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Guest Post: Rodney and Me pt. 3

Today we have the third part in a guest commentary by Robert Riley. Written in the form of an open letter to the parents of his significant other, it asks those parents to examine not only the fears they have but also the potential good of their son having an older partner. At the following links you can find part one and part two.

So, now you’ve had a little time to get used to the idea… There are two possible ways you can attempt to deal with this. Three if you count “ignoring” it. I’m going to assume that doing nothing is not an option. Pretending that you’re okay with this when you’re not is equivalent to pretending that the six hundred pound gorilla in the corner is a Barbie doll. You’ve got two choices, act on your opinion and demonstrate your surprise and displeasure or take a second and think what would happen if you had an open mind? You’re here, so I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe you’ve decided to have an open mind, perhaps for only a bit, but that bit might be all that’s needed for you to break through the wall you’re operating behind and see something special.

Let’s start with a couple of givens… Nobody is going to question that your son is less mature than someone who is thirty years older than he is. You’re going to interpret this as he’s likely to be taken advantage of, and he might well be, but why? What ‘qualifications’ does your son’s friend bring to the table? Is he a bartender at a gay club that caters to young guys that want to meet older guys? Is he a porn producer? Maybe he works in human services, could be a therapist or something? Maybe he’s been doing things that help people for his entire adult life? Maybe he’s as surprised as you are at this development? He might have been a social worker who’s been in the business of defending or supporting people for thirty years? Does this kind of thing have an impact on your thinking? Perhaps it should. What does your son have to offer someone who is established and has roots in the community? Perhaps this relationship is about companionship, love, trust, caring and things like that? Now that’s a novel idea! What would happen if the man your son is involved with was actually a decent, considerate and caring person that wants to have a real relationship with your son rather than take advantage or abuse him? How do you tell the difference?

In today’s “day and age” it’s expected that one’s partner is going to be “scrutinized” by family and friends. It’s likely that he’s expecting it. Is your son’s friend supportive of your son’s life and choices? Does he endorse your son spending time with friends and family? What would happen then? You have to wonder huh?? What if that mindset that you’re so prepared to operate in catches you by surprise? Could it be possible that despite all of those reasons that society has for damning their relationship they’re just two guys who care about each other? Maybe there’s a possibility that the old guy and the young guy have negotiated a way to be equals in a very different kind of relationship than you were expecting, than they were expecting? There’s only one way to find out. What would happen if you were to embrace your son’s choices here? If it all comes apart six months later your son would be heartbroken most likely, but isn’t that true of any romantic relationship that he might enter into? What’s the likelihood that your son would have a relationship with someone his own age that it would end and both of them could get hurt? What might transpire if one of them had a healthy amount of life experience to draw upon and could carry that sort of foundation into the relationship? This is could give your son a rock to stand on, couldn’t it? This could very easily provide the stability and solid ground your son needs to be able to learn how to be a partner in a relationship. What would happen if your son didn’t have to endure the trial and error with relationships that you did? Maybe he might discover the blessing of getting it right the first time? So the question may be for your son or his friend, but you.. What are you going to do from here

I’m pleased that you’ve had a mind open enough to read this, lots of parents would have simply shut down, operated from a place of pure protection and told their son that they must not see him again, threatening to take car keys, eviction, etc. I know because that’s some of the things that would go through my mind, you see… I’m a parent too! I find it easy to put myself in your place and wonder: What the hell is going on here? If on closer inspection I would discover that these two people appear to truly care about each other and I was satisfied that there’s no abuse going on what could I say then?


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.

Alone for the Holidays

Well, today is Thanksgiving in the United States, the first in a number of major holidays this season. In the lead up to today a sense of loneliness has been building and I expect it to continue over the next month or so. The ill feeling is a mix of being alone relationship-wise as well as recognizing that it was about a year ago now that the troubles with John and I really started to come to a head.

gourdsJohn and I talked about the upcoming holidays some and while we’re still friends we decided it would be best not to make major plans together for the holidays. As a part of our new lives apart we need to make new traditions for ourselves. Besides, I expect we’ll both be emotional about the season and its not good to try to vent that together.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make plans to visit my family back east for the holidays. That leaves me wondering what I will do for Christmas and New Years. Fortunately, for today I received a gracious invite for lunch.

Here’s wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving.

A Little Reflection

Well, it has been about five months now since I’ve moved out on my own after my split with John. I have to say the first few months were very rocky. I felt lonely and without direction. Over time though I’ve begun to feel more grounded. I’m starting to feel at home in my new city and have started dating again. Over the next few weeks I plan to write some of my thoughts about post break-up life and dating again. Today I want to meditate a bit on the break-up and my relationship with my ex.

Throughout the whole ordeal I felt really uneasy about talking about the break-up with anyone but him and our counselor. I kind of feel like there is a trap in the way our culture expects break-ups to happen. They are supposed to be messy with people getting angry at each other, placing blame, and complaining to their respective friends. But, those expectations for how a relationship should end didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to be perceived as either a victim or a bad guy, nor did I want John to be perceived that way either. I was reluctant to tell friends about my dissatisfaction and ultimately reasons for calling it quits. I didn’t want to categorize John as “the bad guy”

This isn’t to say that the break-up wasn’t immensely difficult for both of us. Though I ultimately decided that the relationship wasn’t working and that we should call it quits, I still loved John. I hated to see him hurt, and I know that I was the one causing that. At the same time I didn’t see him capable of making the changes that would allow me to feel fulfilled in the relationship. It wasn’t so much about our actions and words as how we engaged the world on a base level. Fortunately, through it all we remained civil and committed to treating each other with respect.

Now, seven months since the split, John and I are still friends. We took in some of the cultural attractions together last weekend and we maintain pretty frequent communication. I feel pretty lucky.

How about you, what sort of relationship have you maintained with your ex(s)?

Moving On: Life After Love

It’s been about two months since I shared with you the end of my nearly five year relationship with John. In that time I’ve moved to another city and have tried to get on with this new stage in my life. To be honest though, I don’t really feel like I’ve pulled it together yet. I think to myself that I should gather my thoughts and makes some meaning out of the ending of our relationship, but I haven’t managed it.

So much of my life was centered around him, my identity was thoroughly wrapped up in my relationship with him. Now that he is no longer here I’m struggling to define myself again. I wish I could seek solace in friends, but all of my close friends live far away. My social circle here was really his social circle. I’m working on making new friends, but as an introvert that isn’t always something that comes easy to me.

I also hope to put more of my energies into creative endeavors. This is something John didn’t really understand, and so looked forward to fostering once again. But, in the anxiety and sadness that’s come with all the uncertainty surrounding these recent changes in my life I find it hard to bring my creative skills to bear.

Fortunately, my job is going pretty well and I’m managing to find things to fill my time on the weekends. But, I miss having social and creative lives that come with ease.

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

Not So Happily Ever After: Relationship Reality Check

Recently I started feeling bad about my relationship with John. We seemed to always be snipping at each other, our goals didn’t seem compatible, and I was finding myself wondering if it was really working. I was feeling like I was at a point in both my career development and in our relationship that I wanted more independence. John on the other hand was expressing the feeling that he needed to depend on me more; he is recognizing that is age is affecting his capacity to do certain things. Together these anxieties started putting a major strain on our relationship.

Eventually it all came out. We had a weekend where we just had to spill the beans; to talk about what our worries, desires, and concerns were. For the first time in a while we started talking about these difficult subjects. It is funny, early on in our relationship we agreed that open communication was optimal, yet we still found ourselves falling into the habit of withholding our feelings.

At one point I decided to look up information about relationship development and found several articles on the stages people go through in relationships. I found this one, 5 Stages of Committed Relationships, particularly enlightening. All relationships start in a romance stage where your partner can do almost no wrong. This is the sort of romance depicted in movies and TV shows. Having been together for more than four and a half years now, John and I have certainly moved past that point. As we looked at the stages it became pretty clear that we had progressed to stage three; the power struggle stage. This is the stage where differences between the individuals become the most exaggerated and difficult to manage. This is also the stage where most couples break up.

Strangely, realizing that we weren’t alone in this sort of tumult in our relationship diffused a lot of the anxiety I was feeling. John and I were both able to acknowledge that there are things in our relationship we are concerned about, but that we value each other and the relationship enough to try to work this out. Now we’re doing better now, but looking at attending some couple’s counseling to take us that extra mile. I’m happy we took the time to step back and reflect on our relationship. How easy it could have been to simply caved to our frustrations and thrown in the towel rather than trying to actually address the problems.

As a postscript; I realize that being a part of a mixed age gay relationship may make this sort of relationship anxiety harder to deal with. I’ve recognized that I find it hard to bring myself to ask friends for relationship advice when it comes to dealing with problems between John and me. I have no sounding board to vent my frustrations or to bounce ideas off of. I worry, because our relationship is unconventional, that friends or family may interpret my frustrations as confirmation that the relationship wasn’t meant to be in the first place. There is a lot of pressure to present our relationship as one of domestic bliss; but that is really an unrealistic fantasy we shouldn’t have to hold ourselves to.