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Mina, Clinical Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 188
Experience:  Working as a Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist in NHS. Experience in both children and adults
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I am in an age gap relationship (22 yrs older than my partner).

Customer Question

I am in an age gap relationship (22 yrs older than my partner). After 12 months, we have now entered an on off phase, my partner breaks up, says we should stay friends, I agree, the lines become blurred until we are acting like a couple again and then she breaks up with me again. This has happened four times now in the past four months. She says that it just doesn't feel right. I am torn between letting her go completely and hanging around strictly as a friend to see if she gets over this phase.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.
Hello and thank you for contacting us.

What are the reasons she suggests for you to be friends? Has she expressed a difficulty with the age difference?What do you think has changed after being together for a year?If you gave me some background information I would be able to have a clearer picture of the issue.

Please answer these questions and I would respond to you when I will be back to my desk .

Thank you

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
She says that I am her best friend and that she trusts me completely. She "doesn't want to lose me" and that we will "always be more than friends". She has concerns about the age difference in relation to how strangers view her. She says there are no issues when we are together, with her friends or with her family. We are on the same page in relation to children (soon but not now) and we have many common interests.

This all started almost exactly one year after we met (but not dating which came a few months later.

An example is the most recent break up. We were apart, she became ill, asked to come stay with me. I slept in the spare room, there was no sex but she spent all of her time lying on my shoulder or with her head on my lap. I cooked, washed up, got her prescriptions from the chemist, called in every time at lunch time and made sure she was fine. She was well enough to return to her place on Sunday and she spoke to me on Tuesday and said that we were breaking up again. We seem to get close every time and then she backs off. I think I know her well enough that she wouldn't play games but it is all very confusing.

Hope this helps.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Sorry, I should have added that there seemed to be no problems with the physical side of the relationship. She says that she has never been with anyone who has been so compatible with her.
Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.
I see. Thank you for this. It seems that she has issues with the age difference and she may be seeing you as a caring person and very good support where she has needed you but there is a strong chance that her feelings are not so erotic towards you. Her behavior does not necessarily mean that she is using you blatantly as you may have thought. However, she seems to have trouble deciding whether she wants a romantic relationship with you or not. And her difficulty deciding probably is due to her mixed feelings about you as she may feel that you may meet certain needs of her by being supportive, caring and considerate but not other needs of hers, which I am not in a postilion to know (possibly having to do with her image to others). This could explain her coming back to you when she needs a supportive friend mostly e.g. when she is unwell but breaking up with you when she feels stronger.

I believe that this is a tricky situation for you as you are not in a position to change her feelings. You need to be aware though that she may appear closer to you when she is in need and more distant when she feels stronger. This can usually exhaust someone's patience and affect them dearly. There is no way to predict if her feelings towards you will ever change to more romantic/erotic ones and this is why this is a difficult call. However, you may need to think whether you would be happy on the "stand by". It is very likely that as your friend she will start confiding in to you about other future relationships and asking your hep when she needs it knowing about your feelings. You need to be careful though because this can affect you significantly leaving you feeling used and manipulated because of your own feelings. Would you live with that and why?

I think that you need to seriously think about yourself in this and what your needs are and if they are met currently, which I think they are not. I can imagine that this must hurt you but accepting certain truths most time does.

I hope these thoughts help a bit.

I wish you all the best

Mina and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hello Mina,

Sorry to add another question to this thread but you said a couple of times that her feelings are not so erotic towards me. I realised that I said there was no sex during her recent period staying with me. This was entirely my decision and I had to reject her advances on more than one occasion. Does that change anything?

Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.
hello again,

well you need to understand and differentiate between her sexual/erotic feelings towards you (that she may well have) and romantic feelings capable enough to make her feel in love with you and sustain a relationship with you. Sexual attraction can mean something but it is somewhat different than feeling passion and romance towards someone. Friends can find themselves sexually attracted some times as well. This does not mean that these feelings are very strong to initiate a romantic relationship. I believe that she may feel sexually attracted but this could be also dependent to circumstances e.g. if she feels weak, her needs to feel closer to you may be received from her as sexual.

Does this make sense to you?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I do see what you mean although I find her behaviour extremely confusing.
Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.
This is very true, I do agree with you completely. It is possible as I have said before that she has mixed feelings for you and this can be very confusing to you. I am not sure if you have told her exactly this; how you perceive her behavior, that is confusing you and that you need to clarify certain things.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
We have broken up but at my request we sat down and discussed the whole situation and my perception of her behaviour. She came back to me today and thanked me for telling her so many home truths. We have agreed to not see each other for at least a month.
Expert:  Mina replied 6 years ago.
ok this is very good that you were able to tell her how you feel and what you think of this relationship. You need to be honest with her and with yourself. I am sure that she will have a lot of things to think about. It is very good that at least she knows that she cannot manipulate your feelings.

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