Will there be long term issues with dating/marrying someone 13 years older than me?
February 18, 2012 10:37 PM   Subscribe

What long-term issues arise with marrying an older man?

Ok. So I recently started seeing this guy, and I am falling for him quickly. In four dates we've discovered that we are compatible on so many different levels - common interests, chemistry, religious views, sense of humour, values. He's incredibly romantic. I went from just wanting to be friends to wanting to be in a relationship with him.

Here's the thing. I'm 22. On our last date I asked him how old he was...he's 35. That's 13 years older than me. Bah!

This freaks me out, so I told him I had to think about this in order to decide if we should keep seeing each other, which is really, REALLY hard.

Ok, so now I'm trying to determine the implications of a long-term relationship with a guy 13 years older than me.

It's not so much that after 4 dates I think we'll for sure end up together, but my purpose in dating is figuring out who I'm going to marry, so I want to figure this out ASAP.

Here's the background information about us:
-I'm 22, I have a bachelor's degree and I've started my career in marketing
-I'm an old soul...right now I'm saving for a house and I want to get married as soon as I develop a solid relationship with the right person.
-He's 35, and he's working on his PhD in French literature. Prior to going back for his PhD, he taught French for 6 years.
-After he's done his PhD his dream would be to work for the UN as a diplomat. He also wants to write.
-Neither of us have any children, but we both want children
-I am not drawn to him because of his age, by any means. The fact that he is a student and I am working almost reverses things, in a sense.
-He looks like he's 25 - he's Black, and from what I've noticed this ethnic group seems to age really well, at least in terms of appearance.
-We really like each other!

The main thing that is making me uncomfortable with the situation is advice my grandmother gave me a couple years ago....She had seen so many women marry into a relationship with a 10 year or 14 year age gap, and then later in life they're limited because their husbands are too tired or sick to do anything. And that these women feel order than they actually are.

(I also don't want to be a young widow!)

When he asked me what difference age makes, I told him it's a matter of being in life stages at different times, as well as what my grandmother said.

He brought up the point that he keeps in really good shape (it's true) and that most people can't run on a treadmill for an hour like he can. He trains in juditsu, and we both love salsa dancing.

When I'm 27, he'll be 40. When I'm 67, he would be 80...maybe...

What would that be like?

I'm not worried about the short term. We have great chemistry and if things don't work in the short term, then it doesn't work out. But I want to decide if age is an issue in the long term now, because every time we see each other we uncover layers of compatibility and we feel more emotionally involved. So if age is going to be an issue I want to stop things now before we both get hurt...even more.

Also a concern for me is how my career and having children would fit into this. (I've previously toyed with the idea of having children while I'm young and focusing on career while the kids are older.) But all that is something that can be talked through in future conversations with him, if we do continue to date.

So I'm looking for examples of what a relationship with a large age gap is like, later in life. 50 and 60+.

Blah....love is so complicated...

Thanks all :)
posted by Jade_bug to Human Relations (56 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I really don't want to be that person, but 4 dates does not a fiancé make. And being an "old soul" isn't the strongest determinate of compatibility, no matter what your age.

I would slow down if I were you. The biggest problem I foresee is you discovering that you were too young to get involved with someone so seriously right away, and why cheat yourself out of young adult hood like that when it could lead to you feeling resentful of this guy later? I have relatives who've jumped the gun like this. It's ended badly.

Slow down and let go of your desire to know and control everything.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 10:45 PM on February 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

Age is but a number, life and people are never perfect, and the only thing at the end of everyone's story is death.
posted by mleigh at 10:48 PM on February 18, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't think your problem is so much the age difference, but that you guys seem to have very different priorities in life. If you want to settle down, buy a house, and start a family basically ASAP, and he wants to maybe "be a diplomat for the UN" (which is not really a thing, maybe? or at least not something one can just decide to do) or maybe write. After he finishes a degree that, I shit you not, can take upwards of a decade to complete.

So you're looking at house and kids by 30. He's looking at getting a PhD by 45, and then maybe he'll do this or maybe he'll do that. This is not really compatible, unless you make a hell of an amazing living in marketing and he aspires to be a single dad.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 PM on February 18, 2012 [26 favorites]

The difference between 22 and 35 is a much bigger deal than between 42 and 55, in my opinion. My own parents were 19 years apart, but as a rural conservative, my mother was very like someone of my father's generation (for their time and place, etc.). However, as their youngest, I never knew his parents, and he was more like a grandfather; further, the difference or the fact that my mom was about your age when they married contributed to a heck of a midlife crisis when she was in her mid-40s and he fell ill. Everyone is different.
posted by Occula at 10:59 PM on February 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

But! I personally am very much for gambling in favor of love.
posted by Occula at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

She had seen so many women marry into a relationship with a 10 year or 14 year age gap, and then later in life they're limited because their husbands are too tired or sick to do anything.

This is the case in my extended family. My aunt does do a lot of caregiving and it does limit her. On the flip side, they are very happy together and very much in love. You just never know.

As a mid-20s woman, I wonder more what this 35-year-old wants with a 22-year-old. Why does your life experience and maturity level match his so well?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah, I wrote this and thought "this is not coming out right..."

*By "old soul" I mean that I'm done "finding myself". I've figured out who I am, I've travelled, I've dated different types of guys, I've started my career, and so I feel ready to settle down, if I meet the right person.

*When I said I wanted to be in a relationship with him, I meant a boyfriend/girlfriend dating relationship, as opposed to being casual dates. I have by no means decided that I want any kind of long term relationship with him.

At the same time, I'm not thinking "Yeah, I'm just messing around in a short-term fling". That's why I want to know if the age gap would cause issues.

I'm more concerned right now with figuring out if he ISN'T long term material than if he is....I definitely agree that the latter takes time.

Thanks for feedback.
posted by Jade_bug at 11:11 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

So...as someone who is a bit infamous for her predilection for older men, who once though she was going to marry someone with a slightly larger age gap (and am so glad it never happened), and who is now happily partnered with someone else with a bit of a smaller gap (though he is still older), some things:

- 4 dates is way too early to be thinking about marriage. Seriously.

That's it.
Oh, you want more? Okay.

- At 22 I was an old soul. And I definitely was, which was apparent in the fact that ALL of my social relationships are with slightly older people. That said - I was 22. Twenty-two is so young. Even when you get to my age (basically 30) you are going to look back at 22 and realize that you were a baby, have changed so much, and now want different things. This is inevitable, so matter how much of an "old soul" you are. You don't think it's true, but it is, and you can only fully appreciate it via the aging process. I'm excited to see how turning 40 will change my perspective.

- The Partner jokes about how he's going to die first. It's funny and sad because it's (more likely to be) true. We work on that together by planning our insurances and finances and such so that I am not left a destitute widow (or so he's not out in the cold if I get hit by a bus, randomly). I also encourage him to eat his veggies and work out with me, but I do know there's a chance I could be widowed at 65, and then live another 20+ years, maybe. It make me really sad. But I still wouldn't pass up the opportunity to be with him.

- Listen: you are an old soul and smart and worldly. I know you are. I know it. But please remember - you are 22. There are a lot of older men who like 22 year olds. There are a lot of selfish older men who don't mind disrupting young lives for their pleasure and amusement. And 22 is young; if you were 30, this age gap would bother me less. But, listen - you are 22. You haven't had a lot of relationship experiences. You may not have had a lot of bad relationship experiences. Some dudes know this. Some dudes will take advantage of this. And you are smart, but you may not have enough experience to be fully aware of how this goes down. I was smart, and ended up in that failed earlier relationship because I didn't realize what was going on. And I got burned, despite my best efforts. Though at the time I thought nothing of an even larger age gap, I know pause and think, "Why does this 35-year-old want a 22-year-old girlfriend?" I now pause. I didn't pause before. And though I am not a total cynic, I do think there is grounds to pause.

I am all for love, and have really never been hung up on some of the age differences that my friends have though odd. That said: you are young, and are in the process of setting up your adult life. Do not sacrifice you values, goals, and career for this man. If he ends up being a good partner, he won't want you to. In fact, he'll help you achieve them. But you need to establish yourself as an independent human being, and if you get any sense that he is not going to allow you to do that properly, it is your responsibility to bail.

That said: it's 4 dates. You shouldn't really be reading too much into things at this point, you know?
posted by vivid postcard at 11:13 PM on February 18, 2012 [57 favorites]

I spent most of my twenties with a lovely man much older than I was. Like you, I felt like I had a lot of things sorted out, and that I was mature enough to be with someone much older. We had a wonderful relationship for many years, and eventually, I realized that you just change and grow so much in your twenties - much more than your partner is growing and changing in his thirties or forties - to the point where after almost ten years, it became clear that it's hard to plan a whole life with someone when you are in such different life stages at the start. I don't regret the relationship, nor would I advise you not to pursue yours, but I look back at how convinced I was of my own maturity at 22 and sometimes wish I'd spent my twenties as my friends did - dating more people of various kinds and then settling down ten years later.
posted by judith at 11:19 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

-He's 35, and he's working on his PhD in French literature. Prior to going back for his PhD, he taught French for 6 years.
-After he's done his PhD his dream would be to work for the UN as a diplomat. He also wants to write...
-I am not drawn to him because of his age, by any means. The fact that he is a student and I am working almost reverses things, in a sense.

Along the lines of what Sara C. said, this, not the age, might be the more challenging part. You're got some specific goals and are looking to settle down, and he seems to still be in a very...exploratory phase of his life. Lots of us would love to work for the UN, but it's sort of competitive, and French literature is not normally how one gets there. And he wants to write - ok, does he actually write, or is it something he thinks might be fun to get around to someday? Are you compatible with someone whose life plans, goals, etc. are still pretty up in the air at 35 (I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this, just that it seems a little different from where you are)?

Vivid postcard's advice is really good too.
posted by naoko at 11:32 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

At 22 years old I also knew EVERYTHING.

Ha! Not so much, it turns out.

I have a friend who married her soon-to-be ex husband at 22 when he was in his 40's. They have an 8 year old, and after two separations, are finally getting divorced for reals. So there's that.

- Your guy will never get a gig at the UN if he doesn't have an "in." Does he have friends or family or a colleague willing to champion him that works there? If not, he needs to skip this pipe dream. I worked there. I worked there, as do friends of my family, who are in high positions. Unless he has a serious foot in the door it ain't happening. Looking back, I can't think of ANYONE I knew there that wasn't there via some form of nepotism. Sorry.

- There are other government-type opportunities, just telling you the UN is not feasible. Frankly, I had NO IDEA how lucky I was back in the day. And I grew up in that milieu.

As to the rest...

Everyone is going to tell you that it's only been 4 dates and to just ENJOY. I nth that!

My husband is 9 years younger than me. I was shocked on our first date to find out his age. He told me, "Age is just a number:)" He's in his early 30's.

He is right. Provided expectations are manageable. I gave you an example above of two very happy people that couldn't make it work no matter how hard they tried. It was her age that really tanked it. She needed more than he could give as she traversed her 20's.

The problem is that 22 is NOT 29. It. Just. Is. Not.

You will change more than he will in the next couple of years. Enjoy the ride. Just letting you know!
posted by jbenben at 11:32 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

My friend's much older ex is very fit and attractive, BTW. It's really more about a generational thing.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 PM on February 18, 2012

Pffft... I swear, I have yet to see one of these "should I keep dating this guy" threads in which the majority of people say "yes". I'm surprised we haven't seen someone say "DTMFA" yet.

The age difference here is not really that great. Twelve years is a blink of an eye. And 35 is YOUNG. I'd LOVE to be 35 again.

Fuck the age difference. Keep dating him. If you still like him, and he's still a good man, don't stop.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:40 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hahaha common theme here - ok! 22 is young, I think I have my life figured out, I think I know everything, but by the time I'm 30 I'll know that I didn't. I'll take your words for it :)
posted by Jade_bug at 11:40 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think if you are looking for a life partner, 4 dates is enough to think about whether or not this person is compatible.

So, with no evidence, but you asked: One issue with dating someone 35 is the question that vivid postcard and snarl furillo asked - why is this 35 year old man interested in a 22 year old woman.

Among the answers you don't want - because he wants younger women, less experienced women, etc. And if that is what is going on for him, to note that you will always be younger than him, but you won't always be younger, or less experienced.

The only way to figure out what's going on around that though, is over time, to discover more about each other's dating history. That usually unfolds in it's own time. Does he have a history of dating women like you? How did those relationships end? In general what qualities does he look for in women he dates/has dated? What does he say about women is own age, and his own race? It is respectful?Does he make generalizations or is his response nuanced?

That said, my uncle's second wife was 22 years younger, and the loved each other madly. Sadly, he did pass, and she is raising two teens. But I don't think she would have traded it. And to be honest, there might of been a little bit on his side of being more experienced and therefore able to 'lead' the relationship. But as she matured, I think that dynamic changed. They did have a lovely life together.

And the fact that you are employed and he is a student doesn't reverse things, unfortunately. t is probably neither here nor there. I'm assuming you asked him what difference age makes, though perhaps a more neutral question is how age differences affect relationships - what did he say? Hopefully his response was thoughtful?

And, depending on where you guys live, and your cultural backgrounds, dating someone Black and 13 years older could bring up a bunch of shitty reactions on the part of his friends and family. Not necessarily, but it could. That's not a reason not to do it - it's just something to be aware of and prepared for it it happens, because you're both going to need to handle that as a team.
posted by anitanita at 11:41 PM on February 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Before you start worrying about your 50s and 60s, I would think about a little nearer in the future. One of my good friends in his mid-thirties dated a 22-year old for quite some time. I would say that one thing to consider is that there is what is between the two of you, and there is how the two of you as a couple face the world together - that includes your hopes and dreams, but it also is how you navigate day to day amongst your social circle and how much satisfaction or frustration that brings you.

Between the two of them, they were pretty compatible and had a great time one-on-one... but it was very difficult for them to exist as a couple amongst others in the same way their friends did. If they wanted to go out together and spend time with friends, it was always one side's friends or another. They found it difficult to organically bring all their friends together in any way that would meaningfully stick. Either he spent his weekends hanging with all her early 20s friends, listening to their early 20s conversations about grad school hopes and roommate drama and wanting to teach abroad, or she came along to all of our more relatively sedate mid 30s dinner parties and listened to us drone on about wanting to refinish our floors and the challenges of having newly real pressures at work and how we felt about how politics had changed since we first started voting a decade and a half ago. It wasn't just a disparity in type of activity - it was the pace of it, the cost of it, the tone of it. Neither felt fully comfortable in the other's world.

Not that this sort of constant switching of hats as a couple was inherently a bad thing, but it became a very split existence for them as a couple, and increasingly lonely for each of them to be the lone fish out of water while the other was "at home" amongst their generation. It made them each feel, over time, that their relationship existed in some strange vacuum that took an exhausting force of will to sustain.

You hope that as a couple, you build not only the foundation for your relationship but a foundation for a circle of loved ones you both feel at home in. I think that can be much more of a challenge when there's a significant age difference. The two of you may be able to get along cross-generationally, but I wouldn't underestimate how lonely it can get when you feel like you two AS A UNIT don't really feel like you have a place in the larger fabric of your lives.
posted by sestaaak at 11:43 PM on February 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

You don't sound like a very old soul. You sound like you are in a tearing hurry - and you don't need to be. Slow down. Date him. The person is much more important than arbitrary factors like age. You could spend ten years waiting to meet the right person who is the "right" age. You could meet him and he could be hit by a bus three months later - or you could. So just date him. Forget age. There aren't any rules. An old soul knows how seldom we form those real connections, and wouldn't think of losing one over an something so irrelevant.
posted by yogalemon at 11:44 PM on February 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Anitanita - thank you, I think you really understood my question.

In regards to "what does a 35 year old want with a 22 year old" - he didn't go and seek me out for being younger. We met salsa dancing - the salsa community is small enough that 19 year olds are mixed in with 60 year olds, and people go primarily to dance, rather than find people to go home with them like at a bar. So we just started talking, and he was new to the area, so I agree to go hang out with him. And then there was a connection, so we saw each other again. It was only the last 2 dates that age came up - he thought I would have been older.

I didn't ask what difference age makes - he asked me. I told him my concerns...which is what I'm trying to figure out now.

Regarding family reactions...yes. I KNOW. :S
posted by Jade_bug at 11:54 PM on February 18, 2012

Well, first off: you've had four dates. You are putting the cart so far in front of the horse that the horse can't even see the cart.

That said: my partners parents have a 20-year gap between them; they married in the 1950s when she was in her 20s and he was in his 40s. He had already had a career as a dancer in vaudeville, a stint in Germany during WWII, a failed marriage, and an affair with a German chorus girl resulting in the birth of his first son. She had worked behind the bar at her parents' tavern and, I believe, had never been out of the state where she was born.

Sixty years later, they're still together -- she's 81 and he's going on 101. And yes, she does a ton of caregiving because: 101. But they have had an absolutely devoted marriage, during which they ran a business together and raised a terrific, happy family.

So can it work out? Absolutely. Do I think you need to worry about it right now? Absolutely not. All you have to do right now is enjoy getting to know each other. Take care of the present and the future will take of itself.
posted by scody at 12:03 AM on February 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

In the near future, I think your biggest problem might be that he doesn't want to settle down. If he's 35 and not married, not in a long-term relationship, hasn't bought a house, doesn't have kids, doesn't even have a long-term career, then those things are probably not very high priorities for him. Which is cool. They aren't high priorities for many people. But it sounds like they might be for you. And that could cause conflict.

My husband is 10 years older than me. We met when I was 18. At the time, we were both students: I was an undergrad, and he was just finishing up a PhD. So in some ways our lives were similar, and we had a lot in common. One issue was that he was just leaving that social context, though, and I was just beginning in it. I had another 10 years of university (including grad school) ahead of me, and he soon signed on to work as an investment banker in London. That was tricky to navigate. We had less in common the next few years.

Fortunately for me, he hated banking and went back into academia, and our goals and values and everyday life overlapped a bit more again.

The only other issue we have had, if I can even call it that, is that our relationship initially worked because he was kind of an immature 28, and I was a fairly mature 18. The thing is, though, a mature 18-year-old either stays the same, or gets more mature over the next 10 years. That is not always the case for an immature 28 year old. Fortunately the stint of investment banking in a foreign country kicked his ass into doing a hell of a lot of growing up. (He would admit to this too, btw: I'm not just saying it). Without that, I think we would have become incompatible over the next decade.
posted by lollusc at 12:13 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can speak a bit about this issue because my brother is twenty years old than his wife. My brother started dating young women (naturally) when he was 20 but as he got older, his new girlfriends remained more or less the same age. The first problem I noted (and I have noted in other May-December relationships) is that there are a lot of cultural/social issues that they just do not have in common. This may seem relatively unimportant but it does have some importance as the relationship develops. When I make certain cultural references to my partner (who is more or less my age) she gets them straight away. I can remember my brother having issues with one of his previous girlfriends when she did not . The second issue is friends. His friends are his age, her friends are her age, so they have far less in common when they get together.

His current and longest-lasting relationship is with his current wife. She wanted kids. He acquiesced. But he was around 50 when the first was born. He had no experience of or interest in children. He had been a lousy uncle to mine. He has turned out to be a poor father (YMMV). The general perception is that children are at risk with an older mother but there is now some evidence that older fathers (35+) are more likely to have children tending to autism/Asperger's. Two of his certainly are Asperger's. Finally, at his age, he will be 80 when the youngest finishes college. Health issues are already very much there in his case and will only get worse.

None of this should put you off. YMMV and, anyway, the most important thing is if you love and care for one another. But they are issues you be thinking of.
posted by TheRaven at 1:22 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not so much that after 4 dates I think we'll for sure end up together, but my purpose in dating is figuring out who I'm going to marry, so I want to figure this out ASAP

You are twenty-two years old, woman. If you go into any potential liason with the same attitude that you would have if you were renting a car to decide whether to buy it, your dating life is going to seem more serious and more fraught than it ever needs to be. You're writing about this guy in a way that suggests you're working out how much the maintenance is going to cost you down the road. Take a deep breath and choose your partners based on how they make you feel and how they treat you more than a tick-list of Potential Husband Material criteria.

I'm not wishing to sound patronising, but people change a lot during their twenties, and the person who seems right for you at 22 might not by 24.
posted by mippy at 4:32 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

My sister started dating her husband at 22. Was married at 24. She's now 27.

He turned 40 last year.

They are so incredibly happy.

Good relationships can be hard to come by.

Just my two cents.
posted by zizzle at 5:25 AM on February 19, 2012

I was 22 when my husband (44 at the time) & I started dating. My family really liked him, once they met him. Maybe it was a little odd, not sure. It wasn't for me. Some of his family thought maybe I could be some sort of gold-digger... but, my husband definitely was not rich! We met at work, so, it wasn't a weird bar pickup thing there, either. We knew we were similar in a lot of social views, and had fun together, and went from there. We've been together 15 years, married for eight.
posted by kellyblah at 5:35 AM on February 19, 2012

I've been with my partner for 8 years, and there's a 17 year age difference. I'll agree with the other posters who caution that at 22 you may be getting ahead of yourself in seeing this as a potential marriage relationship, and for the record, I was 31 when I met my partner.

But I'll answer your primary question. There are some long term issues with an age difference.

1. You may find yourself dealing with elder care issues much sooner that your peers. My partner's parents were quite elderly when we met, and they both passed away in the last five years. At one point my partner moved in with his dad to take care of him (I still had my own apartment then). Lots of time was spent in hospitals and nursing homes, dealing with doctors, then eventually planning funerals and settling estates. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been if we had been married with kids at the time.

2. There is such a thing as a mid-life crisis.The fact that you will be at very different life and professional stages when it happens (for both you and him) can make them tricky to navigate.

3. I haven't dealt with too much in the way of family negative reactions, but there was some initial weirdness meeting his friends. I don't think they knew what to make of me. It was less of an issue with my friends, because my circle spans a wider age range anyway.

4. I think a lack of common points of cultural reference might be an issue for some couples. It hasn't been a big issue in my relationship, but that's primarily due to luck and temperament. There are huge swaths of cultural touch points that we don't share.

All that said, I'm in a pretty wonderful relationship that I wouldn't trade for the world.
posted by kimdog at 5:48 AM on February 19, 2012

This 43 year old will tell you that 35 is practically dead.

Put another way, it depends. I'm 43 going on 26. It depends on the guy and a lot of other factors. Date for a while. Don't worry about the future yet.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:56 AM on February 19, 2012

When I was 23, I met the man who would be my husband. He was 34. We have been together for 10 years, married for 5.

I think personality/maturity/life goals matter more than numerical age. For example, Mr. Ipsum did quite a bit of partying in his 20s, and by the time he reached his 30s, he was done with staying out late. If I were a partier in my 20s, I might have felt like I was missing out by being with him, but I was always more of a "homebody" so we both enjoyed the same simple dates: going out to dinner, watching a movie at his house, etc.

My husband had never dated a younger woman prior to me - his previous girlfriends had been older than him. And at first he was hesitant about asking me out, but he felt that I was pretty mature for my age, and once he even referred to me as "23 going on 40."

We were in slightly different life stages when we met. He was working in his chosen career, and I was just starting graduate school while working at a job I didn't like in order to pay tuition. But I don't think it negatively affected the relationship at all.

And I think the age difference matters less as you get older. The difference between 22 and 35 might seem like a lot. But between 40 and 53, it's not that much.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 6:51 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I married someone with about that much age difference. This is not really a thing I think about or care about. But then I'm much older than you, and I've dated several thousand people, and had a number of serious relationships, and I know what I like and who I'd want to marry. But then, another data point, so did a family member of the previous generation, and I just went to her spouse's funeral. That being said, we're all gonna bite it some time, and I figure I've got nearly as good a chance as dying before my spouse, despite my age advantage. This is stuff you simply can not game out: life conspires. Have a good time and, you know, see how the dating goes?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 31, DH is 62. We've been together since I was 27.

Because he looks young, we haven't had a ton of issues, but I do get called his daughter from time to time.

He is in excellent shape. I know that someday that will change. My in laws both passed away a few years ago, but I was lucky to have a good relationship with them.

Our lifestyle and goals were very similar to begin with. Our vastly different life experiences has been awesome for our relationship. We never run out of things to talk about the way some couples do with a lot of shared interests/experiences.

He made me believe in true love.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:57 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

A 22 year old woman is at the best age to have the healthiest children. If he is looking for a young wife to have healthy children with, that makes him smart. It only makes him a creep if he starts up with a woman in her 30s and then dumps her because her eggs are old. I don't think you can fault a man who wants to give his children the best start in the world.

As far as age gap, IMO, age gap only makes a difference if a man used that gap to "audition" women and then dump them on some kind of whim. Or if he spent that time having children without marriage or commitment. If he has been spending that gap getting educated or building resources in order to start a family - then he is a keeper.

This actually sounds like a really good match to me from what you have written.

If he is smart enough to plan his life, like I think he has, then he is also smart enough to take care of his health. So it is not likely he will die young. Since he is thirty-five, he has sort of proven himself health wise - you know he didn't have early onset schizophrenia or Leukemia which show up before 30 (so the odds for getting a disease like that are lessened for him). That's just an example of things you know he will not get "young". He doesn't have diabetes now so if he watches his health he probably won't get it.

He should have children soon though. Because there is evidence older men have more problems with their offspring just like older women.

[I married a man my age (19) and we had children when I was young and then my husband died (Leukemia) when he was thirty. I am now with a partner 12 years older than I am and we are doing just fine.]
posted by cda at 7:08 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not married but I've been in relationships and know lots of married people.

Cultural and generational touchpoints - YMMV. There isn't nearly as stark a difference between generations these days as there once was, IME. Kids and grandparents alike listen to the Beatles and are Star Wars fans. A good friend and her 15-years-older husband have no problems finding things in common to bond over; they are both smart, well-read, intellectually-curious people so that helps a lot. So it helps a lot if both of you have a wide range of interests (actually, that is a huge plus in any relationship whatever the relative ages).

Two major stumbling blocks I've seen: A 20-year gap isn't a big deal when you're 40 and he's 60. But when you're 60 and he's 80 you might find yourself full of energy, still wanting to work and do things, and he's growing frail and in need of care and not able to enjoy doing the same things you do. I've seen women around that age give up everything in their lives to care for their spouses and that's no fun, no matter how happy the marriage. A few of these women have been known to breathe a secret sigh of relief when their frail/demented spouse dies and leaves them free...and that's so guilt-inducing.

Second: You're 45, at the peak of your career. He's 65 and wants to retire now. Soon he's pushing you to take early retirement. Do you take the hit to your career and your Social Security payouts? Women live longer than men so they need more income in retirement. Does he have enough stashed away to cover the shortfall? And suppose you adamantly refuse to retire because you love your career and/or need the money, and he gets grumpy and resentful because you're not sharing in his retirement.

These aren't necessarily deal-breakers; they can be worked out or around. But they're things to think about in age-gap relationships (and they'd be the same if it was the woman who was older!).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:10 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Goodness. Reading these answers you'd think that 22-year-olds were still in braces and training bras.

I really don't see the point in purposefully ignoring someone's marriageability just because you're young. In fact, I think "don't worry" is a stupid attitude. Not everyone wants to have lots of pointless relationships with incompatible people before they're allowed to give a shit about things like long-term compatibility.

Now. That said. Everything about this dude screams either "will never get a job" or maybe "SAH dad". Is that okay with you?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:15 AM on February 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

Also a concern for me is how my career and having children would fit into this.

I can't speak to what it's like in a May/December relationship, but I can certainly speak to what it's like having older parents. I'm in my late 30's and my father is in his early 80's and suffers a lot of health problems. He is more of a grandparent to me and although he was OK during my childhood and early teens, he wasn't the father he could have been had he been 20-25 years younger.

I never knew my grandfather and now my kids will likely grow up without many memories of their grandfather either. I really cherish the time we have together, but I have to deal with the reality that I will spend the second half of my life without my dad and that sucks.

Just something to think about...
posted by SoulOnIce at 8:08 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband is 13 years older than me. When we met, I was 24 and he was 37. All my friends thought it was CRAAAAZY that I was dating such an old, decrepit creature. Now we're all looking back on 37 and wishing we were that young again.

Of course there are all sorts of other details that were more important than our ages. He was just getting to the point in his life where he was ready to settle down (no previous marriages or children). I was very mature for my age - yep, frequently called "an old soul" by my pals. I really think that we were meeting somewhere in the middle as far as our mental ages go.

Now we've been married for 18 years and it's a good marriage and we have a child, blah blah blah. My husband is getting older, that's true. Sadly, so am I.

So my only advice to you is that if it's the right person, it's the right person. If it's not, it's not.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Much too early to be thinking of this.
posted by pakora1 at 9:18 AM on February 19, 2012

Much too early to be thinking of this.

This is bad advice and not true. By the fourth date, one should be considering the long term potential of a relationship.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:02 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If the person is worth it then they're worth it.

I'd be more worried about his apparent lack of pragmatism about the future. You may well have to be the primary earner in this relationship. If you're lucky, he may be the primary parent, but I wouldn't count on that either.

Women his own age probably realize this and realize that if they are not in a place independently to start a family, they won't be there with him either. This isn't as pressing for you because you're young, so maybe you're happy to spend the next couple of years really focusing on your career to the point that you could be the primary earner and accommodate pregnancy and maternity leave.

The only way to find out whether he's worth it is to keep dating him with both your heart and your eyes open.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was 22 I dated a 34 year old for a year. Then when I was 23 I dated a (different) 35 year old for a year.

Neither of these relationships worked out. I think sestaak really nailed the main age-related issue. It did affect the relationships, but it wasn't really the main dealbreaker -- other compatibility issues were.

More importantly, at the time those relationships seemed to me to have long-term potential because I was absolutely convinced I was ready and eager to settle down, get married, have babies, etc. That was only two years ago (I'm 25 now) and I'm already changing my mind. Since the end of my last supposedly-headed-for-stability relationship, I've been having so much fun that getting married and having children is starting to seem like a fantastic bore. Still something I want in the long term, yes. But maybe in my thirties.
posted by ootandaboot at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2012

I've had several relationships with biggish age differences (13-15 years). Sometimes the man is older, sometimes I'm older. In general, older guys tended to treat me like a pet and wanted me to be malleable and sweet. Younger guys see me for the amazon that I actually am.

So I'd just warn you to be on the lookout for any signs that he considers your youth to be part of your appeal, because youth won't last. Has he had serious relationships in the past with women his age or older, or does he always prefer younger women? Does he seem truly impressed by your brain and career?
posted by ceiba at 10:21 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm going to suggest one other thing that raises a question. His goals for himself sound perfectly lovely and doubtless help make him an interesting person to date but one of them seems terribly unrealistic (maybe the UN) and the PhD is a long, depressing, stressful and sometimes heartbreakingly burdensome road to trod. Does your salsa dancer have the fortitude or the finances for that?

Not to mince words, be aware that a young woman who is just starting a marketing career can expect to be able to support her household and, in today's world, is increasingly called upon to do so. I know some women who are the sole breadwinners in their relationships with a long term students. The doctoral student charm wears a little thin when she's doing all of the money-making and most of the care-taking and is still expected to support his ego and, sometimes, worry about a ton of unpaid student loan debt. Having kids and a happy family life seems unattainable when you're pouring everything into somebody else's dreams. Be sure when you pick a man, you're going to be living your life and not just playing a part in his.
posted by Anitanola at 10:21 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]

It's not so much that after 4 dates I think we'll for sure end up together, but my purpose in dating is figuring out who I'm going to marry, so I want to figure this out ASAP

Others have already mentioned this, but I want to point you to this excellent (and cautionary) comment in another thread, and what it can be like for a man when the "Is He Husband Material" question is thrown into the relationship dynamic very early in the game.
posted by scody at 12:07 PM on February 19, 2012

(not that I think you're behaving like the woman being referred to in that comment, OP, but rather that it's instructive on how being too preoccupied with a question about the future runs the risk of changing the dynamic of the present in such a way that it actually winds up cutting off the prospect of a future at all.)
posted by scody at 12:11 PM on February 19, 2012

Some red flags: the guy is 35 years old and dreams of being a writer or a diplomat. Does he have any dreams of paying the bills? It's pretty obvious why he is not dating women in his peer group.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'll come at this from the other angle: after years of dating much older men, I ended up marrying a guy who is 3 years older. I'm really glad I did. First, the older men did not have their shit sorted out, and that was part of why they dated younger women. Relatedly, they were going through mid-life crises at a point where I was not capable of understanding or supporting them through it. When my husband started Thinking About His Life in the past year, we'd already been together for six years and the commitment saw us through it.

Second, you miss out on a lot of common cultural touchstones. I'm only two years older than your guy, and I have no freaking idea what 22 year olds are into nowadays, or what cartoons you watched as a kid, or what your favorite movie is likely to be.

Third, aches and pains crop up suddenly and inexplicably in your late 30s and early 40s, although if he's active (dancing) this may impact him less. Still, he's unlikely to have as much energy as you do.

Fourth, when you're with a guy who is similar in age, you know he likes to date women who are similar in age to you. He's less likely to drop you for another 22 year old down the line.

22 year old boys probably seem kind of stupid to you. But there are many advantages to dating a guy close to your age.
posted by desjardins at 3:13 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The main thing that is making me uncomfortable with the situation is advice my grandmother gave me

People didn't live as long in your grandmother's generation as people do now. And had different "older" attitudes. I look at movies from the 50s and wonder who those grown ups are and then realize they were 28 at the time. Medical care is a lot better now. What she saw happening is not what happens now.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:11 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had some great advice once that said that in the early stages of a relationship, you shouldn't disqualify based on ANY arbitrary reason because you just don't know how circumstances will be if he IS the one. For instance, I used to disqualify people with pets because I have allergies and don't want pets. But the right person for me might decide he does not want further pets either, or I might decide for the right person that I can live with the right kind of pet, if other elements all line up and the signs otherwise point to a 'yes.' He is 35 right now. He is not a little old man. And he is, like you, not established yet in his career. Is 'UN Diplomat' perhaps his fantasy job? Maybe. But if he is with the right person when the job issue starts to matter, might he absolutely consider where they are at and what their preferences are when he decides? Absolutely.

Fwiw there is a 14-year difference between my dad and my stepmother, she is 50ish and he is 60-something, and they have had 25 fabulous years together so far and show no signs of keeling over. Meanwhile, I am with someone a mere one year older than me who has some pre-existing health issues and I have already done some care-giving. But with all the other plusses the relationship brings to my life, that one fact alone is not a deal-breaker, and I certainly don't think that the mere existence of his health condition should disqualify him from being in a relationship forever.

When you worry about what will happen when he is mid-60s and you are 50-something, what you are really saying is that you want some sort of guarantee that things will be fine, and the reality is, nobody gets that. That is just too far away to know for sure. And even if something does happen to him in his 60s, you would have had 30 great years together. So if he works for you and you work for him, why not just go with the journey and see what happens? Don't drive yourself crazy trying to look for a crystal ball; there isn't one for anybody, age difference or not.
posted by JoannaC at 5:23 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

In regards to "what does a 35 year old want with a 22 year old" - he didn't go and seek me out for being younger.

Nah, that's not what I meant. I meant, as other people have addressed, "why is he on the same wavelength as you?" It seems like he's still in an early-20s-type mindset: going to graduate school, musing about careers, not totally sure what he wants. He's not in a mid-30s mindset: established in his career, saving for the future, etc. Nothing wrong with that, really; it just might not be what you want long-term.

But I kept thinking about this question today, and you know what? You're 22. Just ENJOY yourself. Enjoy this guy's 25-year-old-looking fit French-speaking ass. Go salsa dancing. Drink wine. Spend a long weekend in Montreal or New Orleans or Martinique and pretend you're sexy spies on the run from the KGB. Just have fun.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:47 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

22 year old boys probably seem kind of stupid to you. But there are many advantages to dating a guy close to your age.

I'd revise this. 22 year old boys probably seem kind of stupid to you. There are many advantages to dating older guys now. But that doesn't mean you have to marry one.
posted by Sara C. at 6:27 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You've all had a lot of really great insights, thank you. I talked to him today and I asked him some of the questions that were raised here.

I was surprised by all the comments that talk about me being needing to be the main bread-winner. He told me today that he's on track to finish his PhD in December; he started in 2008. While a UN job isn't necessarily realistic, he taught high school French prior to going back for his PhD (and also worked as a notary, at one point.) So other than the risk of being over-qualified, I don't see why he wouldn't be able to find meaningful work once he's done. Also, he's on scholarship now, and he was on scholarship for previous education as well, so I don't imagine he'd have massive student debt. Does that make sense, or do you think I'm missing something?

In terms of other relationships....he was in a relationship for 11 years. He was ready for kids, she wanted to hold off. They planned to get married, but they were holding off because they (she?) wanted an enormous wedding both in Canada and back home so they were saving for that. He ended the relationship because he felt like he was constantly giving of himself and he wasn't getting anything back, and lack of common interests. (She wouldn't come support him at his karate tournaments. His money was her money, her money was her money, etc.) He stayed for so long because they were of the same background, and in a new country it was comfortable, and you get to a point when you've put so much time into the relationship, you don't want to start over. Of course there's 2 sides to every story, but it makes perfect sense to me, because he is so nice and puts in so much effort, it would be very easy for someone to take advantage of him.

I'm very conscious of the fact that he was in such a long relationship (none of mine have been very long or serious, although since my last relationship I changed my mentality and have avoided dating people I don't see long-term potential with). I didn't post that fact initially because I wanted to get advice on the age issue specifically. Of course it's too soon to tell if this will be an issue - obviously that's a huge difference in experience - but I get the feeling that he was disappointed with the relationship for so long that he's at least not pining over her now.

Thank you for the points on male fertility, aging in-laws, and mid-life crises. And also his age when children are grown. I hadn't considered any of those.

I'm not too concerned about cultural references; a lot of interesting conversation comes from explaining different cultural references to each other (coming from differences in language and background, rather than age).

Good points about having friends in different age groups. That too, I'm not too concerned about, since in the salsa community 20 year olds and 40 year olds all hang out together, and my social circle through work is made of people mostly mid 20's to late 30's. I have 20 year old friends too, of course, but most of my friends are already older anyway.

Scaring a guy off with the mention of long term compatibility is a very valid point. But he's thinking long term too (he told me this). And I'm the one telling him to slow down emotionally, so I think I'm ok in this particular situation.

The more I think about it the more I think the age-gap will be a non-issue in the short term, still not sure about the long-term. I saw my parents today, with a 7 year age gap, and my dad seemed so old compared to my Mom.
posted by Jade_bug at 12:05 AM on February 20, 2012

The thing with a PhD in the humanities is that it is a long commitment of time without significant income and with not much hope for financial reward. It doesn't make him a bad person or anything, but it is impractical and I imagine it pissed his ex off mightily that he quit his job and went for it considering that they were trying to save up for a wedding and a kid.

Maybe I'm being too hard on him, but I would personally not ever commit to someone until I saw them hold down a job. They don't need to be working 80 hours a week in finance, but it needs to be clear that they're willing to put in work even when it's not the dream job.

Look, you know him, we don't, he probably smells amazing, you're not going to really be thinking about this rationally (god knows it's hard to do) but maybe just keep holding off on the serious commitments until you find out how this guy will do on the job/practicality front. And don't let him move in with you until you've seen him hold down a job. Just trust me on that one.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Everything you've just said still keeps the answer to your question at "have fun and see where it goes." This guy might have a PhD in December. Then again, December is almost a year from now. That's still too far ahead to be worried about, after four dates. It's also way too soon for you to be thinking about commitment, on the off chance that you guys are still together at that point.

So let it go. Slow down. Have fun. Worry about the old folks' home later.
posted by Sara C. at 8:14 AM on February 20, 2012

I'm in my early 40s and I have multiple friends who have lived through the situation you describe. Here's what usually went down:

(1) The girl had daddy issues (either he was sick, or he left, or he was a jerk, or what have you).

(2) The guy had maturity issues and thus was dating a woman who he could have fathered.

(3) The girl started to respond to advances from men her own age because she wanted to go surfing, go to concerts, stay up all night, whatever it is that the old man wasn't really able to keep up with.

That said, there's clearly no shortage of people (who have commented above) that found their soul mate in a different generation.

In my opinion, it's awfully nice to go through life together and experience things in the same time frame. My father just died. He met my mom at 16, married her at 21, and they were married for 54 years. Their shared lifetime is a profound thing -- something you won't truly have with somebody who grew into who they are before you were even born.
posted by GIRLesq at 9:50 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Quoting myself from an earlier question:

"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?"

We met when I was 33 and he was 49 and have been together, happily, for over 12 years.
posted by deborah at 3:38 PM on February 20, 2012

I think some people have made some perfectly good points, but still, I don't think there is any reason NOT to pursue this relationship.

My mother was 22 when she met my then 33 year old father, and they have now been married more than 30 years, and have four grown children together. True, it is now getting quite obvious that my dad (who is pushing 70) is considerably older than my mother. He didn't have his first kid until he was in his mid-40s, and will be 70 when his last graduates college. But regardless, he was a caring, wonderful father. I didn't get to know my paternal grandparents very well, true, but heck, my maternal grandparents ended up dying quite young, too - you can't know what turns life will take regardless.

Anyway, just my two cents. 22 isn't too young to have your life figured out enough to be looking at long term relationship potential, and everything you say about him indicates that he seems to have said long term potential. Good for you both.
posted by CharlieSue at 9:23 AM on February 21, 2012

Response by poster: Hi all,

So, I decided not to see him anymore.

In the end, age was part of it, but not the main reason. In 4 dates things moved much faster than I was comfortable with, and on the last date I found out his age, so I told him I just needed some time and space to think about the whole thing.

I decided not to see him for a week to clear my head, (which was a really good idea) although we texted and talked on the phone. Since I met him, he's seemed really desperate and clingy, which bothers me. Eg Last time I saw him, he gave me a fancy watch, (which I told him was lovely but I couldn't accept), said "I love you", and has been trying really hard to get me in bed. He apologizes constantly, for nothing. His desperation feels like a red flag to me, and coupled with age, being in school, super long recent relationship, I just wasn't feeling good about it.

Thanks for all the help :)
posted by Jade_bug at 8:36 PM on February 27, 2012

That sounds like a wise decision. Good luck in your future dating endeavors!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:37 PM on February 27, 2012

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