What is 24 years anyway?
December 29, 2011 6:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm dating someone 24 years my senior... what now?

Posting for a friend under my sock account:

About me: I'm 28 and am at the beginning rungs of a pretty high-brow career. I'm really a baby at this still—a pretty broke-ish, typical late-twenties woman followin' her fuckin' dreams. I'm only 50% typical 28-year-old—I'm nerdy and love theoretical, "grown-up" conversations and activities, but I still love to go hang out at shows and dive bars, and get tipsy with the gang.

About him: He's 52 and is highly successful in an even more high-brow career. He's not a baby at this—he is pretty well off. (Not that it matters?) He spent most of his adult life pursuing this success, so is fairly sheltered as far as "low brow" culture, and friends and girlfriends are concerned. (He's never been married.) He's very open to trying new things—not just open, but very interested.

We've been on two dates in a week and a half, and have had fantastic times on both. We talked about all manner of things, and he is both interested and interesting. Oh, and the make-out at the end of date 2 was pretty damn great, if you're wondering.

But there are definite differences in the stages of our careers, in our interest in pop culture, and in our socio-economic places in life. I'm really wondering if this will make a difference, and how much stock I should put into all of this thinking. Am I over-thinking?

Also part of me gets off on this (in a good way!) because of the borderline socially frowned-upon age differential. Weird?

Anyone have any anecdotes or personal experiences that might enlighten me? I am trying to find some guidance on how to proceed and am falling short.

This is my friend's sockpuppet, so I can answer questions if you have any. But she promised not to let me threadsit. :)
posted by hubble to Human Relations (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
When I dated someone much younger than me, the biggest challenges were in discussing things that were of concern to us at our respective ages and in me trying not to sound like I'd "been there, done that" when I'd listen to his hopes, dreams and worries.

Eventually, we grew apart because he was ready to go off on adventures and I was knee-deep in trying to establish a career in my field. It's not always that way with people who have age differences, but I think being aware that the differences are there and knowing how you feel about the difference in where you both are in life is going to be essential, should this go beyond the casual dating stage.
posted by xingcat at 6:49 PM on December 29, 2011

My husband and I are 30.5 years apart; we started dating at 28 and 58. We have very similar life goals, some of the same hobbies, and a strong appreciation for each other's sense of humor. And we have been, since before we started dating, VERY attracted to one another.

We have definitely had our issues, but I don't think many of them ever had to do with age. I knew from our first date that this is the man I wanted to spend my life with.

Just proceed like any other relationship; each one has its unique path.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [12 favorites]

I am in a relationship with someone 10 years my senior and we met when I was in my early 20s.

But I speak to you as the friend of a couple that are early-30s (woman) following-her-dreamer and 60-something (man) established professional, quickly married with little kids that came along very soon after the nuptials (and he has adult children from his previous marriage.)

Have fun with it. Let your family and friends see that you are happy together. Don't worry about what they're saying. Our friends make light of it all the time, and early in their friendships with people. (And yes, he has no idea what we're talking about when we're referencing the Kardashians or some '80s movie... but that's okay. Your guy is way closer to your age than this relationship that I'm discussing.)

And yeah, "people" (her family?) probably wonder how things will work out when their very young children have to have a daddy that is much older. Will he be around when they are adults? But this is a choice that she made and seems okay with. And your age difference isn't as much of a head-turners as theirs is.

Plus, you're not a young kid - you're an adult. Don't worry about it so much.
posted by k8t at 7:06 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

My partner's parents are about 20 years apart (his mom's 80 or 81, I think; his dad's 100) (yes, 100). They've been together 55+ years, since she was in her 20s and he was in his 40s. So if you're looking for anecdotes to suggest that it can work out, there's one for you.
posted by scody at 7:14 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

The difference in your ages is significant, but when coupled with the difference in your incomes you have a lot going on. If I were in your place I'd want to think about how I would handle the "kept woman/trophy girlfriend" vibe I might get from others, and I would also want to limit any moves by my boyfriend to steer me into such a category. In other words, I would be careful about accepting gifts, letting him foot the bill all the time, traveling/dining only on his dime at places he chooses, and so on. It would be important to me to retain my independence, live within my means, and not give anyone the impression that I was coasting on his wealth or life experience.

If there's any crossover at all with your work world, keep a close eye on this whole area. It's easy for people to get the wrong impression as to what's going on, and easy to develop conflicting commitments when you're intimate with someone more powerful in that circle (board vs. boss, etc).
posted by Miko at 7:19 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yes, you are over-thinking it. Am I correct in reading that you've only been on 2 dates so far? Go on a few more dates, see if there's real interest in him as a person and as a life partner and try not to project so far into the future at this early stage. While 24 years is a big age difference, I don't think it's as "socially frowned upon" as you think. It's not that uncommon for well off men to date much younger women. But if this is part of what makes you desire this man, know that the thrill will likely wear off.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:21 PM on December 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

You should be more concerned about any significant differences in terms of interests that you guys have and less about the age difference.
posted by heartofglass at 7:24 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

The issue is never the age... scody's example explains it well... time will tell, treat this as you would any other budding relationship.
posted by tomswift at 7:40 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about a thing! Keep your eyes open, take it sorta slow, keep your own friends and interests, and continue to have fun.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:48 PM on December 29, 2011

Have fun, enjoy it while it lasts, but just keep in mind that it will probably end, and possibly badly. This does not mean don't do it. Go have fun now.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:14 PM on December 29, 2011

Also part of me gets off on this (in a good way!) because of the borderline socially frowned-upon age differential. Weird?

Is it really that socially frowned up for a 50-something man to be interested in a 20-something woman? This seems rather more like a Hollywood/rich man cliche. The Hugh Hefner with bunny combo is a lot more common than the Demi-Ashton combo. The income difference will probably exacerbate this.

This can work, but I'd be leery if this is a guy who typically dates under-30 women. Is he a serial dater of young women? Is that at all icky? Also, would you feel embarrassed or happy to have him go out with you and your friends? If your answer is happy, then go for it.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:19 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Update from friend:

No, he doesn't date much, typically—let alone under 30 types. It's not about the money, in fact our next date is something super cute and in my budget, so I'm paying. However, the financial disparity is something that is scratching in the back of my head, but that could be my own weirdness or the newness of the situation. I am aware of it though.

I really don't feel like he's being a lech, nor do I feel like he's preying on my for being 28.

(God, she really needs her own account. WHAT THE FUCK MATT.)
posted by hubble at 8:37 PM on December 29, 2011

My husband is 22 years my senior and we're only now, after 15 years together, beginning to experience any significant age-related conflict. In short, he's recently retired and eager to begin that (well-earned) phase of his life. Meanwhile I'm at the peak of my career and I love it. On the one hand (setting aside our somewhat complicated financial circumstances), I want to spend these years together, as does he. On the other hand, I'm not ready to give up my professional life. It's a huge dilemma but YMMV.

FWIW I remain completely enthralled by Mr. Carmicha but this situation is also providing the first glimpses of the future when we're 60/81, 70/91 etc. It's scary.
posted by carmicha at 8:42 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a youtuber who posts her thoughts on sexual health, and one of the videos covered age gaps. She gave some pretty good advice, I thought. She broke it down into three things, and if those three things are working out a-ok, then age isn't really a problem in the relationship. Now, that's not to say that the relationship doesn't have problems, it's just that these 3 are the ones normally affected by an age gap, and if they're not rocky, then numbers aren't something you have to consider.
The acronym she uses is RIP
R is for relate- If you have the same interests, or have had the same life experiences, or if you're at the same period in your life, if you both have the same level of maturity, you'll find it a lot easier to relate.

I- Intent. Do you both want the same thing from the relationship? If he's just looking to seem younger by being with you, that's not a good thing if you're trying for a legitimate relationship.

P-Power dynamic. Relationships with large age gaps, especially when the older of the pair is the male, can easily stray into the area of the not-so-healthy power dynamic. You should see, as someone mentioned above, if he's a serial young dater. If this is the case, then he might have some unsavory motives, one of them being that he has a large upper-hand in the relationship. I know you mentioned he had more money than you. Does he like it that way?
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:43 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

I tried it once. I'd never do it again. I look really, really young, he looked a bit older than his age, and the social impact when we walked into places was like a bomb going off, people were *HORRIFIED*. We attracted negativity everywhere. I've never experienced anything like it. And these were extremely high-end restaurants and lounges in NYC, hardly places where these sorts of relationships are unknown. I'm pretty good at ignoring societal norms I find unappealing to me on a personal level, but I began to wonder after our very first date if, perhaps there was something inherently icky in the situation.

I still shake my head, remembering how the Chinese masseuse asked me if I was Russian (the majority of high-end call-girls in my part of Manhattan are Russian) when we had a couple's massage.

I broke it off after a few dates 'cause he was kind of lame. Also, the idea of being someone's girlfriend, never wife (he wasn't the marrying type) didn't appeal to me in the slightest. Statistically, men in their 50's who haven't been married rarely ever take the plunge, and I was not about to waste my 20's wasting time with someone (even an awesome guy, which this one was one) who was on a totally different wavelength.
posted by devymetal at 8:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's nothing at all wrong about being excited by an age gap. You're both adults, and these things can be both educational and lots of fun. Just don't be blinded to the realities, go slow, keep your eyes open.
posted by ead at 9:07 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

*which this one was NOT* is what I meant...

and just for clarity, I dress very, VERY conservatively and had never been matter-of-factly (or otherwise) mistaken for a prostitute before (or since).
posted by devymetal at 9:07 PM on December 29, 2011

I'm 22, my boyfriend's 44. We've been dating for almost 3 years. While we've been very happy together, a few age-related issues have come up. I want to say go for it--but here are some things to consider:

1. Is he looking to settle down long-term? Are you looking to settle down long-term? If you two are agreed on both counts, cheers! In my case, my boyfriend (understandably) feels pressure to get married and have kids soon, while I want to go to grad school, travel, and start building a career before having kids. It's one of those "great relationship, really bad timing" deals. Not that it can't work, and not that I can't do those things while married or with kids, but... it's something to consider. This was a foreseeable issue that I didn't take too seriously until we got serious.

2. What stage of life are his friends in? How strongly does he relate to them? What stage of life are your friends in? How strongly do you relate to them? Would you be game to hang out with people in their stage of life? Would he be game to hang out with people in yours? Would his friends be accepting with someone so much younger? Would your friends be accepting and alright with hanging out with someone so much older?

3. How much do you care about how others will perceive you and your relationship? No one that I actually know has said anything rude directly to our faces, but I've had several experiences where older women either gave me pointed looks of disgust or passive-aggressively pointed out how young I was (ex: a woman in a store stared at us from afar in a way that made me uncomfortable, ended up in front of us in line for checkout, and turned around to pinch my cheeks and tell my boyfriend how cute I was. I haven't been treated like that since I was 10 years old, and she was definitely making a point about my age). People do notice, and some people are nosy/rude enough to point it out. I cared in the beginning, but I care a lot less now.

4. Have you had very long-term, serious relationships before? Has he? If there's a significant difference in your dating experience, how much do you care? How much does he care? This has been a pretty big issue in my relationship. He's got decades of dating experience while I had very little before him. When it comes to settling down, I can't help but wonder if I should try dating other people first. You may or may not have this issue.

With all that said, this relationship has truly been one of the best experiences of my life. My boyfriend has an emotional maturity that I truly appreciate, and we have a wonderful dynamic. If you're emotionally and mentally compatible, have good communication, and mutually respect one another, this can be amazing--just like any relationship with these components! The really tricky part is whether your stages of life are or will remain compatible in the long run. That part can require sacrifice or result in heartbreak.
posted by melancholyplay at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

My long term girlfriend is 25 years older than I am.I'm 34, there's children in their 20s and a grandchild. She worries more than I do, but we're discreet about the circles we travel.

She's really not keen on turning 60. I worry because she worries but really this is a very small part of our relationship.

Professionally our lives overlap, a lot, but don't occlude. I like her children and am not worried about having any of my own. The toddler calls me Opa and I'm happy with that.

We like a lot of the same things, are both pretty introverted and have a small circle of good friends, enjoy each other's company. I can certainly say that I most need quantity time, it'll always be quality time. We live in different cities but close enough that I live at her house on the weekends and she visits me during the week when possible.

We talk every day, even when her job takes her across the world which is often. Nothing that matters is really real until I've had a chance to tell her about it, ask her about it, see/feel/taste her reaction.

I truly feel blessed that she's only 25 years older than I am. She's something pretty special and she might have been 125 or 1025 years older. I might never have met her at all. Damn near all of the time the only thing that's important to me age wise is the fortuitous fact that we both live in the same age. For that I am eternally grateful.

I can't say that our experience is typical or optimal or anything but anecdotal. I can say, as had been mentioned in various ways above, that we have a strong caring relationship, share much that is important including trust respect and desire and everything else is just our bag to deal with. Some couples have religion or class or politics or whatever the fuck it is that people fight about. In retrospect, because we do have what we have, a couple of years just seems a foolish thing to get worked up over.
posted by mce at 10:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm only 50% typical 28-year-old—I'm nerdy and love theoretical, "grown-up" conversations and activities, but I still love to go hang out at shows and dive bars, and get tipsy with the gang.

The age difference is just a number. I'm kinda raising an eyebrow over this statement though. It makes me feel you don't know many 28 year olds...
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:16 AM on December 30, 2011 [26 favorites]

My girl is 10 years younger than I am, though I do make up for it with exceptional immaturity. Still, the only way this has mattered so far is that it's given us fun ways to tease each other.

(At least once for every "Did you lose your teeth again?" joke, I will always find some excuse to say "You probably won't learn this until next year in school, but...")

Basically, Roomthreeseventeen says what counts: "I knew from our first date that this is the man I wanted to spend my life with."

That's really all that matters. If it applies here, ignore what anyone says and enjoy every fucking minute you have: you have won the cake of life.

And the dirty looks and jealousy of others? That's your icing.

Lick it up.
posted by rokusan at 2:59 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Chill out!

Stop worrying about how you think typical 28 year olds act, about how people look at you and a guy you've gne out with twice, etc. Strangers on the Internet cannot tell you if differences in age or socioecnomic place will lead to problems, only that it sometimes wo rks, and sometimes doesn't. The only way to know is to try it; no anecdote from someone else's life will predict your future.
posted by ellF at 4:24 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Short term, have fun. Long term, watch out. My cousin was married to a man 20 years older. At 60 she was full of energy. She retired, wanted to travel, he was old and decrepit, just wanted to stay home. He died in his mid-eighties, she was sad but relieved. Now she travels and does a lot of other things she couldn't do when he was alive.

A friend in a similar position discovered that all her husband wanted to do after he retired was watch golf on tv and play golf. They got divorced after 30 years of marriage.

Another friend married a woman 23 years younger. He was well-established in his career, she was ambitious, she was young and wanted to have fun, she dumped him for a guy her age.

I had my first kid in my early twenties, so the idea of being with someone his age turns me completely off. My father was 23 when I was born, I am similarly turned off to men his age.

Historically/sociologically, cultures in which it's the norm for men to have much younger wives are cultures in which women have lower social status. I don't think we've reached parity yet.
posted by mareli at 5:13 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have a good friend in very much a similar situation. Experiences will vary of course, but in their situation things became difficult when having children. The man was simply too used to being on his own schedule and being largely unaccountable to anything except his career. It creates a lot of frustration for my dear friend who feels unsupported in her marriage and role as a parent.

You have only been dating a short while but if it becomes serious you need to think about how well the person will adapt to making a life together. You also need to soul search about how feel about the statistical likelihood that you will outlive the other person by almost 30 years.
posted by dgran at 5:40 AM on December 30, 2011

I'm 28, and you sound a lot like me and every other 28 year old I know, including the over-thinking.

Anecdotally, a two year age gap (I was the older) didn't work in my early 20s. A seven year gap (I was the younger) in my mid twenties also didn't work out. But at 28 I am dating a man who is 32, and it's so far, so very good. Mileage as going to vary because the people are going to vary, but a lot of it had to do with me, where I was in my life, where I was going, and what I wanted. It had very little to do with age - in betwixt those gentleman I have dated my own age and a couple years older and younger, with the same results. Not a good fit due to factors xyz and I can't say that any of them were specific to their age.

If you are emotionally and physically compatible, have similar goals, values, and interests, and can respect, appreciate, and agree to disagree no subjects where you will most likely have vastly different view points... you have just about the same crapshoot chances as everyone else.

However, at two dates in this thinking is a bit cart before horse to me.
posted by sm1tten at 7:54 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Got together with a 23 year old girl when I was 55 and we stayed together, very much in love, no problems, until I was 59, then problems began all related to differences in experience and life expectations as she came towards 30 and I to 60. I had felt when we met that this would likely happen, but was not going to turn my back on love. They were great years.
The differences seem to get bigger as one of you hits 60+ in my experience, and I didn't want her to be a 50 year old nursing an 80 year old. We split when I was 60 and she's been with another guy for five years or so and has a baby, which is great. I think it's best to do what makes you happy and let go when it doesn't. Simple.
posted by nickji at 9:33 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

melancholyplay makes a very good point with this:
2. What stage of life are his friends in? How strongly does he relate to them? What stage of life are your friends in? How strongly do you relate to them? Would you be game to hang out with people in their stage of life? Would he be game to hang out with people in yours? Would his friends be accepting with someone so much younger? Would your friends be accepting and alright with hanging out with someone so much older?
Even if you two relate well, you're likely to have more in common with his friends' children than with his friends, similarly he's likely to have more in common with your parents than with your friends. You might go to a party together and wind up at the kids' table. It would drive me crazy, personally.
posted by anaelith at 1:08 PM on December 30, 2011

Have fun, enjoy it while it lasts, but just keep in mind that it will probably end, and possibly badly. This does not mean don't do it. Go have fun now.

FWIW, I think this applies to any new relationship, regardless of anyone's age.
posted by naoko at 6:05 PM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Compatibility is more important than any age difference. My husband is 16 years older than I. Even with our totally different upbringings in different generations, we are extremely compatible.

The only real concern we had was about health (me taking care of "the old guy"), but as it turns out without going into detail, that really isn't a concern after all. And either one of us could step in front of a bus and any age difference is moot, yes?

Regarding what other people think: I look younger than my age and when I still coloured my hair, I looked young enough to be my husband's daughter. Yes, we got looks and I thought it was funny. Anyway, as long as you two are happy it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of the age difference.
posted by deborah at 6:52 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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