Mixed feelings about AGE DIFFERENCES in relationships

United States
April 11, 2007 12:49pm CST
I realize there have been lots of discussions on myLot about age differences in relationships-- people seem divided on what is "OK" and what is "creepy." Recently, I have found myself re-visiting the "age issue" from a closer perspective, and ended up with very mixed feelings. I know a young woman who has just turned 19. She's had a heck of a life already; her dad abadnoned the family when she was four, her mom's next boyfriend was an abusive alcoholic, her mother was emotionally distant and chronically depressed, and she ended up having to "run the house" from about age 10 (taking care of a younger brother and sister), and started working at 14 to help out the family AS WELL AS being a "straight A" student in high school. She's now has a 3.9 GPA in her second year of college. Needless to say, she is an "old soul," with greater emotional maturity and experience than many people TWICE her age. A certain uneasiness came about when she was telling me that she was seeing a 34-year old man. I guess she noticed my "raise eyebrow" because she went into a long explanation about how "men her own age" were basically BOYS and always seemed like "immature children" to her, while she felt like her "true peers" (based on life experience) were generally 30 or older. And I found myself realizing that I could completely understand WHY she'd want to be with someone older... because a central part of a good relationship is being able to "relate" to each other's life experience. But here's the "mixed" part: I found that I could be supportive of her wanting to date older men, but at the same time I found myself VERY SKEPTICAL about a 34-year old man who'd date a 19-year old. In a sense, it felt hypocritical, since I was basically saying that SHE could have reasonable intentions, but HE could not. What do YOU think about the situation? Am I just being weird because I know HER, but don't know HIM? Do you ever find YOURSELF in situations like this, where your own evaluation of a situation seems "inconsistent?"
16 people like this
28 responses
@moonmagick (1458)
• United States
12 Apr 07
In my opinion, it is perfectly acceptable. This coming from the perspective of one who had to grow up and raise siblings from a young age. I am 29 now. But I was taking care of my little sister when I was 10. And I just got more responsibility from there. I have always been an "old soul" and therefore often relate to people much older than myself. One of my best friends is 53. She and I have a lot more in common than girlfriends who are my own age. And the same was true when I was younger. I have always just been drawn to people quite a bit older, both men and women. Though I have never been in a romantic relationship with someone that much older, I definitely think if the right person with the same values and beliefs were to come along, age would only be a number. And its the heart and souls of the people that have to be compatible, not the numbers in order for the relationship to work. I can understand your concern about what he is doing with someone so much younger, but if you really think about it, if she is mature for her age, likely he is drawn to her because she fits with him. Not because he is some "messed up pervert" or emotionally immature. I think if she is a mature and responsible woman, then she most likely knows what she has gotten herself into, and with all she has been through, if it doesn't work out, she will come out of it with just another lesson learned on the bumpy road of life.
3 people like this
• United States
12 Apr 07
Thanks for that perspective. I really "caught" myself being inconsistent here, because I saw it as "OK" that she would seek out someone older... because I am yet to meet a 19-year old guy who'd even REMOTELY "get" who she is and where she's coming from. And I understand about "relating to older people," as part of my own childhood... being practically BORN into a situation where I needed to be "a little adult." And it puzzled me (and somewhat disgusted me, about myself!) that I was worried about HIM being OK, and not a sleazebag. From what she has described, they are quite compatible... and I basically just want her to be happy with her life; goodness knows she has had enough hardship.
2 people like this
@Limey73 (161)
• Canada
12 Apr 07
Our grand daughter, when she was twenty, moved in with a guy of 40........they lived together for a while, and married two years ago. Now she is twenty four, they have two children, and are as happy a couple as I've ever seen. Must admit we had our doubts at first, but they have proven to be unfounded. Only one thing nags at me a bit - at the moment he is young and active, and she is very mature, so the only real difference is in calendar age, which matters not NOW........However, what about when she is 45 and he is 65? Almost certainly the age difference will be considerably more noticeable then, especially if he is beginning to get infirm. Our next door neighbour was in a similar situation, and in her forties her relationship with her husband was more like father/daughter than husband /wife, and she became a fulltime nurse to a very sick man, and was left a widow at a quite young age........ Of course, every situation is different; but I think it's still something to consider when getting into such a relationship - for both to be aware of what the future could bring.
3 people like this
• United States
12 Apr 07
As Ras said up above, not all relationships necessarily last forever... and perhaps it is looking too far ahead, to consider "gray hair" at this time. Yes, the age difference can become an issue in old age... but who really knows how far this will go.
@whywiki (6070)
• Canada
11 Apr 07
I am 17 years junior to my better half. I was 26 when we got together so it is a bit different, but it was just meant to be. He would kill me if he heard me use the term "Soul Mate" but I think that maybe he was mine. We knew each other as friends for 5 years first and he watched as I matured and lived a little before we got together. I think life experience is valuable and many people are older than there age shows while others are immature forever! I think this girl at 19 has probably experienced more in her short life than others do in 50 years, so I don't think there is anything wrong with it and I think this man at 34 can see and appreciate her maturity. Maybe you should go out of your way to meet him, they probably could use a friend who understands.
• United States
12 Apr 07
I guess the thing is that we sometimes tend to take "biological age" as too much of an indicator of whether or not people feel connected... when ultimately what we should probably be looking at is compatible "EMOTIONAL ages."
1 person likes this
@Rachelg (221)
• United States
11 Apr 07
I Think that if the two people in the relationship are comfortable with it, then it is okay. If the girl you are talking about is comfortable, Let it go. It sounds like she has had plenty life experiences to where if this guy's intentions are not guinuine, then she would have picked up on that. She dosn't sound like a niave girl. I would trust in her decision, but always be there for her in case this thing does turn south. I have learned from expierence to let people make there own decisions and just be there for them, that way they don't resent you later.
3 people like this
• United States
12 Apr 07
Oh, I'm not going to interfere-- she's smart enough to make her own decisions. It was more my OWN reaction that puzzled me a bit, and demanded a second look.
2 people like this
@Melody1 (968)
• India
11 Apr 07
This young friend of yours has already been through enough upheavels in her life.She sounds like a very strong soul,a fighter and survivor. I've seen many couple with big age gaps and still happy with each other. You've mentioned that she's a mature woman for her age and so finds men her age as boys.It seems her mental frequency matches with the 34 year old guy. I don't think that his intentions can be questioned because he is much older.They find each other emotionally and intellectually compatible.That's a good enough reason. No,you are not being weird.We all raise our eyebrows at couple with huge age difference.It's quite natural for you to feel so,as you are concerned for your friend.have faith in her.She has seen enough and knows where she is heading to.Definitely she wouldn't want to commit herself to a relationship with a man she's not sure of.
• United States
12 Apr 07
It was a bit startling up front, but made more sense as I thought more about who she is... I'm sortof a big brother/mentor figure for her, and really just want her to be happy in her life, after all the garbage she has been through.
3 people like this
@angel68 (138)
• United States
11 Apr 07
my parents were 25 years apart and lived a wonderful life together raising 15 kids. so i dont think age is a big differnce unles its an under age thing
3 people like this
• United States
12 Apr 07
Certainly not underage in this case; I admire ANYone who can keep it together raising that many kids.
2 people like this
@SpitFire179 (2536)
• Canada
11 Apr 07
Her life sounds like a mirror of mine with some small differences, i had 5 younger brothers and sisters, and i raised them from 4, my mom was with the same abusive jerk until i was about 15 and moved out, the rest, pretty well the same. I'm with a man 35 years OLDER than me, and i'm 18. He's 53. I know many people find it creapy, but i've done the dating scene, i've tried it out with guys my age, and guys even older by a few years. The thing is, I love him, and no matter how he was, i still would, though doesn't mean if he was like my father i wouldn't take off. But he's a wonderful man, he's mature, sweet, gentle, and everything i would ever want, and he treats me like a princess when I'm being a biach, and don't deserve it. Some people may not understand the relationship, but the thing is, they don't have to live my life. I live it, and i have to say, I LOVE it. Congratulations to this girl. And as for the man being with her, if he truly cares about her, he'll be there no matter what. If he loves her, he'll be there through thick and thin, and never leave her side. As long as she's happy.
2 people like this
• India
11 Apr 07
well you cant really say that this girl is lucky until and unless you know the motives of that person and not every girl is lucky as you are and guys really tend to take girls of this age for granted and misuse and i think that the concern and the kind of mixed feelings she is having for her friend are right..
2 people like this
• Canada
12 Apr 07
what i'm saying, is if this girl is happy, and this man loves her, than she's lucky, I personally, am very lucky, my husband never one day in my life takes me for granted, and i don't take him for granted. Life is too short, you need to be happy, do what you want, within limits, and be with whom you want, if it feels right. That's what I'm trying to say. If she seems happy, and doesn't state otherwise, let it be, as long as she knows if she needs to talk she has someone, it's all good, if she wants out, she'll get out.
2 people like this
• United States
12 Apr 07
The key words for me is "as long as she is happy." And she seems to be, and it's not really my place to do anything but be supportive. Ultimately, ANYone who finds true love-- age difference, race difference, different nationalities-- is fortunate.
1 person likes this
• Grand Junction, Colorado
12 Apr 07
As always Denmarkguy a very thought provoking discussion. As I read through your discussion I couldn't help feeling the exact same way as you. I have found my self to be inconsistent on more that one occasion, I chalk this up to being human. :) I can see your friends point of view, I never related to guys my own age when I was young. I felt that I had grown up rather quickly and much more in common with older people in general. I can see the other side of that also, it would seem a bit creepy for an older man to be interested in a much younger women for any other reason than for the prestige. I'm also sure that their are many honorable men out there that don't think this way. That are genuinely interested in the women for who she is. My advise would be to get together in an environment that is both neutral and allows for conversation. Get to know the gentlemen and watch his behavior, you seem to be quite an insightful person and I think that you would be able to pick up on whether this person had genuine feelings or if it was all for the status. Then it would be up to you to share the information with your friend. It may take more than a single encounter and then again it may not. Best of luck to your friend and I hope that it;s genuine as your friend seems like she could really use some happiness in her life. :)
• United States
12 Apr 07
I guess we're all human, in our own ideosyncratic ways. I'm not her dad, just a "mentor figure" and friend, so it's not my business to get in the middle of this situation. If she loves him (and vice versa) and is happy, that's really all I care about. Whether I'll meet him, I don't know-- although it seems likely.
1 person likes this
@lifeiseasy (2292)
• United States
12 Apr 07
first i want to say , you must be a great friend to this young girl and that is something she must have really needed . Great job .as for her relationship , I can understand where you are coming form by saying that she is older than her years,but one never knows how old or young our one true love will be when they show up . I really feel that age shouldn't have anything to do with it at all . If she loves him and him her then so be it. I understand your concern and that is just you being a true friend and not wanting her to get hurt. have you met the man she loves? I wonder if you have , if you would feel different? but only she knows how she truy feels about him and even if you have met him you feelings might be alittte biased ...lol but let her live her life I am sure she is quite capable of managing it as she has done so very well all along ..I am not saying butt out , but let nature run its course with her and her realtionship . I hope for the best with her and I just hope she isn't falling for this guy because she has always wanted a father figure in her life ..but one never knows ... just remain her friend and talk to her if she need to talk ..thats about the best thing you can do for her ...
• United States
12 Apr 07
Ultimately, I just care about her happiness... and given the hardship of her earlier life, perhaps I get a little too much like an "overprotective dad."
1 person likes this
@joy358 (491)
• Philippines
11 Apr 07
I personally believe that age doesn't matter when it comes to a relationship. What actually counts is emotional maturity. As you have said your friend is wise and mature beyond her age so I think just let her be as she seems mature enough to know what she is getting herself into. Besides from her life story, I can see that she is a survivor so even if the relationship does not work she'll be okay and she'll be all the more stronger for the experience. If the relationship works out fine then good for her, she'll have happiness in life after all she's been through. All you can do is give her advise if she asks it and pray that all would go well in her lovelife.
• United States
12 Apr 07
Yes, emotional maturity is key. And I certainly understand who she is, and where she's coming from, because many parts of her life matches my own earlier experience.... I was raised in such an environment that when I left home at age 18 I related FAR better to 50-year olds than to my own peers.
1 person likes this
@weemam (13389)
11 Apr 07
I think it would all depend on what the 30 odd year old man was like , I can see where she is coming from that she would feel a 17 year old boy a bit immature , my middle son is 8 years older than his wife ( not a lot really) but we never ever gave it much thought as they are a good match , I have said it before and I will say it again , age is just a number , I will be 65 on Monday and yet my granddaughters say I am younger at heart than a lot of her friends mums and dads who are in their 40's , I think its just the way you react that makes the difference , I know a lot of 20 year olds who act old too , sorry pal I seem to have gone on a bit xxxxx
• United States
12 Apr 07
I have heard it said that "age is a state of mind," and perhaps there's something to that expression. From what I am hearing with this situation, they are probably a good fit, age difference notwithstanding. I guess-- in some sense-- I have fallen prey to the frequent talk about how older men who date young women are just "trying to bag a teenager." Which is really a pretty prejudicial assumption...
2 people like this
• United States
11 Apr 07
Your discussion of mixed feelings concerning this issue clearly makes it easy to understand the wisdom of people minding their own business about these things. I would trust her judgement and try to be friends with the new guy. Sure, sometimes I find MYSELF in situations where my own evaluation of a situation is "inconsistent". It happens all the time. I chalk this up to being human. Wishing happiness for your friend. :-)
2 people like this
• United States
12 Apr 07
I was mostly exploring my OWN reactions to the situation-- I have no intention of "getting in the middle;" I'm only interested in supporting her efforts to find happiness.
1 person likes this
@mdvarghese (1789)
• Bangalore, India
12 Apr 07
15 Years of age difference is not a factor......Mainly the understanding with each other counts......But i would like to mention that the 34 year old should be an unmarried... I and my partner have an age difference of 10 years.....We dont see any problem in this......
@wachit14 (3601)
• United States
12 Apr 07
I also have mixed feelings about such a huge age difference myself and I will tell you why. My own brother was thirty two when he married for the first time to a girl who had just turned eighteen. She was very mature for her age, but not really ready for such a huge committment. He ended up cheating on her seven years later with a woman who was even younger than her at the time (around nineteen). She ended up breaking his heart because she too was not ready for a committment. The fact is that this is the kind of thing that happens when there is such a huge age difference and, like you said, people need to socialize with other people who have had like experiences and that is what would be missing from such a relationship. On the other hand who am I to judge such a situation.
• Philippines
12 Apr 07
Yeah i found myself in that situation too. SOmeone asked me about a simple question and since I know my beliefs I answered immediately but when he told me about the whole situation, I started to deny my beliefs too. It really depends on the situation.
@hoghoney (3749)
• United States
12 Apr 07
age is not a problem I am 44 and my boyfriend is 33 and we get along great and life is such a joy. he keeps alot of humor in our lives. and life has a whole new outlook on it.
2 people like this
11 Apr 07
My last relationship was one with a 16 year age difference between us and to be honest I have never noticed that gap. Its the outside world that judges. I can totally understand her choice and would try not to be too skeptical. Age is only a number. There can be people her age that have wrong intentions just as much as people that are older. If she relates to the guy then who are you to judge them for that...
@subha12 (18463)
• India
12 Apr 07
i have not very personally seen situation like this. you are very much correct in your views. she is dating a man so much older to her as she has matured beyond her age for the hardships she has faced in her life.But i think, what ever may be, most of the time so much of age difference don't work well.
1 person likes this
• United States
12 Apr 07
I think part of the way we "grow up" as human beings comes when we recognize the difference between just doing things because "people in general" do them, as opposed to doing things because they fit our OWN unique life situations.
@marlyse (1056)
• Switzerland
12 Apr 07
i understand that you have mixed feelings. but see it in this way, this young girl had many situations to go through and aged to fast. now she needs some support from older men than boys in her age. maybe this relationship gives her strength and happiness. its something secure for her and i think she needs that at this moment. who knows how it will be in a few years.
@Damacoy (65)
• Philippines
12 Apr 07
your friend is looking for a mother or father figure. that usually happens when a child was abondoned or from a broken family. in her case she's looking for a father figure. someone she could rely on. someone she could depend on. someone who copuld protect her and nurture her. things she was deprived when she was growing up. to protect your friend... make friend also with the man she's dating. make sure he is not married... and he has good intentions.
1 person likes this
• United States
12 Apr 07
I don't think she's looking for a "father figure;" rather, I think shess looking for someone who feels like "a peer." The words she has used to describe men her own age include "immature" and "hopelessly irresponsible" and "unsettled." Having gone through a not dissimilar upbringing, myself, I remember being in college and being very ATTRACTED to women my own age... UNTIL they opened their mouths, and it seemed like nothing but "air" came out. My first "real" relationship was with a 31-year old teaching assistant... not because she was a "parent figure," but because she actually had a BRAIN, and could hold a REAL conversation about REAL issues in the world... and not just talk about "parties, cars and fashion."
1 person likes this