My parents have a 12 year age gap.
They grew up in the same, small foreign town – in fact, it was so small that my dad remembers seeing my grandmother pregnant with my mom. After twenty years of marriage, they've divorced – but their relationship has taught me a lot: they raised me with love, and they raised me with the believe that your willingness to get to know someone and step out of your comfort zone shouldn't necessarily depend on their age. For nineteen years, they gave me so many smiles and incredible moments – age was never a problem, and it's not the reason they decided to go their separate ways.
Today, I can say that being raised by two people with a significant age gap has allowed me to view potential romantic partners more holistically – not merely evaluating them on whether or not they're too old or too young for me. Of course, there are boundaries – I wouldn't go as far as to date someone who is twenty-five or thirty years my senior. However, I have realized that college students often stigmatize other students who are in relationships that have age gaps. For example, seniors might get teased and judged for dating a freshman or a sophomore and vice versa.
As for me, I didn't come to realize how detrimental these judgments and preconceived notions could be until I dated someone much older than me. At 18, I started dating a guy who was 30, and although some people knew his real age, I often lied to friends and family – completely concealing how old he was and hiding it from many others because I was afraid of the negative reactions that would follow.
This relationship came to an end, but it wasn't the end of the prejudice and judgment I received.
That same year, my current boyfriend (who I've been with for almost a year) and I started dating. He was a recent college graduate and I was just a freshman and because our relationship was so serious, friends and family alike took the liberty of weighing in on it and harshly criticized our age difference. Many even found it deeply shocking, something I simply can't understand, perhaps because of the family I grew up in.
We heard it all: some said he only wanted me for sex because I was "young", others were telling him I wanted his money, and mostly we had people telling us we "weren't gonna last."
So many absurdities and unfair, prejudiced statements were thrown our way – at times it felt like we really wouldn't make it – not because we didn't want to, simply because the external pressure due to our age difference was so intense.
Nevertheless, we persisted and we remain in a committed, serious relationship. The criticism continues, but it has made me realize two very important things: firstly, that love is a multifaceted, inevitable road in some people's relationships and secondly, it made me take heed of how judgmental mainstream society really is about age gaps in relationships.
Relationships fail and succeed for different reasons. When I find myself having conflicts with my boyfriend, they have nothing to do with our ages. We are so deeply interconnected and so comfortable around each other that our age isn't even relevant in every day of our relationship.
Love is multifaceted, and sometimes you just can't prevent the inevitable! You fall in love with who you least expect. Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister of France, is married to his former teacher who is over twenty years his senior. They have been in happily married for ten years and were in a relationship decades before that.
You love who you love.
Don't judge others based on who they choose to love, especially not based on something as superficial as age which doesn't speak to who people are or to the reasons why they connected with the person they are in a relationship with!