My first serious relationship was with someone almost ten years my senior. We got together during my first semester of college (after meeting through mutual friends) and I'd be lying if I said our breakup didn't have anything to do with our significant age difference. Truth is, there are red flags when dating someone older that you should be on the lookout for.
As an example, I felt so guilty when I couldn't accompany him to his friends' wedding one summer because I opted to study abroad in Italy instead. I reasoned that the opportunity to spend a semester abroad and earn college credit for it was too good to pass up. I learned a lot about myself and the world that summer and I've never regretted my decision to go.
That was just one of many instances where my partner's and my priorities didn't align. Ultimately, we broke up a few weeks before my college graduation because I wanted the freedom to travel across the country and explore my wildly diverse professional interests while he was ready to settle down and get married. To this day, one of my biggest regrets was not having an honest conversation about our future earlier on, which I know now would've saved us both years of heartache.
Because I believe in happy endings, I feel compelled to tell you that I'm still blissfully exploring new cities and he went on to start a successful business so we're both doing just fine.
But I spoke to relationship expert and host of the Dates & Mates podcast Damona Hoffman to find out how you could avoid a similarly complicated situation by being aware of these red flags when dating someone much older than you.
You Both Have Very Different Personal Goals For The Future
For me, dating someone much older was attractive because I admire anyone who knows what they're about in life. An older partner naturally has more life experience so they're more likely to be accomplished at work, well-traveled, and financially responsible. Meanwhile, I still think doing a face mask a couple times a week will solve all of my problems and if given the chance, I'd probably name my baby after the weather forecast, too.
During my relationship, I certainly had no idea what the future would hold for me and unlike my partner, I relished the spontaneity of that. He, on the other hand, knew he wanted four kids and had already picked out non-meteorological names for them all.
Hoffman explains that this dilemma is actually quite common in relationships where one partner is significantly older than the other. She warns, "If you want to focus on your career and your partner wants to have kids right away, there could be a mismatch almost instantly." Don't I know it?
You Don't Share Similar Values
If you believe that the strength of a friendship is directly related to the length of your Snapchat streak while your partner has a hard time customizing a Bitmoji, you might be prioritizing very different ideals in life.
You and your partner have likely had very different experiences growing up and it's perfectly normal to have opposing views on things like technology, politics, and even family-planning.
Although that's not necessarily a bad thing, you should definitely be aware of serious discrepancies. For example, if your partner frequently shares articles with you about how entitled Millennials are ruining the fate of the universe in a manner that you find offensive and hurtful, it's possible they look down on you (and your friends) because of your age.
Neither One Of You Is Willing To Compromise
Different doesn't always mean bad. While Hoffman says, "Yes, you should be concerned if you and your partner are at different stages of life," she adds that "the only factor that means your relationship is doomed to fail is if you are unwilling to work at it or unable to compromise."
In my case, getting married and starting a family straight out of college was something I wasn't willing to do and I'm glad I didn't. I've since realized that I actually don't want children of my own, even though I went along with my partner's fantasy of naming our future children at the time.
Compromising in a relationship is a good thing as long as neither person feels compelled to change who they are as a person. After all, your partner should love you for who you are and vice versa.
If I'm being honest, I would definitely date someone older again. I appreciate the maturity and security that a significantly older partner brings to the relationship. And yeah, I'll admit I'm kind of into the George Clooney salt-and-pepper thing. Next time though, I'll be sure to look out for any of these red flags so I can bring them up way sooner than I did last time.
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