With our expertise providing both couples therapy and family therapy with adult siblings, our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist was recently featured in Brides and The Cut on navigating, respectively, romantic and familial relationships.
In Brides’ “Do Relationships With Big Age Gaps Actually Work?: We Asked the Experts,” Matt speaks to writer Gabrielle Savoie about how relationships with large age gaps can pose challenges, including “raising children, growing older together, how different career and life transitions align,” but ultimately couples can find ways to navigate these differences. “People can make all sorts of relationships work,” Matt says. “There’s a good deal of talk about having a lot in common as an asset in relationships, but differences can be just as sustaining with the right attitude and effort.”
One of the largest hurdles for couples of different generations is other people’s opinions. “Perception of friends, family, and strangers is by far the biggest challenge,” he asserts, emphasizing that couples can learn to ignore “awkward stares and critical comments.”
Overall, couples with large age gaps should have honest discussions about their challenges. In some ways, this sets May-December relationships up for better communication than couples that are of similar ages. “Couples with these differences must learn how to navigate things earlier in the game than others,” Matt observes.
Learning to tolerate direct and sometimes tough conversations is also essential for adult sibling relationships, as Matt explores in The Cut’s “My Sister Is So Cheap and It’s Driving Me Nuts!” Responding to a reader seeking advice about their strained relationship with their sister over gift-giving and finances, Matt encourages siblings to address conflict head-on. “When something’s not working, when you feel resentment and frustration, you have an obligation to find a kind but direct way of talking about it. It’s important to name a problem clearly,” Matt says.
In these conversations, particularly ones in which the relationship may already be tense, Matt urges siblings to approach the discussion with curiosity. He explains, “It’s important to push yourself to be open to the possibility that what you’re seeing might be based on incomplete information… If you’re going to invite somebody to address a difficult topic, I think you have a moral obligation to err on the side of openness, humility, curiosity.”
He also suggests reaching out to a friend or family member before talking to the sibling that can “be honest with you and provide feedback on your delivery.” He notes, “You may think that your tone sounds neutral, but it’s easy for these conversations to come across as accusatory, especially when there might be some history of that in the relationship.”
And if siblings can’t come to an understanding, Matt reflects, “You may need to go through a kind of grief.” He continues, “It’s painful to come to terms with a relationship that isn’t what you thought it was or what you wanted it to be.”