Gossip and durable or slippery fantasies –or, part 2

Continued from here (which was passworded for subject matter explained in the beginning of that post). This post may be controversial, but hopefully not because of the subject matter. Also, I will want to be able to link back to this argumentation easily at some point, so it’s visible. The next part of this will go back to passworded status for subject matter reasons. The comments policy is in force. Thanks.

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Divided into several pieces. II is framework that I needed to work through for myself — listing my assumptions. If you want to cut to the main descriptive assertions I’m making, on the basis of my fantasies when I think about Richard Armitage’s romantic life, skip to III.

Richard Armitage, quotation from video interview for the release of audible.com’s Classic Love Poems.

I. Topic

Everything I want to write about lately is so slippery, hard to grasp. The topic at hand: How does the hypothetical possibility of a breakup make me think about Richard Armitage? I do not know how to write about this. So I’ll try to build up a building for discussing it.

II.  Framework

Topic: Richard Armitage’s relationships as factor in my perception of his identity.

Quote from 2010.

From the beginning, I’ve been preoccupied with the question of who Richard Armitage is, with all the ups and downs associated with that. I wrote a bit about how we can know about identity, and my surprise at how controversial that turned out to be led me to outline a series of levels of knowledge as derived from highly problematic sources, with the goal of discerning methods things that might be gleaned, which turned out to be even more of a problem for some readers. As I learned, the question of defending identity via the fandom crush is the source of vicious battles, which makes the whole enterprise of saying “who Richard Armitage is” among fans highly fraught, as each of us builds our own version of the man, tied to our own needs and desires and connected to our own egos. Nonetheless, in an attempt to answer my own questions I ventured onto the terrain of interpretive biographical writing, and I have tried over the years to isolate fan beliefs about Richard Armitage, explore their origins, and analyze them critically, such as the question of the shy, serious sex symbol.

Relationships (family, friendly, romantic) are a component of the picture: both the question of the person with whom one is in a relationship, and the quality of the person while in the relationship. I do find it interesting to know who someone’s friends are: a man is known by the company he keeps. To me, Armitage’s continuing friendships with Annabel Capper and Jo Bendy speak well of him. In comparison, a romantic relationship itself isn’t in any way necessary for me as part of a picture. I got along without this knowledge for several years, and in contrast to many fans I’m not an optimist about romance. Maybe it’s that I’m happily single myself. I remember feeling surprised when a fellow fan wrote that celebrating the crush’s relationship was important to her. Her point-of-view had never occurred to me. At the same time, whether I need it or not, if I have information in that area, it definitely figures into my picture of who someone is.

I’ve been skirting writing about this for a while. My first attempt was about a relationship that if it ever existed, was in the past by the time I wrote about it, and therefore safer, although the post has been used to indict me and associate views with me that I have never held. When it started to be important to me to discuss the more actual aspects of the question, I tried to write about it as a serious of speculations that I had based on information of dubious reliability and fantasy tropes that were incorporated into my thinking. There was nothing I could say about the topic that was not heavily objectionable to someone — sexuality being an essential piece of how we define human identity at present — and eventually the effort to defend myself wore me down, although I did not stop thinking about it. The latest apparent shift in Armitage’s life in this regard has definitely left me revising my fantasy life.

Statement from 2005, one with a lot of interpretive baggage.

 

III. Narrowly: Who is Richard Armitage + relationships ?

I’ve spent a lot of professional time pondering the question of what people are like whom I will never meet because they are dead. Sometimes those people have been dead for centuries, and as a historian, I try to fill in things I don’t know by reference to context. Things like social class, generation, gender behavior, culture, the subject’s experience, and so on can be adduced to fill in a picture. Naturally, I bring that equipment to my attempts to understand Richard Armitage. Since fandom is an identity-building game (see framework, above), when I don’t have much evidence, I fill in pieces that relate to my own identity. There’s a reason for every descriptive element I include below — but of course I am not saying this is how he “is.” Rather, this is how I have reasoned him to be, using evidence at hand, and naturally, the things I postulate have something to do with me — in that this is all based in part on my reactions to particular evidence. It means something because it means something to me, and it could mean something else to any other observer including Armitage.

I muse upon a few different variants on my view of Richard Armitage’s personality, alternatively, depending on what’s come out lately, or what I’ve rewatched, or what he’s said in interviews, or the mood I’m in. There are also a few pictures of him for which there are evidence, but which I don’t really entertain seriously in the framework in which some fans put them. For instance, one that doesn’t speak to me, however affectionately meant — is of Armitage as dork. This term implies foolishness and social ineptness, and if I want a descriptor for his often juvenile jokes, his silly side, or his intense absorption in things, I use one that doesn’t imply he’s also out of touch or regularly behaves ridiculously. That was fine when he was still almost a teenager; it doesn’t suit my needs as an adult. I prefer to think of him as playful, geeky, a joyful connoisseur of the absurd.

It should also come as no surprise that all of the infantilizing pictures of Armitage that overlap with the “dork” image rankle with me: the ones that imply that he can’t take care of his own interests, needs mothering from someone other than his own mother, can’t protect his own professional interests or needs someone to pick a new agent for him, seeks protection from fans, and so on. In my world, by the time you’re thirty at the latest,  you own your own face. So for me, any bad decisions that Armitage makes, any faults he displays, are fully his responsibility at this point. And the evidence that really turns me on both as a researcher and as a fan is material that reveals him to be highly competent — to reveal that he knows what he’s talking about, as he surely does.

To me, this was a particularly decisive moment in Armitage’s self description.

As an additional matter of context to show you how my own experience and identity play into these things: no adult male I’ve ever been close to or respected appreciates infantilizing treatment. So my Richard Armitage is first and foremost an adult; indeed, someone who’s been an adult since a time in his life where many men I know were still late adolescents. Every other assumption proceeds from that basic one: Richard Armitage wants to and is capable of taking care of himself. Ambitious in the measure necessary to advance in his professional life and a dreamer, he grew up in a culture that admires hard work but frowns upon open expression of the desire to stand out. Someone who didn’t fit in where he grew up but nonetheless eschews the tendency toward self-display, he embraced an immodest profession in a setting where modesty is king. For approaching three decades, his primary preoccupations have been a combination of artistic and professional. This is not to say that he has had no meaningful romantic relationships during time — I don’t know for sure — but rather, it’s my impression that his priority has been to keep himself free of obligations — however attractive they might be — that would hamper or prevent him from participating a project he really wanted to pursue.

At the same time, there’s a tension — the one created by the sort of dreams Armitage would sometimes like to be dreaming about himself, the one in which certain ties could be attractive: the alternative futures where he has children, where he lives out in his own life, in his own preferred variants, the sort of love that he sometimes imagines as part of the lives of his characters. When he says in interviews that he wants to have a family someday, I find myself thinking that (a) his known history so far, along with his professional trajectory, suggests that he’s not really the family-man type and / but (b) he still think there’s time: someday. “Someday” thinking of this type could reflect sincere wishes that always lose out to a busy lifestyle without room for children or a focus on home, or saying it can be a ruse to hide sentiments in a different direction, as it’s still not really socially adept to say one doesn’t want to reproduce. Saying you don’t want to feel that you must work to support a family is a pretty clear rejection of a certain kind of obligation. Even so, sometimes people say they want to settle down and are concerned that they haven’t; sometimes they say they want to settle down and believe it, but never really step in that direction; and sometimes they say it because they know it is expected of them. And in Armitage’s case, saying he never wanted to have a family or children would be really hard on the fantasies of a lot of fans. He must realize that, as well. Here we get to the source problem — it’s very hard to judge the sincerity of any statement in a source that is created in part to sell something or hide the truth. That doesn’t mean that we can know nothing, but rather that we can known is highly provisional.

From the 2013 Hobbit: TDOS press round.

Finally, desire plays into the question of relationships: it’s hard to imagine that someone who can look so intensely at a screen partner, that anyone who’s such a champion smolderer, does not know that feeling of extreme wanting, perhaps at times with frustrating responses, in his own life. Remarks Armitage has made about difficulties with fidelity and thinking that the chase is more interesting than the actual conquest feed into this perception of mine, as well as his statement a year or so ago about how we might think we should have a calm sort of love, but we leap head first into immoderate love, that this is the mode of experience, the rush, that humans desire. It seemed fair to assume to me, based on his remark about fist-fights, that Armitage has experienced his own share of immoderate love. His statements about himself as “moody” underline this possibility for me as well. He’s clearly influenced by a strong emotionality, and thus seems to me to be capable of transferring infatuation into love that is intense at the beginning, if not always sustained.

This post has a couple more parts, and I’d like to keep the discussion segmented — so please comment here about things discussed in this post. If you’re waiting for more, it’s definitely coming.

Continues here.

~ by Servetus on November 1, 2017.

34 Responses to “Gossip and durable or slippery fantasies –or, part 2”

  1. re: settling down and having children ‘someday’- this aspect of his personal view always confused me, what he said vs what his actions seemed to say. over time, I too have come to the conclusion that he’s not really a family man, that it would inevitably come down to a choice between career or family for him, instead of being able to juggle both. I think realizing this about oneself and admitting it, out loud, is a healthy mindset to have but one that he has not acknowledged. I always wondered why that was, if he was in denial or if it had more to do with his public image. so I found your possible explanation of ‘expectation/background’ plausible and enlightening.

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    • I agree and to keep myself in good mood and forget bad news (bloody NY) in memory of RA as musician I prefer listening to : Yo-Yo Ma, Kathryn Stott – The Swan (Saint-Saëns)

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        • I love Yo-Yo Ma & find his work a beautiful soundtrack for life- I’m sure I could never explain why I feel this piece adds to the discussion ❤😅 but thank you for sharing anyway! 😀

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          • Whatever the speculations about his partners in private life are, it would be inappropriate for me to enter into any form of speculation. But I’m sure he held the body of his cello in his loving embrace.

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          • In common view, cello is the instrument that is most similar to the human voice and is thus particularly well-suited to conveying emotions. So applying rosin on the gut strings, to better hook with the horsehairs of the bow, for an optimal vibration setting: I think nothing could be more sensual! Good night, good dreams it is late…

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          • I like cellos too. However, this wasn’t a post speculating about partners. Those are passworded to prevent people from reading them who don’t want to. This was a post talking about my view of Armitage’s personality in terms of factors that influence his relationships. Not that different from a lot of posts that I write, in fact. I guess I thought I had moved past the need to defend my decisions to write about the things I want to write about, but apparently not.

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    • I’m someone who’s never made any bones about her relationship with hypothetical reproduction, and you’d be surprised how negatively people view it. I also thought one reason that Armitage was able to hold such a large group of fans at attention was precisely that his characters spanned such a broad range of attitudes on this question: for the people who really think children and babies are important, characters like Thornton fit the bill; for those who really didn’t, Lucas was perfect; and there were so many positions in between, in essence, something for every attitue. So if he came out and said, “children aren’t in the plan” that would have burst a lot of bubbles.

      I guess if push came to shove I would say that he mostly knows this about himself and that it isn’t going to happen, but that there is a part of him that still thinks about the possibility.

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      • I have children but I have multiple friends who have made the choice not to have them and the things they tell me that people actually say to their face about it, astounds me! but I guess it shouldn’t, since just as many strangers have given me unasked for ‘advice’ while pregnant and can’t seem to hold back their opinions on my parenting choices 😛

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        • People police mothers insanely. Not enough kids, too many kids, you’re not raising your kids right, too strict, too lenient, why are you letting your daughter wear that … it wasn’t the decisive reason I didn’t want kids but it was a contributing factor. Who wants strangers commenting on their every move, to their face?

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    • I suspect this is or has been a struggle for him, since he seems to really like children. The majority of his chosen charities (which seem very important to him) are somewhat related to children, and I have the impression he’s also quite close to his nephew. One of those pulls between conflicting dreams that we’ve all experienced, I would guess 💖

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      • Possibly. Although, having a very close relationship with my nieces, probably because I don’t have kids, I definitely know that that feeling is different from the parental one. I don’t feel at all implicated in their identity; I don’t think that what they do or say is a reflection on me in any way, as I would if I were there parent. In short, having nieces has clarified for me why I wouldn’t want to be a parent. But that’s problematic reasoning insofar as the conclusion assumes the premises.

        The question of which charities he supports has always interested me. For the longest time it was struggling kids or homeless people. There may be some self identification there, given what he’s said about CyberSmile.

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        • yes, I think self identification could definitely be a factor in why he chooses children’s charities. before I had my own children, I wasn’t someone who loved children. I didn’t hate them, I just didn’t really know how to interact with them. but I was very passionate about their welfare, rights, etc. especially in relation to fathers/daughters, how important that relationship is to a young person’s identity and how that establishes their future view of the opposite sex/ relationships.

          truthfully, I’ve never really felt the ‘Richard loves children/would be a great father’ vibe as strong as so many others seem to. I’m not saying it’s not true but just that I’ve not seen anything to strongly convince me that it is. he doesn’t seem to mind children, he likes them, but does he go out of his way to interact with them? is he silly and fun with them and so the little ones automatically gravitate to him? I don’t think so. so this whole ‘it’s a shame he doesn’t/won’t have kids b/c he’d make a great father’ view is not one I’ve spent a lot of time lamenting.

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          • I do think people often pick philanthropy based on personal preference and my gut reaction in 2010 was “this was someone who had a rough adolescence and sometimes feared being homeless.”

            Agree 100% on father/daughter relationship. It’s something that’s had a huge effect on my life and I see how it affects my nieces, too. I wish as a society we could do some work specifically on improving fathering (as opposed to parenting in general).

            There have been a couple of photo ops involving kids that suggest that he doesn’t shy away from them and/or is happy to interact with them, but that has kind of been the limit of it from my perspective.

            But you know — people always tell me it’s shame I didn’t have kids, I’d be a great parent, etc. and I think “have you ever thought about this question for five seconds?” I think it’s just as much a way of expressing that one thinks well of someone (i.e., “you’re so wonderful that I wish you had perpetuated yourself in that way”) as it is a statement about their prospective parenting skills.

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            • I don’t think I’ve seen the pics he’s taken with children, aside from his ‘Urban’ costar and that personal pic that was leaked of a family get together with Lee Pace in a golf cart. my assumptions probably have more to do with my ‘tulpa’ than the real RA anyway 😉

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              • Two pics pop into mind: one is at a Hobbit event in LA, I’m thinking 2013, where he’s posed with some of the cast and a kid who was the child of one of the reporters, I think. He’s the only one who appears to be discursively “in” the photo with the kid, it looks a bit like he’s saying “look at the camera” or something. The other one is a photo from a cast party at Ian McKellen’s residence in NZ, where a bunch of the cast are seated on a sofa and Graham McTavish’s daughter is in the photo — he’s again the only one who seems to be relating to her in the photo, looks like his hand could be on her back or something iirc.

                Oh, and there was that story from 2006 or so, when he was nominated for the award for children’s TV, about how kids would see him on the street, identify him as Guy, and want to give him a hug, and that made him happy.

                But yeah, the “tulpa” is all important here. It might be justly objected to what I’m saying that I take this information less seriously because my Richard Armitage is not that kid-interested, because I am not, apart from the ones to whom I am related.

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  2. Of the comments you posted above, the most fascinating to me was the one related to R&J calm love vs. the tempest of immoderate love. Especially the part implying the rush is what all humans prefer- as I know many who don’t, not as a moral statement but a temperamental one. And for some as a matter of hard experience with the aftermath of cleaning up after what “immoderate” romance left behind. For many, it only takes one experience with bad assumptions in relationship to say- yes, it was a thrill- but I’m standing back next time to know the next person first. I found myself wondering what this comment really indicates about him or his experience, especially since he often bizarrely refers to himself as “boring”. I suppose I still don’t know.

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    • my impression, fwiw, in the absence of good data — he gets caught up in the rush and has done so more than once in the past. That’s the part he enjoys. (I think this is in line with his statements about his emotionality and also potentially congruent with what he’s said about fidelity.) As for being boring, my suspicion about that was always simply that he wasn’t necessarily a consumer of a lot of the things that could characterize an actor’s lifestyle: heavy clubbing, parties, etc., etc. He does his job and then he goes home to relax. He likes DIY. He reads, etc. Excitement for him is focused on things like the loss of control when a scene is going really well, or skiing. He’s talked a few times about the juxtaposition between control and release, or suppression and emotion. So if he leads a relatively controlled, disciplined life, the rush might be appealing to him precisely for that reason: because most of the time he doesn’t experience that.

      (And I agree with you — I needed to have that go wrong exactly once to never want to experience it ever again, and I was also heavily indoctrinated as a child/adolescent to believe that the rush was not a symptom of love, that it was a temporary manifestation of infatuation. And I’m not the only one I know who feels this way. A lot of men I know want to have a mild feeling of intoxication — but they don’t want drama. And at my age, neither do I, either!)

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  3. Deciding not to have children is a very personal decision and one which I feel no need to defend myself. It is what it is, a personal decision and with RA being in the public eye he may have to be careful how he words some of his explanations, but when I think how busy he keeps himself, I believe right now he knows he would not have the time to spend with a partner or children, but like a lot of things in life we humans tend to put off, we always think and hope that sometime will come. It doesn’t always come and I believe for him he has so much he wants to do that he knows it would not be a good thing in his life at this time. He, like all of us ,are responsible for decisions and I think if he handles them as they are important to him at this time in life. I think we all do it. You live with your decisions and only you can make them for you.

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    • yes, no one expects him to defend his reproductive decisions (well, maybe Tanya Gold did but I certainly don’t). The point in raising it for the purpose of this post (re: factors that might influence his behaviors as a romantic partner) was simply to point out that it is an expected component of relationship discussions in the sources we have (“when will you settle down?” / “don’t you want to have children?”) and is a common question for the average person discussing this topic. As my comment suggests, you and I have pretty similar readings of the actual situation.

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  4. Thanks for the interesting read and the MANY interesting diversions through your back catalogue that I took in the middle of it! (And as a total aside, I do so love that picture from the Da Man shoot.) Hope you don’t mind a longer comment…

    I really admire someone who devotes themselves so totally to their passion and craft. I’m sure, as you are, that Armitage must have had romantic partners at various times and that the involvement must have been quite intense for him to be able to convey the depth of emotion, want, and need that he does. But he seems to value his alone time and his freedom to pursue his art as the projects present themselves, even though he enjoys time with co-workers and friends.

    I suspect that Armitage did think (and maybe still does) that at some point he would have a family with children. But the type of career he has would make that difficult. For me, I always thought I would have a family “someday”, but I was wrapped up in my work. I used to say that children would be great if I could just put them away once I was done playing with them! Kind of like having a nephew that you sweep into town and take to the theatre. My husband finally had to point out that we’d have to act fast if we wanted kids… I had my first son 10 days before I turned 35 and the second son when I was 41. So, I can certainly understand how the time could get away from someone.

    If Armitage did want his own kids via the traditional route, then it would have to be with a much younger woman. But I somehow doubt that would satisfy him intellectually and culturally. And that might actually change how I saw him, depending on how young. I used to have a bit of a thing for Bradley Cooper, after I saw his amazing performance in “Silver Linings Playbook”. But the then 38-year-old started dating a 21-year-old and I thought… ok… just no.

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    • I live for long quotes and I’m always happy when people are reading the back catalog. One thing the links in this post alerted me to is how long I’ve been thinking about aspects of this question.

      re: having a family with children — there was some indication around the time time his nephew was born that he thought the ship had already sailed, but was rethinking it (remark that he didn’t want to be an “old dad” but that his nephew’s birth had made him “broody” — I assume, broody like a chicken, as opposed to his usual broody).

      I’ve been astounded at how time has sped up since I turned 30 — I can only assume he has the same experience. I agree, a much younger woman would definitely be a ding for all kinds of reasons. I’ve never gotten the feeling he wanted to be in a quasi-parental relationship with a partner and there are so often elements of that in May -December romances. The few things he’s said move more in the direction of “just wants to have fun.”

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      • I thought I remembered him saying at one point that he would NOT mind being an “old dad”. I think about George Clooney who didn’t “settle down” until his mid-fifties. His wife is a mature woman and they’ve just had babies, so I guess it could happen. At this point Clooney says he doesn’t need the money and he can be there at home. But to me Armitage at this point doesn’t seem like he’s headed for “settling down”.

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        • This is the article I was referring to: 2006: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/articlescans/WeekendMag-p2_09Sep2006.jpg

          He also says there he though thimself too selfish to have a child.

          He did say later (2014) that he would not mind it, although that was the 2014 interview round where he was regularly responding to questions about his sexuality from interviewers. So I admit that I take things said in that context less seriously, as it seems to me he was trying to protect his privacy.

          I don’t see Armitage as having the energy or the desire to conduct a Clooneyesque life. Everything Clooney does publicly has a political context. I say that without prejudice; some people can live that life and some cannot. I don’t see Armitage as being there. And Clooney is 17 years older than his wife.

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          • I do think he’s more focused on himself… I guess he could call it selfish, but we’re lucky that he pursues his art wherever it may take him. Yeah, I see what you mean about the 2014 stuff. Seems more like agreeing to end the line of questioning. Re: Clooney’s wife… yes I guess that would make her 17 years younger! I guess 56 vs 39 doesn’t seem as far as 38 vs 21 (Cooper and then girlfriend), although still quite a gap.

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            • I can see why he’d call it selfish within his cultural frame of reference (my impression is that Brits see this differently than Americans), but I agree, I don’t think it’s selfish unless he expects other people to pay for it in terms of time or support and then doesn’t give back. Deciding not to have kids is not a selfish decision. More than enough people are reproducing to keep the economy going. It would be more selfish to have a child and neglect it, or expect one’s partner to take over all of the parenting.

              re: 2014 — the Tanya Gold interview is formulated in the same way. He’d answer with a rhetorical question or a generalizing statement (doesn’t everyone?) rather than affirmative assertions.

              re: age differences — i cannot imagine the stress of being old enough to be one’s partner’s father. (I guess it’s okay for men.) The biggest difference I’ve been involved with was 7 years, and at times it was a real struggle. The physicist had a tendency to insist that I didn’t understand something correctly because I didn’t have the same memories of it that he did, and since we were both politically involved, it was a constant stressor. He had also finished his PhD by the time I met him and had lots of opinions about what I should do and how I should do it (despite the disciplinary differences.) ExSO was four years older, but that was doable mostly because we were at the same life stage — as a German, he had had a year more of school, a year and a half of civil service, and then about two years more undergraduate because at that time the first degree was the MA. So it turned out that we started our doctorates at the same time.

              So I guess that it depends a lot on the people involved — but I think this gets to my point (made in a later post) about how every relationship involves negotiation and for me the age difference really increased the amount of inevitable negotiation.

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              • Bringing up children does take a lot of time and focus. Rather than being selfish, I think that him having recognized that his focus is likely to be elsewhere is to be respected.

                I haven’t really experienced big age differences in my longer relationships, but it must be difficult, especially when the stage of life is not the same. (I might make an exception for Mr. A. though, given the opportunity!)

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                • I’ve asked myself about this hypothetically — not whether I’d be eager, but how it would go. I’d really have to control my tendencies — I’m an elder sister and he’s a younger brother and it would be soooo easy to fall into certain patterns. Even though he’s older than my brother, so could have been in high school with me.

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