AskFannie: X-Gen!

Dear Fannie,

I'm a 20 year old straight female. I've been with my boyfriend for over a year now and we're very much in love. We've been hand-fasted and we live together. The only issue is that my boyfriend is 43 – my parents don't approve and it's causing a lot of problems in my family. I barely speak with my parents now, and even some of my friends are weirded out by the age difference. But it's not my fault that I'm in a more mature place then my friends and what my parents are ready for. I'm ready to settle down, which my family and friends just can't grasp.

Just a Number

Relationships with large age differences are often approached with hypocritical criticism. We're not entirely surprised or shocked to see a significantly older man partnered with a young woman. In fact, for a very long time in human history, that arrangement was the norm. But nowadays inter-generational relationships are more of a social taboo. This is possibly due to a general increase individual financial independence and overall stability. This may have removed much of the economic pressures that fostered a system where economically stable older men become more viable options for younger partners.

I have long believed that relationships should be based on maturity levels of both partners rather than arbitrary "acceptable" age ranges. If both people are on the same page and want the same things in the relationship, then I say live and let live. However inter-generational relationships come with a significant amount of problems to consider. Older partners often find that their younger partners, people who they initially saw as full of life and youthful, are actually perpetually childish. Young people, however mature they present themselves to be, still have a lot to learn about life and are going through a lot of change. On the other hand, older partners seeking a youthful lifestyle tend to be more fixed in their behavior, because the goal isn't really to live as if one was 20 years younger (which suggests that one would eventually mature and grow up), it's to perpetually live as a 20 year old. This can cause problems later in the relationship with the younger partner is ready to move past their youthful and carefree life-style, with their partners trailing behind them in the life journey.

JAN, it sounds like you're moving really fast for a relationship. Getting hand-fasted and moving in together are all big decisions to make, especially since you're only 20. So don’t be surprised that your family and friends are shocked to discover you’re boyfriend is easily old enough to be your father. But the best way to ease your family and friends into the idea of your inter-generational relationship is to show them that you are A) in control of your relationship and B) you’re still the same person they know and love. One of the biggest concerns people have about inter-generational relationships is that the younger partner is being exploited for their youth. While most couples have to deal with friends’ concerns of being cut out of their life, inter-generational couples to do with even greater fears that their friend is being in a way kidnapped.

So, the best thing you can do to maintain your relationships with your parents and friends is to make a concerted effort to keep time for them. At the very least keep the communication lines open, especially for your parents. The old rule of out-of-sight-out-of-mind does not hold true here. The less you talk to your parents the more outlandish and lascivious their imagination on your relationship becomes. So just talk to them. Talk to them about the boring things in your life. The less your parents think about what you do in the bedroom the better.

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