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Thread: Need help with a class project

  1. #1
    pinkunicorn's Avatar
    pinkunicorn is offline Senior Member
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    Need help with a class project

    For those of you who don't know, I am halfway through earning my Master's degree so I can become a licensed counselor.

    In my multicultural class, we are talking about interracial couples and interracial individuals. I noticed that nothing in our textbook had anything regarding intergenerational relationships (aka: AGR's). So I checked out the ACA's online journals. Nothing there, either! We are totally underrepresented in the counseling world!

    So I brought this up in class. I asked "What would you do if you were faced with an intergenerational couple" and explained what an age gap relationship is, some of the doubts people may have when first contemplating entering an age gap relationship, some of the stereotypes people have about AGR's, etc.

    So, here were some questions posed by my fellow classmates. I am curious as to how some of you would answer these questions:

    As someone who is part of an intergenerational couple, what do you feel are important aspects of the relationship a counselor should be aware of when counseling a couple?
    What are some stigmas to avoid?
    How could the counselor be a helpful advocate to reduce stigma for the couple?
    Never try to fit in when you are meant to stand out.


  2. #2
    RadoG60's Avatar
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    "As someone who is part of an intergenerational couple, what do you feel are important aspects of the relationship a counselor should be aware of when counseling a couple? "

    I think I would state the most basic first.
    1) I do not have daddy problems, I have a great relationship, and always have, with my parents. Also, my parents have formed a great relationship with my older man.
    2) I am not looking for anything to gain from him other than love and respect.
    3) Yes, I realize this is not socially "normal" in our society.
    I would then go on to say I realize he is older, old enough to be my father, and understand that means our further together won't be as long as same age relationships could be, but I can look past that and focus on who he is, the man I fell in love with. I didn't seek out a relationship with an older man, it formed from a friendship into a loving, respectful, fun, intimate relationship. Just because there is a more likely chance he will go much sooner than me, doesn't mean I should not even try, or give up on this beautiful relationship that has formed. I consider myself lucky to have such an amazing man in my life.

    I think that also answers your second question.
    As far as the third question. If the counselor has an open minded conversation with an intergenerational couple, who are in it for each other, to really understand that it is no different from same age relationships. If anything, they could be a more real relationship. I think age gaps make a relationship more strong, because we have to defend our love more so to society who see it as disgusting, weird, or wrong. We show people what real love can be.

    My boss always has questions about my older man and I, and I am always willing to give him honest answers.
    We were talking about it the other day, and he admitted, "I thought you had daddy issues when you first told us about being with an older man. I was wrong though. You two have true, pure love. You have really opened my mind about stuff." He even went on to say when he starts to judge someone, he now thinks about my OM and I, and says to himself, he was wrong about that, he can just except these other peoples differences too now.

    So if my mother had an issue with my relationship, and asked me to go to a counselor, and I agree to go this one time to talk about it, just to get her out of my hair. I hope I would have a counselor who has met a intergenerational couple like my man and myself. That way the counslor can inform my mum, there is no issue. I have a great relationship with my parents, I have a stable life, and mind. I just happen to love a man older than myself.

    Sorry, if its not helpful. If it is, please feel free to use anything I wrote.

  3. #3
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    Hey Pink
    Well to start off...I am flying solo now... although I have been in a couple of age difference relationships. This last one was the greatest age difference, 22 yrs. He never brought up the age difference but I always felt it was to wide due to our tastes basically in music and life goals and of course his addictions were finally the deal breaker...but the one thing that really bothered me was the attitudes of judgmental people when we went in public. And believe me they let it be known loud and clear that they noticed and they commented EVERY-TIME. I am positive that they would not have said anything if the age difference was reversed. Even my therapist was negative and because of that attitude I no longer went to HIM... Saying that ..it put pressure on me and I am not strong enough to take that kind of constant judgement... Now the other relationships were under 10 years difference ...no problems...the one that was only 5 years difference ...he was the one that had the hardest time accepting the difference..yet he looked older than me. I think it takes a special person to deal with a large age difference and be happy with it and not let the negative attitudes of others affect your well being.

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    Thank you guys for your input! Here is what I ended up posting on my class discussion board:

    You know, the main thing that my husband and I want (as well as anyone else who has a large age gap) is to be treated like any other couple. We have the same issues that other couples have, for the most part.

    Some unique things that an intergenerational couple might face would be children--a younger partner may want children while an older partner may feel he/she is done with raising children or an older woman may not be able to have children at all. Another thing might be age-related health issues. As my husband stated when we first began dating, 10 years will affect him from 50-60 physically, mentally, and spiritually a LOT more than it will affect me from 30-40.

    Other issues an intergenerational couple might face are early widowhood, being at different stages in life (just starting out vs. retirement). And, of course, the biggest one is dealing with society and stereotypes. So many people think that I have daddy issues or am a gold-digger. People assume my husband is going through a mid-life crisis and that our relationship is just a "phase." They have a hard time believing our relationship is real and based on love, mutual interests, respect, and friendship.

    One thing that a counselor may want to watch for with an intergenerational couple would be ageism happening within the couple. The older partner might try to "parent" the younger partner, whether intentionally or not. Or the younger partner may feel that his/her older partner has grown "out of touch" with the way the world works or may feel the need to try to take care of everything because he/she is younger and has more energy to do so. My husband told me early on in our relationship that he would have to catch himself and keep himself from giving me unwanted advice, simply because I was younger. He was cognizant enough to realize I need to make my own mistakes. Yet I am grateful that I have his expertise to turn to when I do need advice.

    Another issue is insecurity from the older partner. While it does happen with older men, it seems to be worse for older women--partly because of society's "ideal woman" is a youthful thin woman. Many times the older partner is concerned that the younger partner will "come to his/her senses" and dump them for someone closer to his/her age. My own husband will tell me this from time to time. He will say, "You don't deserve me. You need to go out and find yourself someone younger who can do stuff with you." Then I have to convince him that he is the one for me. Sure, I can get whatever I want from whomever I want, but I will never be able to get the connection that he and I have with anyone else, and I don't even want to try.

    The main thing to remember is that an outsider may see this older person with a younger person, but the couple themselves don't, even if they have problems where one tries to parent the other. For example, I don't see a 56 year old man when I look at my husband. I see my partner, my best friend, my soul mate. Likewise, when he looks at me he doesn't see some 34 year old "kid." He sees his wife, his lover, his best friend.

    As counselors we should be aware of our stereotypes and prejudices when presented with an intergenerational couple. Rather than trying to figure out how or why this relationship happened, or what these two could possibly have in common, counselors need to keep their focus on the couple and their presenting problem. What an intergenerational couple needs is to feel that someone understands them and gets them for who they are--which really, is what anyone coming to counseling needs! We've already heard everything else from friends, family, and even complete strangers!

    "Ew. But he's so old!"

    "You must have daddy issues."

    "Did your dad rape you when you were younger?"

    "What could you two possibly have in common?"

    "22 year age difference? That means when you were her age she was 12. So it's like you're doing a 12 year old!"

    "She's only after you for your money."

    "You're worried about his health? Well that's what you get for being with someone so old!"

    "When are you going to stop horsing around with her? Grow up and settle down with someone your own age!"

    "This is a crime against nature. It's an abomination!"

    "Viagra works wonders, doesn't it?" *chuckle chuckle chuckle*

    Then there are those who don't comment but instead stare, point, and whisper to each other. This is just some of the things intergenerational couples deal with all the time. They don't need it in the counseling session, too!
    Never try to fit in when you are meant to stand out.


  5. #5
    Faith's Avatar
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    Pink!

    Yesterday Angel posted a long detailed reply here, but by now it has vanished!

    There's been a problem lately with posts disappearing. Please see the comments on the "Forum Upgraded" thread, and pass the cry for help on to the Admins.

    Warning: Those comments might have already disappeared too!
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinkunicorn View Post
    As someone who is part of an intergenerational couple, what do you feel are important aspects of the relationship a counselor should be aware of when counseling a couple?
    What are some stigmas to avoid?
    How could the counselor be a helpful advocate to reduce stigma for the couple?
    I think any counselor should be aware of the possibility of being charmed by an abuser...that's what abusers do.

    I think the counselor's awareness of the counselor's own reaction/response to and assumptions about an intergenerational couple--particularly to those couples with larger age differences--is integral to the counselor's ability to work with an intergenerational couple.

    I think someone who's done what it takes (and has what it takes) to be a licensed counselor probably knows better than anyone of the necessity to chuck one's assumptions out the window.

    The aspects of the relationship that a counselor should be aware of...
    Human development and the capacity to change continue until death--we do not achieve fixed personalities in early adulthood,
    We're equals within the relationship--we share many of the same ethics and interests, and have similar tastes in music, movies and humor.

    He's a far better partner to me than either of my same-age husbands were.

    I think the thing that makes the biggest difference in this relationship versus my prior relationships is that we have the same views about education. While we both believe everyone needs an education, we both feel strongly that "education" does not equal "college degree." Edited to add: We have a common commitment to lifelong learning. /edit I think it also makes a difference that we're both college-educated and we both hold liberal arts degrees. It's a different way of thinking.

    Stigmas to avoid...
    We don't hold fast to stereotypical gender roles within the relationship,
    I'm not looking for a "daddy" and he's not looking for a woman he can "train",
    It's not all about sex (whether that means having a lot of it or having none at all),
    It's not all about money (I'm not a gold digger, nor am I his retirement plan),

    Helping the couple reduce stigma...

    That's not something we deal with in our relationship. I'm not his first AGR and he isn't mine, and we don't encounter a lot of stigma. We're just MM and the grumpy guy to them. There's something about his demeanor that people just don't try to give him flak. We haven't heard anything, that we haven't heard before. If people want to get ugly about it, we know how to treat them like they're being stupid. Usually, they're not trying to get ugly with us--they're just uncertain of how to proceed. When they are trying to get ugly, it's rarely worth the bother it would take to respond to or deal with it.

    MM
    Last edited by MissMuffins; 11-07-2013 at 09:45 PM.
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  7. #7
    Mebel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faith View Post
    Yesterday Angel posted a long detailed reply here, but by now it has vanished!

    There's been a problem lately with posts disappearing. Please see the comments on the "Forum Upgraded" thread, and pass the cry for help on to the Admins.

    Warning: Those comments might have already disappeared too!
    I liked your post Angel yesterday, before the re-set ) It was critical, I hope you can share again your vision.
    btw. Today everythings seems nomal.All my posts appeared, and are still online. Thanks site support.
    Last edited by Mebel; 11-07-2013 at 07:38 AM.
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  8. #8
    pinkunicorn's Avatar
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    Angel, I would have loved to see your post, too! (Admins are working on that).

    I appreciate everyone's responses. I'm trying to avoid being a single-point-of-view "spokesperson" for AGR's in class!
    Mebel likes this.
    Never try to fit in when you are meant to stand out.


  9. #9
    Angel's Avatar
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    As I see that my previous post will not be restored, I'm left trying to scramble my thoughts together, again. This is what I would say to a roomful of upcoming therapists or anyone providing mental health care.


    The expectations I have regarding a Therapist all revolve around my vulnerability divulging the stuff I hold closest to my chest and how that and the environment I'm in plays upon my sensory system.

    Before I ever notice the Therapist, I notice the room. I like a room that feels neutral and welcoming with a variety of items that interest the Therapist. I don't like stock pictures on the wall or anything that feels impersonal, nor do I like an office overwhelmed with knickknacks. Too far in either direction and I feel my anxiety rise regarding the type of Therapist that occupies the space. Before walking into their office the first time, I'm already on edge and in flight mode about whether I think we will mesh or not and I haven't even disclosed to you the age difference!

    Personally, I like a room full of earthy tones with punches of the therapists interests or colors and a light background sound. A small fountain or little noise machine; something I don't feel in competition to speak over but fills the silence when I need a moment. A personally chosen art piece or something handmade is a welcomed distraction in the initial meetings and whenever the conversation becomes difficult.

    If I share with you that my partner is several years younger (or older) than me, I expect you to react neutrally. My emotional energy should fill the room, not yours. There are times where a reaction or redirection is expected and, even, welcomed, but not when I'm sharing an innocuous fact about my history. Any reaction in either direction is unwelcome. If you need to outwardly manage your emotions about my general history, what happens when I tell you something traumatic? Nope; I wouldn't even risk finding out.

    If you use my or my partner's age as blanket justification for our behaviors or share with me a study about brain development (like the 25 year-old squishy brain), not only will I terminate the session, but I'll likely terminate it in a way you won't soon forget. Not because I don't recognize there may be some validity in what you may be offering, but, because I've had both our respective ages used, not to enlighten us, but to diminish myself, my partner, and or our relationship. We want to feel average. We don't want the age difference to undeservedly inflate or deflate the relationship and the persons involved.

    Think welcoming but neutral. Just like the room. Focus on our behaviors, not our ages.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    ...I expect you to react neutrally. My emotional energy should fill the room, not yours. There are times where a reaction or redirection is expected and, even, welcomed, but not when I'm sharing an innocuous fact about my history. Any reaction in either direction is unwelcome. If you need to outwardly manage your emotions about my general history, what happens when I tell you something traumatic? ... I wouldn't even risk finding out.
    ^This! This, right here.

    Bravo, Angel! Bravo!

    MM
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    "Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it." ~ Marianne Williamson

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