Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Email about dating older guys

A few weeks ago, a young blog reader sent me the following short email:

Dear GB,

I'm madly in love with this guy that is wayyyy above my age. I'm 18 and he is 55. No, I don't have daddy issues or am I a money-sucking machine. I simply enjoy the no-fuss relationships with older guys. What do you say? Should I go for it? He makes me so content and happy than ever.

Although it was a very short email, it was a quite a straightforward question, so I sent him an email to tell him that I'd do a post on my blog for him. In that email I said that I'd think about it, but I also included the following sentence:

FYI: my instinct is that the age gap is too great to make a meaningful relationship possible, but obviously I need to expand my thoughts a lot, and give some reasons rather than just giving you my instinctive response.

His original email was clearly hoping to get some kind of approval, so I wasn't surprised when the following reply arrived:

Thank you! I really do appreciate it!

I understand about your instincts, but it's just that I'm a little different - I enjoy staying at home watching a movie with him or go out and do fine dining. I was never into the 'young and vibrant' gay clubbing/sauna/cruising idea. We have literally the same tastes in music, art, food, clothes, and the same opinions and philosophies. I mean what are the odds of me finding another older guy who can appreciate and love me and not just want to relive their youth?

I somehow think this is a two-fold story:
  1. The fear of scrutiny of others when they found out about our age difference.
  2. The fear of me losing the man of my dreams.
Hope this additional info helps. I realized I haven't given you enough background info for you to make an informed opinion.


Well indeed, I was also thinking that his original email was a bit thin on detail!

Over the last few weeks, I've been out for dinner with a few guys who read my blog , and when one of these guys was in his mid 20's he dated a man who was about double his age. I thought that guy would have views on this subject since he's been in a similar situation, so I sent the young reader's email to him for comment. I also asked fellow blogger Bruce Chang what he thought. Bruce Chang's response was as follows:

Hmm ... What I'm trying to understand is the nature of their relationship and what he means by "no-fuss." I came out over 20 years ago when I was 14 and there simply was not a big dating pool for people in my age group. I had quite a number of sexual encounters with people more than twice my age and they were more than gratifying. But at the same time, I distinctly remember how great I felt as opposed to what I was giving back. Additionally, I remember not quite being satisfied with the precarious position of power where the other person held all the cards. Seeking a long-term committed relationship with older guys wasn't really what I was looking for, in the end, but it was a helluva lot of fun and I have no doubt that a mutually beneficial one can work (like Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy), but I'd hardly call it no-fuss. I'd think it'd be the opposite. It'd take more work to feel secure with added social pressure to fail.

Of course, these views may be shaped my two adopted "godfathers" that I had, a couple in their late 30s that were mentors, encouraging the rapid period of growth and self-discovery, especially with my peers both gay and straight, so that I don't look back and wonder.

However, I can see how a sexual relationship with an older guy can be a no-fuss situation. I think I'm more straightforward as I've gotten older. Pretty open about when I can meet and when I can't, what I'll do and what I won't, and I have no problems complimenting a guy without restraint and playing games.

Think I was all over the place there, but that's what came to mind as I read the note.

Bruce Chang's example of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy is a good one, because they met when Bachardy was 18 and Isherwood was 48. However, the age difference that the reader is contemplating is even greater.

The guy who reads my blog that I had dinner with a few weeks ago had the following to say:

To me there are two parts of this e-mail. First, is that he is conscious of the age gap and second, that he claims is madly in love with someone.

Age gap should never be an issue when people want to get together. It will only become a problem if it becomes apparent that your age difference heavily deters your compatibility. With a 37 year age gap there is inevitably differences in your outlook in life and it is worth remembering the old cliché that 'opposites attract'. Differences can either be a productive tension that makes an intergenerational relationship a wonderful experience or they can simply break it. While it is romantic to say you are similar in so many ways even with an age gap, accept that you are essentially different from your partner and start from there: the mistake would be to try too much to be like each other putting unnecessary pressure when you find your differences in the future. Remember nothing is 'no-fuss': older guys are just more relaxed in their outlook because they have many experiences but these experiences don't come without a history (which at some point can surface in ways you might not like!)

It is also worth thinking about why you mentioned daddy and money issues. This suggests, and it is a common trait, that there is an amount of stereotype awareness or apprehension towards social assumptions. There is a balance between 'I don't care what other people think' and 'What will they think of me when they see me with an older guy?'. You must get this balance right and mostly this is an issue of self-awareness, confidence and security. If you decide to take things seriously but can't feel comfortable enough to be seen with him it will ultimately affect your relationship. Start by being comfortable of who you are then work from there although this is a continuous process as you go along.

So you are madly in love and happier and more content than ever? The first thing that comes to mind is how long have you known this guy? In meeting a potential partner you must be aware of the infatuation stage (maybe 1 month) and then the honeymoon stage (maybe 6 months). Thinking about these stages helps you gauge and consider the pace of the situation. Many people underestimate the importance of pacing themselves when getting to know someone you like. There is no harm in going fast if both of you want it but just be aware that you are on a close enough level to return each other's' expectations. Although personally I think slow is better :-).

After considering all that has just been said, I see no harm in giving it a go. Relationships or love come in different forms so don't think in terms of partner/lover/friends as different people fill different roles in each other's' life. The most important thing is to let yourself be open to experiences. Good luck!

However, I felt that response was a bit simplistic, especially when I thought about what the guy told me in connection with his own experience of dating an older guy. So I sent him a reply in which I included the following:

One thing that occurred to me was what your ex-bf did for you. My recollection is that because he loved you, after a couple of years he felt that you should be free to experience gay life outside of the relationship, so he became your friend rather than your boyfriend. So if this 55 year old agrees to the relationship and it lasts for a long period of time, perhaps that proves that he doesn't really love the reader after all? What do you think about that?

The guy responded with the following:

Thanks. Good observation GB.

Indeed, he let me go because he thought that I would learn much more on my own and there were so many things for me to experience. In retrospect, he was absolutely right about this.

I also believe that this is generally the case for young guys. In my opinion it would be ironically tragic (instead of romantic) if they settle with a guy early in their life. They will miss out on a lot and their future encounters would be more difficult to navigate in ways which would require more explanation.

I wanted to mention this in my reply but only gave a hint of this at the end of it. It was my subtle way of saying whatever happens (doubt it will be long term) he will ultimately learn something from it.

I have always shared with people the thought of love coming in different forms. The 55 year old will hopefully love the guy if it works out and might give your reader different kinds of experiences which will be valuable to him. Mine was perfect for me and I am grateful to him :-)

I think this second response is where the wisdom lies in connection with a gay relationship between an 18 year old and a 55 year old. Both of them will get something out of it in the short term, but it shouldn't be expected or allowed to last too long. And, as with the guy that I had dinner with, what the older guy should do if he really loves the younger guy is to turn the relationship into a friendship after a couple of years.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?


Kenski said...

First off, start by writing down your age then his. To each column, add 10 years until you reckon he'll (bluntly) be gone.

Now imagine your life and his at each age and see whether you see both mental and physical compatibility.

So, you've now mapped out your lives together. Does it still work when he's 75 and you're 38?

If you can honestly say "yes" then there's hope. If you're not sure then think about it long and hard. You might end up wasting years of your early life (which you'll never get back) and at the same time years of his later life during which he might find someone else.

But, love is love. That's the wildcard.

William said...

I can speak from personal experience. I dated a guy who was in his late 40s when I was in my mid 20s. I genuinely did like him (I won't say I loved him) but the age difference did create problems for us. I remember going out with him to the cinema once and we bumped into some of his friends. The "look" they gave me was pretty condescending. I wasn't comfortable with it at all. I dated the guy because we got along pretty well and we had a nice 'friends with benefit' kind of arrangement in place. BUT when his friends looked at me, I could tell from their eyes that I was nothing more than a toyboy to him even though it was a mutual thing between us. I'd always insisted on splitting everything evenly money-wise but at the end of the day, people were just very judgmental about the things they saw without necessarily understanding the truth behind it.

I didn't like it at all; it made me feel less than what I am as a person. Ultimately, we went our separate ways because things just fell apart. We're still friends now but the whole experience taught me something immensely valuable. A relationship is between two people. It's nobody else's business - that's true. However, a relationship in the public is also subjected to scrutiny and people's assumption of its worth. That's the tricky part. You might not give a damn about what people think but once their prejudiced eyes fall on you, that's when you start to have doubts.

To the guy who's facing the current dilemma, well...do what your heart tells you. It might work, or it might not. At least you've given it a try and I think it's important not to regret about it, no matter what happens in the end. We all need to grow up in life. It's a natural process! Good luck!