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18. A magic number in America. The day one becomes "legal", possessing the full rights and restrictions of an adult in the eyes of the United States government. And yet, it can be a monumentally sad day. Any teenager in a relationship with a significant age gap (more than a year in most cases) will face substantial problems if this day rolls around and their partner isn't there with them. In US culture, a relationship is easily divided over the age of 18. Couples will be frowned upon for differences of a mere 5 years or less if both people aren't over 18. Even if they are, such cases of age discrepancy appear to be wrongful in the eyes of the average American. Now, by no means am I one who does not see the purpose here. Obviously teenagers, at the ripe old age of 15 or 16, don't truly know what is best for them, however, this node pertains only to the social norm, not the law. The law simply forbids sexual interaction between an adult and a minor. Does sex usually factor in? Yes. Is that the point? No.

I do have an example of how this law leads to a social norm which is honestly quite backward. for those of you who knew that's where this was going. I have a friend (not me, we'll get to me in a minute) who is in a serious relationship with someone older than him. I would like to state this is an online relationship. She is female, or at least appears so; Skype videochatting has confirmed that much. No, wait, come back! Just hear me out on this.

He, who we'll call Tom, is nearly 16, and she, who we'll call Liz, is 21. As the nearest lonely bastard, I, of course, spend the majority of my time around them. I've watched their love (yes, they are in love) grow from the very start. They are serious, and they are definitely long-term. The problem here lies with Tom's parents. They are a traditional Christian family that believes "God never meant for people to date online", and have threatened to call the police on a woman half a nation away for no viable reason. When they discovered Tom was dating this girl, they removed his computer privileges, like many parents would. They are attempting to protect their child, and I understand that, but their logic for doing so is beyond dumb. For example, Liz smokes. Tom's mother, who smokes and drinks to excess, stated this would be a bad influence. His father refuses to accept it for multiple reasons, one of which is his belief that it is against his religion (Nondenominational Christianity, for those who care). Both of them have stated they fear Tom would try to leave home to meet her. A good reason, really, except they haven't consulted either one of the two people in question on this. If they did, they would find that Liz opposes this just as much as they do. She is actually on their side, wanting to have him finish school, turn 18, then meet her, so they are legally safe. She is attempting to be responsible here, but due to social norms, her opinions, values, views, and any actions not deemed illegal have no bearing on the situation. She is simply labelled as a rapist, ironic as she was molested multiple times and raped at least once (I can't honestly remember, as it's hardly a regular conversational topic).

Now, I realize the fact that his parents are at least acting in the right frame of mind, and I respect that, really I do. I would do the same in their position, but I would change tactics. They are not talking to him about it, reasoning through this, or regarding his wants. They are simply forcing her away, and it hasn't worked yet. By not even attempting to work with Tom on this, they are isolating him. He complies to their demands, he doesn't resist, so they continue to take from him. The only thing he won't do is stop talking to her. Regardless, he's begun to hate them vehemently.

His parents are stuck on the issue of this magic number. If she were under 18, they wouldn't even challenge it. Never mind his father's "God-given" verse on online dating. They are hung up on age here. What's ironic is that most couples who are married have decent (3-5 years at least) age discrepancies. I had a teacher who was 17 years younger than her husband. My question is why the double standard? Now, don't accuse me of approving pedophilia, I understand that below a certain age, dating of any sort is unacceptable. I would personally draw the line at about 15, any older and I see no issue with dating who you want. I mean, they are going to do it whether it's acceptable or not, laws don't stop criminals.

As I stated, I do have a stake in this. I was, at one point, in a relationship with a woman five years older than myself. I was 17 at the time, under legal age. So, call bias if you wish, but I wasn't planning on doing anything until I was legal. It's just as well, we didn't last. I came late to the three-way and didn't feel like sharing, so I left her. I no longer care for her, whether that negates the bias is up to the reader, but the question remains:

Would you break up love over a number?

Yes. I would totally break up love over a number. However in this case there are other reasons. A 21 year old woman who has been raped and molested and tells young teenage boys on the internet about it has real problems.

Your friend is 15, he was probably playing with micro machines two years ago. He has absolutely nothing to offer a 21 year old woman other than a sense of control over a relationship that she may not feel with a partner her own age. I know this because I used to date younger women (although not illegally so) and the exact reason I did was because younger women were less intimidating than ones my own age.

This young lady in question is emotionally damaged and pursuing an internet relationship with a 15 year old boy won't help her recover, it will only make it worse and can easily lead to her ending up in prison if even a single Skype session gets naughty and your friend's parents find out about it.

While what this relationship does to your friend is to give him an inappropriate sense of what is normal in a relationship. If the relationship does somehow last until he turns 18 then he will still end up losing out as he will move away from his home to be with a 24 year old woman who has severe emotional problems that he couldn't possibly hope to deal with as an 18 year old.

The real divide isn't truly over the number 18. That is just the common age of consent number that everyone jumps to. Most likely because most people reach that age about the time they graduate from high school.

The parents of most teenagers generally assume that they are going to college. In fact 65ish percent of them do go. Of course half of those end up dropping out eventually. However from my experience the older partner in these relationships in question is almost never a college student, they either work a menial job, or are unemployed basement dwellers. If they were college students then they wouldn't need to go sniffing around high schoolers 5 and 6 years younger than them since they would be surrounded with plenty of peers that could date instead.

Even when both partners truly love each other, no one is abusive and the relationship really lasts until both are "adults" the younger partner almost always ends up making major life sacrifices. They almost never make it through college and often end up looking to their older partner for the sort of guidance and assistance that a young adult should probably get from their parents instead of someone who makes bad choices.

I have a friend who ended up with a 15 year old girlfriend when he was 21. He was the classic older boyfriend type, being that he had a few community college credits, was no longer pursuing schooling and had a job with no future. He was (and still is) a smart guy but he just wasn't doing anything with his life and wasn't all that likely to. He wasn't trying to take advantage of her for sex and he truly did love her. The parents didn't really approve of him, but they tolerated him.

The relationship actually lasted. The girlfriend (who was pretty smart herself) was offered full scholarships to multiple schools, but of course she chose the one 2 miles from where the boyfriend lived instead of the half dozen better schools she could have attended. When she returned to college for her second year there was some mild mixup with room assignments and for some reason she wasn't assigned a room and the student who was working in the housing office didn't do anything about her complaint. So of course she turned to her older boyfriend for help and started staying with him while she tried to get her room situation resolved through the unhelpful student working in housing office. She gave up after about a week and just stayed with him all the time. Of course she didn't have a car and relied on him to get her to school. By the end of the school year she had failed all her classes and lost her scholarship. Eventually the boyfriend quit his job over a dispute with his boss and ending up having to move back into his parent's basement. His parents wouldn't let the girlfriend come too unless they were married so they got married then and there and moved into his basement.

Every single worry her parents had (other than pregnancy) came true. She threw away her scholarship, dropped out of school and ended up married at 20 years old. If she didn't have the older boyfriend then none of that would have happened. When the housing office messed up her room assignment she would have called her parents or spoken to a teacher and gotten the problem solved that day. Instead she went to her boyfriend whose "help" ended up being the catalyst of dropping out of a school that she was previously getting a 4.0 grade average at.

Update - 5 years later. Said couple I was talking about was living in a (US) state that was not native to them. The guy was a prison guard and she was tending bar. They decided to move back to their home state. They both finished out their work schedules, which allowed her to leave a few days early. That was two years ago, he never saw her again.

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