dating

'I'm not hiding my boyfriend, I’m just sick of justifying our 20-year age gap.'

It's no secret that social media has affected the way we perceive our careers, our bodies, and our relationships. 

While I have to make a conscious effort not to look to social media for guidance on how to live my life, many of us have fallen deep into that trap already, and we’ve fallen hard.

I’ve been with my boyfriend for five years, but when we first got together, I questioned certain things about our relationship because of what social media told me was normal.

Watch: How social media affects the self esteem of young women. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

"If you don’t want this in a relationship, you’re not normal," —  according to social media.

  • If you don’t share photos of your partner on social media, your love is not real.
  • If you don’t tag your partner often on Instagram, you’re hiding something.
  • If you don’t post a photo of your partner on their birthday with a long caption, your relationship is not healthy.
  • If you don’t travel with your partner, your relationship is not normal.
  • If you don’t have sex X times a week, your relationship is not healthy.
  • If you and your partner live in an apartment instead of a house or have roommates, your relationship is not healthy.

These things are bullsh*t. You are the only person who can decide what is normal or not. You are the only person who can decide what works and doesn’t work in your relationship. You are the only person familiar with the nuts and bolts (and loose screws) that make up your relationship — it’s no one else’s business and you shouldn’t use your energy trying to prove your relationship to the internet.

Besides, we should all know by now that social media is a horrible indicator of genuine happiness.

How many of us know couples who fight constantly in front of friends and family, yet they frequently post photos of themselves on Instagram lovingly gazing into each other’s eyes with a 1,000 word caption about how lucky they are?

Social media should have nothing to do with our evaluation of our personal relationships, romantic or not. Yet, many of us are reporting dissatisfaction with our bodies, our jobs, our relationships because of the content we consume online.

I’m here to tell you that it’s up to us to break that cycle of harm.

Who am I? I’m someone who has barely posted any photos of her boyfriend on social media in the whole five years we’ve been together.

My boyfriend and I met through mutual friends, and we clicked instantly. He wasn’t the first older man I’d ever been with, but he was the standout and absolute best of the bunch and I’m incredibly lucky to have met him. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Even with a 20-year age gap, he and I get along like lifelong best friends.

Before the pandemic, my boyfriend and I travelled constantly. We’d dine out at new restaurants in town and take camping trips with friends. We went to sporting events and burlesque shows. We’ve always been up for trying new things, and the one thing we agreed on from the start is that we don’t need to post everything we do online.

Granted, I have never been an active social media user. I have gone years — on and off — without the Instagram app and never had the desire to install it. 

While I understand the value it has for many people and can appreciate why so many people use it, I have never felt the need to share everything I do online.

My motto was: If I want you to see what I’m doing and who I’m with, I’ll send you pictures personally.

Thankfully, my boyfriend feels exactly the same. And to meet another person who wasn’t addicted to posting their every move, every plane ticket, and every dinner plate on Instagram was refreshing to me. (And attractive, but that’s beside the point.)

However, in the beginning of our relationship, I was so excited to share him online. Could you blame me? I was in awe of this handsome, intelligent, and loving person I could call my own.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.

Who wouldn’t want to show off a boyfriend like that on Instagram?

Social media got me thinking — if I have a boyfriend, I should share him. Often. I should post photos of what we’re doing, where we’re flying, who we’re with. Otherwise, people won’t know I’m in a relationship. Or they’ll think I’m hiding him. They’ll think I’m ashamed of our age-difference. Right?

So, we were out in San Francisco at a tiki bar one night, and we took an adorable selfie with our tiki drinks in hand.

I wanted people to see us travel. I wanted people to see my happy relationship.

I posted our first photo together on Instagram with little thought, and we left to go across the street for one of the famous egg tarts at the Golden Gate Bakery.

All throughout the day, my Instagram app chimed with DM notifications. But the messages weren’t of people interested in the tiki drinks we were enjoying.

By the end of the night, I had received comments from second cousins and old friends asking me who "he" was. 

ADVERTISEMENT

When I replied it was my boyfriend, some people asked how old he was, even though our age difference is very visible. 

Someone flat out asked if he was rich. Someone left a comment about a sugar daddy. And weeks later, my mother called me to ask about the "old guy" in my photo that my aunts and uncles in Mexico were gossiping about.

Apparently, I was the talk of the town, which truly bothered me. But more than that, it was the assumptions and hurtful comments about my boyfriend that led me to delete the photo. 

I wasn’t trying to hide him, but I never wanted to see again what people truly thought about my relationship.

There’s nothing worse than hearing the people in your life insult the person you love. When it happens, it’s natural to shut down, close off, and try to keep them all to yourself and never share them with anyone.

But the thing about my boyfriend is he’s too much of a good man to keep all to myself. When you have a partner like this, you want to show them off to the entire world. As a compromise, I’ve learned to only share him with the people who genuinely care for me, and not the ones who are just looking for something (or someone) to talk about.

If you are someone who frequently posts photos of your significant other on social media, please know there is nothing wrong with that! You’re in love — show it off! 

This article is not meant to shame anyone’s online habits or their relationship. However, posting our every move online can be a slippery slope when we post photos for others and not for ourselves.

Instagram posting can get out of hands, and if it goes too far, it won’t be just your relationship that you post online for validation. One day, it may be your home, your car, your family. It’s a scary thought that so many people can’t find that validation internally.

I’m happy in my relationship. It’s a shame that so many people are obviously uncomfortable with age-gap relationships like mine, but it’s not my job to make them comfortable. If someone wants to assume things about why I’m with my older boyfriend, I say, go ahead.

I will never let social media tell me what is and isn’t healthy in my relationship. I’m the only one who gets to decide that. I’m in love, and it’s a beautiful feeling that I get to share with the people who matter.

Feature Image: Getty. The feature image used is a stock image.

00:00 / ???