Who are we to judge what a “socially acceptable” relationship is?
I will start this article with my own personal experience. I’ve been in an age–gap relationship for the past three years and I’ve never been happier — so as a full disclaimer, I may be a little biased. My age gap with my boyfriend is 18 years; he’s 39 and I’m 21. For many, this may appear as an unacceptable relationship.
When we first started dating I had just turned 18, so you can say we received a lot of backlash and negative opinions about our relationship. To make matters even more controversial, he has two kids, ages nine and eleven. You probably just did the math in your head; I am closer in age to the children than to my boyfriend. Shocking, you might be thinking, but to me, everything is completely normal because we are a family just like any other.
I understand that it’s an unusual situation, and one study has shown that only seven per cent of married heterosexual couples have over a 10 year age gap (where the man is older), making my relationship quite uncommon. On a side note, women are older in only one percent of 10-year age gap relationships. It’s also understandable that you may have questions for me such as “How do your parents feel about it,” or “Do his kids like you,” or “What about when you want to have kids?”
Curiosity is an essential part of human nature and my current situation sparks the curiosity of many. Most of the time I’m open to answering these questions when they come without judgment because if I weren’t in this relationship, I too would be curious.
Knowing myself, I would be intrigued to know how a couple with an 18 year age difference can be so successful.
At the beginning of my relationship, it wasn’t always easy for me. All I knew was that we were two people madly in love, as cliché as that sounds.
The backlash I received was brutal. I lost most of my friends at the time (looking back, they definitely weren’t real friends) and he received a few negative comments from his entourage. To make matters worse, the people I was “friends” with at the time did everything to try and sabotage my relationship with him — it went as far as inventing defamatory stories about my boyfriend. Also, they constantly tried to tell me that I would be missing out on my “young adulthood” by being with an older man. I was also constantly told that people would judge me when we go out in public because our age difference is obvious. For a while, I wouldn’t even hold his hand in public in fear people would judge us or think negatively of me.
For my boyfriend, one comment he received from a friend was in regards to a calculation you can do to see if your relationship is “socially acceptable.” You divide the oldest person’s age in two and add seven, and the answer is the age of the youngest person you can date. If we would have followed that calculation, the youngest person my boyfriend could have dated would be 25.
For a while, we were so afraid of what society thought about us. Every time we would go out we would feel ashamed for being together when we had absolutely no reason to be. I always think back on how I would have missed out on this amazing relationship if I would have listened to what is socially “acceptable.”
After asking people on social media how they feel about age gap relationships, to my surprise, lots were “pro-age-gap.” Many believe that if both parties are legally consenting adults, the relationship should not be an issue to anyone. I am in complete agreement, but some believe otherwise.
Many people are misinformed about age gap relationships. They believe the narrative that the older man is a “creep” or a “perv” and the younger girl is a “gold digger” or has “daddy issues.”
“We can’t make generalizations about all relationships,” according to Kristen Finn,* who I spoke to through my survey on social media. Kristen and her husband have a 21 year age gap — she’s 35 and he’s 56 — and they have been together for almost 11 years; married for six.
Another woman surveyed stated that “It’s just not right” for couples to have a significant difference in age and “The older person in the relationship is predatorial on the younger person who is impressionable.”
“I don’t think people should judge on what’s right for other people’s relationships as long as both people are consensual adults, they should decide what’s right for themselves,” said Isabella Hernandez. Isabella and her boyfriend have a 14 year age gap and have been together for over a year.
The definition of the word predatorial is “(someone) seeking to exploit or oppress others.” Calling someone “predatorial” is a serious accusation and it could be seen as defamatory if not backed up by evidence.
I have never felt my boyfriend has been “predatorial.” Since the day we met, he has been nothing less than kind, loving, supportive, and respectful.
“We don’t decide who we fall in love with,” said Romane Bocquet. She and her boyfriend have been together for over two years and have a 23-year age-gap.
I believe that people need to be educated on what it means to be in an age-gap relationship.
Love is love and that fact is independent of gender, sex, race, or age.
*This name was changed to protect the identity of this individual
Photo collage by Christine Beaudoin