couple is taking advantage but but honestly if you like each-other and it feels right then pay no mind to anyone else...

    I recently stopped dating a 36 year old guy (I'm 18) and it was lovely while it lasted. We stopped seeing each-other due to the fact that he worked a lot (abroad too) and we hardly got to spend time together. I never felt like I was being 'groomed' or that there was an imbalance of power and I really believe we had a connection.
     
  9. looking for me

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    im not sure, we're good friends and I feel really shy about asking him. besides he came out of a really bad relationship a couple years ago and I think it still hurts him. it's complicated.
     
  10. Chip

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    This is actually a pretty good illustration of the invisible line that seems to appear somewhere between 25 and 30. Somewhere in there (and I suspect it varies for each person), the age gap starts to matter less, as both people have lived enough of their adult lives to develop a stronger sense of self.

    From what we know, the large age-gap relationships that seem to work work and by healthy in the longer term are ones where the younger person is in their late 20s or beyond.

    Another key point brought out in OnTheHighway's post is the amount of vulnerability and open communication necessary. This is true of every relationship but particularly for those where there's an age gap. Both parties bring whatever baggage they have (family-of-origin, societal-induced unconscious homophobia, trust issues, etc) to the relationship. It's really crucial that they both be willing to talk about these things and work them through. That's hard work, and isn't always fun, but it is also part of the growth that propels us to be able to find happiness within ourselves.

    There's a huge diifference between being groomed and having a healthy relationship. It's simply not possible for a relationship with an age gap at the point you describe to not have enormous power imbalances. Perhaps you didn't see them, but I can assure you they were present... and those are the sorts of things that, over the long term, either make the relationship fail, require tremendous work by both people, or (more likely) settle into a relationship that functions, but in a dysfunctional way.