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I’ve been getting a lot of letters lately from gay men interested in dating guys either much older or much younger than themselves and questioning whether these “May to December” relationships really work out in the long run.
I personally don’t believe age gaps in relationships are as stigmatizing or concerning in the gay community.
Perhaps this has to do with the smaller pool of dating prospects available, tendencies toward more open-mindedness and liberal attitudes and already being more conditioned and accepting of diversity.
But these relationship pairings can pose some unique challenges that will require extra diligence and commitment to communication and compromise.
And with most relationship dynamics, there are many rewards and difficulties inherent in these dating couplings.
For the younger man, much of the allure of dating someone older can come from the prospect for being with someone with advanced wisdom, sophistication and life experience.
The security and stability afforded by being with someone more mature can also be appealing.
For the older man, he may be attracted to his younger counterpart’s youth, energy and innocent inquisitiveness of life and dreamer mindset. He may also enjoy being in a mentoring role.
Of course, our erotic wiring can also fuel sexual attraction for our age opposites as well (these pairings that are predominantly defined by sex are commonly known as Daddy/Son relationships).
Based on all of these possible rewards, these men can complement each other in ways that can inspire a healthy chemistry and spark needed for a fulfilling long-term relationship.
These same assets, paradoxically, can also be major drawbacks for building and sustaining a partnership.
Sometimes it can be difficult for these men to relate to each other due to divergent interests and generational differences.
Discrepancies in maturity, energy levels, health statuses, power struggles over control and waning sexual attraction when both men age can be additional vulnerabilities for these relationships if present.
However, as long as there are no major differences in the value systems and philosophies of life that these men share, almost any of these issues can be overcome.
Here are some tips for promoting the success of a May to December gay relationship and making it last:
Since there may potentially be more differences in these relationships to negotiate, it’s important to address any concerns or issues in as close to the moment as possible (as with any relationship).
Ignoring problems, stuffing feelings and not voicing needs can result in a buildup of resentment that will only serve to contaminate the relationship.
“These relationships can work,
but they require a commitment.”
I’ve observed this type of dynamic in these pairings.
The older man wields his advanced age as a power tool to control and dominate his partner and the development of the relationship.
Conversely, the younger man engages in passive-aggressive behavior and makes ageist comments to hurt his partner. This is but one dynamic.
The danger here is this couple is setting up a parental dynamic that leads to an old family systems pattern of parent-child rebellion.
Additionally, it’s common when this happens for these relationships to suffer low libido and a big decrease in sexual activity. Because, after all, there’s nothing sexy about incest.
Can you see how this dynamic might inspire a loss of sexual desire due to an incestuous feeling that can be created from this type of conflict with age-differential couples? Avoid this at all costs!
It’s always an asset to surround ourselves with people who value and support our relationship.
Be sure to nurture a support system comprised of family and friends of different ages and culture to keep the relationship stimulated holistically.
Consistently revisit your vision for your relationship as a couple to ensure you’re both still on the same page with what you want because needs change as we progress through the developmental stages of life.
Your relationship will go through developmental changes, as will both of you as individuals.
Be sure to communicate about these transitions since both of you are already at different places in the life trajectory and every new developmental stage you go through can be open up new challenges and decisions to make that will impact you personally and relationally.
The differences that you bring to the relationship can help enrich and keep the spark going between the two of you.
Learn to be a part of each other’s world, even if it differs from what you like, and share these experiences together.
Achieve a good balance between togetherness and separateness and validate each other for what makes you each unique and special.
These relationships can and do work, but they do require a commitment and investment to stay on top of the above issues and collaboratively strive toward the mutually-agreed upon relationship goals and vision that all couples aspire toward.
Enjoy each other!