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'Do relationships with age gap work?'

By ANU KRISHNA
November 30, 2022 12:15 IST
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In this weekly self-help series, mental health and life coach Anu Krishna tells you how to take control of your life.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Is your relationship causing you stress?

Are you feeling lonely, helpless, indecisive?

You are not alone!

Mind/life coach, NLP trainer and mental health guru Anu Krishna wants you to talk about your problems.

Every week, Anu will answer your queries, address your concerns and offer expert advice on how you can take control of your life.

Dear readers, if you have a question for Anu, please e-mail it to getahead@rediff.co.in (Subject: Ask ANU) for her advice.

Meanwhile, here's the unedited excerpt from Anu's latest offline session with readers:


PH: Hi, I live with toxic parents and I want to move out. They refuse to acknowledge that they exhibit toxic behaviour.
Whenever I have tried to involve a third party, like a therapist or a family friend to talk to them. They have accused the third party to be biased and talking nonsense, and now they are accusing me of being the toxic person in this relationship. I have lost hope regarding this relationship.
My father has now asked me to reach out to you because he believes that you will be able to talk some sense into me.
He feels that a two-hour session with you should be fine to sort all the issues.
I don't agree with his thinking, but just to have some peace of mind I'm writing this email. For his satisfaction or delusion would it be possible to arrange a session?

Dear PH,

Sessions are never done under duress or force of any kind. It’s only a belief that both the client and coach work under where the coach throws all his/her commitment towards guiding the client who also displays the same level of commitment.

So, if you feel that only one side is responsible for a relationship, then even if you come to me for a coaching session, you will expect me to side you and prove that your parents are the ones to blame. That is definitely something that I cannot and will not do.

Do know that coaches, counsellors, and therapists can never ever work to side one person but is obliged by ethics of their profession to guide their clients to take a rational view by making them see all perspectives in a very unbiased manner.

But, if your father has asked you to seek help, I can assume that he wants to set right the relationship as well.

It takes two sides to build or break a relationship.

Toxic or not, we see it through our mind’s eye. Instead of this tug-of-war that both of you are currently playing, why not seek professional help where both of you get to speak your side of the story and then the professional can guide both you and your parents to rebuild the relationship.

Win-Win? I am sure it will make you and your parents happy! After all, it’s family at the end of the day, isn’t it?

All the best and I am sure that you can set this right!


Anon: Hi Ma'am,
I'm a 23-year-old woman. For as long as I remember, I have been called out, insulted and shamed by my family. They have always threatened to stop all kinds of financial support if I ever disobeyed or questioned them. I have always tried my best at my studies and for my career. Even though, after seeing my achievements, their opinion of me has improved. But they're never truly happy. There's always something wrong with me. While I understand, my family only wants the best for me and probably this their way of caring for me. But the constant criticism has always impacted my self-confidence and self-image. I have missed out on several opportunities during my college years and failed to be proactive solely because of low self-esteem. I was bullied by my college mates during this period and I fell into depression and anxiety. I also developed bulimia and starved myself, hoping that losing weight could grant me more acceptance from my family and peers. In 2021, after completing my undergraduate degree, I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease and suffered hearing loss in my left ear.
Furthermore, I was getting rejected from the universities I had applied to. But this turn of life changed me for better.
I learnt to value myself more and ignored other people's opinion. I invested in mindfulness and spirituality and appreciated all the blessings that I had. I had improved my self-image and self-confidence greatly. Unfortunately, I had to shift to my family home and live with my extended family members. Now the nitpicking and taunts have increased even more and have kind of ruined all the improvements I made over the year.
I have become more irritable and I am losing my patience with them. They have triggered all my sensitive issues again and this has greatly impacted my self-esteem all over again.

With God's grace, I have received an opportunity to shift abroad and pursue a postgraduate education. I don't want to keep any kind of hard feelings against my family before leaving. I know that their opinions don't define me but yet I end up crying after every insult and argument. I want to heal and I want to forgive and forget. I have tried talking to them and have even apologised to peacefully end arguments. Yet, they repeat those words every day and each day ends in failure. I know and understand that I cannot change them. But, how do I learn to accept them when they keep on hurting me?
Furthermore, the fact that they are financially supporting makes me feel guilty for questioning their behaviour. I am struggling with depression and anxiety again and I'm finding it hard to consider their emotional standpoint when my own mental well-being is messed up.
How do I cope up with my mental health when I being disparaged every day?

I would like to hear your opinion from a third person point-of-view and any advice would be appreciated.

Dear Anonymous,

I can only imagine the challenges that you have been through and to turn within yourself for answers and deep inner work is nothing but the best gift that you have given yourself.

You cannot change them nor their thinking and possibly you are right that it might be the way that they care for you.

For now, till the time you leave home to pursue your life’s goals, keep things warm and simple even if the environment feels hostile or punitive.

Practise the following suggestions:

  • Journal your thoughts and feelings everyday
  • Surround yourself with friends who make you feel good about yourself
  • Play a sport or indulge in some physical activity to keep your anxiety levels down
  • Do some breathing exercises to calm your nerves
  • Lastly, forgive them for your own peace of mind; very hard but very blissful.

All the best for a wonderful future!

UC: Hi Mam
In current world of lots of competition and jobs scarcity and unemployment whenever I see any opening, there are hundreds of applicants who apply for the opening I wonder whether HR person would really be able to check and short list candidates from so many applications.
My friend is under treatment for depression and anxiety and he is under medication and better now but unfortunately he has lots of work pressure in organisation where he works.
The team is not professionally qualified or experienced and manpower is also very less due to which there is wide gap between management expectation and delivery of results. Also his location is remote so employee turnover is also very quick.

He is trying to change his current job so that he can have work life balance and hopes that work becomes enjoyable and relaxed but doesn’t get calls from recruiters/consultants so he often thinks if he should resign and search for jobs.
He is 52 years of age, highly qualified chartered accountant with 25 + years of experience in a renowned organisation. But he is afraid about his future when he is at home. He has the responsibility of marriage of 3 children who are educated.

What should he do? Should he continue in his current job with pressure and unhealthy work environment or resign and then search for a suitable job?


Dear UC,

Your friend first needs to de-link his job from his familial responsibilities.

Once you link the two, the stress levels can hit the roof and that’s how the loop between anxiety and stress continues.

What is the point being so qualified, working and then coming home to build stress levels?

If stress did really cause anything positive, then by all means ask your friend to keep being stressed.

Maybe it is also time for him to think what else he can do with his expertise and his qualifications.

Post pandemic, the world is connected virtually and to be in a traditional workplace is no longer a requirement.

Do suggest to him that he can look at consulting, training and similar job descriptions that will allow him to connect virtually with people who need his services across the world.

Why be at the mercy of recruiters all the time?

When something does not work, it’s time to look for another way, another path to make things work.

No point applying and re-applying and getting dejected. Rejection forces a person to look for innovative solutions.

So, do tell your friend to first de-link work and home. They can co-exist.

In fact, family can become his biggest support in these times. And then ask him to think out of the box and look for newer opportunities.

Do wish him the best!


SL: I am a 27-year-old govt employee. I was in a relationship for 4 years but the guy was never serious about getting a job.
If I talked about it, he used to say I am showing attitude due to my job profile and looking down on him.
My parents are now searching a match for my marriage. My parents also like him but the job thing is creating a hurdle for them too.
Still my parents are searching for me and I can’t find anyone like him.
I want a job for him even if it’s in any sector so that he understands the importance and struggles behind earning money.
Am I wrong in my expectation? Should I leave him and go along with my parents’ groom searching process?

Dear SL,

So, you want to have a relationship with a man who doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of supporting himself; let alone supporting anyone else? And also, finger points and makes you feel guilty for doing well professionally.

So, how much longer before you realize that unless he makes drastic changes and acts like a grown up. There is no guarantee when he is going to move from this childish behaviour.

Short and sweet suggestion; see red flags in a relationship when they appear.

In your case they are: Making you feel guilty for doing well professionally and not being serious about growing up and getting a job to fend for himself.

So, decide whether by marrying him, you will be his caregiver (mother figure who teaches him the value of a job and money) or will you ever get a chance to be his wife. The decision is yours.

Do the right thing for yourself.

All the best!


Unknown: I am a 25-year-old woman who is still not settled in life.
I loved my relative who is 10 years older than me. He also not settled in life. He doesn't have property, no good family (his brothers are not good).
When he asks about marriage I used to delay because of my career.
At one point of time, he lost interest because of this delay. He is a good person but when we are spending time I am not much comfortable and excited as I was in the initial days of love – be it chats or calls. Recently I chatted with a stranger in Facebook and felt happier chatting with him than with my boyfriend.
Somewhere I feel like I want to cut this relationship but I can't imagine him with our girls.
If I marry him I won't get good family (relatives). He is not looking as good as he did before.

 Will I suffer any sexual issues with him in the future? He is still waiting for me.

Dear Unknown,

It seems like you have moved away in mind and heart.

It does happen in few relationships as there might have not been a strong emotion attached when the relationship began, or the emotion ceases to exist as you have moved on and changed.

Good or bad? Neither…it happens.

Be rightful and do not lead him on.

It is not his fault that you feel the way that you do. But you do owe it to him to tell him how you feel now, so that he is not living in a love bubble.

So, break it to him gently and wait for his response. It maybe anger, sadness, disappointment.

Be with him through the process. He may not want to speak with you for a while till he gets a chance to process it fully; accept that. He may blame you; accept that as well.

It is not your fault, but he will not have any other safe space to vent out his feelings. And once this stage has passed, discuss it very maturely together as to what the next steps can be.

Till then, it will be only you dealing with this in the relationship when it has to be the business of both.

And as far as sexual issues go, I don’t find any relevance of it as age gap never hurt anyone’s sex life.

And what do his relatives have to do in your relationship? It’s the two of you (if you choose to be together mutually) and anyone else is just an unnecessary add-on piling on to make more mischief. Draw boundaries and live happy.

Now, time to come out clean and then maturely process and decide the future course of action.

My best wishes to you!


Anu Krishna is a mind coach, author and co-founder, Unfear Changemakers LLP. She's an NLP Trainer (National Federation of Neuro Linguistic Programming, NFNLP, USA), Energy Work Specialist (Institute for Inner Studies, Manila), Executive Member of Indian Association of Adolescent Health (M.I.A.A.H) and Member of Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI). She has authored the self-coaching book: The Secret of Life – Decoding Happiness.

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