In the world of dating, there’s always been an unwritten rule that age gaps should be avoided. There can be a couple of years between you, but anything above 10 and you’re entering problematic terror. Here’s the thing: my partner is 33 years older than me, and it’s the best relationship I’ve had.
Naturally, one person’s experience doesn’t automatically make it universal – there are plenty of horror stories out there about older men who’ve taken advantage of young women. I myself have experienced such a relationship since my teenage years. And, at the time, I couldn’t see how manipulative he was, the platitude of “you’re mature for your age” making me feel special rather than setting off alarm bells.
But now I’m in my 30s, better able to spot those red flags, I’ve found that a wider age gap isn’t fated to spell disaster.
When I first met my partner, I expected him to be how many middle-aged or older men tend to be entitled, arrogant and sexist. The usual onslaught women and female-presenting people put up with everyday. Yet, in a short amount of time, underneath a somewhat roguish demeanor, I discovered an emotionally open and vulnerable man.
He wasn’t afraid to explore his feelings, even when they made him feel uncomfortable, and he certainly wasn’t in a rush to diminish mine. It’s why we became such good friends, and why that friendship blossomed into something more. I didn’t feel the stagnation I normally felt around other people, unable to express myself. Instead, I was simply given a space to freely vent; my concerns, irrational fears, fantasies, they were all welcomed and never judged. Having spent years afraid to share certain aspects of myself, to find someone who accepted me even when they didn’t always understand was life-changing.
It was also terrifying, not least because I was falling in love with a man twice my age. Admitting that to myself was tough, but sharing this knowledge with other people filled me with greater trepidation. Their assumption, disguised as concern, was that our relationship would be short-lived – even if we worked as a couple, death would rob us of a long life together. Suddenly, mortality sprung up in every conversation. Yet, it’s a part of every relationship regardless of age, because growing old together is never guaranteed.
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I could have 30 more years with him, I could have five. But no matter how much time we’ve got, I know we’ll spend it appreciating each other, in the moments when we laugh so hard it feels like we can’t breathe, and when we sit in comfortable silence. Our love has both an urgency and a calmness to it, and these two opposites come together to offer a dynamic that strengthens our connection. As corny as it sounds, we see each other in ways we can’t easily see ourselves.
He doesn’t always understand my thought processes, nor I his, yet he always tries to be what I need in that moment. He’ll be tender or assertive, offer advice or simply listen; I can be spiraling out of control, my thoughts rampant, and he waits. No matter how long I’m lost to my inner turmoil, he’s there to help me come through the other side of it.
There’s an energy to him that I can’t ever hope to match, one that helps me embrace life rather than fear it. His ability to make me laugh when it feels like depression has stolen all joy from the world is rare, as is the warmth of knowing I’m safe and cared for. There’s longevity in the love we share.
Why should I turn all that down because society deems our age gap inappropriate? I refuse to be infantilised, to be treated like a mere bystander in my own relationship, when I know I’m where I’m meant to be.