Large age differences in lesbian relationships are more common than you think.
According to a 2013 survey, LGBT people are more likely than straight people to be attracted to people ten years older than them. Theories about why age gaps are more prevalent in queer couples are as different at the couples themselves. While I’ve written about how to keep an open mind when dating outside your age-range, I’ve never touched on one very important subject: Family.
Introducing your girlfriend to your family often requires some mental finessing, even more so when some family members have discomfort with same-sex relationships. An age gap can be an added layer of stress even if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive family. Here are my best pieces of advice when introducing your much younger or older significant other to your family.
Prep Both Parties First
Just like you may have learned to be open to dating people in your significant other’s age range, your family members will have to go through a similar process, too. Be mentally prepared to discuss their questions, including potentially intrusive questions about your relationship dynamic such as your partner’s “true intentions.” As for your girlfriend, tell her about your family dynamic and discuss how both of you can put your best foot forward with the first meeting.
When you get to the heart of it, this meeting is about introducing people you care deeply about to each other. Your family’s concerns might come from a place of love, but it is important to let them know when they are crossing a line. If your family is particularly resistant leading up to the meeting, let them know that they do not have to love your girlfriend, but they ought to respect her as someone you care about. Similarly, your girlfriend doesn’t have to love your family, but she should understand your desire to maintain a connection to your family.
Present a Unified Front
It’s natural for you and your girlfriend to be nervous leading up to the meeting, which is why it’s important more than ever to have empathy for each other. Talk through your nerves with each other, and reaffirm to her that you are on her side. If you think it’s needed, plan for situations in case something goes awry.
Keep it Neutral and Casual
In many ways, introducing your family to your significant other is just like a first date. You want to keep it low pressure, so have your family meet you and your girlfriend at a cafe or casual restaurant. Also set a cap on the time by telling your family beforehand that you both have to go to another engagement afterward, which gives you an escape plan if things get tense.
You don’t want it the conversation to be forced by any means, but it’s important to keep the conversation away from potentially polarizing topics such as politics. Tactfully guide the topics to things such as common interests that you know both your family and your girlfriend can talk about. If the conversation does escalate, gently call out the person who was crossing a line. If there is still tension in the conversation and both parties clash, use your judgment as to when the conversation needs to be cut short.
Check In After
Check in with your girlfriend and your family to see how they felt about the meeting and talk about their impressions about each other. Discuss the good moments and take note of any issues or points of discomfort that you might have to address down the line. Reemphasize how much you are committed to your girlfriend, and if need be, reemphasize to your family that she deserves their respect.
Let Time Do Its Thing
If introducing your girlfriend didn’t go as well as you hoped it to be, don’t let that devastate you. Allow your girlfriend and your family to get used to each other over the course of important milestones in your life and holiday gatherings. At the end of the day, these people in your life care about you and ultimately need to understand that the other is worthy of respect.