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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.

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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.