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A Man Twice His Age

People often use the phrase “a man twice his age” when talking about intergenerational dating. Frequently this phrase is used in a hyperbolic fashion to highlight the age difference between two men. Today’s post is going to explore two expressions of that phrase as they apply to my life lately, in both instances I am literally talking about age differences where the double of one equals the other.

Not long ago I woke up early one morning with the realization that in a few short months I will be twice the age I was when I met the first man I fell in love with. This is a professor I had as an undergrad and I’ve written about my experience of him before. In this realization, I also recognized that this man will be turning 80 years old this year. Since I started experiencing sexual attraction, it has always been to older men, particularly those in their fifties and sixties. At the time that I met the professor he was in his mid-sixties.

As I think back to that time in which we first met, I have to consider what it would have been like to partner with someone so much older than myself and what this passage of time, my doubling of age, would bring. While I still find this man handsome and hold a feeling of love inside for me it is difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to be partnered with someone in their eighties. Not so much because there is something inherently negative about men of that age, but simply for the drastically differing realities of experience in these different times of our lives. I am now in my mid-thirties finally feeling like I’m gaining traction in my professional life and working to advance that. He is now well beyond the beginnings of retirement and while still exceptionally vibrant and thoughtful, much of his thoughts turn toward issues of the end of life.

Late last fall I began dating someone new, I’ll call him Don. Like the professor when we first met, Don is in his mid-sixties. He really is twice my age. Since the fall things have been moving in a good way in terms of a relationship. Since my split with John I have been a bit gun shy around moving into a relationship and so have been taking things slower. But, it is irrefutable that we have a strong connection. We now spend most of our free time together, collaborate on projects, and in many ways feed on each other creatively.

That said, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us. When I first met John I took the “love conquers all” approach, that despite the differences we might have or the troubles we might have we’d face them together. In encountering a true relationship a second time around I’m not as idealistic. Though I’m enthralled by Don, I can’t take for granted that everything will work out for the best. Perhaps this line of thinking is a curse, doomed to sabotage a relationship before it starts. Perhaps it is a blessing, helping us to navigate the perils before we reach them.

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Dating Again #1: Mr. Rebound

When I met John I had been in the dating world only for a short time. After our relationship ended I found myself back in the dating pool. Since, I have found it a bit daunting to try dating again. I certainly know a lot more now than when I first really started dating older men six years ago, but I’m finding that I’m encountering more unusual and challenging experiences than I expected. This is the first post of a series reflecting on my experiences now that I’m dating again.

Shortly after the split I started frequenting one of the more popular intergenerational gay dating sites. Having just come out of a relationship I wasn’t looking for anything serious and even if I were I wouldn’t know what I was looking for. I just wanted to get out, try dating again, and hopefully have some fun times. On this website I started trading a few messages with the man I’m going to call Mr. Rebound.

Mr. Rebound was friendly, thoughtful, and a little bit shy. My own introverted nature led to some of the problems I had with John and it was refreshing to encounter someone that seemed to understand that part of my personality. After a couple of weeks of correspondences and chatting we agreed to meet for coffee one afternoon. The first meeting was rather uneventful. Mr. Rebound was unassuming and easy to be around. We sipped coffee and had rather general conversation. At that first meeting I found him attractive and was excited at the prospect of potentially being with him.

Mr. Rebound and I continued to have our online conversations, and early on he was well aware that I had just come out of a relationship. We commiserated together at how much of the world just doesn’t get the way introverts like us operate. A week or two after the first coffee date we met again for dinner.

To be honest, I don’t remember the dinner much. Afterwards he invited me to his place. We chatted more, listened to music, sat on his couch together and eventually began to make out. Mr. Rebound respected, or at least tried to respect, the fact that we really hadn’t known each other long and that I was fresh out of a relationship. I kept the momentum going however and we ended up in his bed. Again, he tried to slow things down but I thought I was ready to go for it. I threw caution to the wind and we ended up hot, sweaty, naked, and sticky.

I don’t think it was too long after that that I realized that I had made a mistake. I continued to see Mr. Rebound but we didn’t have sex again. It wasn’t that there was anything particularly wrong with him. But, while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was trying to fulfill competing desires with my relationship with Mr. Rebound. On one hand I wanted a friend to talk to, to decompress with, and to get thing off of my chest that had built up as my relationship with John fell apart. I hadn’t felt comfortable doing that with any of my existing friends. On the other hand, I wanted to fulfill sexual desires that weren’t being met. I discovered those two roles shouldn’t be fulfilled by one person, especially not during the emotionally stressful period I was experiencing at the time.

With Mr. Rebound I realized I wanted a friend more than I wanted a lover. Eventually, I was able to tell him this and to my surprise he wasn’t angry nor did he simply disappear after I made it clear I no longer wished to have a romantic relationship with him. We have continued to be friends, and though not terribly close we see each other fairly frequently to have walks, chats, coffee, etc.

Since then I think I’m still trying to learn lessons from this first post-John relationship. First, one must make a distinction between those they really wish to date and those they simply want something physical with. I should have learned that when dating someone that I may want to have a meaningful relationship with that I need to take it slow on the sexual front. I’m not sure I have fully learned that lesson, but that’s a story for a future blog post. By meaningful relationship I mean either long-term dating or simply friendship. To move quickly into sex complicates the getting to know you process and if you do determine you just want to be friends the sex could be deadly to the future of the friendship. I feel that I was pretty lucky to come away with a new friend in Mr. Rebound.

Guest Post: Rodney and Me

Today’s guest post comes from a GtD reader. Written in the form of an open letter to the parents of his new significant other, it addresses the concerns of outsiders looking in at a may-to-december relationship.

I’d bet you’re here for a reason… there was a reason for me too. When I discovered this site I had only had a need of it for just a few days… I was rapidly becoming emotionally involved with someone in excess of twenty five years my junior. Not only is he significantly younger, he’s significantly young. This is of course going to trouble a great many people, being a responsible and moral person I’m one of them, the first I expect. This collection of people may have just recently grown by a few, could be you and your spouse – Rodney’s parents, are a bit troubled too.

I’m glad you’re here; I hope you can find the answers you’re looking for. Please know that this site is about supporting people who are in, could be in or are otherwise somehow related to someone in an intergenerational gay relationship. It’s a fair assumption that you might feel the need for some support, if nothing else you’re concerned for your son or other family member, probably worried that he is being taken advantage of. As we might have someone in common that we care about I’d like to offer you some support. You’re possibly wondering why I’m here offering this to you; I’m thinking that its possible that you’re seeing me as the “enemy”. While I’m certain that you are mistaken on this count, nothing will change that impression if I am not willing to step forward and extend my hand, taking ownership for my part in this situation.

I’d like to offer up a few things for you to consider. First, you’re probably not here by accident. Your Son or another family member gave you a link to this website on purpose or you were looking for information on your adult child’s intergenerational relationship. Somebody has something that they’re trying to tell you. It’s in the spirit of openness and consideration for your feelings that you’ve been sent here, if you arrived by accident you’re curious because of someone you know. Please keep that in mind and if you are upset, scared, worried or otherwise feel that your family member is being victimized take a moment to relax and have faith in your son, while I bring you up to speed on a couple of things. While I can’t speak for everyone in this situation, I can present my feelings to you and offer you the possibility that I may not be the only older half of an intergenerational gay relationship that is willing to be open and forward. It’s not easy as I’m thinking that you may see me as an enemy, though I am far from it. I believe in Rodney, truly want the best for him and am willing to open myself up to scrutiny.

When I discovered my attraction for (and we are going to call him Rodney) Rodney I was more than surprised that things might take this kind of turn. We had communicated online a month before we met, most of that was about when are we going to get together, my schedule, his schedule etc. Once we finally got together, had opportunity to spend some time together we found that like other people we just enjoyed being together. It did not take long for me to realize that this young man was not cut from the same cloth as others his age. He has a deep sense of compassion with still waters running very strong and deep, nor given to childish pursuits. One would quickly call him an old soul without hesitation. I will confess that by the end of our first date I had long forgotten his age as he seemed much older. Our third date was a disaster, but as parents you could not have been happier with his bravery and willingness to deal with a crisis.

We had arranged nearly a week ahead of time to have brunch on New Year’s Day. I expected that we would eat and then catch a movie; my absent mindedness would change our plans. While cooking I had turned on the wrong burner on the stove and there was a frying pan handle over the burner, when I noticed this I corrected the situation and put some oil in the pan and then was distracted. It didn’t take long before the pan had gotten too hot and was smoking. I reached out to move the pan without thinking and burned the inside of my fingers on the frying pan handle, dropping the frying pan on the stove, the oil splashed out burning the outside of three of my fingers. Standing next to the sink I immediately went for cold water but that wasn’t enough. I was rapidly going into shock and were it not for Rod I might’ve have collapsed or worse. Most people would have politely excused themselves and ran out as quickly as possible, but not your son. It didn’t enter into his mind, not for an instant. He just saw that I needed someone to help then ran out and got snow to cool the water even more, then helped me make it to the couch and eventually the bathroom. An hour later after I was no longer in shock he drove me to the hospital, staying with me until the emergency room people were done with me. Afterward that evening we had dinner and came back to the scene of the injury for a movie.

I’d like you to know that whatever you taught Rodney, it was all worth it. You look at him and see your barely adult (chronologically) son, of course. It is clear to anyone that while Rodney may be young when it comes to the calendar, he handles himself and crises like an old pro. He was there for me when I needed help and possesses a maturity well beyond his years. I look forward to being there for him should it be necessary at any time in the future.

Best Regards,

Robert Riley

Guest Post: Discovering Self and Others

Today’s guest post is from GtD reader Carl of Tucson, AZ. I appreciate him sharing part of his story; it highlights how relationships evolve overtime and how that causes us to evolve over time ourselves.

Tom and I are a good twenty-seven years into our time together. Lovers, buddies, partners, friends, housemates, sharers-of-pets, we’ve come a good way along the path together. You know: house, cars, yardwork, repairs, illnesses, triumphs, successes, failures– we’ve weathered them both individually and as a unit. Heck, our house is nearly paid-for!

A few years ago, Fil entered our lives. Thirty-three years old, he offered a newness to our studied habituations. Way different and more easy-going than we, he was filled with jollity, laughter, copious amounts of wine and off-centeredness. Fil lived up to his name, filling gaps Tom and I hadn’t realized were present in our lives as individuals as well as a pair. Fil came and went. I understood. He’d had his own life to sort out; we, ours. Then, out of the blue, a few months ago, Fil re-emerged, re-connected with us. He’d moved, gone to North Carolina, come back, become a caregiver for his grandparents, continued laughing, imbibing, being loving and caring. He’d come over for dinner, a movie, a night of massages and health tips– whatever. I figured it was cupboard love. I was OK with that. Really, I was.

Not knowing “the rules” of the new landscape, Tom and I both held back, resorting to entertainment rather than home-iness. Just what was going on, anyway? Fil would have none of it. True to his nature, he steamrolled good-naturedly passed the bs, landing fully in the moment. Ah, youth!

Now, after a few months of renewal, Tom and I have made a place for standing dates for movies, “Fringe”, good food and laughter, and continued baby-steps to a triadic comfort zone, where three people, two generations, differing ethnicities and family backgrounds and disparate personal histories begin to mix and gel their three personalities– two of whom love and respond to youthful playfulness, and one of whom self-confesses, to our delight, that he likes “grandfatherly types”, which, I hope, means wisdom, patience, stability, longevity– into a more unified sense of what a relationship means: Trust, sharing, a sense of belonging while exploring individuality. Allowing and encouraging the other partner(s) to grow and blossom is the test of whether we, from our differing perspectives, can and will develop our lives into something greater than what the sum of the parts may be. We have entered another point on the continuum of possibilities in human relationships. I look forward to the exploration.

Jealousy: The Specter of Former Lovers

When relationships are new there tends to be a lot of uncertainty and insecurity.  One of the number one things that can spur on that insecurity are the former lovers of your partner.  This can be especially true for the younger partner in interegenerational relationships and for older men who have recently come out of the closet.  When these sorts of individuals enter a relationship it can mean there is a large differential between the number of lovers each person in the relationship has had.  Compounding this challenge is the fact that gay communities can often be small meaning that former lovers are still within your partner’s social scene or network; sometimes even remaining close friends.

When John and I first got together I found this sort of thing particularly challenging.  John was very open and honest about his past dating and sexual experiences.  While this was great in the sense that we could have a trusting, well communicated relationship, at times I felt like he was constantly revealing people he had dated or slept with. I had only had one previous lover while he had many.

One individual, Oscar, was especially challenging.  Oscar is a very attractive Latino man, a bit older than me, and very successful in his career.  Shortly after I met Oscar and his partner, John revealed to me that they had dated for a while some years before.  He even recounted an evening during which he gave Oscar a blow job while he lounged in John’s whirlpool tub.  This painted an indelible mental picture that still sticks in my mind today, and at the time I wasn’t sure how to process.  It was clear John was still attracted to Oscar. I couldn’t help but feel as though I was being compared to Oscar (and others) and I worried that I could lose him to one of these other men.

As I recount this story, I wish I could give easy solutions for getting over this sort of insecurity and anxiety, but I can’t.  John and I have now been together for over three years and those fears from the first year no longer nag at the back of my mind.  How did we stick through it?  I’m not completely sure.

To a certain extent I think it simply took time.  It took time for us to become fully comfortable with one another, to fully trust one another.  I think it also took coming to a point where we accepted the fact that we might be attracted to other people, but this didn’t mean we weren’t committed to one another.  And ultimately it took good communication and a willingness to talk about our pasts, our attractions, and our love for each other.  While that early level of openness on John’s part was a bit unnerving at the time, I think it helped me grow.  It helped me come to terms with my own sexuality and eventually helped me love John for exactly who he is, complicated past and all.

What have your experiences been with your partner’s former lovers?  Have you had bad experiences with these former lovers?  Good experiences?

Previous thoughts on anxieties in intergenerational  relationships.

Top Five Anxieties When Entering an Intergenerational Relationship

anxietyFor individuals entering any type of intimate relationship there is going to be some level of anxiety.  One is always concerned if the other party is going to like them.  However, for intergenerational couples these anxieties may come in the form of age or status related concerns.  Often these anxieties can be subliminal, not fully apparent to the individuals involved in the relationship.  By addressing these anxieties consciously, though, an individual can either move beyond them and let the relationship flourish, or identify incompatibilities that are irreconcilable and decide to move on.  Today I present to you five major points of anxiety for gay intergenerational couples.  I hope they serve as a starting point for self reflection for my readership as well as a conversation starter here at GtD.

Perception – Individuals within intergenerational couples are often concerned with the perceptions of others, particularly if they are entering their first age disparate relationship.  As I discussed in many of my early posts here, there are a number of stereotypes surrounding intergenerational couples.  This can lead to a lot of anxiety for those individuals, which can effect how they approach the relationship.  I remember fearing intensely the reactions of family and friends to the news that I had entered a relationship with someone much older than myself not to mention anxieties over the way strangers may treat us as well.  Outside societal pressure can definitely have negative impacts on ones relationship and until I came to the conclusion that I had to make my own decisions, I questioned what future John and I might have.

Opportunism – Both older partners and younger partners my have concerns that they are taken advantage of.  Is the younger partner simply using the older for financial gain?  Is the older with the younger merely for sexual reasons or for status within the gay community.  While the problem of opportunism can be a legitimate concern, and I would never encourage an individual to let themselves be taken advantage of, the charge of opportunism is a serious one and can be quite hurtful if not true.  Fully examine anxieties over opportunism, before acting upon them.

Performance – This is probably an anxiety felt more acutely by older men than younger men.  Incidence of decreased sexual function increases with age.  Some older men fixate on problems they may have with sexual function leading to anxiety about how that will effect the relationship or how the younger man may react.  To a lesser extent younger men may have some anxieties in this area, worried how they may measure up to previous partners in the love making department.

Autonomy – On the other hand anxieties over autonomy are more likely to touch the younger partner.  Older partners in intergenerational relationships are often more established financially and professionally, and may have a leg up in terms of their relationships with friends and family (i.e. how long they have been out and accepted by those groups).  For the younger individual this may pose a challenge to their independence and self authorship.  How do you cultivate a healthy relationship with someone that has already established their identity when you’re still working on yours?  At the same time the older partner may fear hindering their younger partner’s development, concerned they may hold the younger man back.

Rejection – Ultimately the anxiety we all share when we enter a new relationship is the fear of rejection.  The previous anxieties feed the fear of rejection as do other concerns.  The older man may fear that he not in good enough shape.  The younger man may fear that he’s not educated or experienced enough.  And because of these or other anxieties both parties ultimately have anxiety over rejection.  Early on every small argument and disagreement my feel like grounds for rejection.  Fortunately as time goes by, if all these anxieties are confronted and dealt with, that anxiety of rejection begins to fade and a stronger relationship is left in its place.

Lesbians on Their Second Date: Reflections on One Year

Recently John and I celebrated one year of living together. That anniversary presented the perfect opportunity to reflect on how we came to live together and on the past year as a whole.

There is an old joke that asks, what do lesbians bring on their second date? The answer, a Uhaul. This joke, certainly, plays on the stereotype that lesbians move in together too quickly. Of course John and I didn’t move in together on our second date, but we did do it early enough that the comparison between us and lesbians was jokingly made. (Even by some of my lesbian friends, I might add.)

We had only been dating for a little over two months when the lease to the apartment I was living in came up. I had decided that I could no longer afford the rent at my old place and contemplated moving to a neighboring city where the standard of living was a bit lower. When the situation came to his attention John immediately invited me to move in with him. It was an offer difficult to resist; I knew if I moved to the other city I wouldn’t be able to see John nearly as often. I think John was quite aware of that potential problem as well.

That said, I was quite wary of moving in with him so quickly. I already knew I was in love with him and that we had a lot in common, but at the same time there was much about our relationship that was untested. I was afraid that after taking the leap that one of us might sour on the relationship, causing much greater animosity than if we lived apart. Given the unique situation we were putting ourselves in we placed some stipulations on the living arrangement. We were upfront with each other about the potential problems and talked about our anxieties. We also agreed that we should look at it as a temporary arrangement that could be re-evaluated later; I think we agreed on something like another two months.

During those first few months of living with him, John went away on a long trip. It was something that had been planned long before we met. By the time he returned almost three weeks later I knew that I didn’t want this to be a temporary arrangement. John was truly under my skin, I couldn’t do with out him. After that there was little talk of changing the living arrangement.

The past year of living together has been great as a whole. While there as been some friction over our individual idiosyncrasies, we have generally been able to resolve those, or at least learned to live with them. We’ve also navigated long and difficult discussions over personal finances, and those too have been resolved. We are now very comfortable as a couple, we make decisions about leisure, trips, meals, and the household together most of the time. However in hindsight, I think we took a pretty big risk on each other living together so early. Though it worked out, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend acting so hastily to others.

I think our biggest problem now, a year into making a life together, is reconciling our schedules. We are at two very different times in our lives. I’m young and fresh out of school. I’m juggling a lot when it comes to work, additional training in my field, and trying to find a professional job. I’m just now “paying my dues”. John on the other hand is, for the most part, retired. He has lots of free time, but he’s also very socially engaged so has lots of things he’d like us to do together. I don’t think he expected to be constrained at this time in his life, he’s now living a hard earned retirement. Unfortunately my schedule and his can’t always be reconciled. We compromise as much as we can, but there can be a strain some days.

In the end, there will be more discussion and more compromise. Hopefully I’ll be able to change my own professional situation soon as well. Ultimately we’ll work this problem out too. But, I’m all too aware of how pressing the issue of time is for the two of us, so I hope it is soon.

Are there others of you in age disparate relationships that are living together? How did you come to the arrangement? What are unique challenges you felt like you faced? What advice would you give others in a similar situation?