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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.

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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.

Five Tips for Introducing Your Age-Different Lover to Friends

During the course of our relationship, John and I have introduced each other to a wide range of friends.  From gay friends to straight friends, close friends to mere acquaintances, we have navigated a wide range of introductions.  These experiences have ranged from pleasant to painfully awkward.  The following are a handful of recommendations I’ve gleaned from our experience on introducing your age-different lover to friends.

1.  Make the commitment that you are going to introduce your significant other to your friends. There are two reasons to do this.  First, if you are remotely serious about the relationship or if you are consistently attracted to people of a vastly different age than yourself your friends will have to know some time.  Such a relationship is doomed to failure if you try to maintain separate lives; you’d be building the relationship on a foundation of insecurities.  Second, your friends are likely to find out about your relationship at some point anyway.  By taking the initiative to tell them yourself you can prevent misunderstandings and introduce your boyfriend/lover/partner on your own terms.

2.  For those that you think may find an intergenerational relationship a challenge, you should front-load the first meeting. Let your friends know up front about the age difference prior to the first meeting, but frame this discussion as a positive or at least neutral aspect of your relationship.  Also let them know what drew you to your significant other.  It’s easy to try to ignore the age issue, especially of you don’t find it a challenge yourself.  However I’ve found that it is better to address this head on so that friends and acquaintances don’t feel blindsided by this minor detail.

3.  Make the status of your relationship clear. Lots of confusion can arise if the nature of your relationship is ambiguous amongst friends and acquaintances.  I remember uncomfortable instances of flirtation from other men at some of the first parties John and I attended together.  Without a clear message about our dating status, that I wasn’t just a little fun, others felt free to make overtures.  In another instance an acquaintance, though she knew we lived together, assumed we weren’t romantically involved.  It made for a slightly uncomfortable conversation; I was embarrassed I hadn’t made our relationship clear in the first place.  Clarifying your relationship with others can also help you avoid some of the assumptions made about intergenerational gay relationships.

4.  If you think your friend may find your intergenerational relationship challenging, make the introduction on neutral ground. Inviting them to your place, especially if you share your home with your partner could be intimidating and could put your friend on the defensive.  Instead, find a mutually agreed upon neutral location such as a restaurant or coffee shop to make your introductions.

5.  Use tact and respect the boundaries of both your friend and your significant other. While I have advocated for frankness with your friends when it comes to introducing them to your lover, this must also be balanced with decorum.  There is such a thing as “too much information”.  Though you want your friends to know how much you like your partner and how into him you really are, you don’t have to share intimate details.

Do you have any other suggestions for introducing an age different partner to friends?  Any outstanding memories of making such introductions? Please share them with us in the comments section of this post.

Friends and Lover: In the Eye of the Beholder

Recently John and I have been discussing my social life.  Though I love John and his friends, I have to admit that sometimes I feel a little lonely; that in the past year I haven’t really had a lot of friends of my own.  Of course this isn’t directly a result of John per se.

I moved out West to pursue graduate study and while in my program I made quite a few good friends and had lots of people to socialize with.  But, with the end of the program most of those people went their own way.  With one exception I rarely see or talk to those people that were in my program.  Since meeting John I’ve gotten to know his friends and we spend a lot of time with them, and it is good but sometimes I still feel as though something is lacking.  John has expressed his own worries that since we started living together, perhaps our relationship scares away potential new friends my own age.

To a certain extent I admit that there is probably some validity to these worries.  While I’m on good terms with my co-workers they seldom go out of their way to socialize with me.  But is this hesitance on their part due to homophobia, prejudice about inter-generational relationships, or a more nuanced problem caused by this generation gap?  I can’t say for sure, but a couple of occasions where John and I have gotten together with my co-workers makes me contemplate the latter.

One occasion happened last fall.  At a company event I started telling one of my co-workers and his girlfriend about my partner.  They both seemed pretty interested and later told me they’d like to meet him.  I had also been telling them about a restaurant near our house that John and I really liked so I suggested we meet there for dinner one night.  The dinner was alright, the couple didn’t seem to flinch at the age difference, but conversation was hard to keep flowing.  I came to realized that popular culture is often the subject of conversation for people my age.  It is a common experience easy for most of us to get into and I admit that I enjoy having conversations on that level it times.  However when it came to being there with my partner the group was lopsided and it was easy for John to become left out.  While John and I have found plenty of things we have in common it is sometimes difficult to get those interests to connect with others my age.

On a more recent occasion I found that the opposite sort of situation occured.  After work one night I was planing to meet John and a middle aged gay couple we know for drinks.  One of the guys I work with is pretty gay friendly and I knew he didn’t have anything to do that night so I invited him to come along.  My co-worker is very personable and got along well with our friends, but again like with John in the first story, I felt like he got left out of the conversation some.  We talked politics and films, and while my co-worker put in his two cents on occasion, there were times when he just went quiet.

In general it seems that my co-workers have nothing against my relationship; they seem to genuinely greet John with enthusiasm when they see him.  However I don’t think they really know what to make of us together, how to interact.  Admittedly we do pose an interesting problem when it comes to conversation, how do we find topics that are accessible or interesting to everyone.  Perhaps we need to try harder to strike a balance in ages when we socialize as a group.  On the other hand maybe I should socialize more on my own; I think John and I are at that point in our relationship where we no longer have to be together all the time.

What do you think?  How should I approach the subject of socializing with others my age?  Has anyone else experienced similar problems in their relationships?