I'm a 20-something with a much older boyfriend—and I like it that way
We can all agree that no two relationships are the same – unless you’re that set of twins on Gilmore Girls who married that other set of twins. Even if you’ve been in more than one relationship in your lifetime, you might notice aspects or qualities that differentiate it from the one you were in previously. I used to make the running joke that I always tended to date the same guy – even their physical attributes were eerily similar. Sometimes, though, you encounter the one person that helps you break the mold.
To call the series of dates I went on after first moving to New York City disastrous would be the most severe of understatements. As time went on, and as my perspective became more and more jaded, I started noticing a theme. I would have one date with a guy – these varied in level of success – but then I wouldn’t even get the slow fade treatment afterwards. There would d be no follow-up text, no emails, no response period. I quickly realized the common denominator. I was picking guys my own age, guys who were maybe not ready for something serious.
By that point, I was pretty fed up and ready to throw in the towel altogether – or at least take a break from the dating scene for a little while. However, there are moments when the universe decides to intervene in your life. This was one of them, apparently, because not too long after that was when I met my person.
He was smart, successful, confident – pretty much everything I had been on the lookout for. In the series of back-and-forth questions that accompany the getting-to-know you stage, we discovered there was a significant age difference between us. How much of a difference, you ask? Well, I’m 26 and he’s in his 40s, so it’s not as steep as, say, that time Monica accidentally wound up dating a high school senior on Friends, or even when Monica dated Richard (and his epic mustache). If we’re talking Friends comparisons, it could be considered closer to when Ross dated Elizabeth (but without the imposing Bruce Willis to contend with).
It’s been a little over a year now, and in that time I’ve come away with some lessons about being in a relationship with someone where there’s an age difference. There’s actually some pretty great benefits and plus sides to that gap between the two of you.
You had different life experiences growing up, and you share that with each other.
It’s one thing to date someone from your generation – chances are you probably have a lot of the same memories of what was happening in the world during your formative years. One of the things I appreciate is being able to learn what was different about the decade he grew up in versus the decade I grew up in. And while you might not have been able to vote around the same time, chances are you both had the same crappy after-school job when you were in high school. (McDonald’s is an institution that has lasted for centuries.)
You get to introduce each other to TV shows and movies that you otherwise might have missed.
There’s simply not enough hours in the day to consume all the media I want, but I’ve garnered a new appreciation for some of the television shows and films that my significant other counts among his favorites. In turn, I’ve been able to introduce him to the ones that officially defined me in my adolescence. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, anyone? Okay, so I haven’t made it there just yet – but I’m working on it.) You both might have been watching different cartoons when you were in diapers, but you can also both sit down at the end of a long week and marathon several episodes of The X-Files together.
You have rousing debates over which version of a song was better – the cover or the original.
I have been shamed many times for my lack of musical knowledge. Sometimes I feign ignorance, but pulling adorable faces only works for so long. I can recall at least once instance in which I was fully confident that Killing Me Softly was a Fugees song, at which point I was promptly corrected and informed that it was actually a cover of a Roberta Flack song. Thankfully, it’s just gone down on record in our ongoing list of inside jokes/funny moments to refer back to. I like to consider it a learning experience, because where would I be if my boyfriend hadn’t had my back? I’d still be horribly mistaken today.
They have a pretty clear idea of what they want in life/in work/in a relationship.
They’ve lived on this earth longer than you have, right? So chances are they’ve had the opportunity to live a little, to experience life to the fullest and to figure out their goals, to be better settled in themselves. I do think it is so incredibly refreshing when a guy is completely secure in himself and in life. It means he isn’t freaking out about his future. It means he’s confident in who he is. And it also means that he’s not going to play games. No one has time for players, anyway.
The point is: our relationship might not be the most typical – or what people might consider conventional, but it works for us. It wasn’t until I opened myself up to the possibility of something completely different from my past track record that life took me by surprise. And I have to admit, it’s been pretty great so far.