After eight years together, Fred and I still don’t have an “official” label for our age gap relationship, and to most people, even our own families, we’re a bit of a mystery.
My 17-year-old and 22-year-old sons have always thought of Fred as mom’s “regular” friend who sleeps in mom’s room because the couch is not comfortable for his old bones. My sister thinks we’re friends with benefits. My parents think we’re a couple and graciously include him in all family gatherings. Everyone else in our world just can’t figure it out.
The old duffers at the local small-town pub stare and gossip and wonder why the two of us hang around each other and can never come up with any rational answer on their own. There was one time when one old, giggling, curious drunk asked if he could honk my boobs, just to see if Fred would get jealous or not. As with any stranger asking me that, no matter who it is, and my level of self-respect, I immediately said, “No way. You will show respect when you speak to me.” Fred smiled so big.
Another time, a single man my age named Phil asked if he could ride along on my motorcycle with me for a couple hours. I said, “Sure.” To me, it’s fun to give people rides and I am totally amused if any man has an interest in riding on the back of my motorcycle, because it rarely happens. The only men who ever agreed to ride on the back of my bike were A.J. from my poker league and Fred, because he enjoys traveling with me and loves bragging about having the best handles in town (and he uses them). Without knowing what my relationship status was, Phil could obviously sense that it would bother Fred, because he eventually said, “No, I can’t ride on your motorcycle with you. Fred will be jealous.”
There was yet another time when we were eating lunch and a man named John approached me. He was in his late 50s or so and had a reputation for being a pool hustler. He asked me if my father would mind if I would join him in a game of pool. I quickly replied, “He is not my father.”
John then asked, “Is he your husband?”
I said, “No, I don’t have a husband.” Of course, I offered no label.
I enjoyed a game of pool, Fred finished his drink and conversation with the bartender, and then we left to continue our evening. As we were leaving, Fred said, “Why did you shoot pool with that guy?”
“Because I enjoy playing pool,” I responded.
“OK, will you shoot pool with me sometime?”
“Of course! I didn’t know you liked to shoot pool,” I said.
“I don’t,” he laughed. “Just checking.”
Of course Fred feels a sense of jealousy, but he’s mature enough that it creates no incident. He is confident in my assertiveness with other men but he feels insecure because of our age difference, too. We don’t appear to be a couple and we don’t have any protective behaviors that would stop others from approaching us, so we’ve really just had to “figure it out” for our age gap relationship.
If you’re in an age gap relationship, the best thing to do is to really know the person you’re with and know who you are. It’s also important to know who you are together so that you can learn the limits and the standards for your age gap relationship. And know that we are always changing, so you will also always be learning.