Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Fine Line in May-December Romances

When you're in the dating world, it's easy to be bogged down looking for all your dating requirements: height, looks, eyes, job, build, personality... And of course, age. Ideally, we all have an ideal age range that we'd like our mates to be. Some prefer slightly younger or same age, while others prefer just a touch older (say, 5 - 10 years). But what if the gap is a little larger? Then you have the making of a May-December romance, (May referencing a younger person in the "spring" of their lives and December referencing the "winter" or older age of a person's life)

I know I've addressed the age thing before...But I've managed to somehow avoid side of the topic, even though I have done it before. 

It was a couple of years ago. I was 24 and he had just about 20 years on me. But, it was hard to resist him. He was handsome, smooth, well-dressed, charming and affectionate -- spoiled me rotten with attention. Needless to say, I loved it. 

While it only lasted a couple of months and we stayed friends a little while afterward, it was even, with all of our differences, a lot of fun. 

In hindsight, I realized that as we continued to spend time together, our age gap was harder to hide... And even though he never expressed discomfort, it was hard to avoid the elephant in the room.

In any event, this was the same issue I encountered recently when I was out recently and met a dashing older man named Donovan. Beautiful eyes, salt and pepper hair, a charming smile, a quiet persona and an easy-going approach made him an immediate catch. And, as the night progressed, and he got increasingly assertive, I found it appealing. 

Later that evening, as we did some one on one talking, he seemed surprised by the fact that I returned his attraction, expecting me to be drawn to someone younger. And, he mentioned it had been a while since he'd been out of the dating scene, thinking that things were a lot more direct than he's used to and thinking about his own daughter out on the dating scene in a similar situation...

At that point I have to admit I was a little thrown. A mention of his 17 year old daughter did cramp things a bit. So, how do you deal with that?

That's when I told him that every situation is unique, but you can't explain who or why you're attracted to someone. It just happens.

The night ended quickly but I found myself thinking about it afterward. He seemed uncomfortable with our age gap, much like I had been a couple of years ago. And while I admit, he did have quite a few years on me, at that point, I was really just running with what I thought was an obvious vibe between us. But that only gets you so far. I mean, once you get that out of the way, what about the rest of it? The shared experiences, the common interests? If you don't have time to build those things, it can be hard, regardless of how old a guy is. 

I mean, many Hollywood A-Listers make it work. But there has to be so much more there...

Lesson learned: May-December romances have to be about more than the initial physical chemistry if they're going to last. Sure, physical fire is important... It most often is. However, being able to get past the hang-ups is what determines whether it will last. Because if you don't get past that hurdle, how can you weather all the awkward other hurdles that emerge from these types of relationships?


  1. Your description of Donovan seems to convey a good deal of attraction. It's too bad it wasn't a go. Your point of his seeming discomfort is key, because most of this stuff is head tripping. When an interracial couple goes out, are there people starring? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Will it ever be as many as they think are starring or even for the reasons they think people are starring? Probably not.

    I've heard girls go on about dancing, skating or the fact that their older beau doesn't like going out as much. Wait 8 years and ask when the last time she went dancing was. More than likely whatever her complaint might have been about the older guy, she will have it for a husband of the same age as she. I don't care if he's ten years younger, the day will come when she says, "oh we never go out".

    Age isn't the problem. Any issue a Five-12 relationship could have, there are a similar number of same aged couples struggling with same. As creatures we have a serious desire to norm and tend to lie if not imply that somehow sameness results in happiness when it clearly doesn't. Anytime the couples differ significantly we start foretelling doom. One has a degree the other not, one is a professional the other a laborer, or the religion is different, or one came from Boston and the other Louisiana, or she's gorgeous and he's not. It's just what we do.

    All couples have disparities and incongruities. Figure out what really matters and whether you can come together on those things. If you're both in it for the same reasons, are honest about what you expect to get out of it, and are willing to stand and deliver, what's the issue? That's a winning formula for any relationship regardless the ages. It's unfortunate that when it comes to love, most of us become snake oil salesmen about who will or won't make someone else happy, despite failing spectacularly getting some for ourselves.

    I agree completely, that its got to be about more than physical fire and again point out that this is also true of any relationship as they all have hurdles. Let you meet a few cat's moms that don't care for you and you'll find you might as well have been 20 years older than he. The simple truth is whatever the difference, when you're really down, its on and anything else is just an excuse to get out of it.

  2. I love this topic...
    It really depends on the people involved. If you're looking for someone to take care of you, run the other way. If you are attracted and ready to take on the differences, go for it. Both parties have to know what they want in addition to feeling the chemistry, I think.

  3. @Aurelius: So does that mean you're saying that age really isn't that big of a deal, ever?

    @Kelly: True! But I guess what I wonder is if you have to know what you want going into it? It's not like too many people set out to say "I'm going to find an older man today," don't you think? Or maybe they do and I'm just being idealistic...

  4. Age isn't that big of a deal. When it is, its nothing more than yet another incompatibility. I've heard complaints from people in in Five-12 relationships and the complaints every time that I can thing of were the same ones people in same/similar aged relationships have.

    I know far more couples of same/similar age and I've heard complaints of immaturity more in those relationships than anywhere else. I've heard girls complain that a guy was older and didn't get along with her friends or didn't like them and you here same from girls whose boyfriend is the same age as them.

    Couples either have similar or same interest, have ways to move beyond disparity when it exist, or they fail. It's that simple.

    The head factor tends to be the deal breaker. Concepts can be very powerful and most of us have ran into the concept of the Five-12 relationship long before we have them. Forming an opinion of anything before you experience it can break a lot of us even when the experience contradicts society's wisdom. Sadly when this happens peer pressure can be overwhelming (yes even for older people). What's better to be happy with someone twenty years younger and get starred at or go out with your friends and your date who your friends approve of though you are miserable, but the norm is satisfied?

  5. @Aurelius: It's better to be happy... But I think for many, age is a bigger deal than they let on. And of course it's a comfort thing. Are people more comfortable with people a little closer in age? Sometimes yes based on shared social experiences. But compatibility is ultimately a plethora of factors and not just one.