Why are people so curious about large age-gap relationships?
In the world of opposite-sex relationships, it’s not unusual to read about an older man married to a much younger woman. Look at… um, Donald and Melania Trump. When it’s the other way around, like with French President Emmanuel Macron and wife, Brigitte it prompts more comment.
When older and younger gay men get together, there can be assumptions about a wealth imbalance or power mismatch in the relationship. For example, when the actor, broadcaster and writer Stephen Fry married Elliot Spencer in 2015, eyebrows raised at their 30-year age difference.
Diver Tom Daley and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black are another couple who have been on the receiving end of bitchy comments over their 20-year age gap.
Rugby player Sam Stanley, now 27, came out in 2015. Besides being an openly gay player, many other gay guys were equally fascinated that he was in a long-term relationship with Laurence Hicks, who is 34 years older.
The two, who met eight years ago via the dating site silverdaddies.com, are planning to marry. Despite this, some accused Stanley of being a ‘gold-digger’, and Laurence of being a ‘perv’.
Given gay people have fought society’s notions of who they should fall in love with, there still exist ideals when it comes to partners, whether it’s in looks or age.
Martin and Yvan
Martin, 36, met his partner, Yvan, aged 56, via a gay dating website. They met a week later at a gay bar and Martin says it was ‘love at first sight.’
‘We went camping the next weekend, and it was clear that we found each other attractive, intellectually, emotionally and physically. The week after we decided to commit into a relationship.
‘I remember Yvan told me he was really concerned about the age gap at the beginning. From my part, I wasn’t concerned about it, as I was used to being in relationship with older men. I had only one relationship that the other one wasn’t older than at least 10 years. When I first had sex, I was only 17 years old, and the other one was 34.’
Yvan, two decades older than Martin, says he did have concerns at first.
‘I was afraid of generational conflicts and the difference of mentality and maturity; and also afraid of what others would think of it, would they think I am a sugar daddy, or that I’m out walking with my son.’
However, rather than any negative reaction, he says he received encouragement from those close to him.
‘All my friends and colleagues told me that I was stupid to stop myself from possibly having a good relationship because of the age.’
‘We often joke that we have the same mental age’
Martin and Yvan have been together six years. They live in Montréal, Canada.
‘We often joke that we have the same mental age,’ says Martin. ‘I was, and still am, more mature than people of my age: calm, reserved. While Yvan looks younger than his age, and also his personality is younger than the same people of his age, always joking, cheerful.
‘Our relationship is the longest and the best I ever had; we had some downs, but the arguments we had were few and short.’
Martin says he’s had no negative reaction from friend and family to his relationship with Yvan.
With regard to those times when he’s more conscious of the age gap, Martin says it’s rare. However, ‘Yvan is retiring next year, and we shared some concern regarding this change of life. Most of our friends that already are retired said they were even more active than before, so I’m not specially concerned.
‘I know we have a good communication together and we will adapt as events will go on.’
For both Martin and Yvan, the age gap is not an issue.
‘No, the difference has never been a problem, because mentally Martin has a maturity of a 40-year-old.’
Jake and Ned
Jake, 25, is a recent college graduate in Newark, New Jersey. His partner, Ned, is 64 and retired. They met three years ago via Grindr. They do not currently live together.
‘At first we just wanted to hookup,’ Jake tells Gay Star News. ‘But eventually we started to click. We enjoyed each other’s presence and started going on dates. We became official after 3-4 months. I told him I loved him on the Staten Island ferry and he luckily felt the same way too. It’s been three years ever since and we are still together.’
Jake says he’s not exclusively attracted to older guys, and has dated men of all ages. However, both he and Ned had initial reservations over the age gap.
‘We both had doubts. I came out about a year before I met him and he was worried that because of my inexperience, my love for him would be finicky and short-lived.
‘Also, he was afraid that I might cheat on him with younger guys and possibly transmit an STD, which was why we used condoms during the beginning of our relationship.
‘Another reason was that since I was just starting my career, I would evidently move to another state and leave him. I promised him that I would take care of him, but he felt like he would be a burden to me.
‘As for me, I felt like I could not help him physically and financially. I was still saving up for a car while we dated! I also felt he should find someone closer to his age to relate to since he is much older and needs someone who will be close by and provide better companionship. Nonetheless, we gave it a shot and now we are three years strong.’
Despite being committed to one another, Jake and Ned haven’t told their respective families about the age-gap between them.
‘Both of our families know we are dating but they have never seen us.
‘My immediate family knows I am gay but they are not quite accepting of it. They would rather just ignore it, which is fine with me. My brother is the only one who has met him and he is very supportive of my relationship.’
He says Ned’’s family are ‘not homophobic whatsoever.’ However, the age gap is another thing.
‘One of his nieces got into a relationship with a man four years older than her and most of the family was outraged, including his immediate family. Because of this, he is very hesitant about introducing me to his family.’
Are there times when you are more conscious of the age difference than at others?
‘Yes, especially during the beginning of our relationship. My boyfriend lives alone and most of his family live out of state. He could get physically injured one day and there won’t be anyone around to help him.
They are also both aware that at 64 years old, Ned is might face failing health or illness as he ages. Like Laurence Hicks, they also had concerns about Ned being questioned for his choice of partner.
‘I look younger than my age,’ says Jake. ‘There are times when [Ned] would be afraid the police might be called upon for possible pedophilia.’ This is despite the fact Jake was well over the age of consent when they met.
These concerns aside, generally, ‘Our age difference is a non-issue and very rarely comes up… except maybe during pop culture references.’
Bart and Ekachai
Finally, there’s husbands Bart and Ekachai. They live in Los Angeles, and there’s a 28-year age gap between them. Ekachai, 33, is originally from Thailand but emigrated as a teenager and is now a US citizen.
They met in 2003 via a gay dating website called Bigger City, and have been together ever since. They married in 2015.
Bart, 61, says he has always been attracted to younger guys. He has had previous relationships with men 5-10 years younger.
‘I didn’t see the age difference as a problem I have always felt my spirit or mentality was youthfully geared so dating younger guys was never an issue for me.’
Similarly, Ekachai had always been attracted to bigger, beefier guys who tended to be older.
‘Ekachai’s family being traditionally Thai was not as accepting’
Bart says they faced a varied reaction from their families to their relationship.
‘My family wasn’t too concerned about the age difference, they just wanted us to both be happy with our relationship.
‘Ekachai’s family being traditionally Thai was not as accepting but they’ve become accustomed to our relationship and eventual marriage.
‘Friends were for the most part supportive and encouraging for our relationship and for that we’re grateful.
‘When we first started dating I did have some concerns, primarily about communication,’ says Bart. ‘It was very vital to me that we were both on the same page when it came to all things concerning our relationship.
‘There was definitely a learning curve as I had not been involved with someone so much younger than myself.
‘But I found that Ekachai was very mature for his age and often we both found we shared the same views about topics that related to us both, so working through any issue was actually pretty easy.’
Making it work
There’s an assumption that big age-gap relationships don’t work the same way as relationships between people similar in age. However, none of the men who spoke to Gay Star News confirmed this viewpoint.
In fact, difference in age aside, their relationships worked pretty much like any other relationship – although it obviously helps if your family are supportive.
All relationships take work and will have their ups and down. Bart’s advice for making age-gap relationships work is the same as one would offer any couple.
‘Always remember to listen and understand where your partner is coming from. You might be older or younger but that just means you have to be more open minded about it.
‘Make sure you communicate with each other openly and honestly. Put any issue each of you might have out on the table and deal with them so nothing can crop up later that could cause problems.’
And for those outside of such relationships, don’t make assumptions about them. After all, as we’re fond of telling the homophobes: Love is love.
Some names in this article have been changed.