I’m 26 he’s 40.

We live in an age focused, youth-obsessed world.
If you’re over 25 years old, you’re past your prime. Which seems ridiculous because the human lifespan is now well above 80 years old, almost 30 years more than in the previous century.
Our society focuses on age so strongly with images of youthful models selling anti-aging creams to 50-year-old women promising eternal youth. Beauty is somehow only associated with youth, no wrinkles and flawless skin. That beauty is only reserved for the young and the ‘old’ are just…..old.
I met Mark when he was 39 and I had just turned 25, there is a 13 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 happy romantic movie promised.
Our relationship turned serious quickly and within 6 months we were living together. I was relucent to tell people his real age, especially my parents because I knew that it would be a shock.
Mark does not look like he’s 40, he’s one of those men who age like a fine wine, so his looks are deceiving.  Eventually, people found out his real age and were shocked, comments like, “wow he doesn’t look it” and “whoa he looks good for his age” and my personal favourite “I guess he’ll want to settle down and have kids soon.”
Because apparently age is associated with certain stages in your life and you should achieve these stages accordingly.
I read a headline yesterday that stated: “13 reasons why you should get married before 30.”  One of the reasons was “you are only young forever once and you want to look good on your wedding day.”
Right, because there isn’t already enough financial pressure on this generation to buy a house, buy a car, work hard and succeed, we have to get married young and look ‘young’ as well.
When we became engaged my parents’ reaction wasn’t excitement, it was questioning. “Well, I suppose this means you’re staying up in Queensland now?”
“I guess this means he wants kids in the next couple years?”
I was deflated, to say the least, and the excitement to show my close family and friends my beautiful and unique Opal engagement ring deflated with it.
In my mind I went over and over other peoples 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 Mark is 40 and they might have offended me.
I was self-conscious and let those opinions trickle into our relationship. Asking Mark, “do you want kids soon?”
To which he would always reply, “no, it’s a decision for both of us.”
But I still thought about it constantly, letting other peoples 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.
We always tell ourselves and others “don’t worry about what people think.”
But we do worry, we worry a fucking lot about what other people think. Psychologically we want to be approved by our fellow man, our fellow tribe, because if we aren’t we feel outcast, that nobody understands and it leads to negativity. This need comes from a deep primal instinct of community when our ancestors used to live together to survive and if one person of the tribe was outcast into the wild, they would die.
It’s our ancient defence mechanism kicking in, it’s fear and its what stops us from doing things we love because we might be kicked out of the tribe.
I understood this from a book I was reading about anxiety and how having anxiety is a positive attribute because it is an ancestral trait we have carried down with us in our DNA.
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 peoples opinions was finally lifted.
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 reserved on Mark’s 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 be only associated with someone in their 20s.
In some ways, Mark and I 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 step-father.
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 make us intelligent, knowledgeable and individuals in our own right and I believe that should be the focus of all relationships regardless of age.

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