For gay men, age is many things: it’s fetishized, it’s feared, it represents our success and our failures, our self-worth and our worth to others. I’m 19 years older than my boyfriend, Noah. When I think of our relationship in terms of those 19 years — focusing on the fact that I’m 50 and he’s 31 — it can feel overwhelming. I become driven by fear and insecurity. It’s easy to forget that we both get a lot out of that age difference.
There’s the excitement and vitality of someone younger, of being able to show him things for the first time, of being able to share my experience. Seeing the world through his eyes rekindles some of the excitement I had from my youth while discovering a new world. And there’s wisdom, stability and confidence to my age difference, an understanding of the world and of life that’s impossible in your 20s and 30s. There’s also a better understanding of my own sexuality — of being comfortable in my own skin and with my desires — that I didn’t have when I was younger.
The other thing I’ve learned is that age is just a construct. Yes, there are physical things that happen to us as we age (getting out of bed in the morning takes way more work and hurts way more now than it used to), but our futures are just as wide open at 50 as they were at 30. And clearly there are lots of sexy young guys out there who think older guys are hot. Enjoy that, because the connection might lead to something deeper, something strong enough to sustain the changes that age will bring to both of you.
Here are some of the questions I get asked most often about dating with an age difference:
1. “How do I keep my younger boyfriend interested so he doesn’t leave me for a younger guy?”
I used to worry about this all the time. But here’s the thing: this isn’t about the younger guys. This is about us, the older guys, and our own insecurities and feelings of self-worth and value. I think for so long in our community there has been a premium put on youth that we forget there’s value in what we bring to the relationship.
One of the things I’ve started doing is stop my focusing on Noah, and on what about me he’s going to like or want and what I can change to keep him interested. Instead I focus on where I am in my life and where I want to be in 10 years. If I’m taking care of me, and my life and goals, then I find the insecurities and fears fade into the background. They don’t really go away — I think that’s just part of being human — but they aren’t in the forefront anymore.
And I talk to Noah. I tell him the things I’m afraid of and the things I think about. I allow myself to be vulnerable, and it brings us closer. It creates a bond in our relationship with an age difference.
But remember, there’s a reason why they are with us, and it isn’t some lame excuse like they have daddy issues. It’s because they admire us, they find us sexy, they are attracted to our strength, our maturity and confidence.
2. “I’m in my 20s and am worried the older guy I’m interested in isn’t going to want sex as much as I do.”
It’s true that sex and our sexuality changes. The way I think about sex has changed as I’ve gotten older. I’m not so controlled by my dick as I was when I was 20, and intimacy and connection have become more important to me. But this doesn’t mean my drive or desire for sex has lessened. In some ways I find my sex drive is higher now at 50 then it ever was before.
Also, the way I approach sex is different. When I was younger I was strictly a top. As I get older I find myself enjoying bottoming more and more. I have a better sense of how to relax and enjoy it, and my sex roles are no longer wrapped up in some misguided sense of masculinity. Now I consider myself 100% versatile.
I think it would be a real mistake to write a guy off who’s in his 40s or 50s because you think he won’t be able to keep up with you sexually. You might be surprised. You also might find you’re the one who can’t keep up.
3. “I started dating a guy in his early 30s. (I’m in my mid-50s.) The sex is great and we have a lot of fun, but I worry, over time what will we really have in common?”
I think the idea that we have to like everything our partners like and share everything with our partners to have a healthy relationship is wrong. I’ve found that it’s our differences that often make us strongest. We don’t have to be each other’s best friends. That’s what best friends are for.
Noah and I are more different than we are similar, and while those differences can sometimes be challenging, they’re also exciting. They’re the things I get to explore and learn from. I find that, in trying to understand Noah, and to see the world from his perspective I get to experience life in a new way.
But I also think we develop common ground over time. Noah and I both like to travel. We both like to go for long walks. I like to talk, and Noah likes to listen. We like to go out dancing. We don’t have to be everything for each other. Honestly, I think it’s better that we aren’t. Instead we can help each other grow, challenge each others’ perspectives and broaden how we see the world.
4. “I’m 59 years old and last year I started dating a 29-year-old man. We have a great relationship, but I haven’t told him I take Cialis before we get together. I’m worried if he finds out he’ll think I’m not virile enough or am not attracted to him.“
First of all, I know 25-year-olds who take Viagra or Cialis. It isn’t something for old men. I love what Cialis does to my dick, and in my opinion we both benefit from that. But, you also don’t have to say anything. You aren’t doing anything wrong. You’re just ensuring that you guys both have a good time.
I think there are a lot of myths around erections and a guy’s ability to get one and sustain it. Sometimes we’re stressed out, or we are thinking about something else, or we feel tired — or a million other little things that go into living in this modern world — but we still want to be good lovers to our partners, and we want to enjoy sex without worrying if our preoccupations are going to kill our hard-on.
Sex is supposed to be fun, and a way to connect to the people we love. If we aren’t having fun, or if we’re stressed out about our boners, it loses its purpose. So if a Viagra or Cialis helps reduce the stress and maintain the fun, then go for it. And if you do lose your hard-on, so what? You can still get your dude off, and I bet if you relax and don’t worry about it, that boner will come back all on its own.
5. “I’m in my 20s and just started dating a 55-year-old. I’m worried about what my friends and family are going to say about our age difference. He might be too old for me, but I really like him.”
If you really like this guy, then who cares what anyone else has to say about your age difference? If your friends and family love you and want you to be happy, then the only thing that matters is that you’ve found someone.
But I also get it. I’ve had people say some pretty stupid and insensitive things. My own loving father recently said to me, “I’m glad things are working out with you and Noah, but maybe it’s time to be realistic. Eventually he’s going to want to meet someone his own age, someone who he can build a real life with. And honestly, you’re going to just keep getting older and older. How long will he find that attractive?”
I like to think my dad was being funny. He has a dry sense of humor. But funny or not, it played right into all my insecurities and fears. And then I remembered something: My dad loves me, he wants only the best for me, and he probably has all the same insecurities and fears I have, and what he was really saying is, “I’m worried because you are dating someone so much younger than you, and life is hard enough and relationships can be tricky, and I want you to be happy and to succeed, and that scares me.”
So what I say to my dad, or to anyone who says something negative is, “I love Noah, and he loves me. And life can be hard, and relationships can be tricky, so I think I’m lucky to have found someone who loves me and finds me attractive and supports me. I’m gonna hold on to that.”
Because that’s what it’s all about. Regardless of the age difference between us, or any other barriers that we feel limit us or our partners, it’s about finding someone who makes us happy. Someone we can grow with. Someone we enjoy and who turns us on. If you have that, then the rest doesn’t matter.