I have been dating a (mostly) great guy for over a year now. We get along like peas and carrots, but he sometimes treats me like a child. Or really what I should say is he dismisses my practical suggestions in preference to his own (oft faulty) thinking.
I will admit that he is my senior by about ten years. But really we are both well above legal. We are at different adult stages (he is divorced with two wonderful children; I’ve never been married, no kids), so I totally understand that he may believe that I don’t have as much life experience as he has. My stance is simply that my life experiences are different.
How do I get him to understand and take me seriously?
Dear Junior Partner,
Here’s the most prominent thing that I noticed in your letter, “I’ve been dating a (mostly) great guy…”. Mostly? I think your answer is in the very first sentence.
Something that I am noticing more and more with my girlfriends and colleagues is women settling for someone not nearly good enough for them, because they are “mostly” great. Do you want to be “mostly” happy, or completely happy? Do you want to be fulfilled, or just moderately satisfied? Do you want to look at your partner and think, “YES!!” or “meh”?
Obviously, I don’t know you from a can of beans, but I do know that you deserve to be happy – because everyone does. I also know that you deserve to be with someone who will love you for all that you are, not some of what you are. Now, this last piece of advice can be translated differently. Some people have the notion that your partner should love you for who you are, no matter what. But what if you aren’t a very good person? Everyone can, and should, do his or her personal work to be kinder, more thoughtful, and more compassionate – generally better for themselves and the people they love. If they are doing those things and can be considered a good person by the majority vote – then yes, love them as they are, quirks and kinks included. We should not, however, love people just as they are if how they are is unkind, rude, or disrespectful of others. That isn’t loving, it’s enabling.
But no one could ever, with any amount of effort, make him or herself older, only time can do that. You can only be the age that you are, and you can only know and be sure of the things you have personally experienced.
The very wise Anna Quindlen, writes in her memoir “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”:
“You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re young. How could you? People who are older nod sagely and say you’ll learn – about love, about marriage, about failing and falling down . . . but the young woman I once was could not hear [that], not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn.”
You cannot be expected to be 50 if you are 25 – nor should someone who is 50, be expected to viscerally recall the gripes of young adulthood at a moment’s thought. With age comes understanding, and with understanding comes maturity.
Which leads me to my next point. Does this man of yours really respect and love you as the younger counterpart to his life’s journey? If he is so old and wise, how come he doesn’t recognize that you simply cannot be where he is in life? Love is not putting someone down, or making them feel small for any reason.
Think about finding someone who can better understand you, and who won’t feel the need to navigate their own insecurities by putting the person they love in a corner.
Or if you feel strongly that this man has enough redeeming qualities (redeeming, being the key word), then start living your life as your own – and let him catch up to you. Call your girlfriends, go out for dinner, shopping, a movie, whatever! As long as you separate yourself from him and show by example that you are a grown and mature adult woman who should be treated as such.
Dear Kate is a column that runs on Kate-book.com every Thursday at noon. It is written by the wise Katharine Luckinbill, who you should follow on Twitter. Got a life, friendship, family, dating, or relationship question that you’d like Dear Kate to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will help you out.