Monday 22 January 2018

Dear Rosanna: Can we conquer our 20-year gap?

Our new agony aunt Rosanna Davison offers advice on mixed-age couples, recovering from heartbreak, reigniting the spark and just being yourself

Dear Rosanna, I’m a 20-year-old girl and I’ve recently started to see a guy who is 40 years old.

He is divorced with three young children. We met through work and, although I really like him, my friends say that he is too old for me. He’s very kind and always pays for stuff but my pals are convinced that he’s only on the lookout for a new wife. I really like this guy but I’m not ready to settle down. What should I do?

Rosanna says:

It's great to hear that he treats you well, but the risk of being with a far older man is that you will eventually begin to view him as a father figure and where is the equality in that? In my experience, relationships work best when both people involved view themselves as equals.

I would urge you to consider whether you have a future with this man. If things get serious, you will have to take his children into account, and the possibility that he may not want more kids when you might. When you are 40, he will be 60 and nearing retirement.

My advice is to give this a lot of thought, speak to your friends and those who can view the situation objectively. My gut feeling is that this is not right for you and you would be happier with somebody closer to your age, but it is a decision that you will have to make yourself.

Dear Rosanna I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about six months and it seems that we have nothing to talk about anymore. We used to be really close and constantly laughing and joking with each other. But in the past few weeks it just seems that we have nothing to say to each other, unless we’re both out in the pub. I still really like him, but I’m wondering if the spark has just left the relationship

Rosanna says:

It sounds like that oh-so-exciting ‘honeymoon period' may have come to its end for you. Relationships take a huge amount of work, commitment, sacrifice and understanding, and while that initial spark feels incredible, it is, realistically, difficult to sustain. Most relationships are in a constant state of evolution, as new challenges are faced partners learn to tackle life's surprises together as a couple.

Your relationship sounds to me like it has arrived at a new level which will make or break it. As you say you still really like him, communication is more essential than ever. If a mutual passion and sexual spark can carry the early stages of a relationship, it's now time to concentrate more on the person within. Speak to him honestly, ask yourselves why it feels different and what can be done to solve it.

It's not at all unusual for relationships to have their ups and downs but it is important to be ready to take action. If feasible, I would recommend you plan a break away together where you can focus on yourselves and your relationship. In a pub environment, you're naturally not going to be giving each other your full attention. A bit of time away will do wonders helping you both to learn more about what you want and, hopefully, reignite that lost closeness.

Dear Rosanna I can’t get over my ex. We were going out for almost a year and just before we celebrated our anniversary, he broke up with me. That was three months ago and I’m still devastated. He seems to have moved on — I’ve been checking his Facebook page and he has met someone else. I can’t stop thinking about him and I’m crying myself to sleep every night. My friends think I’m losing my grip.

Rosanna says:

I really sympathise with you as break-ups can be incredibly tough. Some people compare the stages of relationship grief to that of losing a loved one. As it has been three months now, you need to start trying to move on with your life, for the sake of your own sanity.

As difficult as it may be, you need to begin with removing memories and reminders of him. That means no more checking his Facebook page. You're only torturing yourself. As it was he who initiated the break-up, it's only natural that he has found it easier to move on with his life and met somebody new.

Why did he want to end the relationship and was he the right person for you? Be honest with yourself and ask if it would actually have worked out in the long term. Organise the reasons for the break-up in your mind and then put them away. You need closure.

Try to concentrate on your friends and perhaps even meeting somebody else. Visit new bars and restaurants or join a club. A new love interest to distract you is the best way to move on from heartache. In time, you'll look back and wish you hadn't wasted precious time lost in grief.

Dear Rosanna How can I make my boyfriend’s family like me? Although my boyfriend and I get along great, we come from very different families. My parents separated when I was very young and have new partners. I really don’t get along well with either of my parents and some of my step-siblings have been in trouble with the Garda Síochána. I’ve tried to break free from them countless times but never manage to get away. My boyfriend’s family are completely different. His parents are respectable and loving and I really don’t think they approve of me, especially his mum. How can I change her mind about me?

Rosanna says:

The best thing you can do in this situation is to stop worrying about what his family thinks of you and concentrate on being yourself and enjoying your relationship. You should never have to feel insecure or inferior, it's so important to be strong and confident in who you are.

Don't ever believe that you have to apologise for your situation. It is virtually impossible to please everybody all of the time and no family is perfect. If your boyfriend's parents are such loving people, then they will trust and support his desire to be your partner. Ultimately, there are two people in your relationship and nobody else should have an impact on your happiness.

Try to get to know his parents as much as possible when you have the opportunity and look for common ground. Perhaps suggest you all go for a meal or to see a movie you can enjoy discussing together after. Demonstrate respect and interest in them and a mutual appreciation should naturally develop. My advice is to stop worrying and let it all flow!

Ask Rosanna send your questions to rosanna@herald.ie

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