By Basee Saka
Double standards have been around for centuries when it comes to the behaviour of men and women. Gender roles have been defined since biblical times. In fact when looking at the expectation of behaviour between the genders, much of it stems from religious teachings. When looking at chastity, it is something that has been mainly pertaining to women. These roles are perpetuated today through the guidance women give their female children, through society and through the way men treat women; again stemming from other men and society. Will this ever change? Chances are, not in our lifetime.
When looking at personal development the psychologists are in agreement that we develop in stages; infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. During each of these stages we learn and develop skills, strategies and emotions that enable us to manage life. When joining in a relationship with someone from a different life stage there is a mismatch of skills and emotions. This could be down to many things but generally experience plays a huge factor. Some people pack a lot o f living into a short space of time and experience things that others may never experience. It is these experiences that make the difference between age and maturity. Anyone can get up every day and meet one birth anniversary after another. It’s what happens between those anniversaries that determines a person’s maturity. If we are not exposed to a variety of situations and guided through the process of understanding, acceptance and problem solving we do not meet our development milestones. If we are exposed and do not go through the process EFFECTIVELY, again, we don’t meet development milestones.
Here is an extract from Eriksson’s stages of development -:
‘Initiative vs. Guilt
Description: Children have newfound power at this stage as they have developed motor skills and become more and more engaged in social interaction with people around them. They now must learn to achieve a balance between eagerness for more adventure and more responsibility, and learning to control impulses and childish fantasies.
Positive outcome: If parents are encouraging, but consistent in discipline, children will learn to accept without guilt, that certain things are not allowed, but at the same time will not feel shame when using their imagination and engaging in make-believe role plays.
Negative outcome: If not, children may develop a sense of guilt and may come to believe that it is wrong to be independent.’
In adulthood this manifests itself as low self-esteem. We do not believe that we can make our own appropriate decisions and therefore rely on others to guide how we behave. It’s interesting to note that this stage develops at a time when boys are encouraged to ‘explore’ their environment and said to be full of energy and imaginative, whereas girls are still being protected from potential mishaps. When boys who sustain wounds get patched and sent off to play and little girls are patched and brought inside to do something safer. The wounds then become a conversation topic for the men, often exaggerated as to how they were sustained; and are hidden by women as being unsightly. This whole process starts in early childhood between the ages of around 2 and 6 yrs of age.
If in adulthood we try to join with someone who had a negative outcome it will be difficult to understand why the other person behaves the way they do. If we are that much older or younger than the mate the gap is widen not just by age but the lack of development.
The attraction to dating older people could be the need to be protected, we might feel that if the person is older, they are more mature and therefore able to meet our needs because they have ‘been there and done that’. There could be a more materialistic view, in that the older person may already have set the foundations for a comfortable life, meaning that you don’t have to do the work involved to get to that stage.
It could also be that you have had many experiences in your life and have developed a maturity that is more easily found and mirrored in a person with more years than yourself.
The attraction to dating younger people could be the vitality that they exhibit. Sometimes older people have a young outlook on life and enjoy the energy of youth and therefore seek to have that around them. It could be that the older person did not ‘make the most’ of their own youth and so are trying to recapture that through someone else.
There are many reasons why people date outside of their own age group. The most important thing is that the individual KNOWS why they do, so that they can manage their own role in the relationship and be understanding of the mate.
Bridging the gap takes imagination and commitment. There will be differences, society will have its opinion, it is up to the two people involved to accept the person they are with, compromise on issues that affect the relationship, be prepared to allow the other to develop at their own pace and support them in doing so. Sharing interests or at least gaining an insight into the others interests will reap a positive sense of value within the relationship.
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