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Ask Dave-Dating With A Big Age Gap


One man is dating a guy 14 years his senior and doesn't know what to expect… how should he proceed?

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I need some advice about the guy that I've been dating for a few months now. We have a bit of an age gap... well, OK, it's a 14-year gap. I am 25 and he's turning 40 this year. Things are going very well, but now and then, one of us gets preoccupied with the age difference. I think his friends are quick to judge me because of my age. They tell him
There's no hard and fast rule on whether age differences sink the love boat.
that I'm going to hurt him. However, I am completely committed to creating a relationship with him.

When our age difference comes up, the stumbling blocks are usually irrational age fears and money. He's expressed a concern that I don't make enough to sustain the lifestyle that he would like to have with a partner. Although valid, I find that things like trips or purchases are minute problems that shouldn't affect a possible relationship. Besides, it's not like I don't make an OK living. I have a good paying job for the area I live in, and I have been financially independent with a stable job history since I was 17.

I would like to know how to approach a relationship with an age gap. What's typical? What pitfalls should I expect? And how do I prove to him that I'm committed wholeheartedly to making he and I a "we" partnership? Thanks for your advice.
- Bugging about Age

Dear Bugging,
There's no hard and fast rule on whether age differences sink the love boat. But age is definitely a factor when you date someone. Our community is definitely age-sensitive. Studies on age and dating bear this out. The Journal of Sociolinguistics' article, "Articulations of Same-Sex Desire," revealed that the first and foremost way that gay men describe themselves in dating profiles is by age, followed by physical traits.

Given the focus on age in our community, it's not strange at all that this issue is coming to the fore. In my research with gay men for my book, The Mandates: 25 Real Rules for Successful Gay Dating, I never met one who described a date without telling me the guy's age first. I found that opinions on age difference run the gamut from fearful to desirable.

For example, Alex, 27, told me that there was "no way dating a guy more than 10 years older than me would work. Our life experiences would be totally different. I want a boyfriend who's my age so we can go through similar stages together. I don't want a guy who's already 'been there, done that' when I haven't."

But Ian, 25, felt the opposite. "My boyfriend is 46 and moans about our age difference way more than me. I hope I am as energetic and together as he is when I am his age. But most importantly, he brings a lot of stability to my life. I like that he's been around and isn't scattered like guys my age. We love each other, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Those answers worked for Alex and Ian in their relationships. Your answer will come after you and your boyfriend explore your relationship potential, and weigh the pros and cons of creating a life together. It's hard, at any age, to find a partner who is compatible and committed.

But since you both are concerned about potential pitfalls, quantify those, too. Before making a decision, I hope you two will approach these issues specific to dating when there's a significant age gap:

Actions speak louder than words, no matter your age.
Economics
He's expressed concern about your financial disparity. Find out if this is a passing concern or deal-breaker. Could you work it out? Some couples are happily ensconced in relationships with economic imbalance. Others find the economic disparity troubling, especially when it leads to power imbalances. If you're in a relationship for the long haul, remember that financial situations change, too, depending on career ambitions and choices. Financial situations don't have to remain static.

Shared interests
Write down your shared and non-shared interests and prioritize the most important ones. Is there any way to compromise on a few of those? For example, if you like the nightlife and he likes the sofa, can you work out a reasonable compromise? On the other hand, how much can you realistically expect to share with any partner? Keep in mind that no one person can meet all of your needs. With different interests, it's usually about willingness to compromise. It's important to remember that, regardless of age, most couples struggle with this from time to time.

Emotional maturity
Emotional maturity impacts your romantic relationships and has nothing to do with chronological age. If insecurity and fear around this relationship stem from age issues, yours and his, talk about them. What are yours? Do you feel insecure and inferior? What are his? Consider that he might fear aging in ways you don't understand. Part of his questioning might be a fear-related pre-emptive strike. For example, he might be scared of getting dumped. Self-esteem is the rock that every aging gay Sisyphus pushes up the hill yet again. In addition, I hope that he's smart enough to do weed out the voices of friends who might be fanning the flames of his fear.

Commitment
Want to convince him that you are committed? Actions speak louder than words, no matter your age. My heart really reaches out to you on this issue since I can sense how much you want this to work. Keep in mind that you are present. You want to communicate. You can't be more or do more than that. Remember that it's not all up to you. Do what you can, and realize that it takes two to make a relationship work.

Bottom line: Explore your feelings for each other; weed out the warning voices of friends; and decide for yourself if there's longer-term potential. I hope fears about age disparity won't short-circuit a relatively good relationship for the wrong reasons.


Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at davesingleton.writer@gmail.com.
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