When Peter and I started dating 5 and a half years ago, I was 15 and he was 14. I was about an inch taller, a year ahead in school and although a lot of people were supportive, there were still occasions where people would say, ‘oh it’ll never work.’
Years later, we still don’t fit the mold. I’m still slightly taller, I’ll always be a year and a half older and I’ll finish university a year before he does. We’re not your stereotypical ‘couple’ in a lot of ways, and I think this is potentially one of the reasons that this relationship has worked out so well.
When we started dating, I didn’t really know where to start. I mean, we’d confessed the fact that we liked each other (on MSN, no less…) and he later ‘officially’ asked me to be his girlfriend. At 15, I had no idea what it meant to be a girlfriend. As I read back on the immature excitement I expressed in my diary the evening he ‘asked me out’ (I’ll spare you examples) I wonder whether I was really old enough to be called someone’s ‘girlfriend’ at all. I was caught up in the world of Christian teen romance novels, where the guy was perfect, the arguments gentle and the purity of innocent romance overwhelming. Although this stuff was great in ensuring that I didn’t settle for someone who was less than awesome, the stark contrast of general society’s view of ‘how to date’ was scarily different to any ideas I had about what our relationship should look like.
What ended up happening was what probably happens with most couples. We taught ourselves how to date each other, we took it slow, and we threw the mold out the window. There’s a lot of stereotypes out there in terms of how relationships should function, and these are just a few of the one’s I’ve encountered:
The guy has to be older…
One thing I’ve noticed is that the older you get, the less you notice age differences. A year and a half really isn’t a big gap, so I haven’t noticed it too much, but when we were in school it seemed like ‘year groups’ determined who we associated with. Once we both finished school, our friendship groups merged and changed, and most of the time I’m not even aware that I’m older because we’re in the same stage of life.
The guy should be taller…
Perhaps not a stereotype, but its usually the case that the guy is taller than the girl. I love the way Peter is, and if he was any taller then he simply wouldn’t be him, but I understand that some people might feel differently. I say this because I get that it’s important to feel ‘small’ or ‘dainty’ as a girl, but that doesn’t always have to do with height. That might have to do with strength or physique, or even the emotional role that a guy plays in a relationship.
The guy should always pay…
I have to admit that I don’t really understand this one. You might have heard of the 5 love languages by Gary Chapman (look them up if you haven’t). It might make you feel loved if a guy pays for something – and if that happens occasionally, enjoy it. He probably enjoys doing it for you too – but if you’re young, don’t expect your guy to pay for everything. If he’s sweet he’ll probably offer, but make sure that he doesn’t feel obligated to pay for every meal, movie or date. He most likely can’t afford it any more than you can!
Now you’re a couple you should act like a couple…
Firstly, I think that PDA’s should be limited. They make people feel uncomfortable, and if those people are your friends, you want to love them as best as you can, right? On a more personal level, don’t feel like you have to conform to the things you hear about in songs, or see on TV shows or in movies. I love a book in the bible called ‘Romans’ (it’s actually a letter written by a guy named Paul) and in chapter 12 verse 2 it says, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ In no circumstances do we have to listen to what the world or media tells us about who we are or how we run our lives. For me as a Christian, this means striving towards a relationship that is pure and God-focused, and we try to reflect this in the way that we act as a couple both in public and on our own.
There are loads of unhealthy stereotypes out there – and you should know that you don’t even have to date, and focusing on finding a guy probably won’t end well. If you’re young, focus on building solid friendships and if you’re a Christian, focus on building your relationship with God first. If you end up with a guy and the relationship is a little outside the box, embrace your differences! It’s a lot of fun.
— Lauren x