Hey. I’m a twenty-five year old post-grad student, and my relationship is in trouble. About three months ago I met this really sweet girl at Good Luck, and we totally hit it off: love at first sight sort of stuff. We’ve been dating since, and it’s amazing: we can talk all night, she loves the things I love, and the sex is pretty fantastic even though I’m her first. It’s my dream relationship. There’s a problem, though: she’s only 18. Obviously the age gap isn’t an issue for either of us, but her friends seem totally weirded-out by it and act like I’m some sort of paedophile. I wouldn’t mind so much, but the other night I was picking her up from her parents’ house and met them for the first time, and it felt like a total inquisition. Is the age gap too much? It’s only seven years, that’s less than the age gap between my parents! What gives?
It’s safe to say that it isn’t the age gap that worries or upsets people: age is after-all just a number. It is instead the natural inclination to worry when someone who is very young, inexperienced and potentially naïve gets into a relationship with someone who is older. Where such an imbalance exists, there is always the potential for mistreatment or exploitation.
You hear frequent horror stories about older partners abusing trust, cheating, controlling and manipulating their younger partners who feel trapped. That feeling of entrapment can either be because it’s their first ‘real’ relationship and they don’t know how to end it, or because, in the extreme cases, they’re now financially dependent on someone because they burnt all their bridges with those who told them the relationship was a bad idea.
Now Roxy needs to be clear here, you’re not that old, and you’re not that much older than your girlfriend. The chance that you are an evil manipulating creeper is pretty low. Yet her friends are probably cautious for the same reason I am: she’s a virgin (former) who lives with her parents: it’s not surprising that they are not sure she can look after herself. Remember: they don’t really know you, and from their perspective 25 probably looks plenty-old, particularly for parents looking out for their ‘little princess’.
So what can you do? Well the first thing to realise is that you’re going to be in probation for quite some time with this girl’s friends and family. They suspect you to be a creeper, and are going to be pretty dubious of you until they are convinced you are on the level. Make sure you aren’t giving off any creeper signals: be open and friendly and show a willingness to meet her friends and family, don’t do things that might come across as controlling, and don’t take a lot of drugs and ride around on a motorbike while talking about all the bitches you’ve been nailing.
The key is to to give them nothing to feed their narrative that you’re not acting honestly, while trying to constantly make them second-guess their snap judgment about you. Eventually enough evidence that you are a squeaky-clean should warm them to you, and all will be well.
If not, and if they seem to be perpetually harshing your buzz, you’re going to have to be the mature one and keep trying to get them to come around: the worst thing you can do is try and pitch your girlfriend against them, because that just feeds right into the narrative. The moment you start to fight back against them is when you will lose this battle, and that’s a terrible thing for both you, and your girlfriend.
Now, a word of warning: Roxy, being the Lockean she is, has been assuming the best of human nature, and the best of you. If you are in fact, a creeper, and you do start to control and manipulate this young woman, Roxy will rain righteous fury down upon you. For lots of young women (and gay men), a first relationship with a more experienced man is fairly common. For most, its fine and many even turn out to be amazing relationships. But for some the experience can really mess them up, making it harder for them to experience genuine intimacy with another person for a long, long time.
If you mess this girl up, Roxy will come for you. You won’t be able to hide.
If you have issues or concerns that you wish to discuss privately and confidentially with a professional, rather than a magazine columnist, Student Counselling Service can provide a safe place to explore such aspects of your life. The service is free and confidential. Phone 04 463 5310. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mauri Ora, Level 1, Student Union Building.