The Rules of Relationships Are Never Black and White [Dear DBN]

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With all the how-tos and what-ifs out there concerning dating, it’s hard to remember that relationships are supposed to be based on how you feel, not what to do.  This week, it’s time to remember the rules of relationships are never black and white.

“How many years do you think you can have between the person you’re dating before it gets difficult? I’m 23 and just starting a new relationship with a 31 year old. Is there an age gap limit?”

There is no age limit, so much as there are point-of-life references both parties may struggle to understand, and also external judgements that may wear heavy on both parties. Where you are in your life is what makes age sometimes an insurmountable obstacle. If your biggest worry is getting a B+ or higher on your essay, you are in a different place than someone who is filing their own taxes for the tenth time. It’s not to say those things make a relationship impossible, but they can add a layer of fog to any issue you may encounter.

In your case, you’re both presumably adults with jobs. Eight years is not a wild age difference, and age differences, mathematically, mean less and less as we age. The difference between 15 and 25 is gross, but the difference between 45 and 55? Practically nil. You’ll often hear references to the half-age-plus-seven rule. So he’s 31? Half of that is 15.5, plus 7, 22.5. Looks like you made the cut! All kidding aside, it’s not a bad guideline. Each relationship is as unique as the people in it and only you can know what feels right for you… but I’m gonna go ahead and say this’ll be quite alright so long as he’s not thinking babies while you’re thinking beers.

“I am quite attracted to a close friend of my boyfriend. We even had a moment, though it didn’t involve any physical intimacy. I have a great relationship with my bf and don’t want to do anything that would hurt him, but I can’t deny the attraction either. Am I just deluding myself about the goodness of my relationship? Is the attraction a sign that I need to re-evaluate it?”

How many people were you attracted to before you committed to your boyfriend? How many times did your jaw drop when you watched Magic Mike? How many things in this sweet life have you lusted after? Darling, attraction has nothing to do with happiness or loyalty or fidelity just like coveting a cashmere sweater doesn’t mean it will fit you or that you can afford it. You will be attracted to a good number of people before your light extinguishes. With any luck, your boyfriend will be one of the people you are consistently attracted to, but there will be others, and those others will rarely have any correlation to the happiness of your relationship.

It’s healthy to take a thoughtful look at your relationship, but don’t do it because you saw a piece of meat and salivated. You’re human. You’re not an autobot programmed for devotion. Loyalty is a choice we make, and it’s a choice you will make over and over for the rest of your relationship. You will be tested and you will be tempted, but temptation is not a sin, nor is it an indicator of a poor relationship. It just means you’re a functioning mammal, and since you’re a high functioning mammal, you can feel temptation and think to yourself, “I would rather have the love and companionship with my boyfriend than a few hours of someone else’s mouth.” But since you’re writing anonymously to a blogger about reevaluating your relationship, it might be time to do that anyway. Godspeed, and hands to yourself ‘til a decision is reached.

CollegeCandy is excited to announce that we’ve partnered up with one of our favorite Tumblrs, DateByNumbers, to bring you some of her very best dating advice. Each week she’ll tackle your questions. Life, love, sex, the real world…nothing will be off limits. To submit a question of your own, visit her “Ask” page and keep an eye on CollegeCandy every Thursday afternoon!

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