It’s the one that’s not supposed to work out. The relationship people are whispering about. The one a few extremely opinionated individuals may refer to as “gross”. The soul-shaking love you have found yourself in without care to what others are whispering about you behind your backs. And frankly, you really don’t give a damn.
Being either party in a relationship where one partner is older than the other by a great enough margin, May-December romances, as they are often called, proposes challenges that can make or break the relationship.
Some couples seem to find joy in their age differences as they do not identify with peers of their own age groups. Some feel like very young souls and others feel like old souls. Some feel like young, old souls given the chance to breathe life again in this world.
Whatever you feel, who you find love with is not always your choice. Love can sometimes fall upon us as if it were predestined. We meet someone, think to ourselves they are too old or too young, and before you know it, we are head over heels in romantic love. Damnit. We just can’t help ourselves.
We see the shocked looks when we introduce our partner to our family and friends and eventually, someone brave will always ask, “He’s lovely – But how old is he?” or they’ll make some sly joke about how they thought your date was your younger brother.
While you want to scream obscenities at the person, smile and cut to the chase. They want to know how far apart in age you are. Just state – “I know! We’re ten years apart, but we get along so well we don’t even notice the age difference. We’re not the first couple to have an age gap and we won’t be the last.”
One of the best ways I’ve seen to deflect the scrutiny over a May-December romance is through humor. Learn to laugh about the age difference and nothing can hurt you. When he’s got to go home from being out with friends, he can tell them he’s got to go give the baby her bottle. Tell your friends you have to get going because Joe needs to change his Depends. Age is nothing but a number so make the most of laughing about it.
Wave it off as no big deal. Eventually, seeing you together enough, they’ll forget the age difference, too, and begin to know you as a couple. Not that couple where one is robbing the cradle and the other is robbing the grave. They don’t see it now, but someday they will see that the two of you just make sense together.
Maturity levels and age gap love
While love conquers all rationality during the first few months of dating, there are some realities which are either the greatest gifts or biggest burdens of age gap love. Society often browbeats us with these formulas:
Older woman = Bad
Older man = Good
Younger woman = Good
Younger man = Bad
It’s hard to argue against — one of the most vilified dating categories is older women. Dating an older woman may come with dealing with hormonal changes, mid-life self esteem struggles as looks start taking a backseat to the things she has yet to complete in life, etc. These are normal changes a lot of women go through, so why are they spoken about as if they are romantic relationship napalm?
Women, themselves, don’t like to admit they face these changes, even as they are happening. However, there is a flip-side. Younger women are also going through changes in their young 20s to 30s. They can often be emotionally unstable and not know what they want out of life. The changes they are going through during this time can make them about as stable as quicksand. The man they thought they wanted early on may become tiresome to them as the years go by.
An older woman may be more self-assured and have more of an idea of what she wants from life. She may be more grounded in realizing where she is headed. Not only that, being at her sexual peak around the same time she is realizing that life doesn’t last forever may be exhilarating. This is a woman ready to climb mountains, travel to exotic destinations and enjoy every second of life. A more mature younger man can find a self-assured woman past the turbulence of younger adulthood completely intoxicating. Moving to women from girls, he may find all his needs met much more satisfactorily. A young-spirited older man may find he likes the unpredictability, the struggle to gain confidence or the wild spirit of a younger woman.
On the other hand, maybe they found the true diamond in the rough – The young woman who knows what she wants early on with an unusually mature spirit and outlook on life or the older woman in great health and spirit who retains her youthful charm?
Ask any woman who hasn’t dated a younger man what she thinks and most will immediately point out the immaturity of younger men. Some want to party, stay out late, hang out with the boys, play video games, etc. This can be unappealing to a mature woman unless she is in just the right phase of life. For some women, they missed out on this. They married too young or they were too busy with their schooling or career. Maybe they are young at heart and these youthful pursuits will never grow old to them.
Older men can come with the same challenges. Maybe they act like old men. Maybe they are grouchy and in bed at 8:00. Maybe they have a list of health ailments longer than Nicki Minaj’s weave. Older men can know what they want out of life to the point of becoming dogged about it and obsessive about their career pursuits. Sometimes their ambitions squeeze out the time for love and romance a younger woman might crave.
An individual’s own specific personality traits indicate what type of relationship is best for them. We often seek out what we lack in ourselves or critical components missing from our lives in a partner. In this regard, age may have no bearing on providing us with what we’ve been looking for.
The Kid Issue
It has to be brought up. For most couples, even if they both enter into the relationship saying they do not want children, sometimes Mother Nature has a few tricks up her sleeve. The woman who never wanted kids may experience a hormonal overdrive in her late 30’s and early 40’s where panic sets in. Suddenly, she begins looking at babies in new ways. She begins to have flashes of a motherhood she never experienced in her subconscious. Sometimes the feelings become so powerful, it feels like an all-out panic. Our very genetic coding programs us to procreate and continue our species. When looked at, this way, these feelings are hardly surprising.
Men may also feel strong urges towards fatherhood. Warm memories of their childhood may flood them with a desperate fear of missing out. They may want their own son or daughter to teach the ways of life and carry on their legacy.
These issues are not specific to May-December couples. Every relationship must have “The Great Kid Talk” at some point and nobody should be afraid to state what they want or what they may want later. Especially when ticking biological clocks are involved. Women only have so many child-bearing years. Men have been known to sometimes be able to father children to advanced ages in life. Then again, do you want to father children whom you may never seen grow up at the age of seventy?
The only difference with May-December couples is that this issue may be much more urgent because of sheer biological factors neither of you can control. Don’t be afraid to breach this conversation head-on. Not doing so and passing the point where children can’t be conceived will surely breed lifelong resentment if one partner wants a child.
When you can accept the age difference, but it’s awkward for others
Romance is mostly selfish. You choose your partner based on who you want to choose and nothing anyone else says is going to tell you otherwise. And this is okay. Until a woman brings her 23 year-old boyfriend home to meet her 17 year-old daughter, who is completely disgusted. As they get more serious and end up married, tongues wag that maybe he should have just waited a few more years and married the daughter. People will truly say some horrible things that are none of their business when they see situations that they do not understand. And imagine how the daughter feels when her step-dad picks her up from school and everyone thinks it’s her boyfriend?
The ones the age difference will hurt the most are any kids by either party in the relationship. They will face jokes from their peers and may even have to face the frustration of someone barely older than they are telling them what to do when their parents’ partner becomes their step-parent.
When this is a factor, it is important that the primary parent be the one to bark orders and do most of the disciplining. This may be unfortunate, but it is part of the territory when there is an age difference. You can demand kids respect your partner, but it may not happen overnight. Don’t put your partner under further stress or scrutiny by forcing them to parent a child close in age to them. Not only is it stressful for the child, but it’s equally stressful for your partner. If you ever want the two of them to develop a relationship, it’s important not to push them into roles that make everyone uncomfortable, right away. Respect must come first – And then parenting can follow.
There could also exist the situation in which you are dating someone as old or older than your parents. The only thing you can do is wait out the storm and see if they come around to liking your significant other. They may be embarrassed by the situation and that is okay. It’s their right. Maybe it angers you that they don’t seem to care about your happiness, but understand that their reaction is purely because of their own concerns for how it looks, maybe they worry about grandchildren, worry your partner will die before you and you’ll be lonely, etc. and not an appreciation for what the relationship is or how happy it makes you. With time, they may come around.
But do these relationships last?
Of course they do! We could compile a long list of celebrity couples with age gaps, but thought the better of it. Because…Hollywood. We all know how long most Hollywood couples last. However, I know many real life couples who have stood the test of time. One being my own parents. Despite a ten year age gap, they have had a successful loving relationship for over 25 years of marriage.
It can happen with a lot of humor, a lot of love and the understanding that love is boundless, timeless and can’t be confined to make the rest of the world happy. Just because they don’t understand your love does not mean it isn’t love. When the world misunderstands something that happens so naturally and beautifully between two consenting adults, maybe it’s the world that needs to change. Keep making each other happy and despite all odds and obstacles, you will be together in the end.