What dating a man 20 years younger taught me about love, Younger dating What friend for man
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We've all experienced love. We've loved and been loved by parents, brothers, sisters, friends, even pets. But romantic love is different. It's an intense, new feeling unlike any of these other ways of loving.
Three years ago, Mike and I met at a coworker's engagement party. I knew that the guests at the party were going to be younger than me; I work as an occupational therapist at a hospital and most of the coworkers I'm closest with are the ones in their 20s and early 30s.
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I've always tended to get along better with people a decade or so younger than me—peg it to my being single with no kids as well as a why not attitude that led me to spend my own 20s and 30s bouncing from guy to state to job. At the party, I flirted with the handsome man making a rum and coke in the kitchen, asking if he could whip one up for me, too.
He obliged, and as we clinked glasses, I guessed he was in his early 30s. It wasn't until the next day that my friend revealed he was only Still, when Mike and I went out for drinks, I barely thought about our age gap until our server asked for our IDs. Mike reached across the table to examine mine. The word rattled around in my head, even after he changed the subject to his upcoming marathon training. I couldn't focus on our conversation.
The banter that had come so easily seemed stilted in the bar. I could have been his babysitter. I could be his momI thought. Things got weirder. A week later, he invited me to him and his friends for a hike, followed by a party. I said yes, but as soon as I got to the meet-up spot, I wanted to drive away.
Everyone looked and seemed so young. It wasn't what they were wearing—I was wearing an athletic tank top and hiking pants, same as the other women—but they all seemed so carefree. I didn't know them personally, but I was pretty sure none of them had been divorced—which I had by time I was their age. I felt like the two additional decades of hard-won life experience created a wall between me and the group—and between Mike and me.
I felt like a spy.
Yes, I'd heard of Drake and Snapchat, but it wasn't my pop culture. For the next six months, Mike and I were just friends. I made sure to regularly ask about whom he was dating, because I didn't want him to think I was interested. He would ask me to one-on-one dinners and drinks, and I'd suggest casual after-work beers instead. I was pretty sure I was going to spend the rest of my life alone, and I'd made my peace with that. To me, it was much easier to make everything strictly between friends. Things changed one night over beers at a favorite local bar when I finally said what I was afraid of: I was worried I'd screwed up my life, and that it was too late to change it.
Mike's eyes widened—and then he started revealing some deep stuff about himself, too. He told me about how his best friend had died in a drowning accident in college, and how much that tragedy still affected him, six years later. It was as if by getting to know me on my terms and proving he wanted me in his life as a friend, I'd finally felt comfortable enough to open up in a way I didn't with men I met in typical dating situations.
A few more conversations like that and Mike and I became a couple.
Or at least other people assumed we were a couple. It took almost six months before I got used to calling him my boyfriend, even as I was surprised by how little people cared. Sure, my friends made a lot of cougar jokes.
I occasionally get a side-eye from a bartender when we're both asked for ID. But in general, people don't dwell on our age difference. Two years later, Mike and I are definitely a couple—we live together and we're deeply in love.
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Even his mother approves of us, saying that Mike has always been one to follow his heart. And my parents are supportive as well. My dad has no idea how old Mike is, and while my mom knows he's younger, she's never asked for details. But they've seen how skittish I am about romance, so I think they're just happy that I'm happy. That doesn't mean problems don't crop up. Mike and I are facing different realities.
Although he says having children isn't important to him and that he'd still feel fulfilled without kids, I don't believe him. That's actually one of our biggest fights—and where the age-difference thing comes out in full force. When I tell him Mike he can't knowif he wants children, he thinks I'm being condescending and close-minded.
Maybe I am. But I went back and forth on the kids thing somany times in my 30s that I don't want him to shut a door he may want to open in the future. We've discussed marriage, but always in the abstract—like when we went to one of his friend's weddings, we imagined what our ceremony would look like. We talk in terms of a permanent "we"—weshould buy a house, we want to live by the ocean at some point in our lives. That said, while I know our love is real, because of the age difference and kids question, we're both skittish about talking about the future in definite terms.
I don't know if we'll be together in five years. But I am also finally okay with not knowing—I know it's enough for today that he and I love each other. Mike showed me that. I got married in my early 20s and divorced a few years later. My experience, plus being friends with so many divorced women, has made me skeptical about love.
I used to think of it as this be-all, end-all—you either had the happily-ever-after or it would never work out. But being in an in-between state with Mike—I very much love him, yet understand that neither of us knows our ending—has made it increasingly clear that love isn't that simple.
It's about appreciating the moment, not taking a cozy night in for granted, and not letting the time we do have pass us by. He's always the one to suggest heading out to the mountains for an all-weekend hike. We adopted a dog together, which was a really big deal for me. Whenever I thought about getting a pet, I'd always think, What if I moved?
What if I couldn't take care of it? What if, what if, what if? Mike helped me realize that none of those questions mattered—yes, it was good to know we could take care of her and had some stability, but that we'd always figure out a way to make things work. In general, he's good at making things workin a way that always surprises me. He wants to try new recipes, fix the backsplash in the kitchen, and invite friends over to make cocktails from the contents of the liquor cabinet. I don't want to make it sound like he's an overgrown frat boy—he's not—but he doessee the fun in life, whereas I tend to get bogged down in details.
And the sex is amazing. I'm way more comfortable with my body than I was when I was younger.
If you think about it, both of us are in our sexual primes, so it's actually an excellent match. Mike's willing to experiment, and I'm willing to really let go—he loves seeing me let loose, and I love showing him that side of myself. Bottom line: Mike and I are a great fit, because, it turns out, love comes in surprising packages and doesn't follow some one-size-fits-all path.
Mostly, loving Mike has made me fall more deeply in love with my own life. Recently, Mike and I went to dinner at my friend Karen's house. She and her husband have been married for 23 years, and they have a great relationship. While we there, Mike suggested that Karen's husband bring out his guitar, and we all sat around the table singing songs. It sounds hokey, but it was reminiscent of the low-key way we used to hang out in our 20s.
We'd since forgotten that sometimes you have to stop thinking about past regrets or things you should do and just enjoy the music—even if it's just for an evening. It's like that in a relationship too.
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