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Thread: Anticipating disapproval...

  1. #1
    synedyentruoc is offline Neophyte
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    Anticipating disapproval...

    Hello-

    I'm new to this site...I'm a 37 year old woman, dating (and to be married next year) to a 72 year old man. He was my professor five years ago, and has remained a close friend and mentor up until we began a romantic relationship about two months ago. We're not telling anyone yet, in part because he is finalizing details of his divorce, which is fine with me. I'm just anticipating that when we do tell others, we'll meet with disapproval for our age gap. It doesn't help that I happen to look much younger than I actually am! (people always think I'm in my late twenties). We've been out in public together numerous times now holding hands, kissing, and I *think* we've gotten a few strange looks--can't be sure, as I don't try to see, if you know what I mean. In the end, I'm happy, and so he is, and so what other people think isn't going to stop us from being together....I guess I just wonder how others have dealt with an age gap like this, and particularly, yw's experiences with their parents' reaction to dating/marrying a much older man (in fact, my boyfriend is my dad's age, exactly!)

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    fiorinda's Avatar
    fiorinda is offline Senior Member
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    I'm not a YW, so I can't answer for one, but I wanted to say hello and welcome to Ageless.

    I think any relationship with a significant age difference can generate disapproval, curiosity, astonishment etc in others. We've certainly had our fair share of all of those (I'm 49, my fiance is now 25, we've been together almost 3 years). The best way to deal with it when its from people who actually matter to you is to stay calm, be reasonable but be firm. You're not a young girl, presumably you know your own mind and have had relationships before. In our case, the most disapproval (that we're aware of) has come from my mother, who 'wanted better for me'. So a frank discussion of the differences between her interpretation of 'better' and mine was helpful (as Lee is a student and has no income at present. Her version of 'better' was more like what I had with my ex-husband, and she didn't like him, but at least he had a good job!! Never mind that I was bloody miserable for about 10 years!). I think it helped that I listened to her concerns, even though I wasn't prepared to accept any of her 'reasoning'. I don't know how much progress she's really made in her thinking, but her behaviour has certainly improved. To be honest there has been far less (visible) disapproval from most friends and work colleagues than I anticipated. Probably because they are less emotionally invested - they don't really care quite as much! We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that people are more interested in our lives than they actually are!

    Time is the only real way to get past the reservations of people we know, about our unconventional relationships. Obviously you will probably always get odd reactions from strangers. We do still get some strange looks - not so many as I don't look as if I'm twice Lee's age, although it is obvious there is an age gap - and we just ignore them. The only time I'm really bothered is if people are actually rude. We were on holiday last year, waiting in a queue to go into an historic site. There was another English family infront of us, parents and 2 teenaged daughters. One of the girls clocked us, and started whispering to her sister, then the mother joined in. They were about 4 feet away from us, if that! There was a lot of sideways glancing followed by whispering. How rude! If my kids had done that I'd have very quickly told them to stop, regardless of what I personally thought of the people they were whispering about. If I had actually overheard any of them saying something about us I think I might have brough their rudeness to their attention.

    I'm rambling, sorry! Yes, just ignore the funny looks. There's not necessarily anything cruel or disapproving behind them, sometimes it might just be surprise. Talk to your parents as soon as you can. Keeping them in the dark about your engagement will probably be more hurtful than anything else. They no doubt will need time to deal with their shock and some disappointment - it won't be what they hoped for you. Be patient, be understanding and be firm. Good luck!
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  3. #3
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    Slow Worm is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by synedyentruoc View Post
    I'm just anticipating that when we do tell others, we'll meet with disapproval for our age gap.
    Where in the world are you? Attitudes seem to vary from place to place.

    My wife & I have hardly ever experienced any disapproval, so I probably can't offer much advice on this.

    SW

  4. #4
    degausser is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by synedyentruoc View Post
    Hello-

    I'm new to this site...I'm a 37 year old woman, dating (and to be married next year) to a 72 year old man. He was my professor five years ago, and has remained a close friend and mentor up until we began a romantic relationship about two months ago. We're not telling anyone yet, in part because he is finalizing details of his divorce, which is fine with me. I'm just anticipating that when we do tell others, we'll meet with disapproval for our age gap. It doesn't help that I happen to look much younger than I actually am! (people always think I'm in my late twenties). We've been out in public together numerous times now holding hands, kissing, and I *think* we've gotten a few strange looks--can't be sure, as I don't try to see, if you know what I mean. In the end, I'm happy, and so he is, and so what other people think isn't going to stop us from being together....I guess I just wonder how others have dealt with an age gap like this, and particularly, yw's experiences with their parents' reaction to dating/marrying a much older man (in fact, my boyfriend is my dad's age, exactly!)

    Thanks!
    My parents were pretty open minded. They reacted almost identically with a, "Sigh. Invite him over for dinner." I was 20 at the time, he was 39. My dad initially expressed some concerns about the age difference, and I shut that down by telling him it wasn't a serious relationship. Then once my dad had met him and realized he liked him, I admit that it was serious and I only said otherwise because I didn't want to hear any nonsense about the age difference. My dad was fine with that and understood my reasoning. My mom loved my boyfriend immediately, no manipulation needed.

    That was 4.5 years ago. We got engaged in October and my parents are quite happy about it.

    You know your parents best. How do you think they'll react? I would hope that at 37 they would respect your choice of partner, but I know not everyone is that lucky. For me, I was 20 and still lived with my mom. Some of the young women who come through here have to worry about being kicked out, disowned, etc. Although I was certainly nervous to tell them, I knew I wouldn't have to worry about any of that. That's just not who my parents are. They wouldn't disown me for any reason, let alone something as silly as not approving of my boyfriend's age.

    Are you expecting any major issues?
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  5. #5
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    pinkunicorn is offline Senior Member
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    Welcome to Ageless!

    My husband have a large age gap, too: 22 years. In fact, my husband is older than my dad by a month.

    In my situation, both of my parents love him. They met him back when he and I were best friends and they liked him then. After my divorce, when I told my mom I was dating him, I mentioned we were more concerned with hurting our awesome friendship than the age difference. She asked how big of an age difference. I told her he is Dad's age. She just said, "Well...ok then..."

    My dad loves my husband, and my husband loves my dad. My OM's often said that he feels like he and my dad are like best friends. But then he has to stop himself from talking about me and our relationship like he does to his other best friend, because he has to remember that I'm this guy's daughter!

    I can't remember if we were engaged or married, but we went to visit my parents. My husband borrowed my mom's Harley and he and my dad went for a ride together. He told me that they talked about us a little bit. My OM said that he asked my dad if our relationship bothered him any. My dad just shrugged and said, "As long as you guys are both happy, I don't really care."

    His family is very accepting of me, too. His nephew and I are really close, actually (he's gay so no concerns there!). He's only a few years younger than me, and when we go out together, he calls me "Auntie" and I'll call him "Nephew."

    All that being said, acceptance depends a lot on the dynamics of your family and his. Acceptance by strangers--well, that really doesn't matter, now does it?

    Either way, you two are in this relationship for you, not them.
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  6. #6
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    MissMuffins is offline Senior Member
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    Welcome to Ageless!

    Congratulations on your engagement!

    People will think whatever they want to, despite (or perhaps in spite of) our best efforts to ensure otherwise. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was herself in a "nontraditional" relationship, is quoted as having this to say about it: The people who mind, don't matter. The people who matter, don't mind.

    MM
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  7. #7
    fiorinda's Avatar
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    Sadly, MM, often the people who matter DO mind and that's not easy to live with. You can't let it stop you living your life the way that is right for you, but it certainly hurts when your loved one's won't/can't accept your choices.

    I've read of people in AGRs whose families have actually disowned them. I find that unfathomable, to be honest. I'm confident my mother would never do that, no matter what I did, and I would never do it to my kids. That doesn't guarantee approval or acceptance though. However, I believe any sensible, reasonable parent will eventually accept a mate who makes their child happy, regardless of how unconventional that match might be (within reason of course - if a 'wife beater', serial killer or paedophile is who makes you happy, it might not happen!!).

    Last night on the phone my mother asked after Lee's health, unprompted, expressed concern, and gave us both her love!
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiorinda View Post
    Sadly, MM, often the people who matter DO mind and that's not easy to live with. You can't let it stop you living your life the way that is right for you, but it certainly hurts when your loved one's won't/can't accept your choices.
    That's why I'm not particularly close with my family, fiorinda. They're not healthy and don't support my physical, emotional or financial well being. Everything they do is motivated by upholding the status quo, which in the case of my extended family include the "rules" of alcoholism and child abuse, including sexual abuse.

    It took me very long time to realize that in order for me to be healthy and well, a productive member of society, and on my path toward being the best possible version of myself, I can't worry about being close to them.

    It's a hard choice, but it's a helluva lot easier than any of the alternatives. Given that at several points I seriously considered suicide as an alternative to my then-present situation, ultimately I came to the conclusion that I'd rather live without my extended family--particularly my parents--than do what it takes to live with them.

    If they can't support you in a healthy relationship of the person of your choosing, it's time for a heart-to-heart. I've had that heart-to-heart with several members of my family; at the time it was their preference that I cut ties with them, rather than accept that they needed to change their behavior. In the years since, they've come to realize they miss me more than their unhealthy behavior. Many of them have actually changed their ways as a result--some baby steps, others leaps and bounds--but in most cases not enough to permit the kind of relationship I would like to have with them. The situation was so bad, and so ingrained in the family "order", that I'd rather make whatever sacrifice necessary to break the chain and STOP passing that sick legacy down to the next generation.

    In a different vein, I know that I'm "different". Everything about me reeks of it--my hobbies and personal interests, Meyers-Briggs personality type, Chapman "Love Languages"--as well as things like high IQ and various & sundry traits of an high-functioning autism spectrum disorder different. When I find someone with whom I click, my personality type is such that I don't care whether that person is my same age, race, nationality, religion, etc. because those things don't matter to me in so far as choosing friends is concerned. They matter very much in that they add to the breadth and depth of the cultural richness of the human experience. (An outsider looking in at my situation might say that I am so odd, I don't exactly have the luxury of caring about those things.)

    However, when choosing one's romantic partners, the equation changes somewhat. For those reasons, I do prefer to date within my race and religion. When I did enough "me work" to realize that it was okay to expand my dating pool to include men younger and older than myself, rather than limiting my choices to peer age candidates, the quality of my choice in partners for intimate relationships improved dramatically.

    The last time my own mother had some smart-aleck remark about my relationship (because we're living together/having sex and aren't married), I reminded her: I don't exactly approve of her relationship choices, either. The day I choose to remain married to someone who sexually assaulted her, we can revisit the topic. Meanwhile, she's free to choose to disapprove or to be happy for me that I've found someone who views me as more than a receptacle for his penis.

    Instead of having her knickers in a knot that you're not in the mainstream, your mum needs to realize she's got a wicked-smart, wicked-special daughter, and men who are good fits to you *and* who are worthy of you are few and far between. So scarce, in fact, that you had to expand your search too!

    *hugs*

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

  9. #9
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    She's 92, MM, it's doubtful she's going to change much now! She WILL chill about it eventually though - she already is chilling - she mostly needs to realise that her limited time left oughtn't to be wasted on disapproving of stuff that doesn't fit her world view, and damaging her relationships with those closest to her. It's odd, because I've always been unconventional, all my life (so has one of my brothers, so that's 50% of her kids!!). I do feel that some of her problem with us is about embarrassment - though I don't know if she would ever admit that. Her 90s seem to have heralded a bit of a drop in her ability to hide the prejudices she knows it's not acceptable to display. If we weren't close I wouldn't mind so much about it. I see her every 2 weeks and speak to her every week on the phone. She's quite a formidable old bird, very far away from a sweet little old lady! She's amazing really, still lives on her own in her own house, does her own shopping (my sister takes her to the supermarket for the heavy stuff), walks to the town centre most days (she's condescended to have a shopping trolley), does most of her own housework (she has a cleaner for the windows and washing down paintwork and stuff and my brother-in-law does the gardening for her). Most of her peer-age friends are long dead, so the ones she has now are probably 20 years and more younger than her (yes, I know!). My family was pretty ordinary, Mum was never very affectionate but Dad was so that was ok. My siblings are 17, 19 and 23 years older than me, my nephews and nieces mostly only a few years younger than me, so I've always been used to blurred lines around generations. I think for Mum the MAIN problem is maybe that she sees us struggling for money and it worries her. We have long-term plans, Lee is going to university in September to start a 5 year MComp and after that, hopefully, he will be able to earn a good wage. She worries she won't see me benefit from any of that. I know it's hard for people to understand how I find it OK to support him all this time, especially when I don't earn much and especially if they're the sort of people who maybe hold financial security in as high regard as personal happiness.

    I'm worried that she will be negative and crabby on our wedding day - a friend said most people will just see that as her being a crotchety old lady. I'm not remotely bothered how anyone else interprets it (if it happens). I'm worried that it will upset me, and/or Lee. I'm also worried that worrying about it is going to stress me out - even though it actually might not happen! It's a tricky situation, I don't want to bring it up with her in case she has no intention of behaving that way on the day.

    Yes, I am wicked-smart and wicked-special! I ought to tell her that!! (thank you, that brought a tear to my eye, you are so kind!!). Hugs back (and sorry to synedyentruoc, I seem to have hijacked your thread!). x
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  10. #10
    MissMuffins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiorinda View Post
    She's 92, MM, it's doubtful she's going to change much now! She WILL chill about it eventually though - she already is chilling - she mostly needs to realise that her limited time left oughtn't to be wasted on disapproving of stuff that doesn't fit her world view, and damaging her relationships with those closest to her. It's odd, because I've always been unconventional, all my life (so has one of my brothers, so that's 50% of her kids!!). I do feel that some of her problem with us is about embarrassment - though I don't know if she would ever admit that. Her 90s seem to have heralded a bit of a drop in her ability to hide the prejudices she knows it's not acceptable to display. If we weren't close I wouldn't mind so much about it. I see her every 2 weeks and speak to her every week on the phone. She's quite a formidable old bird, very far away from a sweet little old lady! She's amazing really, still lives on her own in her own house, does her own shopping (my sister takes her to the supermarket for the heavy stuff), walks to the town centre most days (she's condescended to have a shopping trolley), does most of her own housework (she has a cleaner for the windows and washing down paintwork and stuff and my brother-in-law does the gardening for her). Most of her peer-age friends are long dead, so the ones she has now are probably 20 years and more younger than her (yes, I know!). My family was pretty ordinary, Mum was never very affectionate but Dad was so that was ok. My siblings are 17, 19 and 23 years older than me, my nephews and nieces mostly only a few years younger than me, so I've always been used to blurred lines around generations. I think for Mum the MAIN problem is maybe that she sees us struggling for money and it worries her. We have long-term plans, Lee is going to university in September to start a 5 year MComp and after that, hopefully, he will be able to earn a good wage. She worries she won't see me benefit from any of that. I know it's hard for people to understand how I find it OK to support him all this time, especially when I don't earn much and especially if they're the sort of people who maybe hold financial security in as high regard as personal happiness.

    I'm worried that she will be negative and crabby on our wedding day - a friend said most people will just see that as her being a crotchety old lady. I'm not remotely bothered how anyone else interprets it (if it happens). I'm worried that it will upset me, and/or Lee. I'm also worried that worrying about it is going to stress me out - even though it actually might not happen! It's a tricky situation, I don't want to bring it up with her in case she has no intention of behaving that way on the day.

    Yes, I am wicked-smart and wicked-special! I ought to tell her that!! (thank you, that brought a tear to my eye, you are so kind!!). Hugs back (and sorry to synedyentruoc, I seem to have hijacked your thread!). x
    She *is* your mum, and you came by your unconventional streak somewhere! Maybe remind her of other things that are important to her in a marriage, beyond financial security? Maybe tell her how much Lee appreciates the same qualities in you that she appreciates, or that she's prided herself on telling everyone you got from her? Or how wonderful Lee finds you to be, and how he brings out all the good things in you which others have quashed?

    That and worrying about things which might happen calls this expression to mind: "Don't borrow trouble."

    *hugs*

    While I'm not the OP, I don't think of it as a hijack, per se. Rather I see it as a real world example of the very sort of thing synedyentruoc asked about.

    MM
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  11. #11
    fiorinda's Avatar
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    Hahahahahahaha... I'm just picturing my mother's embarrassment if I started to tell her how much Lee and I love each other and how we make each other smile and laugh, how we make each other joyful, how he's made me a warmer, softer, kinder and better person, how my heart leaps when I see his face... (Not to mention the mind-blowing sex).

    We don't talk about those kinds of things!! I don't know if I could even say them outloud to anyone but Lee! We are all about the practicalities of life. That's how I was raised. I'm panicking just thinking about talking to my mum about that stuff. I don't even know if she thinks romance is important. I think she lived without it most of her life. Telling her what a miserable boor my ex husband was, that was easy. That I was unhappy with him, that I planned for 10 years to leave him. But love and romance? Surely they're for the young?

    Maybe she's JEALOUS!!! I'm still fulfilling my duty in life by being there for my kids and my grandchildren - but I'm in love and loved up too! How greedy I am

    I do think the things Lee loves me for are mostly the ways inwhich I'm different from her. I think she thinks he just sees me as a meal ticket - so no amount of talk about how he feels is going to put her right. After all, I'm sure we've all had one of those friends who insists their boyfriend truly loves them, when we can see him for what he really is. Time is the only proof - just hope she has enough time to see it!

    Apologies if my typing is weird, I'm on my phone

  12. #12
    synedyentruoc is offline Neophyte
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    Thanks!

    Wow, thanks everyone for your insight, experience, and for sharing so openly and deeply about your relationships. I'm really glad to have found this forum!

    My parents are really wonderful, and I think that even if initially they are shocked, they will adjust. I suppose I'm remembering my mother's response when I started dating someone 6 years my junior (I was 25, he was 19), and she was disapproving. But that was over 10 years ago, and yes, I'm 37, more than a grown woman, and I think they will respect my choices. They knew of my current partner before, because he was an important person in my life as a teacher, mentor, and friend--so perhaps they won't be so surprised that we're taking things to the next level.

    It just feels nice to know that there are other people out there in "unconventional" relationships who are making it work, and are happy, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing about your experiences and insight.

    s
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