QUESTION: I’ve been dating an older guy now for about four months and he’s really great. I had never been in an age gap relationship before, but we met through a mutual friend and hit it off right away. He takes really good care of me and I’m very happy with him. But I’m starting to notice that he’s getting really clingy. He always tries to deter me from going out with my girlfriends and questions everything I’m doing. Is that normal? I know that a big age difference in a relationship can cause problems sometimes, but I never thought this would be one of them. Do you think it could be the age gap that’s causing it? I by no means want to end the relationship, but how do I get him to loosen the reigns a little?
CHELSEA SAYS: It sounds to me like he’s a little insecure, and that might be stemming from the fact that this is an age gap relationship. Maybe he’s worried about losing you—to someone younger perhaps? Like you said, a big age difference in a relationship comes with its own set of issues and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen an older man worry about losing his younger woman to someone she’s closer in age to.
It’s not always a bad thing and he might not even realize he’s doing it. Maybe he’s just so infatuated with you that he’s unknowingly mistaking clinginess for love and affection. In his mind, he’s showing you that he’s so crazy about you that he wants you all to himself, but he doesn’t realize how he’s actually coming across.
That being said, I also know of many age gap relationships that are working out very well, so while the age difference might be contributing to his insecurities, I think it has more to do with personality. This has to be stemming from somewhere, because not every mature man in an age gap relationship with a younger woman is going to act like this. Has he been cheated on in the past? Is he generally confident and secure about other aspects of his life?
In my opinion, your best bet would be to address it. Let him know gently that his behavior bothers you, but at the same time, reassure him that you’re not going anywhere and make sure he knows that you’re very happy with him. The trick is to not make him feel like he’s wrong for acting the way he is. Tell him that you appreciate the sentiment, but that you still need space to do your own thing. He should know that you’re with him because you want to be with him.
Hopefully by bringing it to his attention, he’ll be more aware of it and start to loosen up a bit. I’m a firm believer that honesty is always the best policy when it comes to addressing age difference in a relationship.
TRENT SAYS: No, that is not normal, unless by “normal” you mean insecure, anxious, and nervous? Those are typically the kind of traits we put in the “negative” column of our dating wish list.
Certain things are givens when we date younger women—some things are just expected when there’s an age difference in a relationship. One of them is that men her age will most likely hit on her when she is out. Another is that she has friends and will want to spend time with. But wait a minute—that could happen in any relationship, let alone an age gap relationship.
The age gap isn’t making your older boyfriend act like this. He’s acting like this because this is who he is. Something tells me he’d be like this even if you two were the same age. Yes, everyone gets a little jealous, is inquisitive, or feels needy from time-to-time. But no one wants to be with someone who takes these traits on like it’s their full-time job. You can forgo this age gap relationship and be with a guy your own age who acts like that, but why would you want to?
Ask him why he doesn’t want you to see your friends or why he doesn’t trust you. If he can’t handle you going out with friends and doesn’t trust you, then he’s clearly not mature enough to date you.