Crazy for considering 14-year age difference?
April 24, 2010 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Just found out the guy I've started seeing is 22. I'm 36. Now what?

I've just started seeing a new guy. We've only been on two dates and are still in the very early getting-to-know-you stage. I suspected he was a bit younger than me (he's still in school, I work full-time) but he had mentioned taking some time off before college, so I hoped he was around 25-26. We have a lot in common and there's definitely mutual chemistry/sparks. Two days ago, we went out again; more background information was exchanged and I decided to do some online sleuthing. I found out he's 22. I'm 36.

I know he has no idea I'm that old (I look extremely young and I'm in good shape). I just don't know how to move forward at this point. He's very cute, in great shape, and I'm very attracted to him. My friends think I should enjoy him while it lasts, but I could see myself getting attached. I haven't talked to him since our last date, so he has no idea about any of this (unless he did some searching on me as well, in which case I may never hear from him again). My question is, am I crazy for even considering this? It can't lead to anything good. Right?
posted by janekate to Human Relations (54 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You're not crazy.

It's only been two dates. That is not enough time to determine if someone is right for you or not regardless of their age.

Yeah, he's kinda young. But maybe he's mature (enough) for his age that it doesn't matter. Maybe (probably) he ultimately won't be mature enough for you in the long run.

But you won't know that unless you go on a few more dates.

If you do go out again, go ahead and ask him when his birthday is and how old he is. Pretend to be surprised. Volunteer that you're 36 and then go on about your date. You will know from his reaction whether he cares or not.
posted by device55 at 4:09 PM on April 24, 2010

That's a big gap. Does he know how old you are?

I always find the age/2+7 formula, while a horrible cliche, fairly sound advice. He's too young now, but it'll be "OK" (by which I mean "socially acceptable") by the time you're 42 and he's 28.
posted by Mwongozi at 4:09 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

No and no. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. The only people who decide whether it works are the people in it. There are a few good reasons to snuff a potentially good thing before it even starts; this isn't one of them.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:10 PM on April 24, 2010 [8 favorites]

My question is, am I crazy for even considering this?

You'd only be crazy for spending very much time considering it before you find out what he thinks about the whole thing -- it could render the whole subject moot.
posted by hermitosis at 4:11 PM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, if you want to have children, and thus feel the years going by too fast, there might be a problem, since he is in a very different phase of his life.

If that biological clock doesn't bother you, it is fairly easy to overthink this problem. Though not much can be said, yet, considering you have only seeing each other showing your best behaviour.
posted by ijsbrand at 4:11 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are not "crazy for even considering this." It sounds like he appeals to you, you get along and you don't yet know each other's ages, at least both of you.

I never dated older guys (with a few exceptions; never say never) but when I was 21, just moved to SF from NY and found myself attracted to a young man who claimed to be "my age," well yeah I was kind of shocked/bemused/surprised when it turned out he'd just reached nineteen.

That said, I have two close relatives of the female persuasion who have been in long term relationships with men 15-20 years younger for longer than I've been married (going on 25).

I really don't know how all this works. I just work here.

On a more serious note, let him know how old you *really* are, sooner rather than later. No sense keeping secrets. All the best to you. And him too.
posted by emhutchinson at 4:15 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why couldn't it lead to anything good? Fourteen year age gaps aren't that uncommon, and some couples make it work just fine. Given that you've only been out twice, it might be a little premature to be worrying about this. If you haven't even talked enough to have gotten an idea of how old the other person is (e.g. Vanilla Ice comes on the radio in the car, and you say "This was on the radio all the time when I was in college", etc.) odds are good that something other than age will turn out to be a dealbreaker as you get to know each other better. Like his love of video games, or yours of blasting tribal drum music at 4am.
posted by jingzuo at 4:15 PM on April 24, 2010

Also, are looking for a serious relationship? If you are, keep in mind that the time you spend dating him (and, yes, having awesome sex and mostly feeling awesome for being with such a cute young guy) is time that you are decidedly NOT spending looking for the serious relationship you'd normally claim to want.

Not that the two are definitely mutually exclusive. But this kind of thing could keep you distracted or tied up for months or even longer, and who knows, maybe in that time you could have otherwise met someone who is (probably) better equipped to satisfy some of your long-term desires.
posted by hermitosis at 4:18 PM on April 24, 2010

If you're getting along who cares? My partner and I are a little over 30 years apart, and I can't imagine being with anyone else.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:18 PM on April 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

My best friend and her husband have a 14-yr age gap and they're one of the happiest couples I know -- don't worry about it!
posted by at 4:19 PM on April 24, 2010

That is exactly the age gap between my parents (with my mother being the older of the pair, just as you are). Granted, they met when they were a a few years older than you guys are now, but they've also been married for 25 years.

So I'd say no, you are not crazy.
posted by Commander Rachek at 4:21 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know he has no idea I'm that old.

Tell him. It's his decision too, you know.
posted by halogen at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2010

Your question is oddly vague about your own feelings about the situation. You mention his age -- and then skip right to the conclusion that things can't work out. You're leaving out a step in the reasoning.

I'm not saying the age gap isn't a potential problem. It could be a big problem. Age matters, a lot.

But what do you think is the problem with his age?
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:23 PM on April 24, 2010


Be honest. Have fun. It might be important when you begin thinking about something long term, but - after two dates? - nah. Just be fair and as long as both of you enjoy the relationship, where's the problem? (and even long term is very much a possibility, even if unusual.)
posted by Some1 at 4:31 PM on April 24, 2010

He probably already knows you're somewhere in your thirties. This isn't that big of a deal.
posted by stavrogin at 4:31 PM on April 24, 2010

Go for it. Younger men are the best! Eager to please ;) Just tell him your age and let him decide. If you're getting along well and he's attracted to you, what's the problem?
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:39 PM on April 24, 2010

Nthing just tell the guy your age on your next date and see what he says (I'll bet he doesn't even blink) before dooming the relationship (which hasn't exactly even started yet) or beating yourself up that you're somehow wrong or crazy here--you're fine. You're not wrong, you're not crazy...and he apparently finds you quite attractive. And btw, are you sure the info re his age that your internet sleuthing turned up is accurate? Depending on the source, sometimes it isn't.

Some1, I'm older than the poster and not sure "Maggie May" is flattering or helpful.
posted by applemeat at 4:48 PM on April 24, 2010

My wife is 14 years older than me. When we met, I was almost 22 and she was almost 36. We were married four years ago, after dating for damn near eight years (sorry babe!). It's been fantastic, but not without issues. Here are two:

1. Going out with friends - the friends we brought in are, for the most part, around our age, and the older or younger partner doesn't always fit in. For example, sometimes I go out with my college friends and she feels like the "old lady" in the room. I sometimes have a hard time finding common ground with her older friends.

2. Kids - much shorter time for choosing to have kids. I would have had to commit to becoming a father in my mid- to late-20s rather than having a more relaxed timeframe if my wife was younger. I know lots of women have children later in life, but we didn't want that.

But really, it's way too early to worry about those kind of issues. See if you click, and if you do, rest assured that YES, it can lead to lots of good!
posted by letitrain at 4:53 PM on April 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Even if you're wanting kids soon, who's to say he isn't? He might be more ready than you expect a 22 year old to be. Get yourselves into a conversation where you share your ages, don't bring up your stalking episode, and have a real talk about it. Good luck.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2010

My fiancé and I got together when I was 23 and he was 36. Yes, age differences will evidence themselves—but that alone isn't a reason to discount the relationship!
posted by limeonaire at 5:03 PM on April 24, 2010

I'm sure you can figure out ways of working it into the conversation. "When I turned 30..." "The 10 years right after college were the best/worst of my life..." "I campaigned with my family for President Carter's 1980 re-election campaign." "My dad says I was conceived at a drive-in movie theater." You get the idea.

No, it's not a big deal, though. I can guarantee that if you stew about it that he'll be able to tell, so if you can't be subtle, just out-of-the-blue go "you know I'm 36, right?" off the cuff, like you're checking to see if he's knows to turn his clocks back this Saturday. He may shrug it off as not a big deal then start to act weird, but that should tell you enough. You don't have to go into your life story or anything as backup, just treat it as the fact that it is. It's not like you need someone to help you care for your colostomy bag.
posted by rhizome at 5:26 PM on April 24, 2010

My wife is older than I am (I'm a man).

I think that at some point before you decide you are attached to this fellow, you are going to tell him your age. Then you need to communicate what you want. The biggest question is whether or not you want kids. It will become an urgent question as time goes on, which I think is unfair to a partner still in their 20s.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:29 PM on April 24, 2010

But all things being equal, dating an older woman is a great experience in many different ways.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:30 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your family planning timeline- or lack thereof- align, no big deal, enjoy. If they don't align, I'd have a couple weeks of fun, but keep dating other people, don't do any romantic stuff, and get out soon.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:44 PM on April 24, 2010

I think the only question for you is how fast you need to get on the train to baby-making. If that's a major goal of yours and you want to accomplish it while you're young enough to have a shot at unassisted conception, maybe you shouldn't beat around the bush too long. By that I mean don't spend a year or two with this guy and then call it off. But still give it a few weeks or months; you don't know his life plans, either.

If that's not a factor, keep seeing him and let it go where it goes.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:45 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

my wife is ten years younger than I am. Our son is married to a woman that is ten years older. My best friend is married to someone 15 years younger..
age is not a factor...everything else is..
posted by HuronBob at 5:51 PM on April 24, 2010

I'm seven years younger than my wife. We've been together for over 15 years.

It either works or it doesn't. Your choice.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:05 PM on April 24, 2010

Maybe there's a chance that the online info you found on him was out of date. Highly unlikely, but you never know. My sense is that you're worried that he won't be attracted to you anymore once he finds out your age. But I think that's also highly unlikely. So yeah. What about this are you so worried about and why?
posted by foxjacket at 6:12 PM on April 24, 2010

When I was 22, I had an amazing relationship with a woman 12 years my senior. Go for it.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:31 PM on April 24, 2010

Do you want to have kids? If so, you're running out of time -- so if he doesn't want to have kids and soon, break it off.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:13 PM on April 24, 2010

My question is, am I crazy for even considering this? It can't lead to anything good. Right?

Wrong. I mean, you need to define "anything good" first, and that definition need not include picket fences and kids and having the in-laws over for Thanksgiving dinner. Secondly, even if it does, he might be up to it. I know of a couple of successful long-term relationships with similar ages. I've got one friend who was 38 when she met her current boyfriend, who would have been 23 at the time. It was in an anything-goes situation where it was easy for random hookups to happen, and would have been easy to walk away once the age difference became clear, but they've been together for 2 years. And FWIW, I'm not particularly conscious of their age difference when we're hanging out.

All that said, I'm about the same age as my wife. We would not have made a great couple if the 36-year-old her somehow met the 22-year-old me, because I did not have much emotional maturity then.
posted by adamrice at 7:15 PM on April 24, 2010

My grandparents lied about their ages when they met in the 1930s. They each said they were 25. No one found out her real age until she was eligible for old age pension and she couldn't bear to keep it secret any longer. My grandfather was born in 1911 and my grandmother was born 1896....YMMV
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:32 PM on April 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

Thank you for your thoughtful (and encouraging!) replies. I agree that I'm worrying about this too soon.

But what do you think is the problem with his age?
I'm sure a big part of it is my own insecurity about aging (even though 36 is not that old). Foxjacket is right, I wonder why a 22-year-old would be interested in having a relationship with me--especially when I'll be 40 in four years and he'll only be 26. I also know how much I changed from my early to late twenties.

Regarding kids, my dismal dating situation has resigned me to the fact that I may not have them, but that adoption could be a possibility. I agree that it's an important issue, and something that would need to be discussed if we became serious.

Age has never been an issue in my other relationships--I've always had friends who were both older and younger. And this guy--in two dates, he's been more attentive than most guys I meet who are my age. He calls when he says he'll call, he seems genuinely interested in learning about me, and the way he looks at me--it's like I'm the only woman in the room. I know that sounds trite, but I can't describe it any other way. And I think the sex would be amazing (from what I hear, we're both at our sexual peaks). I do want a long-term relationship and it's hard to imagine that it could work out between us in the long run. But I also haven't clicked with anyone in a long time, and I miss being part of a couple and all that goes with it.

For now I'm going to relax, go on a few more dates with him (we have plans for tomorrow night) and see where things go. I do agree that age needs to be discussed at some point, because I don't think it's fair not to let him know.
posted by janekate at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

because I don't think it's fair not to let him know

Yeah, though it's not necessarily a downside, either. It just brings different advantages and disadvantages than being the same age does.

I could see myself getting attached... I also know how much I changed from my early to late twenties.... I do want a long-term relationship and it's hard to imagine that it could work out between us

If your expectation comes to pass, will you mind terribly? It's one thing to fully accept a risk (its likelihood and the impact it would have on you). It's another to ignore the risk or pretend it wouldn't hurt you. You could end up feeling betrayed by yourself if you downplay a risk that you know is likely. However, it kinda sounds like you actually wouldn't mind a fling, so maybe you can come to a deal with your imaginary future self that you want to have fun now and understand that it is probably going to cause them some pain but that the fun of the current moment (and maybe some auxiliary benefits for the future self - a renewed sense of sexiness?) make it totally worth it on balance. In other words, make sure you can avoid self-recrimination like "I am so stupid, I KNEW this would happen, why didn't I LISTEN to myself?!" perhaps by replacing it with "oh yeah, I knew this was coming, and I even decided to do it anyway... :) " or alternatively with "yeah, I was pretty confident it wouldn't last, and since I really wanted something with long-term potential and knew I'd be really mad at myself if we broke up, I decided not to go ahead with him."
posted by salvia at 8:41 PM on April 24, 2010

Enjoy and don't expect anything.
posted by anniecat at 8:42 PM on April 24, 2010

Pause, take a round of high fives, then treat it like any other new relationship: If you like him, keep dating him. If you don't, break up.

I mean, what else? Watch a couple of episodes of I Love the '90s?
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 PM on April 24, 2010

For a little while when I was 33 I was dating two women. One was fourteen years younger than me, the other was fourteen years older than me. Both were great, both had elements of being cross-cultural because of the age difference. Neither resulted in marriage but both resulted in good time and happy memories.

See how he feels and go for it. Love knows no season.
posted by alms at 9:00 PM on April 24, 2010

Foxjacket is right, I wonder why a 22-year-old would be interested in having a relationship with me

Well, why wouldn't he be? Should he not be? I personally have never dated anyone without being aware of their age, but I've been in relationships that involved significant age gaps and those that haven't. Any problems that arose in these relationships were not age-related; they were just individual-related.
posted by wondermouse at 9:16 PM on April 24, 2010

GO for it. Age is a number.
posted by chinabound at 9:34 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was 28-ish, I dated a woman I initially thought was 25, but who was actually 35.

I assumed she was on the mommy track, knew I wasn't on the daddy track,and didn't want to use up her remaining fertile years if she was looking for something I wouldn't provide.

So I took her out to dinner, and told her it was off. She said OK, and invited me back to her place.

Over the next several years, she'd call me every four months or so, and we'd hook up.

So maybe I shouldn't have assumed what I did. But be aware that he might, out of a sincere desire not to waste your time, assume what I did, unless you're clear about what it is you do want.
posted by orthogonality at 11:54 PM on April 24, 2010

If you get along well, there is really no need to be concerned. Tell him your age. Date for a while. If/when it's the right time, you can talk about commitment and your "remaining fertile years" as orthogonality puts it if that's important to you.

A friend of mine is in her mid-30s and getting married to a man in his mid-20s in a couple of months. Age isn't necessarily a deal-breaker; if anything, I'd say maturity would be a bigger factor.
posted by asciident at 2:32 AM on April 25, 2010

I wonder why a 22-year-old would be interested in having a relationship with me

Because when you're a 22-year-old man, 30-something women are dead sexy.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:03 AM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Definitely let him know your age. Then, if he's cool with it, enjoy!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:55 AM on April 25, 2010

2 dates? Too early to tell, but consider that he might also have done some online sleuthing on you. So if it matters to you then you should tell him. If you are being "Mrs Robinson" to his Benjamin then it probably won't last but might be fun while it does. Wish I'd had a 36-year old woman to date when I was 22.
posted by epo at 5:12 AM on April 25, 2010

The only red flag I can see is you needing to search around to find out his age and assuming that he's doing the same. If the age difference really bothers you, talk about it openly with him on the next date.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:40 AM on April 25, 2010

Regarding kids, my dismal dating situation has resigned me to the fact that I may not have them, but that adoption could be a possibility. I agree that it's an important issue, and something that would need to be discussed if we became serious.

This is sensible. I was going to make a comment warning you that people in general are generally extremely optimistic about declining fertility, imagining that a 36-year-old woman has about another 4 years before she really needs to make this decision, when really, a 40-year-old woman's chance of getting pregnant is very low. More accurate would be that if this is important to you, it's something he should be ready for in the next couple of years, or not at all.

But there are definitely men who would be happy to have kids at 23 or 24, so you're right that you just need to see if he's one of them, or if you like him so much that you're willing to risk it.
posted by palliser at 6:04 AM on April 25, 2010

I was in relationships with men who were 13, 14, 17 years older than me.

13 years older was pretty insecure, and he never figured out how to deal with me having my shit (pretty) together at age 23.

17 years older was a narcissist, and why we broke up had nothing to do with age differences.

14 years older.... the most complicated one. He never saw me as a peer, and only viewed me through the lens of what he was like when he was 24 rather than dealing with me on my own terms. Which was hurtful, of course. We didn't have the discomfort of not blending with each others' circles of friends that some other couples do. I would say ultimately the age thing played a huge role in why we broke up, because of his inability to treat me as an equal.

So, while this may sound more negative and cautionary, I would say go for it. Talk to him, see what he thinks. A 14 year age difference works out for lots of couples; it just didn't work out for me. Also seconding the communication problem flag--you should not have to find out on the internet how old he is.
posted by emkelley at 9:42 AM on April 25, 2010

Check out the forums on They are all about age gap relationships so you will probably find lots of questions/answers from people in the same situation as yourself.
posted by MsKim at 10:03 AM on April 25, 2010

I met my significant other (male) six years ago when he was 22 and I (female) was 37. Like you, I also look very young. Our connection was strong, and neither of us cared about the age difference. I have never wanted kids, and he was unsure at first but has moved slowly toward being childfree. If we change our minds, I've told him I would consider an egg donor. But I think it's unlikely that we will.

Most of our differences have been personality differences rather than age differences. At first, there were some big gaps in our work experience but he has caught up fast. I'm in career change mode and he's in career development mode, so we are sort of in the same boat there also.

Don't discount the possibility of this blossoming into something serious. OTOH, if it's going to turn into a fun, yet ephemeral love affair, enjoy it for all it is worth.
posted by xenophile at 10:16 AM on April 25, 2010

I'll be 40 in four years and he'll only be 26

I have been that man. I fell in love with the person, not the age difference, but being with someone with that much more life experience added something to the attraction that had a rare quality to it. One that took unexpected forms sometimes: the way the lines on her face became beautiful as a sign of it. It didn't work out for reasons that had nothing to do with age but I still look back on it with much fondness for all its eventual difficulties. I'm in my forties myself, now, and I recently paid a visit to the town where it all happened. The woman's daughter, then eleven, now pretty much the age I was then, came and introduced herself in a pub I happened to visit, so I guess its well remembered from both sides.
posted by tallus at 11:36 AM on April 25, 2010

Went to a birthday party yesterday. The parents were there - still happy with one another (30ish years on), and still with a 20 year age gap.

My parents are also still happy together, with their 9 year age gap (21 and 30 at time of marriage).

Age, schmage. Love, effort, and care is usually the real issue.
posted by ysabet at 11:30 PM on April 25, 2010

I wonder why a 22-year-old would be interested in having a relationship with me

You gave us 3 answers to your own question:

1) You are cute
I look extremely young and I'm in good shape

2) You are interesting
We have a lot in common and there's definitely mutual chemistry/sparks

3) He wants to fuck you
from what I hear, we're both at our sexual peaks
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:25 AM on April 26, 2010

Sorry for being concrete about this, but if you're asking the question, it'll probably be an issue at some point (maybe more for him than you). Anecdotal data suggest that it is unlikely a 22-year-old is going be duper-duper ready to answer the call of your biological clock, if you decide children are next on your life's to-do list. So, despite some touching stories you may hear or read, I think the odds are against you.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:19 AM on April 27, 2010

Here is what I think: I think the age gap is going to be an issue if you think it is an issue. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I just recently had a relationship with an age difference that was smaller than yours--he was 22, me, 28. Everyone said it wasn't a big deal, that six years was nothing. Everyone said we were cute together and it was not abnormal at all. Like you, I look really young. And the age difference wasn't a thing for him in any way--but it drove me nuts. I couldn't stop focusing on it. I couldn't stop thinking about how when I was a senior in high school, he was in sixth grade. How when I was reading Teen Magazine at eleven and teasing my bangs, he was in kindergarten. How different I felt at 28 than at 22. I kept trying to imagine him at 28, remembering himself at 22 and thinking that he was so naive and young, the way I imagine myself at 22.

I think the age difference is what, indirectly, ruined the relationship. It made our dynamic weird because I couldn't let it go. If I could have let it go, it probably wouldn't have been an issue. So if the age difference is an issue to you (or to him), then it will be an issue in the relationship. If not, it doesn't have to be.
posted by millipede at 9:09 PM on May 6, 2010

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