My boyfriend and I have a 27-year age difference… *gasp*. Now look away in horror and say it ain’t so. Well, my friends, it is so and it is so not as disturbing as you have convinced yourself it is.
I have to start with the disclaimer that I certainly don’t believe relationships between older men/women and teenage partners are healthy. I am simply talking about a woman in her 20s and an older, handsome, fit, genuine man as her partner. I don’t have daddy issues, I wasn’t violated as a child, I didn’t come from a broken home, and I am not a gold digger. I know I have you in pure suspense at this point wondering what in the world is wrong with me because something must be, right? Wrong.
The truth is, my boyfriend is the perfect man for me and that is strictly the only reason I date him. At 21 years old, when I began dating him, I had just gotten out of a 10-year on-again-off-again relationship. When the relationship finally ended nine years past its due date… I craved maturity. I wanted so badly to have a conversation with a man: a full- blooded, successful, independent man. Unfortunately, I was 21, and the pickins’ for established fellow 21-year-olds was, well, nonexistent. The only guys I knew were frat boys that got drunk and peed their beds once a week—not man material. Then walks in this handsome, older guy with a mysterious glow to his eyes, a raspy sultry voice and, really, ladies… I couldn’t resist.
My least favorite question that I get asked is “What do you have in common with someone 20-plus years older/younger than you!?” Well, I don’t see my boyfriend with a big neon sign blinking his age across his forehead every two minutes. I have more in common with this man decades older than me than anyone else on this planet. To name a few (just to appease the skeptics): Our humor, our beliefs in religion, politics and family, our love for seasons, vacations, books, pancakes (very important to me), success, business and learning. Yes, we have differences: He is an adrenaline junkie who skydives every weekend, and I get nervous looking over the second floor railing at the mall. He claims that rules don’t apply to him and I have a panic attack running a yellow light. We do have oddities that we don’t see eye to eye on, but we certainly don’t have any issues holding a conversation, debate or wrestling match.
What I want you to know: The judgment hurts
One evening after we started dating, I was trying to win his heart over by showing him my impressive ability to down copious amounts of booze and still remember every word to Cher’s “Gypsys, tramps and thieves” during karaoke night at the local dive bar. After my performance, as I was trying to decide what my next tune would be, a woman came up to me and my boyfriend. She looked at us then looked me in the eyes and said, “I bet your mother is so embarrassed of you dating this man.” Then she walked away and even with the music and clattering of drinks around me I could hear my heart break as it hit the floor. I couldn’t help but take this mean stranger’s words to heart and wonder if I was an embarrassment to my family. Was my relationship causing the people I love pain? Would this one part of my life define me? Would my dad give me his blessing to marry my boyfriend should he ever ask? Would my parents come to my wedding? Would my family keep him a secret to avoid judgment? It took me three and a half years, many talks with my mom and tons of endearing moments with my man before I realized that the judgmental people of this world don’t define me. My parents are proud of me, they respect my decisions and they stand behind me. My friends love me and are always supportive of my life, especially when I am spending it with someone who makes me so happy. My boyfriend shows me love every single day and it is in these moments I am reminded that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. As long as you give those you love a chance to acclimate to your situation, I have found that they always come around. The people who truly love you will never leave you. When they talk about my boyfriend and me they talk about how we bring out the best in each other, how we laugh constantly and how we fit perfectly together—not about our age difference and that is exactly how it should be.
What I want to ask of you: Give me a chance
I guess my plea to you, world, is please talk to me before you decide about me. Please don’t assume that because I am dating an older man I am shallow and immoral. Try not to stare at us while you wonder if I am his daughter or his date. Take us in for a moment, watch the way he looks at me not as if he is going to chop me into pieces later but with a gleam in his eye that can only be adoration. Watch how many times we curl over in laughter and the way he helps me with my coat. Notice how when I look at him I cannot help but smile. Talk to me with an open mind and kind heart, ask me about my church or my education—get to know me. I understand that my boyfriend and I do not come in the best package but we are the best for each other. We consider ourselves one of the lucky few that actually found the other person out there in this big world made for us.
What I want to tell you: Don’t judge a book by its cover
My advice to you is love without worry. Listen to your heart and follow it. Choose a partner in this lifetime based on faith, morals, compassion, humor, drive and don’t let something as silly as the year he was born determine if he is good or bad. Maybe you need someone a little older, maybe you need someone a little younger, maybe your soul mate out there is a different race than you, maybe they are the same gender. Love with an open heart and allow love to come into your life. Celebrate the people around you who have found love, and love unconditionally. And remember… “Just because it wasn’t what you were expecting, doesn’t mean it wasn’t everything that you needed.”
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