couples

"He’s not my dad, he’s my boyfriend." What it's really like to be in an age-gap relationship.

I won’t sugarcoat the reality of dating a much older partner. I’ve been with a man 15 years older than me for over five years now. And it’s difficult when we step out of our home. 

We’re whispered about when we hold hands at the movies. We’ve been pointed at and stared at far too long at restaurants and airports. 

When I post pictures of us on social media, I still get comments from strangers about why we’re together in the first place (usually something about sugar daddies and money).

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We genuinely don’t care what anyone assumes about us because we’re in love and happy, but that doesn’t mean the comments and assumptions aren’t exhausting. 

We know the world will never understand, but we’re an ordinary couple — two consenting adults who just happen to have a lot in common despite the age difference, although age is not our defining relationship quality.

But when we’re out in public, age is all anyone sees.

The most uncomfortable part of the assumptions people make about us are the "dad/daughter" remarks we hear, which until my appearance catches up with my age, I predict will continue to happen.

I’ve been asked on several occasions if I was my boyfriend’s daughter, to which I always reply, "No, girlfriend." 

We’ve learned to roll with the punches and laugh accordingly because truthfully, without humour to get us through these awkward interactions, we would’ve broken up years ago.

The last time a stranger openly assumed my boyfriend and I were a father and daughter duo was just a few weeks ago. 

We walked into one of his favourite shops and greeted the sales associates before walking over to the shoe section.

"I’m looking for a black sneaker," my boyfriend said to me. I laughed. "What’s wrong with the three pairs of black sneakers you have at home?" He shakes his head. "I need something different."

He’s a shopaholic at heart, and I find it charming. I’ve never dated someone before him who liked to shop way more than me. While I love to join him on these trips, I usually sit back and let him have his fun.

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As we browse the black sneakers on the bottom shelf, an associate approaches us and asks us if we need to try any shoes on. 

"He won’t walk out of here without buying a pair, so I’ll take a seat," I notion to the bench and smile warmly as my boyfriend shrugs his shoulders and asks for his size. 

"Have you two been shopping for long today?"

"Just a couple of hours," he replies to the woman. "It’s probably time to head home soon, right?" I nod and hand him a pair that I think match with his jacket. 

"I think it’s great that the two of you enjoy shopping together," the female sales associate says and walks away to grab a shoe for my boyfriend.

My boyfriend and I immediately catch each other’s eyes and smile. 

"Okay, is that a comment because she thinks men and women don’t enjoy shopping together or because she thinks we’re a dad and daughter shopping together?" 

"Well, we’ll find out soon enough," I reply and motion towards the open door the woman had walked through. 

"She’s heading over here, and I’ll bet $10 it’s the second one."

We headed towards the checkout counter and continued our small talk while she scanned our purchases. 

"So, are you the oldest?" she says to me. 

Bingo.

"The oldest... sibling?" I ask hesitantly. She nods.

"Sure, I’m the oldest of three."

"I could tell! You have this kind of way about you that makes me feel you’d be very protective and caring." I smiled. It was kind of her to say. "That’s very sweet of you." 

"Do any of your siblings ever join these shopping trips? Or your mum?" she asks as my boyfriend swipes his card. He’s trying not to crack a smile, but I can see he might not last longer. "Oh, actually, this is my boyfriend."

She blushes and apologises profusely for her assumption. But we do our best to put her at ease. We don’t make it a big deal and we want to make sure she knows we get it all the time.

"You’re not the first and you won’t be the last," my boyfriend assures her. "Please, don’t feel too bad. We get it often."

The woman smiled, and I could tell the easiness of my boyfriend calmed her down. 

"Oh, okay. Still, I’m sorry about that. How long have you two been together?" she asks, as she places everything in a large bag. "Five years. Five years of encounters like these. We’re used to it by now, trust us," I chimed in.

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"Do these comments bother you?" she asked, which I don’t think we’d ever been asked before by a stranger.

We looked at each other in silence and shook our heads. "It comes with the age-gap. And I’m balding, so that doesn’t help," my boyfriend points at his greying hair, which causes her to laugh and break the tension.

"Well, thanks for being so nice about it." She smiled and wished us a good day.

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We walked out holding hands, smiling a bit to ourselves. 

We knew the moment we left, she’d tell her coworkers how we weren’t a father/daughter but actually a couple. 

And we knew her coworkers would probably assume we were together for other reasons because they, like her, have probably never known a couple with an age-gap before. 

Truthfully, I wish it didn’t happen, but what else can we do but laugh at ourselves? I look much younger than my age, and he looks his age. It happens.

So, to all the strangers who have never known a couple with an age-gap, I’d like to say this:

Relationships like mine are actually more common than you think. 

Look at Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Baldwin, 26-year gap. 

Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, 22-year gap. 

Jeff Goldblum and Emilie Livingston, 31-year gap. 

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, 25-year gap. 

As long as both people are of legal age, two consenting adults with an age-gap may become romantically involved and start families. 

It isn’t the craziest thing, but unfortunately, sometimes people treat relationships like mine like they are unworldly, strange, and wrong. 

And as both people age, sometimes the age-difference is less visible, and less of a challenge to navigate. 

For us, I think we have many years before we stop getting the weird father/daughter comments, and until then, we’ll roll with the punches. That’s what you do when you’re in love.

Feature Image: Getty.

Are you in an age gap relationship? Let us know your experience in the comments section.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

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