When It Comes to Dating, Grandma Knows Best
The granddaughter and grandmother team behind the 'Excuse My Grandma' podcast share what they are teaching each other about dating
Kim Murstein, 25, was living in New York City when the pandemic began in March 2020. She wanted to get away, so she moved in with her grandparents in Florida.
Murstein says, "I have always been close to my grandparents, especially my grandma Gail. I know she has my best interest at heart and I am comfortable talking to her about anything."
So it wasn't surprising that when they were living together, Gail Rudnick, 79, started weighing in on her granddaughter's dating life. "I was on a lot of dating apps, and my grandma would put in her two cents. She gave me opinions on where we were going and the outfits I wore," says Murstein.
Rudnick says, "Dating is a lot different now than when I was young. We didn't have apps or texting. Kimmy taught me all the dating lingo [like] 'sliding into DMs' and 'ghosting' someone." [The first expression means sending someone you don't know a direct message on Twitter or Instagram; the second means ending communication without warning.]
"I was on a lot of dating apps, and my grandma would put in her two cents."
Murstein, a producer, thought that the generational differences between the two of them about sex, dating and relationships would make a good subject for a podcast.
"There seems to be a divide between the generations. Younger people accuse boomers of being out of touch, and that older adults are looking down on millennials. When we started Excuse My Grandma, there wasn't another podcast that showcased the perspectives of people fifty years apart in age and how we could learn from one another," she says.
How Dating Has Changed
It makes sense that Murstein values her grandma's insight regarding relationships: She has been married for 58 years.
"Back then, most couples were introduced through friends or family," explains Rudnick. "There was less premarital sex, so you got married first, then you got to know each other. And if you weren't married by the time you were twenty-two years old, you felt like an old maid."
Watching her granddaughter navigate dating, Rudnick is impressed and believes this generation is a lot better off in many ways. She says, "Today, more women have careers. They are getting married later in life and waiting until they really know someone before committing."
"Dating apps are like having access to several bars in your pocket," says Murstein. "If you don't like what you see, you keep swiping. It allows you to meet a lot of people from different places. You are not confined to just people nearby and you don't need someone to make an introduction."
Adds Rudnick, "The apps widen the dating pool, which is good, but they also cause you to make quick judgments about people based on the photos they post in their profile rather than getting to know them."
Communication is Different
Murstein says that her grandmother's advice regarding communication is very different from what friends her own age have to say. She explains, "My friends and I tend to overanalyze texts from our dates, looking for hidden meanings and sometimes making excuses. My grandma sees red flags right away."
"If someone is interested in you, they will show it," says Rudnick. "And while women can pursue someone they like, I think men like to be in charge. They like to chase — it's human nature. So let them be the initiator and later, the relationship can become fifty-fifty. That may be old-fashioned, but that is what I believe."
Another pet peeve of Grandma Gail's is too much texting. "I understand it at first," she says. "But as you get to know someone, you should be talking more and texting less. And there is no need to send little texts back and forth; it just makes things complicated."
Meeting the 'One'
For Murstein, first dates are easy, but after that, it gets complicated.
"I'm happy to get to know someone, make small talk about where they went to school, what they do for a living… but dates two and three get tougher. I start wondering, are we a good fit for the future?" she says.
Rudnick calls herself "a big believer in second chances," adding, "It takes more than one date to get to know someone."
Says her granddaughter, "I do think it's dangerous because the dating pool is so big. We are looking for that perfect person and don't have to settle."
Grandma Gail counters, "There is no such thing as perfect. This generation is too focused on having a 'spark.' You want to find someone you are comfortable with and could see starting a life together. "
Grandma and Granddaughter Agree to Disagree
Even though they value each other's opinions, the two women disagree with some aspects of dating. One is outfits for dates. Rudnick thinks a simple black dress is ideal for a first date, whereas Murstein's generation leans towards more casual attire like jeans.
They also don't see eye-to-eye when it is time to meet the family.
In Rudnick's view, "After two or three dates, you should meet his family. A person's family is a good indicator of their values. You want to know where he comes from."
Murstein strongly disagrees, saying, "If he wants me to meet his parents after three dates, that is a red flag to me. That sounds desperate!"
Bridging the Generation Gap
While dating has changed over the years, some advice is timeless. "Kim and I aren't professional psychologists or life experts. But we are two strong believers in love," says Rudnick.
Murstein is grateful to have a chance to learn from her grandma's vast life experience.
"People have said they could never be as open with their grandmother as I am, or they wish they could communicate with their grandma the way that I do. My advice is to give it a try. Reach out to your grandma and start a dialogue. Bridge the gap and be open to another vantage point," she says. "And if you don't have a grandmother or you don't feel she would be receptive, I am happy to share Grandma Gail."
Experts Weigh In with Advice About Giving Dating Advice
While Kim Murstein is open to her grandma's advice on dating, other adult children may not be as receptive.
Emma Giordano, a New York City-based therapist with Empower Your Mind Therapy says "The main reason why parents want to be involved in their adult children's love lives is because they care and want what is best for their children. They spend their lives dedicated to the success and wellbeing of their children, and that does not stop when they become adults." Cultural backgrounds, spiritual beliefs and family values can also come into play, she adds.
"This generation is too focused on having a 'spark.' You want to find someone you are comfortable with."
Psychiatrist Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the "How Can I Help?" podcast from iHeartRadio, says, "It is not inherently good or bad for a parent to be involved in an adult child's dating life. Some children welcome their parent's input while others prefer they stay out of that aspect of their personal life."
Parents should still tread lightly if adult children are open to dating advice. "When parents express their desires to share their feelings on a child's dating path, they need to find a way to balance their care with uplifting their child's freedom," says Giordano. "Rather than telling them what to do, act as a dating 'coach.' This role allows parents to educate their child on making informed choices regarding safety, comfort and compatibility."
If your child does introduce you to someone they are dating, be open-minded. Saltz says, "It's a bit of a dance for parents. You want to be welcoming, considering the person might stick around for a while. But you don't want to get so attached or invested that your child feels pressure to make it work if the relationship is not suitable for them."
Having known their child their whole life, parents may feel confident that they know what they should be looking for in a partner. Saltz cautions, "If you see damaging, abusive behavior going on, you have a responsibility to step in. But otherwise, your child needs to know you respect their decisions regarding who they date. Let them know that you love them and you are on their team always."
While parents may want to protect their adult children from making mistakes or getting hurt, it isn't possible or even optimal.
"It can be challenging to relinquish control and watch your child face the consequences of their actions, but they are more likely to take those lessons to heart when they experience it themselves," says Giordano. "Allowing them to make these mistakes and feel supported in their choices will go a long way in building trust, valuing your advice and strengthening your relationship."