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Hey, Bonita!

Relationship Age Gaps and Negative Attitudes

Hey Bonita,

What do you think about large age gap relationships? Are they always problematic, or is it really not that big of a deal?

Anon

Hey Anon,

It’s subjective to the relationship. I feel like most people can agree that 26-year-olds have no business dating 16-year-olds, but a 46-year-old and a 56-year-old being together doesn’t seem like a big deal. In my opinion it’s about life experience and knowing oneself. I know lots of energetic 50-year-olds who may skew younger in their romantic interests, and I know plenty of chilled-out twentysomethings who want their bills paid. That’s a symbiotic relationship if I ever heard of one.

A lot of people think of this issue in terms of exploited young women being skulked upon by old men, and yes that does happen, but that’s also a subjective experience specific to a relationship. I can’t paint the issue with a broad brush. Love is powerful and real, and I am happy for all people who are experiencing true love.

Hey Bonita,

I’ve become a real Negative Nancy. In all fairness I’ve been dealing with a lot, and there’s the whole state of the world and all that. But I’ve caught myself always bringing up negatives in conversation, always brushing off other people’s attempts to comfort or give a bright side with a “yeah but…” and more downsides. Whenever a friend asks how I’m doing, I don’t have anything nice to say or good to report. I’m so aware of this, and I don’t want to be this person. But I. Can’t. Stop. It. I can set myself straight and think about mind over matter and worry other people are getting drained by my negativity. But then I just blurt it out. It feels like a habit, and like I said, I just don’t want to be that negative person always bringing myself and everyone else down. I’m personally so consumed by these negative thoughts and aggravations and frustrations, though, so how do I stop it?

Negative Nancy

Hey there Negz,

Harboring negative thoughts and expressing them has become a habit for you, and it’s something you’ll have to slowly unlearn. I also used to be a real sourpuss, and it took work to not be a Debbie Downer all of the time.  

I think you can start with gratitude. I know it sounds cheesy, but you need to hold space for positive thoughts as much as you hold space for the negative. And you do have positive thoughts. You’re just not giving them the same respect that you give to the crappy ones. Next time you’re happy or excited about something, sit in for a little while. Pause and practice some mindfulness—notice the feeling in your head, your face, your limbs, your chest. Feel the smile on your face. Be present in your joy. Another mindfulness technique is to let feelings pass. It’s easy to get fixated on bad things to the point that you don’t notice a good thing—maybe you scowled through all of the Barbie movie because your roommate pissed you off that morning, something like that. Why keep on thinking about that bad interaction when you’re about to see a summer blockbuster? Smell the popcorn, look at the moviegoer’s outfits, and get into the previews instead. Be present!

Some people keep gratitude journals where they write down the positive things that happened in the day and what they’re looking forward to doing later in the week. Having that physical, visual reminder of the good things can be powerful. And when it comes to interacting with friends, you don’t want to lie about how you’re feeling with them, but you also don’t want to be so curmudgeonly that they stop seeking you out. You don’t have to lie “I’m fine” when they ask how you are, but perhaps you can lead those conversations with something fun and cool before you dive into the bullshit.  

Shifting paradigms is a slow process that takes kindness, patience and work, but your desire to do this work already counts for a lot.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, or use our anonymous online form at flagpole.com/get-advice.

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