Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lesson #20: Chronology Does Not Always Bring Maturity

Those who knew me in my twenties are aware that I used to have a tendency to date men that were slightly older.  Okay, one or two decades older.  I had this ideal that someone who had lived life longer than myself, especially those who had survived the first wave of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, had to have insight and knowledge of how to overcome grief and adversity.  I figured they must know how to cope healthily with trauma, they must know how to manage every day frustration, they must know how to maintain and sustain fulfilling relationships with others.   These were all things I wanted to learn and thought an older boyfriend would be the perfect teacher for gaining important life insights.

Boy did I not that plan that well.  I went through relationship after relationship with older guys that were impatient, maladjusted, short-sighted, had poor frustration tolerance, and impaired communication skills.  This pattern culminated in my late twenties when living with a well known community leader who smoked pot everyday, was prone to impulsive and unpredictable temper tantrums, was estranged from all friends from his past, and ultimately took it upon himself to burn my personal journals in the barbecue.  I decided there and then I had enough, I would learn my important life lessons on my own, thank you very much.

It was a few years later that I began studying with Jacob Glass, learning the principles in A Course In Miracles, as well as reading the theories behind Dr. Albert Ellis's Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)   I came to understand that the truth and answers I was looking for were not to be found in the "special relationships" I was pursuing, but could be accessed if I searched for comfort, peace, and resilience within myself first.  I learned to use my connection with a higher power to instruct me how I can persevere through trauma, frustrations, and build long lasting and fulfilling relationships.  I became the teacher I wanted to see.

Soon after a handsome man, who happened to be seven years younger, bounced into my life.  I met Matt Cameron at a time when I was extremely closed off to the possibility of being involved with anyone.  He impressed me with his maturity, his balance, his compassion, and his depth.  He had been able to overcome challenges and adversities in his own life and survive with a sense of optimism and hope.  He had been able to make strong sustaining friendships with people in every city he had ever lived (and he had moved a lot). He had the ability to maintain levity, humor, and balance...even in traffic.  In short, this 26-year-old was a better example for me of how I wanted to live my life than anyone of the older men I had ever dated.

More importantly, Matt taught me that there is absolutely no correlation between chronological age and emotional maturity.  I have since been inspired and offered insight as to the kind of person I want to be from people ranging from ages 13 through 93.  Similarly, I have been well educated as to the kind of person I don't want to be from people ages 13 through 93.  People of any age can be beacons of inspiration or destruction.  Why limit yourself by choosing to date or have relationships with people of a certain age range?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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