When the younger man is significantly younger, the question of inclusion vs. exclusion may arise when considering social functions with friends and family. It is also a question that comes up when in a new relationship, as opposed to casual dating.

What’s the right choice?

In the older woman/younger man dynamic, there are occasions that beg for discretion, and occasions that require inclusion. The choice should be determined through honest discussion and mutual consideration.

To discover the correct choice for inclusion/exclusion, there must first be a determination of our partner’s comfort level toward the given situation. Then, an honest assessment of ours, as well.

When the function may not be a good fit:

There are social functions that same-aged mates prefer not to attend. In an age gap partnerhsip, this discomfort is augmented.

Whether due to lack of interest, or the specific requirements of the function’s atmosphere, every romantic partnership has this on-going negotiation as a part of day-to-day life.

In a new relationship, the likes and dislikes are still being explored. There is opportunity to grow and expand as a couple, and discover the balance within the combination of the partnership itself. There are also obvious cases that would create discomfort in both parties, and should be well thought out before accepting an offer of attendance.

I met Mark several years ago at a conference. He took me aside to speak about his recent break up with an older woman he loved. He explained that their problems began when she asked him to take her out to lunch with her girlfriends.

At first, it seemed like a simple request. He was 37 at the time, and she was 48. She’d recently ended a 20 year marriage with a much older man who was tremendously wealthy. Her girlfriends were of the same social circle, and accustomed to dining in style.

Though Mark did well financially, it was a struggle for him to repeatedly pickup the tab at these gatherings. Eight months into their relationship, his credit cards were overloaded and he felt under pressure. When he told his girlfriend about his concerns, she stated, “That’s what a man is supposed to do.”

His older girlfriend had made a classic mistake.

It’s one I hear of regularly, and one that older women make when initially involved with a younger man. Older women often expect their younger man, to take on the role of an older man. But as a human being, involved with another human being, she failed to consider his overall comfort.

Had she considered his feelings, other choices could have been made. This specific choice for inclusion caused him to feel separated. He could have taken the women to another type of venue that was within his economic comfort range. That option was not provided. This choice put them at odds, and eventually was a part of the lack of personal consideration that eroded their relationship.

I received an email a few months ago from Gail, age 36. Her boyfriend had just turned 24. Gail wrote of the problems she had in relating to her younger man’s extended circle of friends. Together, they were great. But when in the company of his friends, she felt isolated.

This came to light when she went to hear him play guitar at his weekly late night jam sessions. As a musician, he was dedicated to his craft. He wanted her to be included in this portion of his life. His friends had a manner of speaking to each other that was foreign to her, in coded language only they understood.

The atmosphere was loud and smoky. She sat alone, and felt excluded. She had no problem with her boyfriend one-on-one, as his interests were diverse and they shared much in common. But, the combined group scene left her with younger people uninterested in creating any meaningful friendship.

While she and her younger man gelled in every other aspect of their lives together, his insistence on her company at these sessions wore her down. The demand for inclusion could have been negotiated with another selection of his friends, in another type of environment.

Evaluating the venue and your mate’s comfort level:

When determining inclusion/exclusion, consider the location and atmosphere—

  • Is the social function one your partner will enjoy?
  • Is it within the level of their interest and comfort?
  • Is it an event that will stimulate them, or require effort?
  • Will there be other people with whom they can easily have a conversation?

Personal growth and expansion are wonderful, but will it be at the cost of their discomfort, and yours? Will the attempt at inclusion, create a sense of exclusion?

Have an honest discussion with your partner as to what you imagine the situation to be. Lay out the pluses and minuses. Allow them to know all the facts. Then, make your decision, together.