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34 year old dating 20 year old -very confused
December 8, 2012 2:26 AM   Subscribe

34 year old guy dating 20 year old girl - "robbing the cradle?"

So I'm actually the 20 yr old asking here, but I just wanted to get your perspectives on what may be going through the older guy's head because he is very conflicted...

He works in the industry I will be working in after college and we met that way. We became friends through exchanging emails which started off as professional/friendly but we quickly realized we had a lot in common and met again in person. I had always been interested in guys older than me but not 14 years older so he made the first move and asked me out.

We went out to dinner a couple of times in February and things were great: he treated me very well but I did not really want to rush into anything physical or emotional. Part of this is because I'm still a virgin. In contrast, he is very much not and has had lots of sexual relationships both casually and in long term relationships (his last one was 4 years-they broke up bc he did not feel comfortable with marrying her). Because of this, he often and very bluntly expressed interest in becoming sexual with me and at one point early into the relationship said he needed something more and I said I wasnt up for it so we split briefly because of that. By briefly I mean he immediately regretted his decision because he started texting and asking to meet up only a couple days later.

The issue is that these brief "breakups" have been common since February but for different reasons and we always get back together very quickly. We text everyday when we're together and when we're broken up we still text every 2-3days (he initiates mostly). Honestly its gotten to the point that if we havent talked in 2 days I feel weird.

He has since the first "I need more" breakup expressed that he does want more but has never pushed me. During the summer, he asked me if I wanted to be in an relationship with him. I was very happy about that and wanted to say yes but his idea of a relationship is very long term (3/4/5 years) which just seems so long to me. He says everyone he's asked to be in a relationship with, he had a similar long term view. This doesn't make sense as he's only had 2 long term relationships before. Does looking at relationships this way make sense to others here? I want to be in a longer term relationship with him (maybe 2 years) but I can't see anything more unless after the two years I think he is "the one". I do really want to be with him now and would be fully exclusive/invested in him and want him to be my first but the issue now is the more strongly I feel about him, the more he pulls away.

He recently said he couldn't be with me fully because he thinks "I'm still evolving and he doesn't want to influence me while I'm still growing" "He is so torn because he really likes me but doesnt think this is the right time for us and would rather wait until I'm older" The hard part is he says he would feel better when I'm 21 and infinitely better when I'm 25. He also says he might be wrong and "despite my being confused, I really care about you and would prefer you happy over stressed" and that "full contact doesn't feel right but no contact isn't right either" So it feels like he's stringing me along..but why is he doing this?? He had previously expressed somewhat of a concern for his influence/power dynamic the age gap creates but it felt like a warning/consideration he wanted me to think about and definitely not something that was deterring him. I guess before it was more of a speedbump now its like a brick wall or mountain in the middle of the road. He is convinced that if we were together now "I would hate him 5 years down the road for influencing me and taking the best years of my life" Can anyone shed light on these feelings?

After all of his blunt interest in the past, all of a sudden "he doesn't want to be the guy to take my virginity." He says he can't place the reasoning behind his views but part of it is because we are close friends and he really cares about me now...what is that supposed to mean? Before he preached about "strong feelings" and "love down the line" and I know he's told some of his family about me who seemed to have been supportive. How could someone who talks about that completely flip flop to "I can't see you anymore because if I do I know I won't let you go"? At this point he says he is comfortable with coffee/lunch (away from his house so we don't end up there). It doesn't make sense because I used to stay over at his place all the time...what could possibly be going through his mind?
posted by avenue to Human Relations (88 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
34 vs 20 is not necessarily problematic, however, the difficulties you are having do seem to be precisely the kind that people think of when they are wary of that gap. You have different expectations of the seriousness/longevity of the r'ship, of the sexual involvement of the r'ship, and you have vastly different experiences which seem to be creating an unbalanced power dynamic. It doesn't sound to me that he is behaving particularly badly... It sounds as though he likes you but is aware of the difficulties above. As the more experienced party it is not surprising that he is more alert to those. He sounds conflicted but it doesn't sound as though this has much of a future. One of the advantages of dating people your own age is that they are more likely (of course, not guaranteed but more likely) to have had reasonably similar levels of experience and levels of interest in commitment as you.

One of the things that became apparent to me with more experience (I'm about his age) was that relationships with this degree of drama/difficulty are actually not really worth pursuing, as much as strong initial feelings might lead you to believe otherwise.

Good luck.
posted by jojobobo at 2:38 AM on December 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


It seems like both of you are kind of looking at a relationship as a contract, which (to me) is a strange way to approach the topic. Assigning a length to a relationship that hasn't even started yet seems to be overthinking it. It might be beneficial to approach it as something that's happening and that you're enjoying in the present, with a view to potential future development, rather than seeing it as something that should/~has~ to last 2/3/4 years.
posted by littlegreen at 2:48 AM on December 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


I am an older guy and have had some experience with younger women. In my view, women under 22--this is of course a vast generalization--are still too young to know their emotional minds fully. 22 (for me) seems the age at which a woman knows what she wants etc.
That said, I married a young woman, 29 years my junior.We are now on our 29th year of marriage, with two great children from our union.
posted by Postroad at 3:03 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was in your situation 30 years ago. It is not meaningful to "regret" your life, but now that I have the opportunity to advise someone with almost exactly the same questions and choices, I really want to say: move on. He is in a very different place in life from you, and he doesn't seem very mature.
posted by mumimor at 3:03 AM on December 8, 2012 [27 favorites]


The dirty rule is as follows:

Age of Older Partner / 2 + 7 = minimum acceptable age to date someone.

In your cases:

34 / 2 = 17
17 + 7 = 24

24 is the minimum acceptable age for someone of his age to date.

Apart from that, I don't enter into relationships with preconceived ideas of length, generally, so all that discussion struck me as weird.

I do think that I personally matured a lot from 20-28 or thereabouts, so I understand the "not fully evolved" bit and think there might be a point there.

I'm not even gonna touch the sex issue, though -- when and with whom you choose to have sex is your decision (and your intended partner's, of course).

Overall, I have to say that there are plenty of fish in the sea. You ought to be able to find someone without all these issues and mini-breakups.

Good luck to you. :)
posted by juliebug at 3:12 AM on December 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


Forget rules.

As a 21 year old, I went out with guys 11 years older than me. In hindsight, and with the perspective of more experience, I was manipulated. Not much, but it was there.

My daughter is a very emotionally (and otherwise) intelligent 20 year old who is also a virgin, and I would not be happy for her, if she entered a relationship with a 34 year old at this point. I believe she deserves to have someone at her level, with her (popular) cultural background, who she can have as a friend as well as a lover.

An older man is fun, and exciting, and interesting, but my opinion, for what it's worth - not for your first. Especially if he's conflicted. You deserve someone who is in the same headspace/time as you.
posted by b33j at 3:35 AM on December 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


Are there circumstances where that age gap could work? Sure.

But not when you're a virgin.
posted by mkultra at 3:37 AM on December 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


Believe people when they tell you who they are. This guy is telling you in 5 years time, you'll hate him. I think there's a part of you that wants to help him and persuade him that you'll never believe that, and prove to him that he's a good guy. Actual good guys don't do that, they're just awesome.

There are power dynamics with such a large age gap - these are in his favour. The fact he wants that to be your problem not his is a massive screaming red flag. It sounds like he's giving himself a list of excuses so if he does hurt you, he can persuade himself he warned you. Listen to his warnings.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 3:57 AM on December 8, 2012 [34 favorites]


So I'm actually the 20 yr old asking here, but I just wanted to get your perspectives on what may be going through the older guy's head because he is very conflicted...

Actually, this guy doesn't sound that conflicted anymore. Yes, he had been sending you mixed signals in the past. But right now, he seems to be clearly expressing that he does not want to date you.

I think you need to move on from this one. If he can't enthusiastically get his head around dating you for whatever the reason, you deserve better.
posted by murrey at 3:58 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Between 20 and 34 you will change a lot (hell, you'll change a lot between 20 and 25). But by 34, he is pretty much where he's going to be. The worry with age gaps like that is it's very easy for the much older person to unduly influence the growth and development of the younger person, whether conscious or subconsciously, because the younger person is so very malleable at that point. Case in point: loss of your virginity. It would be hard for anyone his age who's been sexually active to not pressure you, simply because they're so accustomed to having sex. He's been having sex, legally drinking (if you're in the US), living independently, all of that for years. He has definite ideas of how he likes to do things and what he wants. Because he's sure of these things and you're not it is kind of inevitable that in some way you're going to be heavily influenced by him.

If he was extremely inexperienced in relationships himself this would be a little easier since you'd be thinking about these things together. That's not the case.

This does not mean you should be ready to have sex and shack up. You guys are in such different places that a relationship like yours will, 95% of the time, progress too slowly for him and too quickly for you, and both of you will be unsatisfied.
posted by schroedinger at 4:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think you should move on and it has nothing to do with the age gap. He wants a long-term relationship, you aren't ready for that yet. He broke up with you for not being ready for sex yet. You haven't been dating long and you're already in the break-up/get back together cycle. And he already isn't sure about the relationship because of your age. And he's uncomfortable with taking your virginity. From your post it sounds like he just doesn't feel right about dating someone 20 years old and his concerns seem legitimate to me. There's nothing wrong with dating someone older (IMO) but this gentleman isn't the older person that you want to be dating.
posted by Autumn at 4:10 AM on December 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


Age issue aside, it sounds like he is trying still trying to pressure you into sleeping with him by playing hard to get so you ultimately are the one who physically initiates. Also, it sounds like he has been preparing you for when he loses interest once he does succeed.

I think he's being selfish and doesn't have your best interest in mind.
posted by spec80 at 4:36 AM on December 8, 2012 [39 favorites]


After all of his blunt interest in the past, all of a sudden "he doesn't want to be the guy to take my virginity." He says he can't place the reasoning behind his views but part of it is because we are close friends and he really cares about me now...what is that supposed to mean?

1. He wants to do right by you; he doesn't want to make false promises to get into your pants. This has become increasingly true as he's got closer to you.

2. He isn't entirely clear on what you're waiting for. He figures:
2a. Maybe you're waiting for a serious expression of commitment from him. But he's getting near the limit of what he can promise in good faith.
2b. Maybe you're waiting for something he can't offer, but you haven't worked that out yet. Maybe you want a disney prince charming or a calvin klein model to light an instinctive fire in your loins. He figures if that was going to happen it would have happened by now.
2c. Maybe it's something else or you aren't sure what you want.

3. If it's 2a or 2b he figures if he persuades you to lose your virginity to him he'll be short-changing you - that you'll be thinking well, I was hoping for more, but I might as well settle for this guy. He doesn't want to do that because of 1.

4. If it's 2c he figures someone older might have thought more about what they want and might be able to clearly articulate it - or they'd have already lost their virginity and he wouldn't have to over-think this plate of beans.
posted by Mike1024 at 5:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


the issue now is the more strongly I feel about him, the more he pulls away.

RUN. Or don't, I mean, it's not the end of the world to have a little heartache, but still, this is such bad news.

It's gotten to the point where this kind of behavior automatically makes me lose a huge amount of respect for the person who is doing it because I've had such shitty experiences with guys like this in the past.

I think you could do a lot better and are getting caught up in the "will we or won't we" excitement that he's generating, and it sounds like a bit of a waste of time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:10 AM on December 8, 2012 [30 favorites]


You're aligning your actions on a lot of coulds. Yes, you could be miserable in five years time. But how will you ever know?

Apparently now you're both not confident enough to have your relationship. So don't.

I myself would go try it. As someone said, it's not a contract. If it doesn't work out, you or he will end it. If if does work out, you will enjoy it.
posted by oxit at 5:11 AM on December 8, 2012


My general rule of thumb- and it doesn't always apply, but I think it applies here- is that if your question about the status/ viability of your relationship is this long, and requires this much explaination, it's a relationship that you should probably not be in.

More specifically, if you are having to dedicate this much effort to trying to guess and gauge what's going on in his brain, you shouldn't be in the relationship, because in a healthy relationship if you want to know where the other person is at, you ask them, and they tell you, and you understand. The more time you need to spend finding ways to justify their response and turn it into the response you want, the less likely it is that this is a good relationship for you.

He's made it pretty clear that what he wants and what you want aren't compatible. That's all that you need to know.
posted by windykites at 5:12 AM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


OH HO HO I just reread your last paragraph. He has a girlfriend, hon. I would bet you a hundred dollars that he has a girlfriend and that's what's driving his newfound reluctance. He wants to string you along in case that doesn't work out and he probably does like you as a person, but he doesn't want to fuck you because he'd get caught and/or he wants to be technically faithful so he doesn't have to feel guilty about it.

I knew this sounded familiar! You are currently the backup plan/ego stroke.

How could someone who talks about that completely flip flop to "I can't see you anymore because if I do I know I won't let you go"? At this point he says he is comfortable with coffee/lunch (away from his house so we don't end up there). It doesn't make sense because I used to stay over at his place all the time...what could possibly be going through his mind?

Yeah, dude has a girlfriend, maybe even a serious one.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:20 AM on December 8, 2012 [59 favorites]


Listen to the young rope-rider, dude has a much better chance of having a girlfriend than you necessarily have the context to see.

Even then though, as a partner who is so young and inexperienced, you will be pretty much defined by your not yet developed boundary setting skills and lack of judgment or context for things that aren't so great about him. This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you dating people, but dating people who have developed established ways to interact with and recognize other people's boundaries as well as the context for understanding them puts you and your interests at a colossal disadvantage. It would also make you incredibly complicated at best for an ethically minded middle aged person to date. He clearly knows this, knows that in any conceivable relationship with you he would by default have all of the power and that this would be really terrible for you, and not only does he wants to date you anyway but wants to string you along for a while first?

Fuck that noise, you can do so much better.

"Does looking at relationships this way make sense to others here?"

Not at all, like, at all. That the ideas how relationships form and develop that he is communicating to you as normal are so profoundly idiosyncratic is also a profoundly bad sign.

You can do so much better.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:38 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Too much drama. A good relationship is both easier and simpler than what you are describing. I'm not bothered by the age thing (I've seen bigger age differences work fine, and terrible relationships where both people are the same age); this is plain and simple too much drama.

Maybe he has another woman like TYRR suggests, maybe he's just a drama guy, who know. The point is that this isn't good and I'll bet serious money that if you stay with him there will be tears.
posted by Forktine at 5:39 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


1. Never date anyone who's not wildly enthusiastic about you and welcoming of you into his life.

2. You don't plan when relationships will expire.


As for your life... I totally dated all these guys twice my age when I was young. Haha, from my perspective here in the future, at their age, guess what!? They were HUGE LOSING LOSERS. But that's okay, I had fun most of the time. (Ugh, not always.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:44 AM on December 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


Never mind what we think, he thinks that this potential relationship would be bad for you and damaging to you, but he wants to string you along towards it anyway. What does this say about him?
posted by Blasdelb at 5:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


What stands out to me is that there is nothing in your post about what you like about him. If you were 20 and you were like, "We are both really into building bikes out of steel and collecting stuffed parrots, and I ride my bike to his house every afternoon, and we're best friends and can't get enough of each other and there is tons of attraction, is the age gap a big deal?" then the answer would be no.

I feel like, at 20, you should try to date someone who you are really f#$%ing excited about and who is excited about you. A lot of that hinges on what you want to be doing with your time. What are you into? You should be getting up to adventures. If there is not a single thing in your post about what you LIKE about him that you want to be doing together (other than staring at each other and wondering if you should have sex or a relationship) then I think you can do better.
posted by kellybird at 6:02 AM on December 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


You've been dating this guy for almost a year. Has there ever been a time when it seemed kind of peaceful and stable and like you were just enjoying it? Have you ever felt deliciously in love? Because what you describe sounds like an exhausting rollercoaster. This kind of thing can make a relationship seem a lot more interesting than it is. (And I know you can't put everything into an AskMe post, but I'm not getting much sense of what excites you about this guy. You have a lot in common? You should be with someone who makes you feel GREAT. You have all the choice in the world; why would you pick someone who acts like this? I want to slap this guy for the way he keeps breaking up with you and playing hard to get.)

I say this as someone who married a man with more than that much of an age difference, and I met him when I was younger than you. I look back on that marriage with much fondness. There were also a ton of problems, many to do with my young age and poor judgment, as Postroad mentioned.
posted by BibiRose at 6:09 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't bother with this fellow anymore. I have a personal history with age gaps-- when I was 18 I dated a 43-year-old, which worked out just fine for both of us as a not-very-serious-but-nice thing. That was the biggest age gap, but there have been several others of 13-20 years, and those haven't worked out any worse than my involvements with people closer to my age.

HOWEVER, this guy is not what you want in general. Even if he doesn't have another girlfriend, he seems like a bit of a mess. If you can get out, you probably should. If you can't bring yourself to, well, bad times make good stories for later.
posted by Because at 6:20 AM on December 8, 2012


This guy is wasting your time. Call him up and let him down like the confused puppy he is. "Hey friend, you know, we've had some interesting times but I think it's time to cut bait. Best of luck!" It's that easy.

When I was a youngster, I dated a few guys who were much older and, yeah, they all turned out to be sort of losers. But, I handled them all pretty well, in retrospect. The guy who was joking about "jail bait" on our third date? See ya. Sorry -- if you can't handle the age difference then what the hell am I supposed to do? Another guy just really seemed to like showing me off to his friends but had precious little to talk about when we were together. My most serious age-gap boyfriend was only five years older but I was 19 and that was a big gap at that age. I realized that I wasn't ready to be his long-term relationship which is what he was very ready to have and so I broke it off. Later that summer, I accepted a date with a guy who I pegged to be about 25, maybe. Which is apparently what he pegged me to be at and when we discovered our gap was 19/32 we both sort of had an awkward coffee and then said, "hey, this was fun, see you around maybe." And that was the best outcome there.

Anyway, you have agency here. This guy is just not going to work out and who knows what his problem is. But he's 34 and if he can't get it together at that age then I don't think you want to mess around with him.
posted by amanda at 6:50 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


DTMFA. Not this fake sort of break-up you've been having, but for real. Not because this dude is older than you. Because this dude is a jerk.

It is perfectly okay to say to someone, honestly and kindly, "I like you, but I really want a sexual relationship, which you are not currently interested in, so I'm afraid this isn't going to work out for me." It is NOT okay to keep making blunt and forceful sexual advances toward someone who is clearly made uncomfortable by them, or to repeatedly try to pressure someone who doesn't want to have sex into changing his or her mind. (And just because he stopped doing that for the time being doesn't mean it was okay for him to do it, repeatedly, in the first place, or that he won't do it again.)

I think the issue here is that this man is attracted to you, but really wants to have sex, NOW, and is not patient enough to wait for you to feel comfortable about it, or reasonable enough to have a respectful and rational, no-pressure conversation with you about it. I think he feels just guilty enough about having those feelings, and having already pressured you over it, that he is now engaged in a weird kabuki dance about what he actually wants instead of telling you, or openly admitting to himself, what he actually wants (which is a partner who will have sex with him, now).

It's weird to demand a specific planned length for a relationship before it even starts. I think he started doing this in order to convince you (and himself, too, probably) that he's really for real committed enough to be worthy of you giving up your virginity and having sex with him.

It's weird to suddenly impose rules on a relationship like "we can have lunch dates but you can't come over to my house anymore." I can only think of maybe four reasons for him doing this: 1.) he is the kind of guy who just can't break up with someone cleanly and honestly, in which case, DTMFA, because you don't need that kind of drama 2.) he is hoping that cutting back severely on your time together will make you miss him enough that you decide to give him the "something more" he's been after, in which case, DTMFA, because he's a manipulator and he doesn't respect you, 3.) the young rope rider is correct, and during the year of your on-again off-again relationship he has found someone else, but does not want to tell you, in which case, DTMFA, because he's a dishonest cheater, or 4.) he is afraid that if you come to his house, "things will happen" (Let me guess -- has he said that exact phrase to you?) and he will give in, again, to his desire to "pressure" you have sex with him, where "pressure" might mean anything from unflattering begging to guilt trips to date rape. In which case, RUN FAST, RUN FAR, AND WARN OTHERS.
posted by BlueJae at 6:51 AM on December 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


I agree with everybody here. And the weirdest thing by far is the 'term limits' on the relationships. No, that's not usually how people approach relationships; typically, they are more open-ended in the the expectation is just that they'll continue until they don't, get progressively more intimate (unlike this one)(and I don't mean sexually intimate), and timetables only enter in if one party is wanting to move forward faster than the other, and then they have to decide how long they are going to give the current relationship to develop.

You have many other options. The most important argument here, I think, is that no matter what's going on, this guy is not acting at all like a guy who's interested in you for you. I know it's exciting to be the pursued one and to feel like you are caught up in star-crossed, tortured romance, but actually, compared to being loved and respected by a peer, it's all kind of crap.

This guy knows better. He's trying to get out. You should give him his walking papers to make it easier on both of you. You're 20! You should be having a great time dating people who are somewhere closer in life to where you are - wanting to get to know each other, enjoy spending time together, and making big life decisions at a pace that's appropriate and comfortable to you.
posted by Miko at 7:13 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]



It's weird to demand a specific planned length for a relationship before it even starts.


Yeah, that is weird. It reminded me of the movie Guinevere. There's this guy who dates a series of younger women for a couple of years apiece, and it's treated like he's a sort of postgraduate program they are going through. I think this is a good movie for people to watch if they find themselves dating mentor figures. It does put a positive spin on this type of relationship, presenting it as a formative experience, but it's rather eye-opening.
posted by BibiRose at 7:16 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Try going no-contact for some set period of time (perhaps three months) and don't break it--set an expectation with him that, as a matter of respect toward you, he needs to honor the no-contact period. Give yourself (and him!) some time to process your actual feelings, not the combination of chemistry and feelings and hopes that kind of swirl around you when you're together or otherwise communicating.

The whole "We're meeting at coffee shops but not anywhere that could lead to sex" plan is terrible, and I suspect he knows it. It will just keep the two of you in a space where the relationship is an enticing possibility, not a reality you're exploring and then choosing to continue or sever. AND! Neither his sexuality nor yours is a wild force that needs to be contained in public spaces lest it unleash itself--sex is something you choose to do together, and you could very easily choose to leave the coffee shop, go to his house, and have sex. Or, you could have a romantic dinner at his house and choose not to have sex.

Take him at his word that he no longer wants to be in the relationship he's been trying to persuade you to commit to. Ignore his flip-flopping about "no contact doesn't seem right, either." Go no-contact for a few months, and then decide how you feel about him--I think this is a good approach, generally, when you find yourself mystified by a potential partner's feelings/attitude toward you: take some time off and think about how you feel and what you want.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:17 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Block this guy's access to you (online, phone, etc) and RUN.

He's not a nice fellow, and I'm having a very difficult time understanding how a percentage of mefites in this thread interpreted his actions as though he is nice and trustworthy.

I dated with that age gap at your age. I'm older now.

Yes the age gap can be OK, but in your case, this guy is manipulating you. I think he maybe has a girlfriend, and either way he's playing games because you are still a virgin.

Go cold turkey. He should have initiated this when he discovered you weren't up for having sex with him.

At 34, he's planning on having a 4 to 5 year long relationship with you that includes sex. WTF is that?? Is he telling you he is not the marrying kind, but a player instead? I think so.

Also. All of the break-ups, and then re-initiating contact? Yeah. He's trying to wear you down so you'll sleep with him -OR- he's an immature drama queen. Either way, it's beneath you, at any age.

No, seriously. Block all access from this guy and move on with your life. He's no bueno. You deserve much much better.
posted by jbenben at 7:24 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Does looking at relationships this way make sense to others here?

Since you asked... I'm unclear if he thinks relationships have predictable expiration dates or if that's just the way things seem to work out for him. But if it's the first, I've actually known someone who thought that way. I think it was based on one of Ursula Le Guin's novels. Couples entered relationship contracts that lasted for a set amount of time, instead of getting married as we earthlings do.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:44 AM on December 8, 2012


It's less about the age gap then about this particular guy. I get a bad feeling about him. On the other hand, we learn by making mistakes. He seems to be the kind of mistake one could survive.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:56 AM on December 8, 2012


He is convinced that if we were together now "I would hate him 5 years down the road for influencing me and taking the best years of my life" Can anyone shed light on these feelings?

34 is when one gets self-conscious about one's age and voices one's insecurity by saying weird things to one's younger partner. Call him out on this stuff. Haven't you a choice (and a responsibility) in the matter too? Why would you inevitably end up hating him?

"I'm still evolving and he doesn't want to influence me while I'm still growing"

When my 18yr old daughter dated a dude in his early forties, I (as an [occasionally not so] amused onlooker) would have liked to see a bit more of this kind of perspective from him, even though it may seem somewhat patronizing on the surface.
Not only bad, say I.

That said, frequent mini-breakups are a bit of a reddish mini-flag nevertheless.
posted by Namlit at 8:04 AM on December 8, 2012


I don't think this guy necessarily has to be the huge manipulator and a Bad Person, as some commenters suggest, but might just be really torn in the way he describes. Because none of us is perfect, we don't always display full maturity at all times; so, despite realizing that he shouldn't be dating you (for all the reasons he says, he's quite right in those and it looks like he has a realistic view of the situation), he's still attracted to you, and those continued meetings just fuel the fire. So it's hard to let go of this possibility of a relationship, even if he knows that it's a really bad idea. I think if he *was* perfectly mature and reasonable, he would cut off all contact with you, at least until the attraction goes away and you can be just friends, but he's not, so I think he's just flailing around trying to find excuses and some miraculous way that this might work out after all.
posted by Ender's Friend at 8:11 AM on December 8, 2012


I'm a 34 year old myself, and I tend to date women 4-8 years younger than myself - in my experience, I'm had the best relationships from that age bracket. Occasionally I may break the unofficial "rule" and go out with somebody 10 years younger (when we really "click") but at the back of my mind, there's always this concern that maybe I'm taking advantage of her. I tend not to vocalize these feelings because dating is complicated enough without creating drama by saying every silly thought that crosses one's mind, but it's there.

So on the one hand, I want to reassure you that most of this guy's concerns and feelings are perfectly normal. On the other hand, the fact that he hasn't successfully resolved his inner conflict and continues to express it to you even though you have absolutely no ability to fix it (it's not like you can snap your fingers and magically become older) suggests that he's a drama llama. I recommend telling him it's time to man up and decide what he wants, then stop agonizing about it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2012


This just sounds like a complete mess. This: Before he preached about "strong feelings" and "love down the line" is crazy manipulative all by itself.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


At 34 years old, this guy has been alive long enough to know that frequent meet-ups at coffee shops and other "safe" locations "just fuel the fire," as Ender's Friend put it.

Whether the guy is playing with his own emotions, or playing with the OP's, this is not the trusting and honest relationship which leads to lifetime commitment the OP is looking for. This is a guy who thinks relationships top out at 4 to 5 years, max. The OP doesn't need to stick around to try and change someone who holds a stunted view on intimate relationships.

(And by the way OP, I think you are totally correct - after dating somone for two years, both parties have enough data to decide if the relationship will lead to marriage or not.)

OP, if you are going to date someone 14 years older than you, date a Man. Don't date a Peter Pan-type with commitment issues.

Being a player or an immature commitment-phobe with stunted views on intimate relationships does not make this guy a "Bad Person." But is he a poor choice for a boyfriend and/or first sexual experience? YES. Is he a poor choice for mentor or friendship material? ABSOLUTELY.

OP, the mini break-ups and chaste coffee shop lust isn't romantic because it is not leading anywhere solid.

Upon Preview, wolfdreams01 really nails what I'm trying to say:

"On the other hand, the fact that he hasn't successfully resolved his inner conflict and continues to express it to you even though you have absolutely no ability to fix it (it's not like you can snap your fingers and magically become older) suggests that he's a drama llama. I recommend telling him it's time to man up and decide what he wants, then stop agonizing about it."

In view of the multiple mini break-ups, however, I suggest you bypass the ultimatum (since it is just more of the same drama and you already know where it goes...) and DTGA*.

(*Dump The Guy Already. While I think DTMFA is snarky and fun, not everyone is a "MF.")

And I'm not totally convinced this guy hasn't started dating someone else by now. I wonder if this is in part what's behind the meeting in public places requirement? That would make him an "MF" in my book if he was keeping secrets and playing with people's hearts.

However, I can back off on that point and still say that in all my years of experience, I've learned this:

Relationships that feature obstacles and lots of mini break-ups never turn into what either person involved wants or needs.
posted by jbenben at 9:05 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks for all the quick replies. Sorry I may have painted him in the wrong light: he's never pushed me for sex. In fact, the one time I suggested that to him he said we weren't ready to go there yet. He's been meticulously careful about building up to it, the issue is more that I don't like oral and he thinks I should experience that before actual sex. He's never made blunt advances, just made it clear that he wants to fuck me eventually.

I genuinely don't think he has a girlfriend, albeit a serious one. He hates cheating and honestly working 80-90 hours a week I don't think one would have time for that. Going into the line of work he is in, I know personally maintaining one relationship is difficult enough, having two with that while working 80 hours a week is unreal. We also talk regularly on the phone late at night which I imagine is not very likely to happen if a girlfriend is a reality.

He's also definitely not a "losing loser" as some people have described. One of the reasons I like him is because he is very inspiring in his work ethic and charity work. He didn't grow up in the best of circumstances but has really built a great life for himself. He is financially more than stable and has never used drugs/engages in any high risk behavior.

Just some more comments - dont know if it will change people's perceptions.
posted by avenue at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2012


Having a good work ethic and not participating in high risk behavior/activities does not automatically mean someone is not a loser emotionally. He may be very good at dealing with his work life but make incredibly poor choices regarding his emotional attachments to people. From what you have shared here, he sounds like he likes you but cannot get past the age gap. This can create an unintentional power struggle, especially if you are not as experienced. I would step back from all of this, especially because of the history of mini breakups. That is just manipulating and drama-Rama.
posted by ruhroh at 9:36 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


the one time I suggested that to him he said we weren't ready to go there yet

I don't like oral and he thinks I should experience that before actual sex

This stuff still sounds like he may be fairly manipulative or, at least, as if it's not a relationship of equals. You should be having this discussion together; he shouldn't be telling you what you want out of a relationship. As many, many others have said, it's really not an issue of the age difference; it's an issue of the nature of the relationship. It doesn't really sound like a healthy relationship to me; he sounds as if he's taken on something of a paternalistic role, which is almost guaranteed to lead to a messed-up dynamic.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:39 AM on December 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


Have you ever had a Facebook friend who is slightly nuts and full of drama, and you keep looking at her posts and feeling irritated, and like you want to engage, and tell her to stop being so dramatic and fighty about everything, and it's this tiny thorn in your paw whenever you notice? And then eventually you just hide her posts, and oh my God, it's like night and day, the annoyance totally evaporates, and you can't believe you put up with it for so long?

In my experience, that's what this type of relationship is like. The drama is both annoying and sort of addictive, but as soon as you walk away, you're like - OH. Oh, wow. I didn't actually like that very much.

I don't know if the age difference is necessarily a problem, but does this relationship really feel fun and supportive to you? Or do you spend a lot of time with an anxious knot in your gut, wondering if he's going to call, or what he'll say when you see him, if he'll smile when you walk in or frown dramatically and then tell you you definitely have to break up this time, etc?

Like many people, I had a few mildly dramatic relationships when I was your age. And now that I am an old married lady in my 30s, I look back and am like "WHY? Why did I put up with that? Why did I engage with those people? I wasn't even having a very good time!"

Looking back, those relationships did nothing for me. They weren't fun, I wasn't learning anything very useful about how adults behave in relationships, and they were so full of mild drama and I felt anxious all the time. The only thing they had going for them was that the very drama they generated was mildly exciting and made me think "I guess this is what the beginning of a relationship is like! Maybe this is how you know this is going to be an important one!"

(No. That's how you know that the relationship will be ridiculous and full of drama.)

I mean, look, you're young and you're figuring things out. Will it ruin your life if you remain involved with this guy? Probably not (use birth control), but on the other hand... it sounds so stressful and unfun! You are a young, happening lady, and there are definitely other fellows out there who would love to date you without weird flip-flopping drama about everything. I personally think those guys are the ones you want. Just because dating without a knot of tension in your stomach is more fun!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:46 AM on December 8, 2012 [19 favorites]


Mr. BlahLaLa is 13 years older than I am, and we met when I was 24. We've been together for more than 20 years, so yeah, I don't think the age difference alone is a deal breaker. But the difference between our relationship and yours is that ours was drama-free and fairly healthy right from the get-go. Yours isn't. Drop it and move along. He's not the right guy for you, and the age difference is just a tiny part if why.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You have multiple people with much more experience telling you he's sleeping with someone else based on your last paragraph. Let me bold the parts that stand out:

After all of his blunt interest in the past, all of a sudden "he doesn't want to be the guy to take my virginity." He says he can't place the reasoning behind his views but part of it is because we are close friends and he really cares about me now...what is that supposed to mean? Before he preached about "strong feelings" and "love down the line" and I know he's told some of his family about me who seemed to have been supportive. How could someone who talks about that completely flip flop to "I can't see you anymore because if I do I know I won't let you go"? At this point he says he is comfortable with coffee/lunch (away from his house so we don't end up there). It doesn't make sense because I used to stay over at his place all the time...what could possibly be going through his mind?

I am 43. I wish that when I was 20 someone with more experience had shown me the things to look for. I'm showing you now. Run away from this guy. At best he's a muddled mess and a horrible mismatch for you. It's more likely, though, that he's a liar.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I would highly recommend rephrasing this question in your mind as "a 20 year old dating a 34 year old." That you put it the other way around just...it doesn't sound like you value yourself in this relationship.
posted by rhizome at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Too much drama, yet all of it backstage. Find a guy who isn't so squirrelly about his intentions and his life.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"...the issue is more that I don't like oral and he thinks I should experience that before actual sex."

This is just a massive red flag, the only thing that matters about what he thinks you want in sex is how far that is from what you want in sex. It seems pretty fucking far. It is also really not a good sign how much you've focused on what he wants instead of what you want.

From the distance of the internet, that you are at least under the impression that he works 80 hours a week is not actually a good sign, at least from where we sit. Working 80 hours a week is not something you can really do and date one person, I've done it before and it is really really non-trivial; that is 12 hours a day every day, which minus 8 hours for sleeping and leaves 4 hours total for everything else from shitting to laundry to commuting to eating. It sounds an awful lot like the kind of thing someone who spends a normal amount of time with their girlfriend would say to explain their naturally sporadic amount of time to the girl being groomed on the side. We don't know this, its probably not even that likely, BUT IT LOOKS AWFULLY SUSPICIOUS to the many people in this thread who have been in exactly your shoes before - please keep this in mind.

This guy is taking advantage of the many subtle and non-intuitive things you don't yet know to look for but are freaking the fuck out of the many older women in this thread who have literally been there and are trying to point them out. He is both fully defining the relationship, hell you even phrased your question as if from his perspective, and using that power to craft a really unhealthy one.

You don't need to deal with this bullshit.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


Breaking up and getting back together multiple times is something that teenagers or other 20 year olds do, not mature grown men in their 30s.

I don't think the issue here is this man's age, but rather his maturity (or rather, lack thereof). He seems to want to control the level of contact you guys have, the amount and type of physical contact, and the length of your relationship.

OP, is that what you want from a boyfriend?
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


"...the issue is more that I don't like oral and he thinks I should experience that before actual sex."

That makes no sense from any angle; it sounds like an excuse and a half just not to go there.
posted by Miko at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Late night conversations makes this worse, not better.

He's keeping you from being intimate with anyone else, any one who is not him. Yet, he doesn't believe in relationships that last more than 5 years? And he doesn't want to be your boyfriend, anyway? Wow. Please don't let someone like this have that kind of power over your present or future.

Your first statements about him pressuring you for sex were very clear.

Also, your statements were very familiar to me, so therefore, much more believable than your backtracking. Please don't make excuses for this guy. It is NOT your fault that he came on so strong and inappropriately, so don't take on his burden by now downplaying what happened. You're better than that.

Please understand that men will be propositioning you in ways that reflect poorly on them (not you) for many many years to come. No one here is slut-shaming you, so don't you do start doing that to yourself!!

Telling you what kind of sex you should engage in? Huh??

That he has weighed in with his opinion on what type of sexual intimacies you should try, and in what order, despite the fact that he's rejected you as too young, yet he texts and phone calls you like you are his girlfriend....but he doesn't believe in relationships lasting to begin with....

Yeah. That spells "User." I don't know what his problem is, and you aught to quit worrying about the Why's, How's, and What's of this guy, too.

Put your attention on how wonderful you are, and start looking for someone who fits your Ideal Partner & Relationship.

Every second you spend talking to or thinking about this guy puts you further away from appreciating how valuable your time and energy is, and further away from being in the relationship you really want.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a weird feeling that this guy is an investment banker, or at least that type. In that culture, a pretty 20 year old virgin is a trophy. I suspect he can't bear to give the trophy up to anyone else, but is aware of how using you would harm you; thus, his conflict. You can do better. Stay away.
posted by 3491again at 10:47 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


OP:

Your follow-up response has made it abundantly clear to me that 1) you like and admire the man, and 2) you're going to become increasingly uncomfortable with the responses on this thread.

So, my practical answer for you is No - he's not robbing the cradle. Age gaps are not the critical issue alone. Rather, continue seeing him as long as you are fulfilled and enjoying the relationship with him. When that changes, move on.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


OP, of the things wrong with this relationship, the age difference is not one of them.
posted by spaltavian at 11:35 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I do like him but I also do really appreciate all the advice that everyone has given here. I believe there is cause to question the relationship (I wouldn't have posted if I didn't). In the follow up comment, I was just trying to make sure I was portraying it the right way which might not have been the case when I posted late last night
posted by avenue at 11:36 AM on December 8, 2012


Ugh this guy is way too immature and gross for a 34 year old guy. He wants to have sex with you and then put in caveats and pretend he has a deep emotional life.

He's gross and immature and wants to have sex with you and will say whatever it takes. What I'm getting is that he doesn't love or care about you. He isn't even respectful but is trying to seem like it. So gross.
posted by discopolo at 11:44 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I tend to agree that 20 is quite a different stage of life then a few years later, such as 24, and that in that sense 24 is much "closer" to 34 than 20 is. It's a different stage of life in terms of maturity and in terms of life experience, and the reason is because there's usually a long process of transitioning, rather than an overnight one, from being a dependent child of parents to being an independent adult who is a mature grown up person, and for many people that transition is still a work in progress when they are 20 but is much more completed when they are 24. I think what this guy is experiencing is a struggle between being attracted to you (personality, etc.) and feeling he's too old for you, and the result is mixed messages and uncertainty.
posted by Dansaman at 11:50 AM on December 8, 2012


And I agree with everyone saying he has a girlfriend. He's regularly having sex with someone who doesn't know he's saying these things to you.
posted by discopolo at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


When I was in my early 20's I dated a lot of people in their 30's.

I didn't feel that it was inappropriate, or that anyone was "robbing the cradle" or that I was being taken advantage of in any way. In fact, quite the opposite -- in most of those situations I felt like a mooch because I had less money than my partner and in general less ability to be the "giver" rather than the "taker". I also felt like I was holding those partners back, that they should be off building a life for themselves, not running around with a 22 year old.

That said, there were some really big drawbacks to the age difference.

For one thing, the power differential of always being the needy one in the relationship and never being able to give generously of myself really bummed me out. I also felt like my partners were experiencing pressures about dating someone so young, while if anything I was getting approval from my friends about my choice of awesome partners who, like, had jobs and were good at sex and stuff.

Also, in every case, we were in very different places in our lives. This meant that the relationships were ultimately doomed. In almost all cases, these people broke up with me to date someone closer to their own age. In most cases, a specific person closer to their own age. It really sucks to hear "I met someone else" or "I'm going to start seeing [Katie] exclusively" rather than the general "this isn't working out" breakup script. The constant threat of there being someone else who was more appropriate for my partner to be dating (and thus who would always win out in the end) kind of messed me up for a while.

I'm also a little concerned that you are still in college, while presumably your boyfriend is not. College is really a time to be in the headspace of school, and it's hard to do that if your primary social interactions are with people who are not in school, or worse, people who left school behind 10 years ago. As a 31 year old, I absolutely would never consider dating a traditionally-aged college student. Not because the 10-12 year age difference is too much, but because of the college kid thing. I'd consider dating someone who was 21 or 22 but out of school. I would not consider someone the same age who still had a year or more of college.
posted by Sara C. at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I also somehow missed the whole virginity thing in your question.

No. Just no.

As a virgin, you are basically incompatible with someone in their 30's. You are sexually on different planets. Go date someone who is around your age, who will see the whole "losing my virginity" thing from the same level you do. Hell, a 20 or even 23 year old guy has a decent shot at being a virgin himself, or at least being sexually inexperienced enough that this won't really be a thing.

Someone who is 34 and became sexually active around the typical age range has been having sex for close to half their life now. It's like the difference between community theatre and Broadway. Go find someone your age to experiment with.

I also feel like this guy has a girlfriend and doesn't want to "take your virginity" because he doesn't want to be the kind if immoral asshole who cheats on his girlfriend with a 20 year old virgin. Or he doesn't care about morality and doesn't want the drama that is inevitably going to accompany you having sex for the first time.
posted by Sara C. at 12:04 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think you are asking the wrong questions, frankly -- or at least, of the wrong people. This guy is trying to dump you without actually doing the dirty work. None of what he said before really matters -- listen to what he is saying/doing now. Further, he's the only person who can really tell you why that is, but he probably won't, because he seems pretty concerned with not being a "bad guy." Thus the stringing along.

But what it sounds like is that there are some real incompatibilities here, only some of which have to do with the age gap. Brief breakups that are common are NOT normal, under any circumstances. I'm also with those who think that there's someone else in his life.
posted by sm1tten at 12:05 PM on December 8, 2012


It also occurred to me to ask you what your family and friends think.

If, as I'm going to guess, you haven't told them, or many of them, think about why that is the case.

One hallmark of a worthwhile relationship is that it isn't secret.
posted by Miko at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I understand why alot of people may think he has a girlfriend (at least not a serious one) but here's just some reasons why I think he doesn't:
1) He texted and called me during thanksgiving. I heard all of his family in the background
2) Part of his "love down the line" preach was that he wanted me to meet his family during Thanksgiving /Christmas.

Of course, you all could be right and he could very well be fucking someone else.
posted by avenue at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2012


I have been kind of there and done kind of that and this guy is BAD NEWS. He's telling you what steps you should do what sexual activities in. He's an adult professional dating a college student aspiring to that profession, which is a big power imbalance. He has all kinds of bullshit rhetoric about how relationships "should" be. He makes decisions about the relationship without your input.

You deserve better than this. You really do.

And he probably is fucking someone and either it's someone who's not that into him and doesn't mind his head games because she's just looking for a fuckbuddy, or he's running his head games on her, too, and called her after he got off the phone with you on Thanksgiving and laid the same script on her.

And why is he doing this? Because he's manipulative. Because he clearly thinks of himself as some kind of romance guru. Because he gets off on having a young, bright, attractive woman be pining after him. Because he honestly likes you.

But the last reason is so
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Whoops! "...so outweighed by the others" is how that should end.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2012


Avenue, I can't say whether he's seeing someone else, but those aren't convincing reasons. 1) is a common enough thing to have happen when someone is cheating, kind of classic actually, and unless he's all "I love you avenue! Everybody say hi to my girl avenue! We wish you could be here sweetheart!" he could easily have an excuse ready about who he's calling.

And 2) is just a promise about the future, and those aren't real things happening now. They're just words.

Again, he may not be seeing anyone else, but these behaviors aren't substantive evidence for that. They can be and have been entirely consistent with seeing someone else, as those of us with relevant life experience can attest.
posted by Miko at 12:33 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every time I dated someone in their thirties when I was in my early twenties, they were seeing other people in addition to me. None of them had serious girlfriends they were trying to hide from me, but in each instance I was not the only person in their life. We were not dating exclusively. If nothing else, there was a lot of competition between me and other women they were potentially also seeing.

It just seems completely bizarre to me that this dude in his mid thirties is carrying on an exclusive and serious relationship with a 20 year old college virgin who he has no interest in sleeping with. Frankly, if that's the case, I would be a lot more worried about his overall fitness as a partner. That's a massive gigantic red flag "THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY BADLY WRONG WITH THIS GUY" situation.

If nothing else, he's playing the field and has eggs in different baskets. Maybe he doesn't have a Serious Girlfriend of the sort he'd spend holidays with, but you are not the only woman he is involved with.

I'm also wondering if you guys don't have different and incompatible views of the nature of your relationship. Like maybe you see this as an exclusive Boyfriend-Girlfriend relationship leading towards marriage, and he sees this as a casual open thing where, because he's not having sex with you, he is free to see other people.
posted by Sara C. at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


He's not a TA/professor anything of that sort. I don't see him as "the one" I am not leaning towards marriage. HE is the one who makes it seem like that's what he wants. He's hinted at it multiple times. He has expressed multiple times that we are exclusive bc I asked him if he was seeing someone else. It seems bizarre to me too! He wants to get back together when I am 25/26 and pursue an adult relationship at that time. I don't want that because at that point I would be looking for a husband. I'm not at this point in my life.

Also thanks for everyone's insight on possible other girlfriend. I've never been cheated on personally and most of my friends' partners who had cheated on them were not particularly sneaky/manipulative so did not consider all his efforts could still be possible while non exclusive
posted by avenue at 12:50 PM on December 8, 2012


I don't know if he's trying to backpedal on the relationship, or if he's trying to manipulate you, but the line about what you "should" experience sexually and in what order is not good. You get to decide what you want to do sexually, and when, and with whom--and if the person you want to do those things with doesn't feel the same, that's totally fine and totally the person's right to express it, but that's different from telling you that your desires and preferences are wrong and instead they should be X.

The level of teaching (here's how to do sex), controlling (relationships work best if you take my view of relationships), and self-doubt-complaining (you're so young, you're going to hate me in 5 years) he seems to want to do with you is not worth your time. He doesn't have to be a totally awful person for this to be true. He may not be consciously manipulating you even if the inherent power/experience imbalance nudges you toward trusting him and doubting yourself. He can be nice and fun and smart and still not be worth having a relationship with because the two of you just don't seem compatible, and he doesn't seem like a good relationship prospect for you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am about to share with you the root of all relationship wisdom,

If something about someone else's behavior feels weird to you, it probably should, and investigating why will lead you to the wisdom behind why it felt like something weird and not something known. This dude's behavior seemed weird to you, and you've gotten a lot of excellent advice to this question from folks who have followed similar threads of weird feelings before. Really I hope we can convince you to not only carefully and calculatedly DTMFA, because honestly there are a bunch of things (Like, if he is trying to push exclusivity on you that is really not ok; you get to decide when you don't want to date other people, not anyone else) that seem really weird in really not ok ways, but also to trust your instincts and then think through them.

Women in particular are generally socialized to not trust their instincts, to devalue them, and to consider them irrational. This only serves one purpose, to make women more vulnerable and manipulate-able.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm not at this point in my life.

You seem to know your answer - you're at different places in your life. You want to date people in a not-heading-right-to-marriage way, maybe be sexual with people you're really close to, but not marry the first person you are with out of the gate. Meanwhile, if what you say is true, he wants a longer, exclusive relationship, but he wants you to wait for that until you're 25 and will meet his requirments.

It's not going to work. You're going to be a different person in 5 years, and so is he. Who knows whether you'll be looking for a husband. You are capable of change. In fact, you are guaranteed to change in ways you can't predict yet.

And because of that, relationships really can't be put on hold until a more convenient time. And it's unfair of him to ask you to pay attention to him in the interim, while he's also saying that he can't date you, openly and uncomplicatedly, and meet your needs right now.

It's not wrong of you to feel like this isn't what you want. You are totally correct in diagnosing a disconnect betwen your desires and life stages and perhaps a fundamental attitude toward relationships - what they're for, and who is an appropriate partner. It's really hard to try to force something like this to happen. You both want different things right now, and you're likely to want different things in the future, so even if you try to be together, it means one or both of you are going to be uncomfortable and unhappy. Why would you want that? It's not going to work out perfectly, as you might wish in fantasies. He's telling you loud and clear that it can't work now. Meanwhile, though, it's shitty of him to expect you to spend 'friends' time with him and pay attention to him and focus on him when he can't/won't do the same for you until you reach his age barrier (if that's even the reason).

Listen to folks who say that the simplest things is: good relationships don't pose this many complications.
posted by Miko at 1:12 PM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


the issue is more that I don't like oral and he thinks I should experience that before actual sex.

My goodness. He said that? And he's 34? He may have many fine qualities, I'm thinking an abundance of emotional maturity...not one of them.

All other factors being equal, would you be putting up with this nonsense he were a 22 year old Starbucks barista?

I tend to agree with the others that there are substantial power differentials here in terms of age, experience, success and status. If he is using these advantages to leverage permission to behave like an ass, then yeah, he's an ass.
posted by space_cookie at 1:35 PM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


He sounds yukky, first of all. Everything you've described would turn me off like a switch, all the discussions about the technicalities of exactly what sex he intends to dictate to you, ew.

"he doesn't want to be the one to take my virginity" - what he means is he does want this, and is saying so via denial because he doesn't want to think he's a cradle snatcher, wants you to beg for it, and also has a gross fetish for virginity. Yech.

Suddenly flipflopping from hot to cold looks like a convenient seduction technique he can use to keep you on the hook while preventing you from colliding with his other girlfriend or whoever else it is he's working on right now.

I think he is what you'd call a "cradle snatcher" probably because he is less mature than the average 20 year old and he is fetishising your Virginity!!!! Which he doesn't want to Take because he might absentmindedly forget to give it back to you and walk around with it in his pocket and then throw those pants in the washing machine by mistake!!! because he equates it with gullibility.

Thing is, being 20, there are things best learned by experience that you haven't had time to learn yet, and he knows it, and you know it too. Therefore, you decided that the best thing was to come here and ask people about it, because you're sane and intelligent, while he is still over there monkeying around with immature head games that just make me want to soak his head in a bucket on your behalf.

Sorry to be so rude about the guy you have the hots for, but I can't really form a positive opinion based on what you've said about him. It's no reflection on you or your taste, I understand that your loins may be afire here, and the mixed messages are holding your attention, but that's what it's for. Please, please find someone cooler who has no suspicious power dynamics going on (therefore probably closer to your age).
posted by tel3path at 2:17 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


He's not a TA/professor anything of that sort. I don't see him as "the one" I am not leaning towards marriage. HE is the one who makes it seem like that's what he wants. He's hinted at it multiple times. He has expressed multiple times that we are exclusive bc I asked him if he was seeing someone else. It seems bizarre to me too! He wants to get back together when I am 25/26 and pursue an adult relationship at that time. I don't want that because at that point I would be looking for a husband. I'm not at this point in my life.

Well, I can see how it's flattering that the guy who can't commit and hasn't slept with you yet is promising to change once you turn 26. But it's also weird and creepy and a huge lie. There are people who like saying stuff that makes them appear to have genuine motives.

Also, his family doesn't know who he was calling. I'm sure they don't know and don't ask specifics. Don't get easily impressed and lulled into trusting this guy. He's gross.
posted by discopolo at 2:17 PM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


The age difference doesn't really matter here. Whether or not he's fucking someone else doesn't really matter here. That, to a lot of us, he sounds really emotionally immature doesn't matter. What matters, in this and in every relationship, is whether you're happy, fulfilled, and joyful as a result of being with this person. It doesn't sound like you are. He can be a basically nice guy who you like a lot and are very attracted to and still not be a person you should be with

You two don't seem to want the same thing. It doesn't sound like you're a team. Everything about being with him seems suffused with drama, uncertainty, unhappiness, and complication. I promise, love doesn't have to be so hard all the time.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:18 PM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Eh, and he's hinting at marriage because he assumes that as a 20-year-old virgin you must be saving yourself for marriage on some level whether you admit it or not, and besides you're a chick, don't all chicks want the white dress parade?

At least that would be my guess. He's probably interacting with a stereotype and baiting the hook based on what he thinks the stereotype wants. In my experience, that's usually what's behind it when people talk about future rewards in ways that don't make sense.
posted by tel3path at 2:34 PM on December 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


I understand why alot of people may think he has a girlfriend (at least not a serious one) but here's just some reasons why I think he doesn't:
1) He texted and called me during thanksgiving. I heard all of his family in the background
2) Part of his "love down the line" preach was that he wanted me to meet his family during Thanksgiving /Christmas.


Just because he was with his family for some amount of time on Thanksgiving doesn't mean he isn't sleeping with someone else. I think you're making assumptions about what another relationship of his would necessarily look like. He could've seen her (or him) later/earlier in the day, or not at all on Thanksgiving. Your hearing his family on the phone in no way precludes him from having a sex life that doesn't involve you. I'm sorry.

Aside from this, it sounds like you're badly mismatched in almost every way but one: He says he really cares about you. But his actions don't match his words, so even that's a mismatch.

So ask yourself what it is you like about this guy so much that you're willing to put up with this. Because you deserve much better.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:41 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm 20 years old too. I haven't had a serious relationship and I haven't ever dated anyone that much older, but I'm your age and I thought I would offer my two cents.

I don't know what's going on through his mind. He seems confused and I don't think he even knows what he wants - let alone, what he wants from you.

For that reason, I don't think it's worth your time. I see friends of mine get their pants in a bunch over relationships all the time and I have no idea why. We're 20, we're young and we have so much better things to do than to stress over relationships that clearly are not going to work out. The drama and the guessing just isn't worth our time and headache. We're only young once and really, there's probably a thousand things you could do that doesn't involve this guy pulling you around in circles.

At this age, we deserve relationships that are fun, light and full of enthusiasm. This guy really does not seem to be it and you will have lots of other opportunities to meet fantastic people that do deserve your time.
posted by cyml at 4:24 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I can't say for sure what this guy's deal is, but I can say he's fucking with you. Whether it's because he's a horrible manipulative person or whether he's just incapable of sorting out his own emotions is actually kind of beside the point. The point is (or should be) that happy, healthy relationships that haven't even gotten off the ground yet don't cause this kind of agita and just aren't worth it in the end.

Go find someone who makes you happy and enjoy the hell out of your 20's.

I wish I had.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:22 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm 30. There would be no issue with a large age gap, but I would not date this man. He sounds flaky and emotionally immature. I'm sure he's very intelligent and a dedicated hard worker, but experience has taught me that doesn't always lend itself to how someone acts in a relationship. (In the experience of me and most of my friends, men who work 80-90 hour work weeks are often very bad in relationships.)

Also, from the perspective of someone closer to his age, I can not see someone in their mid-thirties having this emotional relationship with a woman that involves nothing physical for almost a year, when they are used to physical relationships, without them seeing someone else on the side - unless there is some sort of health or emotional problem he is hiding from you. (This question and your follow-ups start to make a weird sort of sense if he has erectile difficulties.)

The ability to acknowledge you have feelings for someone who is not suitable and to walk away from it is really really hard. Many people never learn it. If you can learn it at 20 it will be like a relationship super power.
posted by Dynex at 11:28 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am an older guy and have had some experience with younger women. In my view, women under 22--this is of course a vast generalization--are still too young to know their emotional minds fully. 22 (for me) seems the age at which a woman knows what she wants etc.

As a 23-year-old I kind of agree with this more that I thought I would. I dated an older man when I was around 20. I had no clue what I wanted but this kind of manifested in terms of a background noise telling me I was eventually going to move on, not taking things too seriously, &c. Now at 23 I'm much more clear about what I want (or what I think I want, at least).

As a 21 year old, I went out with guys 11 years older than me. In hindsight, and with the perspective of more experience, I was manipulated. Not much, but it was there.

My daughter is a very emotionally (and otherwise) intelligent 20 year old who is also a virgin, and I would not be happy for her, if she entered a relationship with a 34 year old at this point. I believe she deserves to have someone at her level, with her (popular) cultural background, who she can have as a friend as well as a lover.


Agreed. Looking back, I feel I was manipulated too. It's hard to think about because I know he wasn't manipulating me "on purpose," but something in the very fact that he chose to date me at all, he saw how malleable I was and still went ahead with it... it just creeps me out in retrospect. I'm only a few years older and I can already see how impressionable I was then, and he was 38, he should have known better. Not a good way to feel about the guy you lose your virginity to, if it came to that.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:07 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"He wants to get back together when I am 25/26 and pursue an adult relationship at that time. I don't want that because at that point I would be looking for a husband. I'm not at this point in my life".

You don't want him permanently in your future, so don't get involved with him now/let him be your first, that's just going to unleash a whole mess of emotional entanglement that's going to be hard to get out of later. You already know you don't want a life with him. Find someone who's looking for something light and fun, because that's what it seems your really looking for yourself. I'm sure you can find plenty of people looking for that same thing. I don't thing age is the big issue, it's just not the right situation.

If you're really hung up on the reason why he's being distant now, I think he only wants things when he can't have them (texting the day after breaking up because you didn't want to go further sexually, meeting for coffee and no longer at his house after you start vocalizing interest in being physical). Also deep down he probably really is the one who has an issue with the age difference, that's why he rather let it stay unobtainable and not turn into reality. I have a guess with the things you'd stated he's said previously, he might just leave you after, if you two should become intimate.

With all things said, it really doesn't seem like a good prospect. You haven't really said anything other than you really admire him, as far as what you like and see in him. Find someone who excites you and is into you, and not sending mixed signals. That's the realtionship you should be in, not this one, for all the above reasons.
posted by readygo at 2:20 AM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Adding yet another voice to the "get off this guy's hook and enjoy your 20s" group. Think about the way you feel when he hasn't contacted you for two days. Think about the feeling you get when he pulls away from you when you start to express strong feelings. For all he says about caring about you and wanting to see you happy not stressed, he's KEEPING you insecure. He's causing you much stress.

The cynical, burned by similar behavior part of me wants to say that if you do end up having sex with him (which, you want to, and his recent withholding is maybe making you want it more), he will probably suddenly feel "comfortable" with no contact and pulling away from you completely. Just to "make it easier on you" to get over him, because it may "suddenly" become clear to him that he can't give you what you want.

Sex with someone you're emotionally wrapped up in who is, at best, not sure about you and at worst, actively manipulating you will not be the magic key to change his mind towards a secure, loving relationship with you. It will only result in you feeling bad about yourself, especially when it's your first experience of sex. You don't want that. It will make you skeptical of future relationships before they even get off the ground, and that is not baggage you want to be carrying, trust me.
posted by houndsoflove at 8:02 AM on December 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


A good relationship starting out doesn't have drama like this. A good relationship starting out won't prompt such a long AskMe asking what to make of your gut feeling that something is wrong. It's that simple. Go find someone you're better matched with.

I also think he's a sketchball and manipulating you, but that's really not crucial to my advice that this isn't the relationship for you.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:13 AM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


So you are having second thoughts about this, great! Smart. It's so generic but there are many fish in the sea. Throw him back.

In college I dated 'older' men too. It never worked-and as many before have said I now (with the advantage of hindsight) I feel that I was taken advantage of.

Don't let this guy do that to you, he sounds sleazy less because of his age than his behavior.

Please find someone else, dating is fun!
posted by ibakecake at 10:23 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, yeah, I missed a paragraph the first time around. It sounds a lot like he's started the virginity line because while he really wanted to have sex with you before, now he realizes he's being kind of a dirtball and basically, yeah, wants you to give him permission. In other words, he's aware of this:

"I would hate him 5 years down the road for influencing me and taking the best years of my life"

... but wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Also he knows you're vulnerable but thinks that he has SO MUCH influence over you that you wouldn't know when to leave him. I found this attitude really condescending when I dated an older guy-- he hated the idea that he was "influencing me" but when I started changing aspects of my life he denounced it and then I broke up with him, because I was an adult with a brain, despite being young.

I mean really what he's saying is that he knows you're vulnerable enough that he could "influence you" and ruin your life, but he's not mature enough to let you go, because he really wants to have sex with you. Screw that.

Also, "the best years of your life" are probably not ages 20-22. These are actually kind of shitty, hard years where you're just starting to become a real adult and get bruised a lot and need to figure out who you are. The fact that he sees you as this youthful person in the prime of her life kind of implies something to me about how he views women/youth, and if he doesn't know better than to let you go so you can struggle through early adulthood with someone who can be a healthy partner, then he's a fool.

(When I was a young adult, a small part of the appeal of dating an older man was that he was so stable-- he had a real job, a house, &c., so I never felt too unmoored, could always return to his life to feel coddled. But that's not how you grow up, and to me it meant so much less than finding someone who I could meet life's challenges with at the same time. Oh, the relief when I broke up with him and started dating someone my own age.)
posted by stoneandstar at 12:11 PM on December 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and Dynex makes a good point. If I were 30-35, this does not sound like a guy I'd want to be with.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2012


The age gap doesn't matter, but if he was 20 and acted like this, I'd dump him really quickly. He could be cheating (possible), but if he wasn't cheating, he's still too indecisive, a drama llama, and full of subtle manipulations that he's just not worth dealing with. Relationships aren't supposed to be this much of a headache. Dump him and read Baggage Reclaim.

Read the post "Meeting His Parents - Totally Overrated and possibly misleading".

For your first sexual relationship, I recommend dating someone near your age because it's easier to manage boundaries when you're roughly of a similar age and experience level.

You're not mature enough to realize what a healthy relationship looks like, but yeah, this is definitely not it. There's better fish in the sea.
posted by Hawk V at 5:38 PM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone else has already given quite helpful comments on the bulk of your post, but I wanted to mention one other thing.

This guy is 34 years old. You've been dating for 10 months. You haven't had sexual intercourse, and you haven't had oral sex (or even any sort of sex/physical contact, since you're now only meeting in public places??). And now he's telling you that he doesn't want to have sex with you anytime in the near future either.

Maybe there is some guy out there for whom this would not be weird and, frankly, unbelievable, but this part of the story makes it really hard for me to believe that you guys are in the relationship you think you are (i.e. exclusive, serious romantic relationship). Maybe he is an outlier. Maybe he just really likes handjobs. Maybe I am wrong and there are plenty of adults in their 30s who would be totally cool with this...

I don't mean this in an "all men want sex and if they can't have it, they will leave you" kind of way. I'm a woman of a similar age to your boyfriend and I would never hang out waiting for someone for 10 months with only making out sessions/dry humping/manual stimulation or whatever - that just wouldn't be a satisfying relationship at all to me, and I don't think it would be satisfying to most people my age. I think you should have or not have whatever sex you want, and go at whatever pace you want, but the fact that he's going along with this, and that you say he is not a loser and could presumably date someone else if he wanted to, is truly odd to me and makes me think something is UP.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:49 PM on December 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hi everyone I just wanted to give a huge THANK YOU to all who answered here! So grateful for all your time and advice.

All the possibilities everyone listed just made me realize how much of a headache I was getting just thinking about them. Thanks to all who made me realize I should be searching for much more out of a relationship. Though its been a roller coaster, I'm so glad that it exposed me to this community of wonderful, supportive people.
posted by avenue at 3:53 PM on December 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


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