I'm 39 & My Boyfriend Is 23 — This Is How We Make It Work

4 months ago
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I never thought I'd say this but I met the love of my life on a Tinder date.

The thing was it wasn't with my Tinder date. It was with a rather shy, spectacled guy with a man bun, gazing at me over his beer. Romantic huh?

As I waited patiently for my dropkick date to finish chatting up every female in the vicinity, this new player in the game of my affections had sneaked in and asked me out. Slight problem, he was 23 (it was later revealed that he was actually 21) and I was 36.

Our "date" a week later was a takeaway coffee on a brick wall in a park. He was nervous; constantly untying his hair and man bunning it back up again. I was silly and told hilarious and inappropriate stories, which to me felt like yesterday but in reality they'd happened when he wasn't even born.

 

What on earth was I doing? I mean, as I'd been tapping away on my word processor, finishing my Uni thesis on female empowerment, he was busy trying to keep his Tamagotchi alive. Had I finally cracked it?

 

It was never going to happen.

But for some reason, it did happen. I somehow began to see a life with this guy and took up residence in this love bubble where age was of no consequence and we could survive on pure pheromones and passion pop.

Not everyone felt the same as I did. I ignored informative statements about underdeveloped frontal lobes of the under 25s and I zoned out of long-winded speeches on why it wouldn't work. My marriage hadn't worked either and the two years of singledom that followed certainly didn't reveal my Mr Darcy. My biggest issue was that he'd never even heard of (let alone seen) Top Gun.

That was three years ago. He's barely recognisable as that awkward 21-year-old that had a hand-crafted coat hanger antenna on his p-plated truck. Now we live together with our dog in de facto bliss, planning for the future. Well, bliss may be overdoing it. It's been hard. Really hard.

Being in a relationship that has a huge age gap is constant work. Many issues arise that "regular" relationships just don't have to deal with -- and if they do, they are dealt with very differently.

Other than his irritating ability to consume 10 big Mac meals and still have perfect abs, I thought I'd share some of our challenges.

Communication and experience.

Therapists would certainly be out of a job if we were all nailing relationship communication, regardless of age. But I've found a lack of life experience with the younger guy means there's a genuine inability to express and communicate productively.

My partner had never had a girlfriend before. His relationship experience was zero. I've had many long-term relationships, grasp the importance of separating coloureds from whites and, importantly, know women don't like being called "bro". We were and still are at opposite ends of the experience scale.

Our communication style went from shouting to silence to me being condescending about his inability to function in the world like a normal adult. All three approaches created resentment.

Management: It's still a work in progress but time and perseverance is the key. Through putting time into understanding each other's unique ways of operating, we are kinder, more patient and more accepting. He still shuts down with conversations that threaten him but each time he gets better at coming back to the topic and I try to keep my frustrations in check in appreciation of that.

Baggage

Being my age, I'll freely admit to having some baggage. But my three-piece Samsonites that heave at the seams exceed the weight limit in comparison to his backpack. Again, it's about experience.

Management: Really it's me who has to deal. I can't blame him for past romantic failures. And I can't blame him for being 23 and inexperienced. I focus on who he is. It's hard, but it has certainly taught me a thing or two about repacking neatly.

Biological clock

I wasn't even sure if I wanted kids but suddenly, at 37, I was deafened by that tick tock. But how could I expect a 23-year-old to be at the same life stage as me? He could barely plan a night out, let alone a baby.

Management: My ovaries would wait for no man, so we had to confront the baby sized elephant in the room head on. Luckily for me, he wasn't scared by the prospect. Well, he didn't show it anyway. While it wasn't an ideal age for him to think about it, he understood the predicament. I gave him the out but he didn't take it. Watch this space...

Finances

I'm not saying I'm great with that paper stuff, but this guy was living week to week, borrowing off his mates and not paying bills. He still ran out of phone credit. I left home when I was 17, never had a credit card and didn't even get into debt at Uni. This was major for me if we were going to seriously have a life and possible family together.

Management: Having to pay bills and rent was a rude shock to my boyfriend but it started to teach him about that little thing called responsibility. Now we have a joint account as well as our own and we save together.

 

Every day we have to work at us. We can't let things slip -- we make sure we're always going forward in some small way. Not only has he changed but I have too. He's taught me the importance of living life and letting go of the small stuff.

We have to remember we've chosen this relationship and our age difference won't ever diminish. Yes, sometimes he makes me laugh and want to punch him in the face at the same time. Yes, he had no idea who David Bowie was when he died and yes, he still thinks farts are funny. But he never gives up on us and he holds my hand every night when we go to sleep.

_____________

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