Dating with Big Age Difference and No Family Support

Description

The facts remain that, the larger the gap in age and the younger the couple is, the more significant the challenges are. In other words, if someone is 80, married to a 70-year-old, no one cares. But a much younger person with somebody 10 years older isn't viewed the same way.

Question

Dear Pastor Lance,

I am 20, dating a gal who is 10 years older than me and I love her. My family, however, is another story. They aren’t supportive and they are actually mean to her just because of her age and where she is at in life (and they are mean to me about it and are cutting me out). I don’t think the age difference is a big deal at all but they won’t listen to me. What should I do?

Answer

Hi, my friend. I hear your heart in the situation and I’m very sorry that you are torn between a woman you love and a family you love.

Let me see if I can offer you some thoughts and advice that you can use to pray through and seek God’s wisdom on this.

The way I see it, there are at least two core issues at play here (likely there’s many, many more, but we only have so much time). These are in no particular order:

* The age issue – Does “age difference” matter? Yes and no. No, in the sense of loving someone. No, in the sense of connecting hearts. No, in the sense of attraction. No, in the sense of practical day-to-day life (carrying out duties). No, in the sense of being able to talk about emotional issues. So, as you can see it doesn’t matter in a lot of areas.

However, it does matter in other areas: It does matter in holistic connection (meaning being able to connect in all areas of life). It does matter in big-picture discussions. It does matter in development differences and worldview issues. It does matter in how other people perceive you and how they interact with you. So, yes, it does matter in some crucial areas.

The facts remain that, the larger the gap in age and the younger the couple is, the more significant the challenges are. In other words, if someone is 80, married to a 70-year-old, no one cares. But a much younger person with somebody 10 years older isn't viewed the same way. Why? Because the younger we are the more rapid our growth is. You are not the same guy you were five years ago. You like different things, you believe different things. You engage with your world differently. You will be different at 25 as well. And at 30, but start slowing down from 40 on.

Additionally, women mature earlier (emotionally and relationally) than men so she has had quantum leaps in experience and interaction with the world around here than you have. She is growing and learning, but a lot of growing and learning that she will do for her life is starting to statistically slow down more than yours. Studies show that in 3rd grade we learn the equivalent of a ‘new job’ every day (I.e. What they learn is the same weight of us learning a whole new job, but they do it every day). No wonder they are emotionally wiped out.

But beyond the issue of development, we have connection issues. She will look back and reflect on how the world was in the 90’s differently than you will. She will have experiences that you won’t and will make determinations that you won’t. Now, this is not a huge deal, but it’s a factor. Every couple has differences. The point is whether or not they are necessary issues to have.

Additionally, and perhaps the most difficult factor, is how other people perceive and treat you. It will be more difficult to have friends that are couples since there will be more of a mismatch in ages of the other couple with you. Your family is a huge concern and I’ll address that next. But even in life there will be a different way of people engaging with you as a couple early on, but not so much later in life (when you are 30 and she is 40, or you are 40 and she is 50). So, the problem is less when you two are alone, and more when you are around others.

* The family issue – The biggest issue here, in my opinion is your family. As much as we want to believe that we are dating only the person, or marrying only the person, the fact is, we are dating their family or marrying their family, too. Why? Because of the influence that family has on someone. Whether the family is still around, or the child is carrying the baggage, family matters. Your culture is even more influential with family since it’s a very tight-knit community and family is so powerful. They have the ability to make your life miserable (as you’ve noticed). If they are against something they can sow seeds of distrust, cause you to doubt, twist your mind, be mean to the other person. Those are not good things, I’m only telling you what they can do, not what they should do.

But even if they are super nice on the outside, but don’t’ approve on the inside, you are going to have problems. They will treat her different and she will feel like an outcast and you will always need to choose between them and her at every holiday, on day-to-day decisions, on get-togethers, etc. So, unless your family is on board and her family is on board this isn’t going to go well.

How do you get them on your side? The only way that I can see, is to develop trust and allow the relationship to build over time. This means you will have to be patient and she will have to deal with rejection a lot longer than most people will. I don’t know if that’s fair to her. She may be willing at first to take the beating for you, but really is that kind for her? Would she really want to take you away from that family only to know that it bugs you not to be connected to your family? Probably not.

So, above all things (except the importance of her needing to love Jesus Christ), you MUST get your family on board to some degree. How you do that? I have no idea. I don’t know how your family works, but it’s going to be lots of talks and lots of time, I would guess.

She doesn’t need to get jerked around by you, or hurt by your family, so you need to get a handle on that before you drag her through the mud. Can it work? Sure, almost anything CAN work. Should it? Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t answer that for you. That’s your call.

I’m just concerned about the uphill battle you are facing right from the start. If you can navigate it and lead everyone through it (primarily your family) then perhaps it can be a HUGE blessing to you. If you aren’t up for the challenge or can’t lead your family, then it’s going to be harmful.

The rest is up to you and the Lord.

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