By NICOLE BURROWS
WHAT is ‘older’? How old is ‘too old’? Is there such a thing?
For the purpose of this writing, ‘older’ refers to an age difference of five or more years.
Most differences and difficulties between people in love relationships, which arise out of their age differences, seem to occur at or above the five-year mark. Of course, for some people, an age difference, particularly a significant one, renders little to no difference in thinking or philosophy, attitude or preference, but this is not often the case.
It is probably important to note that there is one occasion when someone can be ‘too old’ for another: ‘older’ is ‘too old’ when the younger person is a teenager (or child), or someone who is still trying to find their footing in life, in their early education, or in their first career.
Young people should be learning and acquiring knowledge for making their marks in life, excelling in their talents and increasing their marketability and earning power in their chosen careers. Love and sex really should not be at the forefront of their minds; it should certainly not be the only things on their minds.
Love and sex, because of the maturity of thought processes required to manage their potential outcomes, are not things teenagers need to be preoccupied with, and these potential outcomes are the reasons the ‘stay single’ and ‘abstain’ messages make sense – even after all these years. A lack of maturity necessitates that you focus on growing ‘self’ and you refrain from involving yourself intimately with someone else when you are not yourself mature enough to deal with intimacy.
When the age difference between two people compromises at least one person’s judgment and sound reasoning ability, then ‘older’ is ‘too old’. Poor judgment can happen at any age, but, wherever possible, a significant age difference should be avoided if it is the most concerning factor and biggest contributor to poor judgment in a love relationship, because it brings with it a whole set of issues that can and will have greater impact than the age difference alone.
What to consider
1 An older person is more likely to know ‘self’ better, to have a greater sense of self/ self-awareness, as well as a greater self-appreciation. And these things are important because the first thing you need to be a decent partner to anyone in a love relationship is self-love. And it’s difficult to love yourself when you don’t know who you are, what you’re about, what you believe in, or what’s most important to you. A person who is self-aware is also better able to be in control of ‘self’ and less likely to be destabilised by or insecure with another person.
2 The chances are greater that an older person has more experience in love relationships, which increases the possibility that that person may also be better at having relationships – emotionally, physically, and mentally. The older person may be better at communication, because they’ve learned to hone that skill; their money management could be sharper; their decision-making could be wiser; their sex/love-making could be more confident. This experience that makes these things better with the older person comes because they have likely dated a lot more, been in more serious involvements, or may have even been married or divorced. And for the latter, especially, having been down that road already provides all sorts of guideposts for navigating future involvements. But the challenge comes in where experience and old experiences create fear of new experiences which could in fact be good experiences.
3 An older person has probably already amassed some sort of wealth and financial security, with respect to material accomplishments. They have years of work experience to make them more disciplined and refined, they have some savings in the bank, they have some investments, maybe even a business of their own. They have career confidence. The older person generally has no reason to be looking for a sponsor or a donor to help them out financially, which invariably shortens the life-span of love in a love relationship, because you’ve not found an equal partner, you’ve acquired a dependent.
4 Another thing to consider for a love relationship with an older person is that, chronologically, if they’re that much older, then they’re that much closer to dying from old age, or disease(s) brought on by old age. Having good love for any amount of time is a wonderful thing, but you have to prepare for the reality that the time available for your good loving could be shortened by the mere fact that one person is significantly older if indeed they are. On the bright side, if the woman is older than the man, that may not be as big a problem, because women generally live longer than men.
5 Being older can also mean that you could be set in your ways, immovable, perhaps even closed-minded. That does not bode well for a partnership, and a lot of the love relationship is about partnership, how much you agree, and how well you can handle when you don’t agree. If someone is so set in their ways, and worse if they’re unwilling to have a more open mind, then the love partnership will not work. It should also be remembered that when someone is set in their ways, it should never be the intention of another person to change who that person is, or to change who they are to accommodate who that person is. You cannot make a person different, or any other than they are or choose to be. No amount of counseling by anyone will change that. And too many people begin life and love partnerships thinking that ‘growth’ will occur. They almost depend on it occurring, so that they can have a relationship they want, but that is a recipe for relationship catastrophe and failure.
6 Getting older sooner means the body is aging faster, especially when its not cared for. So, sexual and physical appeal and ability become more of an issue for the younger person in the relationship, even worse if there is a marked difference in sexual desire between them at the beginning of their relationship. That difference will only increase and that’s something most people don’t bargain on and really only come to regard when they are forced to deal with it. Obviously, this concern is a less important one if a person practices good health and wellness habits in exercise, diet, and of the mind. It also helps if their ‘good genes’ make them predisposed to longer, healthier life.
7 An older person has probably had children already and is not looking to have any or many more. He may have had a vasectomy; she may have had her tubes ligated. Maybe neither one of them has undergone a medical adjustment to their reproductivity; they may just not be interested in having children. So that raises a few issues, especially if one person still wants to have children. And each person needs to be honest enough to admit – to ‘self’, first of all – that they absolutely do or do not want to have children. Because the last thing you need to end up with is an accidental pregnancy when you have no interest in being a parent, and whether that’s because the birth control failed or you didn’t use any it makes no difference. A child will change a relationship and make it harder when things are good and on a firm footing; imagine when they’re not. If an older person still does want to have (more) children with their partner, reproductive quality, fertility, and health safety are clearly more of a concern than not.
8 An older person could be a person to learn from, hopefully more good lessons than bad. Life and relationship experience counts for something. Life is a journey, even when it’s travelled solo, and the knowledge acquired on that journey is always useful to someone. Half of the time you learn things as a result of having gone through them and you know you never will again, because you won’t make the same choices you did before. But there is always someone who hasn’t gone through them and they could stand to learn from your experience.
9 Where sex is concerned, it is probable that better sex comes from or with a person who is more experienced, and age is usually a determinant of experience. Please note: this article is not concerned with the reasons someone is more experienced or whether or not they should be. But it’s a fact of romance: most people want to be involved with someone who can please them sexually, and who is not difficult to please sexually. Whether we like it or not, the more experienced you are at sex, the more likely it is that you or your partner will enjoy it, and the more likely it is that you are better at it. And the better you are at it, the more willing you are to preserve it. The more willing you are to preserve it, the less likely it is that your partner will find it unsatisfying. That said, the older you are, the more real are the issues of sexual dysfunction brought on by aging, a situation represented well by TV ads for male enhancement drugs. Whereas many men experience some downgrade in sexual interest and ability when they get older, women tend to ‘ripen’ in their 30s, 40s, and even their 50s, when it comes to sexual interest and skill.
10 An unfortunate side effect of being older than the person you are involved with is that you could end up ‘pulling rank’ in your relationship. Because you’re older, you may tend to exert authority. You could think that your wisdom gives way to the only correct option, the best way to do something, or the only way to see something. You could end up discounting the opinion and the needs of your partner. And, at some point, you might even start to look at your partner as your child and not as your equal. Unfortunately, people who start to see their partner as their child will start to see them as an obligation, an exhausting burden, a routine, less fun, less appealing, less attractive… and the regression continues in that vein until they lose interest in the person altogether and take up new interests elsewhere.
• Send comments via Tribune242.com or nicole@politiCole.com.