When I finally acknowledged to myself that I’m without a doubt gay back in December 2013, I was extremely nervous about who I could end up being with romantically. At that time, I wasn’t at all certain who exactly I was looking for, and it would take a few years of soul-searching and learning to understand what kind of guy I think best suits me.

One of the few things I know for a fact I need in my partner is an equally deep, if not deeper bond with God. God was and still is the major reason why I ever accepted myself as gay, and He’s the one who I owe the highest loyalty to. On that note, this demand of mine is two-fold: I’ve been looking for a guy who has the same love for God that I do, and who understands that it’s God who’ll be loved most in the relationship, in order for all three of us to be more wholesomely drawn together.

Something I’ve realized that’s extremely important to me is that I need a guy who takes me seriously, which is probably the vaguest request I have on my list. It’s easier to say that my “love language”, how I best express and feel love, is “quality time”: deep, uninterrupted moments that leave me feeling fully satisfied. It was difficult to pinpoint this need when I first came out, because I knew that “not being taken seriously” didn’t truly describe my apprehension over a guy seemingly not caring about what I’m saying to him.

I’ve also learned that I’m looking for a guy who’s true to himself, and fully accepting of himself as well. Insecurity is only human, and I would be a lying hypocrite to suggest that I don’t deal with it as well. But the idea of trying to make a relationship work with a man who is constantly lying to himself and the people in his life about his sexuality especially is an extremely draining notion. Of course, I’m ok with helping the guy I’m with accept himself and come out, but I’m also coldly aware that if he stubbornly refuses to budge one inch out of the closet, conflict is bound to arise.

And ultimately, second only to having a sincere love for God, I need the guy I’m interested in to embody the selfless love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I’m certain that I’ve read somewhere on the web that this passage can be used to determine if your love interest is really a good choice in regards to their love capability. If they don’t do their best to embody the definition of love set forth here, especially if they’re solely self-seeking, the relationship could easily end in heartbreak.

The Issue of Age Differences

There was a point in the last two years of my life when I realized that I’m open to being with a guy somewhat older than me, though I still haven’t determined what the exact “cut-off” age would be. This was initially a bit of an uncomfortable realization, because I never seriously considered the idea when I came out to myself.

I think I’ve always been inherently drawn at least platonically to older guys who serve as big brother figures in my life. They’re the ones who affectionately address me as “bud” and “buddy” whenever they talk to me, the ones who always give me a warm, friendly grin when they see me. Straight, gay, bisexual or otherwise, it’s the guys in my life who genuinely treated me with the protective warmth that a big brother shows his little brother who had the biggest impact on my journey to determine who I’m looking for. That sincere affirmation of care on their part is something I desperately long for in my partner, and is something I’ve statistically received far more from the older love interests in my life.

While the following memory might not be the exact moment I realized I’d be open to a relationship with an older guy, it’s still the one encounter that I remember the most.

The Ephemeral Customer

I currently work in food service, and at my job, I encounter a wide variety of individuals from all walks of life. Young, old, college students, business people, and the list goes on.

When somebody only asks for coffee, we immediately send them down from the order counter to the cashier station at the opposite end, so that they can quickly get their cup and go. One early morning shift in December 2015, an extremely handsome man dressed in casual winter clothing (specifically a hoodie and beanie) came in and asked for likely a medium sized cup. He was accordingly sent down to the cashier station where I served as one of the two cashier people for the day.

He was definitely not a college student like I’d been at the time, because I could tell he was easily in his 30’s or older. The man was tall, strong, while also gentle and soft-spoken. When he saw me, he looked oddly shocked, but his surprise quickly melted away into an overwhelmingly warm greeting. For some reason, the sincerity of how he said “hey, buddy” to me, coupled with his beautiful grin left me, to use the modern phrase, “shook”.

The romantic attraction was instantaneous, and was so potent that, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I truly believed that I had experienced love at first sight. When he came in the next morning for the same cup of coffee, he was beaming from the front door to the cashier counter where he greeted me just as warmly, and I thought I had a fair bit of basis to assume that the attraction was mutual.

I never saw him after that, but the experience had made me thoroughly giddy enough to accept that I had fallen for a guy who was at least 10 years my senior.

How Much Does Age Matter?

That man may’ve served as a sign of good things to come, along with a shift in my guy interests.

The following summer, whether I meant to or not, I was gradually more attracted to the older male customers who I served, rather than other college-aged guys. Not knowing the exact age of the men I felt attraction to was undoubtedly worrisome, because the likely possibility that I was interested in a guy in his 40’s, even for a brief moment, was discomforting and still is. Even now, I still wonder whether or not I’d be remotely comfortable with a man in his 40’s becoming interested in me.

On that note, I have to determine for myself how much age matters to me, and why. If the love of my life asks me to marry him, and he happens to be fairly older than me, would I really let his age get in the way of me saying “yes”?

I suppose my hesitation stems from not wanting to have to deal with any of society’s petty, judgmental questions about my love life. The last thing I want to hear is the ridiculous accusation that I’m looking for a “sugar daddy” if my man does end up being older than me. That’s likely a nasty bit of gossip used against other couples, gay or otherwise, when they involve a larger age gap.

Some of the married couples in my family have age differences of almost 10 years, and they’re among the happiest couples that I know. As such, they’re living proof that a mere age difference can’t prevent two people from loving each other and staying side by side in a compatible marriage.

In many ways, the idea of ending up with an older man has multiple appeals (none of those appeals, of course, have anything to do with financial topics). By definition, in comparison to a younger guy in his 20’s who’s brazen, a party animal and unwilling to settle down, an older man is likelier to be steadier and more mature across the board. I detest immaturity in my love interests, and an clear lack of maturity has been one of the biggest reasons for me to lose my feelings for a guy. Whether the immaturity is spiritual, emotional, or stems from the guy not willing to accept himself, I can’t stand the idea of dealing with that in a long-term relationship. That isn’t to say, of course, that an older man would be immune to immaturity.

I’ve accepted the possibility that I could easily fall in deep, mutual and wholesome love with a man like that memorable customer who greeted me with such genuine warmth back then. I know that if the love is meant to be, I can’t let a mere age difference get in the way of saying “yes”. It’s a man’s heart, not age that matters in the long run, and I’m excited to see what sort of loving man God has in store for me. If it ends up being an older man who espouses the standards I’ve set forth, and I can tell that he’s the one God’s most pleased with, then I can certainly see myself making it work.