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Dear Curator,

I have been attracted to my former teacher for a while now. He is smart, attractive and an absolute delight to be around. There is an age gap of 20 years between us but I don’t mind it. I have tried to broach the subject to him a few times and he has just brushed it aside. How do I get him to take me seriously?

You are very clear about how you feel for your teacher but put yourself in your his shoes for a moment. He might not be taking you seriously because of various reasons. Maybe he is not attracted to you and you will have to accept this. It hurts, but the truth is that we cannot be liked by everyone. That doesn’t mean that you are bad or unattractive. You are just not attractive to him.

Unrequited ‘love’ is hard but sometimes longing for someone from a distance can be as fulfilling as a relationship, or even better. Unrequited’ love’ can feel just like a heartbreak but maybe you can turn this into an opportunity to understand things about yourself. Heartbreak and rejection can in fact bring a lot of healing from past emotions, not just the current heartbreak and pain. If you have a history of feeling rejected this might be your chance to really look at where it originates from and process it. You can do so by approaching coaching, therapy or relationship counselling. Anyone external that can give you a professional perspective on emotional reactivity and regulation.

Now let’s go back to looking at the situation from his perspective. He might be socialised into believing that large age gaps in relationships are wrong. You might not mind it but he does. He could also be feeling that he is someone in a position of trusted authority and doesn’t want to abuse that. Can you change these perspectives based on his beliefs and values?

There is no harm in trying but be ready for rejection too. Initiate with an open conversation, be vulnerable and express your feelings. Feel free to engage him on age gap relationships and have clear points on why you think age, and his position of trusted authority, doesn’t matter. Being able to discuss social constructs with a a coherent argument might make him change his mind about you. How you handle rejection will tell him about your emotional maturity. Being able to tolerate your emotions is a sign of maturity, that could also lead to a change in his stance towards your age. Please refrain from approaching your former teacher if you are not over 18. He could get arrested for enticing a minor even if you are initiating this.

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