My partner and I met when I was twenty and he was thirty-three. At the time he thought I was twenty-two and I thought he was twenty-eight (another story for another time). By the time we found out we were thirteen years apart, it was too late. We were attracted to one another and our personalities jived.
Age Gap: Then
Our age gap was not a welcome surprise to many of my family members and friends. At twenty, I felt I needed to hide much of my relationship from others. I kept our dating life on the down-low, yet spent every minute I could with my then-boyfriend. I was very young. He was young but not young enough.
Many factors created havoc during the first years of our relationship. I had grown up with a set of engrained values and hadn’t had the time to deconstruct them. He had been through marriage, divorce, and had a daughter. He had been through some life and I was just beginning. I had yet to have children of my own, go through therapy, and reassess my life goals where he was on a firm path to financial freedom, relational commitment, and musical endeavors. He had been to therapy and done some hard emotional and spiritual work.
Yet, we shared a great ability to communicate our desires, fears, and ambitions. We made each other laugh, enjoyed music, liked the same indie films, discussed politics and God, shared vulnerabilities regarding our pasts and we shared similar goals for our future. Where I was more extroverted, he was more introverted. Where I was more excitable, he was more chill. We were a yin and yang. We still are.
Age Gap Strengths and Weaknesses
As we have been in a relationship – from boyfriend and girlfriend to marriage – we have been in different phases of life. Sometimes these phases of life mixed with our personalities have been complimentary to our flow as a couple and other times they have been a hindrance.
For example, one way our age gap has hindered our relationship was his desire to retire early. He was well on his way to early retirement until he met me. Deciding to start our family, later for him, hindered his original goal to be a traveling musician, financially free.
Thanks to therapy and the continual work of being alcohol-free, I was able to work through some resentments I had about not allowing myself autonomy as a young adult. Instead of living life as a twenty-something and figuring my junk out, I was glued to him. His fault? Not at all. On one hand, being with him was a stabilizing force, but I also had co-dependency issues I didn’t know needed to be dealt with. I continue to work through them to this day.
I’d say a strength of our age gap is that I heed wisdom from him – especially financially. I’ve also broadened my view on politics and religion, in part because of him. I’ve been able to see the future through his eyes. As for him, he has been able to remain more youthful through my eyes. He sees the world as not only a fifty-two-year-old man but also through a thirty-eight-year-old woman.
Age Gap: Now
In April we will have been together for eighteen years. I grew up with him, but we both pioneered our way as a couple and a family. We didn’t have an example of an age-gap marriage. We came from very different families, unique traumas, and different generations. When our eyes met eighteen years ago a spark hit the fan.
Together, we ebb and flow. We both enjoy conversing over coffee, sometimes for hours. We have similar ideas about the way we want to parent our children – they coincide beautifully. We both enjoy home, low-key living, and nature. Where I need more time to be out and about, he is fine staying home with the kids. Where he needs more sleep, I am fine to wake early on the weekends. None of these things have anything to do with age. So in that, we are like any other couple committed to caring for each other.
At this time in life, our age gap might be more complimentary than ever. As I continue to evolve and plant roots as a grown adult, he continues to make headway on his goal of financial independence. He is a loyal, hardworking human who exhibits love through service and calm. I take care of the home, the kids, the unschooling, and myself. We budget each Saturday, try to date at home once a week, and read books in bed. He makes me coffee every morning and I shop for groceries. I leave the house more often, he stays in to rest or fix whatever needs fixing.
Keeping the Marriage Vibe Alive
Regardless of age, being able to communicate is the most important piece of any relationship. Without communication, we wouldn’t last. In my opinion, communication coincides with honesty. Our honesty to one another has been marriage-saving. Honesty isn’t always feel-good or easy, but it’s real. We have been able to navigate whatever our age gap has thrown at us because of our honest communication. Tears, anger, confusion, and resentments are a part of long-term relationships. They just are. And that’s ok, as long as each partner does their part in communicating and moving through the conflict.
Communication also involves empathizing and seeing your partner’s point of view. As I have grown older with him, I know sometimes we need space before reconnecting. When I was younger I wanted to solve our issues on the spot. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned just how important space is.
Compromise and trust are another big part of succeeding with an age gap. Where he might want to stow every bit of money away, I’m there to remind him that sometimes we need to live in the moment. While I might go overboard preparing for a trip, he is there to remind me of what’s most important – the experience.
Discussing childhood wounds and past traumas is also helpful. We are able to empathize with unhealthy coping mechanisms then encourage one another into healthy ones. I have been to therapy and a recovery program and he recently attended some therapy sessions. We both like to learn about methods to improve our lives, together and separate, which I think has kept us healthier in our marriage.
In my experience, age has been nothing but a number. Of course, there are unique pros and cons to an age gap marriage, but I believe all relationships fall under the umbrella of unique pros and cons. In the end, whoever you end up with should be someone you respect, admire, and collide with just so. Regardless of age, get to know the person you decide to commit to. But more importantly, get to know yourself first.