Atheist Scruples: “I’m in love with a man nearly twice my age..”

Your 19 year old finally introduces you to the person s/he has been dating. The person is 35. Do you express opposition?

You never know who you’ll fall for. I might express some shock and wonder how the hell that happened and where they met. I’d definitely insist on meeting this person and see how they interact together, see if I get any weird vibes off of it. Nineteen is considered adult in Canada so I could hardly forbid it. Worry like crazy maybe, but not forbid it.

The age of consent and the official age of adulthood are imposed by cultures in different ways. Sometimes it just seems to come down to what the government says it is in terms of legal age to marry without consent or drink or drive or vote. Other times there may be rituals to follow before the youth qualify for adulthood. This all varies from country to country.

Maturity, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with one’s age.

Psychology Today hosts an article by author Tim Elmore promoting his book called Artificial Maturity. (Amazon.ca “shelves” it under Ministry and Church Leadership > Youth Ministry which will come as no surprise as I continue.)

He provided a list of maturity signs that I’ll paraphrase here:

The ability to form long-term commitments.
Less likely to fall for flattery or be affected by criticism.
Possesses a sense of humility.
Decisions are based upon principals instead of feelings.
Knows how to express gratitude.
Understands the need to be selfless sometimes and put others first.
Seeks to learn first instead of moving ignorantly forward into something.

Debate among yourselves regarding the validity of each characteristic as a measuring stick. Or add to/ argue against my thoughts on the quality of his list.

Commitment might be a bit iffy as a standard. Two people could be committed to a marriage for 20 years and one or both might still be lured into semi-regular affairs. Perhaps a mark of maturity might also be the courage to admit to potential partners that you’re not at a point in your life where long-term commitment interests you but do want to meet a lot of different people and get a lot of different experiences out of that.

Elmore notes about the flattery/criticism:

As people mature, they sooner or later understand that nothing is as good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems. Mature people can receive compliments or criticism without letting it ruin them or sway them into a distorted view of themselves. They are secure in their identity.

If you think about it, everyone has a distorted view of themselves. Every time we look in a mirror we’re not seeing ourselves as others see us. We’re locked in our own minds as well, unable to hear or sense what others think or feel when they’re around us. Sometimes compliments are honest ones and worth a thank-you when you get one. Some criticism is constructive and aimed at pointing out where improvement is needed. A bigger mark of maturity might be the ability to keep your compliments framed by the event or experience rather than what the people are wearing, how they’ve done their hair or how young or slim they look. Also, the opposite – knowing how to critique in a way that doesn’t shame their appearance or intelligence level but still gets the point across that an idea needs more thought or an ambition needs more planning.

In terms of humility the article says it’s “thinking of yourself less” but then mentions thanking one’s Capital C Creator for talents which I think isn’t overly mature or practical. Some talent is innate and some is the fruit of effort and long hours. It’s not egotistical to admit you’re good at something when it’s a provable fact and easily demonstrated, whether it’s shooting hoops or running marathons or photography. It’s not bragging until it becomes all you know how to talk about. There’s nothing wrong with confidence when it’s well placed and honest, though.

Having principles and living by your values can be a mark of maturity but how open are you to the possibility that your principals are shoddy and your values are misplaced? How good are you at scrutinizing an issue from every angle? I’d say the ability to admit when you’re wrong is also a mark of maturity. The capacity and willingness to change one’s mind when facts outweigh contrary beliefs.

On gratitude:

Immature children presume they deserve everything good that happens to them. Mature people see the big picture and realize how good they have it, compared to most of the world’s population.

Thank you god for sparing my house when the tornado ripped the rest of the town to shreds and killed those people. I feel so blessed… I think a mature person is one who’ll see the injustice in the world and want to do something about it — even though it’s hard to figure out what methods would best achieve that. Thinking about how good we have it — how does that help anyone? Wouldn’t it be better to put the effort towards making things better for someone else?

Priorities:

It’s worth it to understand and recognize when your needs need to take a back seat to what someone else needs. Other times it’s a case of time management and how much of your self you devote to this project, this person, this moment and not lose track of what you need in order to not go insane.

Under wisdom Elmore has this:

A wise man once said: A mature person is one whose agenda revolves around others, not self.

Which wise man was that? None I can find. I think he’s just quoting himself because searching for that exact phrase leads only to him and those who’ve quoted him. I, on the other hand, will give credit where credit is due.

Socrates and 1 Corinthians 8:2 are somewhat in sync. I was always under the impression that Socrates said, “A wise man knows he knows nothing,” but I’ve discovered that’s not the actual quote. The bible verse mentioned reads, “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” (I pick NIV from the list.) If maturity is to be measured by wisdom or knowledge, then those who are most willing to look for answers, even if those answers contradict what they’ve always believed, are further on the path to maturity than those who blindly follow what they’ve been told.

So, dragging this back into line with the question posed at the beginning — a relationship with an age gap like that will only work if both people are mature enough to put the effort into making it work, unafraid of the criticism they’ll face for this decision and be willing to learn from each other. Hopefully I would have raised a person capable of handling it. A person who can make good character judgement in terms of who he or she wants to date or love.

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2 Responses to Atheist Scruples: “I’m in love with a man nearly twice my age..”

  1. Laurance says:

    Okay, Minion, it’s late at night for me, and I’m going to run my mouth right now, and tomorrow I’ll re-read this post and maybe post again.

    This blog post is about young women who fall for an older guy, I gather.

    I’m an old geezer with one foot in 73 and the other on a banana peel (and September 6 is the day when my foot gives way and I make the transition from 72 to 73) and I’m the caregiver to my ol’ Sweetie who is only 63 now, but will turn 64 on Christmas (and he HATES being a “Christmas Baby”). If you saw us together you’d swear that he was way older, and that I was some sort of Trophy Girlfriend.

    So what’s going on here and how did it happen? Right now I’m tired and ready for bed, but I’ll re-read your blog in the light of day and try to say something coherent.

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    Or a young man and older woman. (edit aug 16/14 – or LGBTQ folks — shouldn’t leave out anyone in this scenario.)

    I just threw the song in because that’s the first thing that came to mind when I read the question. heh. It was a popular song when I was in university, a time when girls (and boys) might be lured into lurid affairs with older classmates or professors. No one I ever knew, though.

    I turn 40 on the 25th of September and the Man is 10 years younger than me. It’s a non issue much of the time except sometimes it hits with a bit of an “oh yeah, you weren’t born yet” when I remember something I liked watching on TV in 1983 or earlier. heh. But it’s all on DVD now so he can catch up…

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