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Can ‘mas matanda kasama ang mas bata’ gay relationships work?

Sa gay relationship, nagtatagal ba ang pagsasama ng isang mas matanda sa isang mas bata? Or forget this May-December affair na lang?

Photo y Toa Heftiba from Unsplash.com

So a couple I know is reconsidering their three-year partnership/relationship. Twenty-plus year old “A” and 40-plus year old “M” met before the onset of COVID-19, and they’ve been together since; a picture of “age is just a number”, it seemed for a while.

But things are about to change.

Di ka galit?” A said to M; A was complaining how M was quite lax (too lax as far as he’s concerned), so much so that he doesn’t feel “loved” (at least in the way he thought being loved should be, he said). This time, he had another fling, and he’s complaining that M isn’t complaining. “I don’t know… I thought when things like this happened in relationships, the other party would go crazy with anger…”

But, M said, we agreed to be in an open relationship; A was even the one to propose it. “Unless you want that changed?”

No, A started. “But some emotions at least?”

That conversation didn’t really end. It just went in circles. And no resolution meant it stayed an issue; and it was, I think, the last push over the cliff for this relationship.

Knowing of this, I started to think. Was lack of communication the problem? Or different expectations when entering and staying in the relationship? Or… whatever?

Then it hit me: perhaps all these are mere “symptoms” (if you will) of a basic issue – i.e. the age difference of the two. These other issues just surfaced because of this.

And it hit me, too, that there are many things different-aged people in relationships need to deal with to make things work. This is true to all relationships, of course; but I am anchoring this on a gay relationship that I know.

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Eto na, here are five things older gay men contend with when dating someone younger:

  1. Handling “older” versus “younger” dispositions (a.k.a. jadedness with life versus the impatience of youth). For example, experiences in life may have tempered someone older, but someone younger may still desire that “excitement”. M’s “stick to the agreement” approach may appear “mature”, but – apparently – A wants to feel the dramas that come with usually traditional relationships.
  2. Finances. Even if the younger gay person was born rich, the wealth he has IS NOT his, it belongs to his parents. And so, for someone older (though not all, of course), there’s this tendency to spend more; and this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (e.g. it can emasculate someone, nakakawala ng pagkalalaki; it creates a parent-child relationship, not one of equals; and it can create complacency in the one being supported, thinking that everything’s all there for the taking anyway). Oo, letse ang traditional heterosexual models na ginagaya natin, but this is also true in many gay relationships.
  3. Different interests (too different, perhaps). A likes the Gonzaga sisters; M would spend time watching documentaries, B&W flicks, etc. Another couple I know has a 30+ year gap; one would just sing “The hills are alive…” while the other hasn’t even heard of Sound of Music as a flick, stage production, or whatever.
  4. Handling goals one already went through. A is still trying to find himself; M is over this already. Oo, this could be a good situation where “teaching” happens. But this only works kung receptive ang parties involved. A, for example, would skip work to party. If M brings this up, either A gets defensive, or just ignores the issue (since he keeps doing things his way anyway). The approaches to life differ, and they can differ too much. And this has effects on the relationship.
  5. The need (and perhaps inability) to give up control. Again, fuck to the traditional heterosexual models we’re mimicking, but someone older may be “expected” to take the “lead” (so to speak). For yet another intergenerational gay couple I know, the younger one had to give up his work with UN so he can be with the older one in the US. A relationship often has issues when one’s on top of the other (not sexually; that’s a different issue altogether); equal footing in a partnership is a “sana all” goal, after all.
Someone younger could be more matured. Someone older could be very young at heart. Or they could come up with arrangements that really work for them. There are always ways to make things work. But challenges abound.

Now here are five things younger gay men traverse when dating someone older:

  1. The emergence of a “father” (or mother) figure. He pays the bills. He decides what flicks to watch. He chooses the music playing in the background. He budgets for the groceries. Etc., etc. It’s almost like marrying someone who’d just care for you; not someone you also want to take care of. Hindi agad equal ang footing.
  2. The babying’s effect on one’s ego. Oo, some want to be alagaan/cared for; but then there are those who want to find their own place under the sun, and this pag-trato bilang bata may not sit well with them. One (the older gay person) may not be able to “control” himself (it comes with aging), but the other (the younger gay person) may not want this approach (and worse, may not be able to verbalize this dislike).
  3. Not as open to what you may want to experience (or perhaps they’re over it already, so they refuse to do things again). A wants to experience it all (and understandably so; he’s young, he should experience it all) – parties, booze, more-somes, recreational drug use perhaps, etc. M’s “been there, done that” already. The interests vary too much; and when none will compromise (not that any should, to be honest), then you really will have issues.
  4. Different priorities. Work-wise, for example, A is just starting, while M’s already settled. Lifestyle-wise, A still wants to spend on stuff to enjoy – e.g. clothes, bags, shoes, chichirya, alcohol, etc. – while M’s thinking is “don’t overspend especially for things you don’t need, or what we already have at home”. One is still accumulating (e.g. material stuff, and life experiences) while the other already has what he thinks he needs. So their priorities are not aligned.
  5. Different life approaches. For instance, A wants spontaneity, while M sorta follows a schedule; and while these may not be age-related necessarily, it may still be affected by age (e.g. when you were younger, you want that rush, though as you get older, you start developing these “orders of things”). The non-aligned approaches added pressure to the relationship, definitely.

Eto, para lang malinaw: These lists are not encompassing, just observations from this partnership I know of. Besides, there are no set rules here. A younger person may be more matured, and an older one immature. Meaning, puwedeng yung karanasan nila sa relasyon ay interchangeable. These are also not independent of each other; instead, they sort of merge/are intertwined.

But the fact still remains: Age plays a big role in any relationship.

In the end, need na tanungin: Can a May-December relationship work?

Oh yes. Definitely. Someone younger could be more matured. Someone older could be very young at heart. Or they could come up with arrangements that really work for them. There are always ways to make things work.

But challenges abound.

And when these challenges surface, like when A started wanting to feel like any in traditional relationships do, and with M unaware of this (or unable to offer this, apparently), then the red flag’s starting to wave…

Alas… that’s love. That’s life.

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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