Well hello and welcome back. No chit chatting today. We’re heading right in.
If you’re in an age gap relationship, you’ll likely have to tell your parents at some point. And if you’re parents are like mine, it is a conversation that you will never forget.
My parents spent their entire lives doing everything they could to open doors for me and my brother. They were involved in every aspect of our lives, from schoolwork to friends to extracurricular activities. My mom was on the board at our school and my dad photographed most of the events like football games, volleyball tournaments, and prom. Yep – both of my parents came to my prom.
On top of this, they were both highly focused on helping me figure out what I wanted to do with my life. As doctors, you can imagine how important higher education was for them. They read every college essay. Went on every tour. And provided every opportunity they could to make sure I had the greatest chance for success in life. By 18, it was settled that I’d finish college and go on be a lawyer. In my 30’s, I’d settle down with an equally successful business man and pop out a couple of grandkids.
To my parents success was: becoming a lawyer, marrying a guy my age, and having kids.
So when I dropped out of college and told them I’m dating a guy twice my age who can’t have kids – we had some hurdles to overcome. My parents are open minded people but this was just out of the question. These types of decisions that had the potential to ruin my reputation and the chances of me finding ultimate happiness and success in life. My parents had also known Brandon for many years and he’s only 10 years younger than they are. Us falling in love was not ideal. And I can honestly say that my fear of telling my parents was initially a huge deterrent for our relationship moving forward.
So I didn’t them until I was sure.
And I ended up telling them at different times: I told my mom early on but we both decided to wait to tell my dad until the timing was right.
Telling my mom was excruciating. Still today, when I think about telling her, I get a pit in my stomach. It was a chilly, Tuesday afternoon when Brandon and I took her out for lunch. Since I was working for Brandon at the time, she didn’t think much of it. My guess is she probably thought I was getting promoted or working on a new project. We sat and made small talk for 15 minutes and then Brandon said, “Carol, we need to talk with you about something.”
Famous. Last. Words.
For all of the energy my parents put into creating an amazing life for me, I put in an equal amount of energy trying to never let them down. I never wanted to disappoint them. And up until this moment, I can honestly say I did a pretty good job at this: I got all A’s in school, went to the college they were most excited about, never broke curfew, and hung out with a group of friends who they loved.
Here we were, sitting at Gustav’s, and I was about to drop this bomb on her. She was going to be completely caught off guard and I knew this would temporarily break her heart. Looking back, I still feel horrible about this, but I saw what she couldn’t: Brandon was going to be the very best thing that ever happened to my family. I knew back then that if we could move past the uncomfortability, our family would be forever changed for the better.
So we moved the conversation forward. We told my mom that we had feelings for each other. Brandon shared the reasons he loves me and I shared mine. We both were in tears, hand in hand. The longer Brandon and I shared, the more weight we put on my mother’s heart because we all knew that my dad just wasn’t ready for this. My mom wasn’t quite ready either but she handled herself with the utmost grace, as only my mom could.
That conversation was the start of many conversations to come. She was the very first person we told.
In retrospect, we should have told my dad then too. It was not a great position to put my mom in because she then had to keep this as a secret from my dad. But keep it she did. I don’t believe there is a “right” way to do this but this worked for us. My dad now knows that my mom didn’t tell him and we can all laugh about it because he understands. This took time but remember – you’re in this for the long haul. My greatest advice is not to do any damage that is irreparable. In the moment, you risk that some people might never come around. But our deepest hope has always been that, with time, they’ll understand and be accepting. I decided to tell my dad a few months after telling my mom and it was heartbreaking. I’ll get more into how we told my dad on another post because what I want to focus on is this:
Before you start sharing your secrets with the world, you have to be sure. The greatest gift I gave the people around me during the process of them getting used to my relationship with Brandon was my certainty. I never wavered. We weren’t playing a yo-yo game of being together one day and being on the rocks the next. We were certain about our commitment to each other and you have to lead with the commitment that you are going to do everything in your power to make it work. If you don’t, it makes it that much more difficult for the people you love to support you. And trust me – you’re going to need their support.
I’m lucky to have parents who trust that they did their jobs in raising me right.
During that lunch conversation, Brandon asked my mom if she would support our decision to date and my mom said yes. Did we all high five and hug when we walked out of there? No. It was quite somber in fact. Brandon and I dating didn’t just affect us: it affected them too. We live a in small community where my parent’s patients are also clients and team members of Brandon’s company. We all had mutual friends and acquaintances that seemed to intersect far more than we initially realized. Over the coming months, my parents served as a barricade that protected us from many nasty questions and people’s opinions who weren’t supportive.
Even today, I’m sure I don’t know the extent to which they’ve protected us. And for that – I’m incredibly thankful.
But the moral to the story is this: be sure.
Don’t put the people you love through the ringer if you aren’t confident that your decision is going to last. I knew that Brandon and I were going to make it: we’re soul mates, life partners, and he’s the “one” for me. I felt this in my gut and knew it in my heart. When you feel this way, trust it and go all in.
Fast forward to today – I get the greatest sense of satisfaction knowing how right I was. When we go on family vacations, they are the highlight of our year. My family has never been closer. My dad and Brandon act like two frat boys and go off playing tennis, riding bikes, or taking hikes together. My mom and Brandon love curling up by a fire and talking for hours. My brother and Brandon golf and talk nonstop business whenever they’re together. There is always roaring laughter and you would never have known the process it took to get here. But it is exactly how I imagined it would be. He’s the perfect addition to our family.
Even yesterday, when we landed from Phoenix – we went straight over to meet my family to play pickle-ball (our FAVORITE game) and have dinner together. Brandon’s middle daughter joined as well as his parents. We spent the night catching up and telling stories. Some people might say we’re lucky. But what I know to be true is that we’ve worked harder than anyone to make this family work. It is far from perfect and we still have our challenges to work through. But we’ve made it a long way and I still trust my gut that it will be everything I knew it could be on that chilly, Tuesday afternoon.
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