couples

'I married a man 24 years older than me. I'm sick of the judgement from others.'

I met my partner when he was 49 years old and I had just turned 25. There is a 24-year age gap between us. When we met, we both knew that it was the start of something good, it was what every fairytale and sappy romantic movie promised. We met at a bar on the Gold Coast and were instantly drawn to each other.

I was attracted to his smile at first and his deep blue eyes like mirrors of the ocean. He had these tiny wrinkles around his eyes from a lifetime of laughter and a big goofy grin. He had a laugh that was intoxicating and had the power to make other people laugh, too. As we began talking, I realised he was an intelligent and wildly charming man who had lived a full life of travel, marriage and kids. He had my curiosity.

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Our relationship turned serious quickly after that initial meeting and within six months we were living together. I was reluctant to tell people his real age, especially my parents because I knew that it would be a shock. In fact, I was reluctant to even share the relationship with anyone at all because of what they might think. I thought that I was doing something wrong, because dating someone who is 24 years older than you is not normal and is often not accepted in society.

But like everything in life, eventually, people found out about him and were shocked, comments like, “wow he could be your father” and “whoa he looks good for his age” and my personal favourite “that’s hard when he’s already been married and had kids.”

That comment was the hardest to take because there was an element of truth behind it. He had been married for 21 years and had two daughters who were both in their 20s.

He had experienced an entire life, been married and had children when I was all but an infant.

His daughters were distant from me and critical of our relationship. When we first met, I could feel the judgement and heard the quiet whispers with him in the next room. His kids were around my age so we had mutual interests that he could not relate to.

In our relationship, there is an element of misunderstanding because of the generational gap. Memes, gifs, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok are all meaningless jargon to him but my friends and I all use it and joke about what we have seen.

My closest friends were concerned because they were thinking long term, “by the time he’s in his 60s and retired you’ll only be in your 30s.”

“You’re going to have to take care of him one day.”

“Don’t you want to get married and have kids?”

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They had every right to be concerned, a part of me knew I should be concerned with him getting older and not being able to take care of himself, but I also knew I loved him and would happily take care of him. Another part of me did want to get married and have kids. But a huge part of me never wanted children and had never valued marriage. But the seed of doubt was planted, and doubt is a very powerful emotion.

I went home and asked, “do you want to get married to me one day?”

He was taken aback and when he asked, “why” I found I couldn’t bear to say the true reason because I felt embarrassed.

I dismissed it almost immediately but to my surprise, he said, “if that’s what we want we can get married one day.”

We became engaged when he was 50 years old and I was 26. My parents’ reaction wasn’t excitement, it was questioning. “Well, he’s a bit old to have kids isn’t he?”

I was deflated, to say the least, and the excitement to show my close family and friends my beautiful engagement ring deflated with it. The excitement to share my proposal story on a mountain top was gone.

In my mind I went over and over other people’s reactions and opinions for months, hearing stories from my friends who said “oh my god such and such is dating a 35-year-old! That’s so old.”

And then I watch their faces change to apologise as they realise my partner is nearly 50 and they might have offended me.

I was self-conscious and let those opinions trickle into our relationship. Finally coming out and asking him, “do you want kids with me?”

To which he would reply, “I’ve already had kids.”

I had my answer, that part of his life was over and I needed to ask myself what I wanted before I got married. This seed of doubt began festering and one day he came to me and said he had been thinking about our future and was concerned about how I would want things he couldn’t provide, the biggest being children.

I never had true concerns when entering this age-gap relationship until other people voiced their opinion. I realised that I had let other people’s opinions transform my thoughts.

People stating “there are complications with having kids when you get older.”

“He’ll be too old to have kids in a couple of years.”

I recognised this and knew I needed to stop letting these opinions transform what I wanted in our relationship. I thought long and hard about what I wanted in my life and realised that I didn’t want kids, I never really had.

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We always tell ourselves and others “don’t worry about what people think.”

But we do worry, we worry a lot about what other people think. We want to be accepted by our fellow tribe, because if we aren’t we feel outcast, that nobody understands. It leads to negative thoughts and loneliness.

I stopped obsessing over what people thought of my relationship and the age gap associated with it. I detoxed from social media for 30 days and completely focused on myself, my career and my relationship and the weight of other people’s opinions finally lifted.

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When the big day arrived and I walked down the aisle dressed in white, I knew that this was what I wanted, a future with this man regardless of the challenges ahead with age and opinions. And I knew in my heart that he wanted that with me, too. Our day was filled with love and laughter and our hearts were so full.

We decided to have something small and intimate with close family and friends because he had already experienced the large-scale celebration of marriage. I respected this entirely and knew that at the end of the day I just wanted to be his wife.

There is nothing wrong with dating somebody older than you, but there is the judgement from others, including friends and family that you have to endure.

Funnily enough, the roles are reversed on his side, with friends high-fiving him for dating a younger girl and with that comes a set of its own biases.

People thinking I’m young, dumb, immature and possess a set of different value systems that can only be associated with someone in their 20s.

In some ways, we are at different stages in our lives, but only externally and on a material level.

He is working full time, owns a house, has savings behind him and travelled the world, possessing knowledge and life experience I do not have. He has even had the privilege of being a husband and father before me.

I’m at university, I don’t own a house, I still work in hospitality to make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck. While I have travelled in the past I haven’t travelled as extensively as he has. But we’ve both experienced different challenges in life that we share with each other, and these make us intelligent, knowledgeable individuals in our own right and I believe that should be the focus of all relationships regardless of age.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature image: Getty.

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