When I was 22 I started dating a lawyer about 30 years old with whom I had nothing in common. My age was bought a lot, initially as a way to confront me and my “maturity” against “other girls my age,” and finally to despise me for being “a boy”.
And it seems that many other women who entered a relationship in early adulthood with someone considerably older than them can relate.
Over the weekend, Taylor Swift’s All Too Well was re-released in a 10-minute version, with extra lyrics and a 14-minute short film, which tells the story of an age-difference relationship.
There has been great speculation that the song was inspired by the star’s former relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal, who was nine years older than her when they came out more than 10 years ago. Swift has not confirmed whether the story and the film are based on personal experience or entirely fictional. Still, the music video starring actors Dylan O’Brien, 30, and Sadie Sink, 19, has a lot of people talking.
During the video, directed by Swift herself, we see a strong discussion between the fictional couple, in which O’Brien’s character despises Sink’s character and manipulates their feelings. For many viewers watching, the relationship speaks to the unequal power dynamic that is sometimes found in relationships with a significant age difference.
While some of these relationships can and do work, especially in later adulthood, an age difference can be particularly complicated (or potentially problematic) when one person is at a different stage of life from another.
Since the release of the video, many girls and women have been sharing the difficulties they have faced, as can be seen in the All Too Well video.
Like Sink’s character, who has to deal with his partner’s tantrums, I also saw my former partner throw me the keys to the car, tell me he was disproportionate to things, and that he was lighting me up as things had been. I’d like to see the signs before and ask why a man in his 30s had courted someone a decade younger and why he wasn’t interested in women his age.
This is something that 20-year-old Sara * can relate to. When he was 18, he met a 36-year-old lawyer at a party.
“It was very charming,” Sara, from London, tells me. “It was supposed to be something casual, but one thing led to another and we ended up being a lot more serious than we were supposed to.
“I think the biggest red flag was that all his exes were much younger than him. And it looked like he was getting older but the exes were between 18 and 22.”
It soon became apparent that Sara and this man were at different stages of their lives. “I was still in the college halls trying to settle for ramen for dinner and he was a very great lawyer who had his own 4 bedroom house and expensive cars,” she says.
Sara realizes the inequality they were in now, but at that moment she could only worship him. Finally, cracks in her age differences began to show and broke recently, shortly before her two-year birthday.
“Unknowingly, you idealize them a lot in your head and you feel like you need their validation every step of the way,” she says.
“What I remember clearly is how it made me cry and put me in the darkest moments of my life, and instantly I had a way of making it look like it was my fault.”
Sara said friends expressed concern about gas light in the relationship, but for a long time did not acknowledge these behaviors.
“He also had a way of making it look like he was smarter than me in every way and made sure to point it out at every step of the way,” she says. “As they say, when you look at red flags through pink glasses, they look like flags.”
Sara was an adult (as was Swift in the All Too Well story – “It’s supposed to be fun to turn twenty-one”), but other women have been reflecting on the relationships they maintained with older couples when they were younger.
Heather *, a 23-year-old Texas neuroscientist, began seeing a 20-year-old man when she was 15.
“I remember before I started dating, I searched Google for the laws of the age of consent (I was 16 in our state) because I was worried it would get me in trouble,” she says. “Looking back now, if you have to Google the age of consent, you should probably leave.”
When the couple started dating, she says she started dating her friends, and that they just ended up socializing with him and his friends.
“The All Too Well movie scene in which they are arguing after dinner has brought an avalanche of memories,” she says. “Every time he and I were with his friends, he almost didn’t recognize me, and he used those same arguments. Every time we disagreed or mentioned how he treated me, he called me immature.”
In retrospect, Heather describes this man’s behavior as “extremely verbally abusive” and says he often focused on his age as a way to underestimate her. “Also because of our age difference, I was a little obsessed with my virginity,” she says. “That should have been a huge red flag, but he was only 15 years old and hadn’t had a serious relationship yet.”
After her breakup, Heather says she needed years of therapy to feel ready for a “normal” relationship.
“I think in our culture men who go out with younger women is too normalized, so a lot of people haven’t seen anything wrong with our relationship,” she says. “I’m in a very healthy long-term relationship now, but every now and then I’ll find other behavior or something I do in this relationship that I’ve developed to protect myself from people like [him]”.
Victoria Guerrero, 22, also from Texas, had a similar experience, although she did not share a large age difference. When she was 19, she started seeing a man who was five years older.
“We met at the university we both attended,” he explains. “Although it was a small age difference, I was 19 when the relationship started, which made a big difference. It was the first serious relationship I had with someone I met during college.
“Age played an important role in our relationship because I was constantly hyperconscious of the less experienced in life than he was, and he also reminded me at every step of the relationship that he was much more mature and responsible than me.”
Guerrero was the same age as her boyfriend’s younger sister, but says she feels “in love” with the idea that an older man might be interested in her.
“Now looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t question that I wasn’t interested in people her age,” she says. “I still feel pain, sadness and remorse when I look back, but I’m also glad I’m back and I know so much more now than I did at 19.”
For this reason, Guerrero was especially moved by the All Too Well video.
“I think that’s why the release of the 10-minute version of All Too Well is so special to me because I was in a very raw and heartbroken state when I first released the original version and now I sing it from a state empowered to know. from that, although it should not have to go through that experience in the first place, something with which I relate a lot ”.
* Some first names have been modified and last names omitted to ensure anonymity.