Ask Dave-Is Age Really Such A Big Deal?
My boyfriend's a lot older than me, but we get along great; what I can't bear is the teasing I get.
I am a gay male, 26, and usually date guys my own age. But I met an older guy a few months ago and we’ve been dating casually since then. I just found out that he is 43. I thought maybe he was 35, which, at nine years difference, seemed like a lot. But Jay is in his forties, which freaks me out. My friends
tease me and call him my “daddy,” which is stupid since it’s not like that kind of dating situation at all. Yes, he makes more money than me, but I pay my way. I am sort of mature for my age, and he’s, well, not immature, but young acting. I mean, he goes to clubs and likes to stay out late. He works out and takes care of himself.
|Hooking up is easy, but dating them never seems to work out.|
I have dated guys my own age and they are all so messed up usually, or just kind of wild and out of control. Hooking up is easy, but dating them never seems to work out. It’s been just a few months and I don’t know where it’s going. I am torn between breaking it off if there’s no future and just riding it out to see what happens. It’s hard to go forward now when I know that this big thing could come between us. I feel totally stuck.
Should I pay closer attention to our age difference? Is age a state of mind, or is it a serious enough factor for me to consider breaking up with Jay?
-Age Conscious Alex
There’s no hard and fast rule on age differences. But age is definitely a factor when you date someone. In my research with gay men, I never met one who described a date without telling me the guy’s age. Our community is definitely age-sensitive. Studies on age and dating bear this out. A 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.
Thanks to online dating, profiles are so transactional it’s like dating at an ATM. We know someone’s age immediately, and we’re accustomed to specifying a clear age range for acceptable dates. Meeting a man face-to-face, would you focus quite as much on age, or would you rely more on chemistry and see where it goes?
Given the focus on age, it’s not strange at all that you have conflicted feelings. From research with single gay men for my book The Mandates: 25 Real Rules for Successful Gay Dating, 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 ten 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’m 46. He’s very hot, too, which helps.
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.”
|Most couples struggle with this from time to time.|
Those answers worked for Alex and Ian in their relationships. Your answer will come after you explore your feelings for Jay, weed out voices of friends and society, and decide for yourself if your life feels better with or without him. Before making a decision, consider these issues specific to dating a man significantly younger/older than you (called a “January-September relationship” in some gay circles):
In both instances, the real issue isn’t age. With economics, it’s more about getting respect and balancing power. With different interests, it’s usually about willingness to compromise. Most couples struggle with this from time to time.
- Economics. Who makes more? Does financial disparity drive a wedge between the two of you, or are you able to work it out? Some couples are happily ensconced in relationships with a total economic imbalance (i.e., one supports the other financially). Other couples find the economic disparity troubling, especially when it leads to power imbalances.
- Shared interests. Do your personalities mesh? Do you have shared interests and values? Do you feel happy when you are with him? Do you like spending your time together in the same ways? For example, if one of you club hops constantly while the other wants a quieter, domestic life, there could be a problem.
At the very least, thinking about dating and age might help you change your thoughts about dating, and what a relationship really is, or can be. It might be a refreshing break from dramatic, confused 20-something boys, or you may find that older men have the same or different problems.
As you weigh your options, consider talking with Jay about age and its effect on your relationship. You might be surprised to find he has concerns about dating someone younger. Whatever you do, don’t let comments from friends influence such an important decision.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.