Navigating a 10 Year Age Gap While Dating
January 3, 2015 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday an incredible guy messaged me on Match and I can't stop looking at his profile because he seems like such a great fit for me. The only catch is that he's 10-11 years older than I am (though still in his 30s) and that's making me very leery. Am I right to be or am I being silly?

My gut feelings are usually spot on, so I'm kind of concerned that a flag went up in my head the moment I realized that this cute guy is more than my normal age difference limit of 5 years. I have a history of feeling inadequate and unfinished because while very intelligent and talented I am something of a late bloomer in terms of experiencing life in the way others have. This guy has so many qualities I think I want in a partner: he runs multiple philanthropies, loves animals, is ambitious and intelligent, and in general just seems like a kind, good guy. He's clearly kind of wealthy and has accomplished a lot. By contrast I'm still trying to not live paycheck to paycheck and my career is only just starting. I've never traveled and I'm just starting to realize who I am and who I want to be. The difference between old me and me now is that I like myself a lot more than I used to, and I am very willing to drop someone if they don't see me as great just the way I am. But still! Ahh!!!

Am I self sabotaging here? Will the age gap only be an issue if I let it be one? He definitely likes what he sees and this is the first year I've ever had a profile that accurately describes who I am and what I want from a partner, so it's not like I've misrepresented myself. Why can't I move past this red flag that keeps waving in my mind?
posted by Hermione Granger to Human Relations (51 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Why don't you try going on a date before you size up whether he's the right person to settle down with? Don't go into this thinking it'll be anything more than a phone conversation, or dinner out, or whatever.
posted by xingcat at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2015 [46 favorites]

My husband is 30 years older than I am. On paper, there is NO reason we should be together, and we will be celebrating our 7th anniversary this spring. Don't let age define your relationship. If you want the same things and enjoy the same things, it might work out.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:20 AM on January 3, 2015 [11 favorites]

The year he was born is not his fault. Maybe the 20-something version of himself isn't someone you'd want to date; maybe the years he has spent gaining experience and learning who he is makes the man he is now interesting to you. I don't believe that the package we come in should get in the way of the person underneath. If you were a minor it's different, obviously, but if you're intelligent and capable and sure of your wants and needs then I would take a chance on this man and see what happens. If he's not for you so be it. Generally you regret the chances you don't take.
posted by billiebee at 10:22 AM on January 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

He could be lying about his age and might be older. His pictures might be from when he was younger. You'll never know unless you meet him. Ask him his name, do some research, definitely be careful.

From experience: Guys in their 30s and above trolling for women 10 yrs younger online can be immature and badgery. Just keep your guard up.
posted by discopolo at 10:23 AM on January 3, 2015 [26 favorites]

I think age is less important than shared life goals and compatibility. If you still have goals for yourself that you won't be able to meet if you want to be with this dude, it's not going to work out. But maybe you will be able to do everything you want and be with him, which seems like it would be awesome.

I would go on a couple dates and see what happens. Trust yourself. You aren't self sabotaging right now, you're just thinking of dating someone. Going on a few dates isn't self sabotage either.

The age gap will only be an issue if the two of you are in different places, goal wise. If he wants to settle down, get married, have kids and live in the same town, while you want to travel, move from place to place, and wait another 10 years to have kids, (or vice versa) it's not going to work out.

Go on a couple dates, and figure out a way to talk about this stuff. Listen to your gut along the way. If it still feels wrong after a couple weeks, end it.
posted by natteringnabob at 10:27 AM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

The biggest red flag that I see in what you wrote is that you're still possibly fighting with some immature behavior patterns, and that's you, not him, and not the age difference.

This would be a very good time to actively let go of those and just enjoy whatever comes of the relationship, be it a date or two, a friendship, or a lifetime.

And remember, as you move into the future - the only time in life that it's "normal" for people to be stuffed into a small age group range is during required schooling. Unfortunately, people sometimes hang on to that manufactured dynamic far too long, and miss out on a lot of interactions that they'd otherwise enjoy and grow from.
posted by stormyteal at 10:28 AM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I do have a lot of friends who ended up married to guys even 20-30 years older. Generally my friends didn't date/find these guys in their 20s, but these folks seem pretty happy with the lives they created.

Though I would hold off on that kind of commitment while you're in your twenties, if this guy ends up being in his 40s when you meet him IRL.

Just be careful.
posted by discopolo at 10:30 AM on January 3, 2015

There was some recent article/infographic that basically told us what we already knew: men, no matter their age, on online dating sites continually go after women in their 20s.

He's not the first older guy who will reach out to you, and he's not the last. He could be great, he could be a Peter Pan jerk. You won't know until you go out with him.

Go out with him, and focus on how you feel. Don't try to impress him -- figure out if HE impresses YOU.
posted by gsh at 10:36 AM on January 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

he runs multiple philanthropies

This, not the age gap, is a red flag to me. With respect to your question, I don't think a ten-year age gap is necessarily a dealbreaker or an indication that someone's being creepy or predatory. I'm in a relationship with someone 9 years older and it's no big thing. In fact, I consider his extra years of life experience a bonus!

But I think your hackles might be raised for good reason, and that could be that he's presenting himself online in a way that seems just over-the-top good. It reminds me of how everyone on the show Catfish is a model, a record producer, etc. etc. I'd get his name, google him, look into the "multiple philanthropies" and why and how he's wealthy. If it checks out, there's no harm in meeting for coffee.
posted by magdalemon at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2015 [48 favorites]

I think people exaggerate and lie on dating profiles and you are seriously putting the cart before the horse here. You are fantasizing about what he wrote, not about a real person. Have coffee and see if you even like him enough to have lunch before you start fretting over your china pattern! His voice may grate on you, he may not smell right, he could look nothing like his pictures, he could be embellishing his philanthropies and wealth beyond comprehension to attract dreamy young ladies who are impressed by stuff like that. And none of that has anything to do with his age.
posted by cecic at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Just for the heck of it, here's Wikipedia article on "age disparity in sexual relationships".

My father was 9 years older than my mom. It was never an issue (although they married later than the norm for their generation).

Nthing the entire "go out with him and see what happens" sentiment. He could be awesome. He could be a sleaze. There's really only one way to find out.

(Good luck!)
posted by doctor tough love at 10:43 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came in to say what magdalemon wrote - my shields are up because guys who boast to wealth online I've found to be, uh, narcissistic creeps to put it mildly, and seem to target women "below" them to admire them.

The 10 years itself isn't a biggie.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2015 [15 favorites]

On age gaps: the well-known, convenient rule of thumb is: don't date anyone younger than half-your-age-plus-seven.

On your sudden red flag/gut feeling: seeing his age seems to have crystallized for you the other issues you describe, about your own sense of where you are in your life. It's not about him (or the profile-version of him), it's about you. But it might indeed mean that he isn't the right person for you at this time.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have spent time with men as much as ~17 years older and ~13 years younger. Sometimes, the age difference mattered. Sometimes, it didn't. When it matters, it matters. When it doesn't, it doesn't. As long as you don't wind up in some situation like a shotgun wedding, letting a man outside your comfort zone chat you up a bit is a learning experience with no real downside. It tells you things about yourself you wouldn't learn any other way. Most likely, this will not turn into marriage. But it might pave the way for some other relationship down the road to have a better shot at working out.

This guy has so many qualities I think I want in a partner: he runs multiple philanthropies, loves animals, is ambitious and intelligent, and in general just seems like a kind, good guy. He's clearly kind of wealthy and has accomplished a lot. By contrast I'm still trying to not live paycheck to paycheck and my career is only just starting.

Given that men tend to make more money than women and have better careers, the odds are pretty high that any man that is similarly intelligent, ambitious, etc as you are will likely have more real world accomplishments under his belt. If you shut out men who have more money and more accomplishments than you have, you are going to be kind of limiting yourself to "losers."

I strongly suspect that heterosexual relationships skew towards older-man-with-younger-woman because women mature sexually earlier and mature socially earlier, so a man a few years older is likely to be a better match for a woman in terms of being roughly equal on the social skills/emotional maturity front. Given the realities of the world, a man who is your equal in terms of social skills and intelligence and general competence is a) your best bet for a LTR and b) probably going to be more successful in his career than you are currently and probably going to be making more money.

So I will suggest that you need to make a distinction here as to which sort of "equal" you want in your relationship. My opinion: Money comes and goes, jobs come and go, so innate qualities are the way to bet. (Granted, the differences in where you are materially can present challenges, but I think they are less problematic than pairing up with someone that, if you remove money and power, is basically beneath you and cannot keep up.)
posted by Michele in California at 10:47 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

....This guy has so many qualities I think I want in a partner: he runs multiple philanthropies, loves animals, is ambitious and intelligent, and in general just seems like a kind, good guy.....

I'm nthing what another poster mentioned, but my concern is not even the age, but don't fall for the person or make any conclusions about the person until you meet him.

If people describe and give themselves positive adjectives in a profile "intelligent, ambitious, good person", watch how the person behaves, not how they describe themselves.

I've met people who claim to "love animals" in an ad, and this can equal - likes to look at a bird in a tree to keeps 10 pet cats. Don't get attached to any of this yet.

Meet the person. Ask questions. If 1 doesn't connect to 2 and there are lies, then it is a problem (or an infinite number of other reasons that you might not like or care for the person and vice verse).
posted by Wolfster at 10:52 AM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Caveat: when I say "it's not about him, it's about you", I should have said: it's not about some-person-you-might-meet-who-has-the-qualities-listed.

magdalemon and St. Peepsburg are correct: the real red flag is that he lists these qualities.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:53 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The age difference in and of itself doesn't seem like a huge deal to me, but the fact that it sounds like you guys are at VERY different places in your lives does. Where I've seen the age difference go badly in friends' relationships is where one person is clearly very settled and has their life "figured out", while the other is still very much in the position of figuring those things out and developing/shaping who they are as a person. I think often this ends up with their development (personality-wise and career-wise) being shaped and constrained by the more settled partner.

That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with meeting up and having coffee! After all, he could turn out to be awful in person and then it's not even an issue. :) Just be aware of the possible dynamics at play and be sure to protect "you" throughout the process.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:57 AM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

don't date anyone younger than half-your-age-plus-seven

I've seen this before here on MeFi and elsewhere. Sez who? Where does this come from? Is this something someone said in a movie once? Who makes up all these rules?

It boils down to physical attraction and a common outlook on life more than days ticked off on a calendar. I think the advice to not weave your futures together just yet and to go on one date first is pretty sound.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:57 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify, he doesn't mention wealth at all in his profile. His name, real age, and the legitimacy of his philanthropic associations were easy to find out because he gave me his full name and he mentions the charities directly across both his LinkedIn profile and on other networks. In fact, I think he may actually know my boss, which kind of makes me feel a little bit better because my boss has good taste in friends and colleagues and I bet I could ask him if Match Guy is the real deal without it being too weird.

As for the philanthropic aspect of all this, yes, that strikes me as being a little iffy too. But the thing is that I put on my profile that I want to be involved with someone who is as committed to volunteering and supporting certain causes as I am. Is his having started a few charities really that big a deal? If so, why?
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:59 AM on January 3, 2015

When I was around your age and older men approached me, I'd ask myself what exactly they saw in me. Not in some bad self esteem sense, but just as a practical matter. What about me are they actually interested in? Do they know anything about me at all apart from my general demographics and appearance?

Very frequently, they really were just interested in the idea of getting with a young woman, and they'd often show very early signs of trying to mold me into their personal ideal, like telling me I'd look prettier if I changed my hair or the way I dressed, or trying to get me interested in their own interests or something like that, as though I'm some blank slate they can attract with generic lady-attracting tactics. A lot of your guy's attractive qualities do kind of look like generic lady-attracting things, the sort that a creepy old guy might affect. They kind of put on this persona of a guy from a crappy rom com, and they're almost always humble, secretly wealthy animal lovers.

Which is not to say don't meet the guy for coffee or something. Just meet the guy for coffee to both gauge your interest and to try to suss out his. It could be that the guy is a legitimately great guy. Just keep your eye out for creepiness, and pay very close attention to what his attraction to you seems to be.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:01 AM on January 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

The age difference is interesting, and it's worth a date to see if he's compatible with you. I too am concerned about running philanthropies. That just rings like a big ol' lie. Most philanthropic folks tend to be on the DL about it because they're not looking for positive strokes, or for people reaching out to them for money.

If he's given you the impression that he's wealthy...why do you suppose that is? A man looking for someone to date would probably not want people to be swayed by wealth. A quality person would want to be wanted for his character and personality.

Do Google him, see if you can find him on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you're still interested, meet him for coffee. Be alert to things that just don't sound right. Bragging, lying and name dropping are bad signs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:06 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

My husband is 16 years younger than me. We started dating 10 years ago when he was in his early 20's we're still together 11 years later. I would say go on at least a date or 2 with the guy before you start deciding anything if he sounds interesting to you. As ernielundquist wrote, if the age thing isn't going to matter, seriously it won't matter. If he's just after the whole thrill of dating a younger woman a date or 2 should weed that out. I'd not plan forever, but go on a date & see what happens, he might well be a nice guy, just not for you because of the age thing & you end up making a friend out of it, he might be a tosser, he might be a potential boyfriend, but right now he's Schrodingers boyfriend because you have to go on a date to open the box & find out.
posted by wwax at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2015

Disclaimer: HOO BOY am I ever biased on age gaps. I know some people have had great relationships with men old enough to be their father or grandfather, but my experiences in this realm were freaking scary and I've come to the conclusion that I want someone who's an equal to me, not "experienced." This is probably not as bad of an issue once you're in your 30's, but in your 20's it can be worrisome.

I'm with you on the red flagging. As was pointed out above, older guys LOVE to chase after 20somethings, and this guy does sound "too good to be true" in some respects. I'm happy to hear you could verify at least some of that online, but it does kind of make you wonder why he hasn't been snapped up and needs to look for online dates if he's a wealthy philanthropist for realz.

But mostly what stands out to me is that you say "I am something of a late bloomer in terms of experiencing life in the way others have." ME TOO. And the thing about being a late bloomer is that well.... dating someone older kind of exacerbates your issues with that. Which is to say that a lot of skeezy older dudes prefer young girls because they're hot, not as experienced, possibly dumber, and well....easy to snow with bullshit. If you're dating him, you may fall for bullcrap that a more experienced/older woman would see through because you haven't already dated a jerk who pulled that on you before. That to me stands out as the thing that is scary about dating older men when you already know you're a late bloomer/naive/etc. They've dealt with your kind before, you haven't dealt with their kind before. Also, what ernielundquist said about why they're interested in you.

He could be awesome, I don't know, but if you go there, I'd soooooooo proceed with caution.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:10 AM on January 3, 2015 [16 favorites]

an incredible guy messaged me on Match ... in general just seems like a kind, good guy.

You don't know that he's incredible and you can't possibly know that he is kind or good. A message precedes a conversation, which may precede coffee, which may precede a date, which may precede a relationship, which is guaranteed to have complications of one sort or another regardless of age or income.

Don't get caught up in the potential complications of a relationship that doesn't even exist yet. Just have a conversation.
posted by headnsouth at 11:11 AM on January 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'm ten years older than ms. flabdablet. We've been a couple for 18 years and happily married for 14.

Take him as you find him.
posted by flabdablet at 11:13 AM on January 3, 2015

His name, real age, and the legitimacy of his philanthropic associations were easy to find out because he gave me his full name and he mentions the charities directly across both his LinkedIn profile and on other networks.

But the thing is that I put on my profile that I want to be involved with someone who is as committed to volunteering and supporting certain causes as I am. Is his having started a few charities really that big a deal? If so, why?

Usually I stay out of this even if the same question comes back (in the future or in the same post), but ...

I really am concerned that you might not be aware how people can lie/or even not have any idea who they really are when they post ads (or answer ads).

So things that stand out to me in your questions and approach here:

-Many people don't even read your profile. It doesn't matter how much work you put into it, how much you believe in certain things, nope, many people will not read it and realize how important something is to you, even if you put it in bold letters and put a once sentence profile.

-Some people read profiles, but carefully spit back what they think you want to hear. It sometimes might not be intentional - the person might never have volunteered in his life, but ...after reading your profile, sure, he could do volunteer work.

-I think it is great that you checked out his LinkedIn, but having worked with many people and watch what they do with LinkedIn, a subset of people lie ... about their degrees, about their job titles, about what they do. It would be a great/easy tool to use for dating, too (not to say he is lying - he might be telling the truth - but just be prepared OP).

If you have volunteered a lot, and this is something very, very important to you, ask questions on the date. Ask things like: Has he volunteered (now or in the past?) Ask him about some of the topics that you care about. It is really easy to figure out if someone even *thinks* about an issue.

To be honest, if volunteering and causes are that important to you, if I were in your shoes I would meet your dates via the internet AND....more importantly, volunteer in places with both genders volunteering. Because this is how you will meet someone who does what you love -- they will be spending their time and energy doing the same thing.
posted by Wolfster at 11:38 AM on January 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

Go on a date in person, then revisit. Assume he's telling the truth, but keep your wits about you.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:42 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

In a few days Mr. BlahLaLa and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. He's 13.5 years older than me.

What I mean by this is: meet this guy, see if he's the guy for you, full stop. There's no other way to figure it out.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:44 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have no doubt that relationships with age gaps can work out. Many people (mostly men) will chime in here with their good examples of healthy relationships with people 10+ years their junior and I believe them. Love is wonderful and we should get it where we can and you never know where that may be.

You don't say how old you are exactly, but I think it matters that you're in your 20s. A 23 and 35 year old, for example, are not in the same stage of life. (In fact, our brains are not considered fully matured until 25.) But someone in their 30s and someone in their 40s are basically the same deal.

As a woman in your 20s, you do have to watch out for guys who will be super into your age. It sucks, but "getting" a younger woman has a lot of social currency for a certain type of man. It's very objectifying, it almost feels like being fetishized. If you're on dating websites long enough, you will get messages from men twice your age.

So if you want to pursue this, make sure he is into YOU, not your youth.

As a woman in her 30s, I can tell you that "looking good on paper" is actually a HUGE red flag (as well as a turnoff) for me. [The appearance of] wealth, success, I-kiss-war-orphans-and-throw-galas-for-the-environment always seems to be a cover for something, and if it's not, it's still boastful and designed to make you feel awed. I'd much rather be awed by someone's funny offhand joke or how they bring me a donut when they notice I'm in a bad mood or how they throw a buck in the subway mariachi performer's case, not their material, conspicuous successes. "Accomplished" won't keep you warm at night.

That said, if you truly are into him, a date couldn't hurt. But I worry that because you seem so impressed with him, you feel he's "better" than you so you owe him a date despite your misgivings.
posted by kapers at 11:44 AM on January 3, 2015 [25 favorites]

I think the combination of age, the fact that he lists so many wonderful qualities about himself and the fact that it's online that makes me think you might want to vet this to see if this person is trying to turn up the charm and then lure you into a relationship that is less than healthy.--through asking him questions, meeting up with him personally and watching out for any red flags.
posted by Tsukushi at 11:48 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of good advice here. I'll just add that his initial message may have some indicators in it. Does it show he read your profile? Does he reference shared interests? Or is it kind of generic and/or focused on your appearance?

If it were me I'd probably also do this:
* look for independent verification of each charity's existence - a website is a start, but are they also mentioned in reputable news stories, on Charity Navigator, Guidestar, the IRS site?
* And if they check out - is he mentioned on the charities websites or in news stories about them?
posted by bunderful at 11:50 AM on January 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Some of my best times were with a man who was age 42 to my age 19; also, another, my age 57 to his age 36. Both men eventually became friends. And there have been others along the journey. My current s/o is exactly my age.

Don't plan a future based on an online connection.

I suggest you show up for coffee and see what happens.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I vote for "silly" at this early point. It's not the age he is and the age you are that matters. It's the ages you both act. You can't tell if you're going to click or hate it until you get to be around him a little.

One gotcha: is he going to play the "well, I'm older (and thus presumably smarter)" card when you disagree on something? Knew someone with that lazy habit, and couldn't take it.
posted by ctmf at 12:27 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

There was a time when we would meet people in real life, spend some time with them, get to know them, meet the family and friends, engage in activities with them, share interests, and discover if we felt it was a good match.

That system still probably works a lot better than giving strangers on the internet a few snippets of information and letting them decide if the relationship should move forward based on THEIR experiences and history with other people.

Have fun, get to know him, you'll figure it out.....

(And, I'm ten years older than my wife, it's worked just fine for us for a long time and I anticipate it will continue to work just fine...)
posted by HuronBob at 1:14 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

At 56, my dad married a 20-year-old. 25 years later, they're still married, at 81 and 45....
posted by Mogur at 1:24 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm ten years younger than my girlfriend of five years, we got together at 23 and 33, and age hasn't been an issue for us. In contrast, my ex was 6 years older than me, and age was an issue. Fit between any two particular people is definitely impacted by age, but there are no absolute good or bad numbers in my opinion. If I were you I would meet this guy and see how the interaction goes.

As the younger partner in an age gap relationship, you want the older partner to respect you, value your opinions and life experience, ask for as well as giving advice, and generally treat you as an equal. Of course, these are all important things in any relationship, but as a younger person dating an older person, I think it's important to keep thinking about these particular things. An older partner who likes you for yourself should do all of these things.... an older partner looking for a hot young catch probably won't.
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:39 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Happiest couple I know is a 26-year-old woman and a 38-year-old guy. Been together for about two years. They're getting married next week. I have high hopes for them both.

Age differences are sometimes a thing and sometimes aren't. There are just as many things that could go wrong in a relationship when you're the same age, too. I wouldn't worry about it too much. Give him a fair shot and if it works out, great. If it doesn't, you haven't lost anything that you would have saved by restricting yourself to that five-year window.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:15 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's funny -- I just got out of Into the Woods and there's that line in there that Cinderella's prince says about having been raised to be charming but not sincere. I think those of you warning me to be cautious are right. His strangely pristine background and extra charming demeanor makes me wonder what he's really like in person, and if some of this is just him going through the motions, not sincere interest. I will keep talking to him, but I think it's wise to go slow. Even if he turns out to be for real, the rest of this situation is my problem, not his. Fingers crossed for safety and sincerity.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:23 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

^^This comment would be true of any two people meeting for the first time.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 2:40 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Since you mentioned "going slow," I will just say this of ALL online dating: go slow once you meet him, if you like, but meet him as soon as possible! It sounds like there's already been a lot of chatting/messages/etc. for you to get this level of impression of him, as well as extensive Googling on your part. That's all fine, but NONE of it is going to tell you what he's like in person and whether the two of you have any chemistry whatsoever. It could be that all these qualities he has are 100% genuine and true and you STILL don't click in person. Or, it could be that he reads completely differently in person. Or perhaps you meet him and everything checks out and things go great! The only way to know is to meet and see how things go. By all means, take things slowly in person and don't jump into a serious relationship right away. But overall, I think the biggest mistakes I made in online dating were to build people up in my head based on these emails/chats/messages only to meet them in person and discover they had used a fake picture or were super disrespectful to our waiter or just couldn't carry on a conversation. (Or, in one distressing case, I'd been feeling casual about things during our messages while the dude had proceeded to write me a love poem and shower me with gifts on the first date! So awkward!)
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:54 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is his having started a few charities really that big a deal? If so, why?

It may not be an issue, at all - but that's not likely something you'll be able to determine without going on at least a couple dates with him and having some fairly in-depth conversations (in person or via email or IM or etc.) with him about his philanthropic work.

But I can think of a few reasons why people might be a little wary of him (supposedly) starting and running multiple charities before he's 40, and it boils down to sort of "playing the averages."

By which I mean, of course we can all have multiple issues we're concerned about, and it's certainly possible to devote your volunteer time and energy to more than one cause, but for a lot of people, I think, one or two causes are about all we can handle on a regular basis. IME a lot of people who start charities do so because they have one particular cause that they feel really strongly about, and if their charity succeeds it's because they're so passionate about that one issue that they're willing to devote a huge amount of their time and emotional energy to that charity. Sure, they'll sit on the board of another charity, or participate in a 5K run here and there, but they do tend to be quite focused on their main cause. Which is totally understandable, because actually running a charity can be tough and frustrating and draining.

So I think that may be why people's "too good to be true" radar is going off here - for one person to have multiple causes they feel passionate about AND have the time, energy, and money to start AND run multiple organizations kind of sounds like a superhuman feat. It's not impossible, but it's certainly rare. It's really not how the average person operates, or even the average philanthropist.

Rare enough that I think the more cynical or wary or previously burned of us wonder if these charities are more about looking good on paper, rather than actually accomplishing anything. The even more cynical might suspect that part of the reason to look good on paper is to set a honey trap for idealistic young women.

I'm not saying this is or even is likely to be what's going on, but I think it's one of the reasons people are urging caution here - sad to say, not everyone involved in charitable work is a good person, or capable of healthy relationships.

And, on preview, strongly seconding what rainbowbrite says. You're really excited about this guy, but he only messaged you yesterday. Quit counting your chickens before they're hatched, meet the guy and see what he's like in the actual Real World.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:04 PM on January 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

You're being silly.

I mean, look, if you like this guy, go out with him. If you don't like this guy, don't go out with him. Assuming you're in your mid/late 20s, dating a guy in his late 30s is completely fine.

Either way, it's just coffee/a drink/whatever. If you get there and he seems way too old for you, you don't have to do it again. If you meet him and realize he's an overgrown manchild, or he has some awful quality that is obviously the reason he's still single, or he has some kind if icky fetish for younger women, you can leave and never see him again.

Nthing not to count your chickens before they're hatched, BTW. I have fallen in love with the idea of so many people on dating sites, and then met them and nothing. In a lot of cases there wasn't even anything wrong, we just didn't hit it off.

Also, one thing you might want to think about it terms of the age difference. I'm in my 30s, and mostly dating dudes in their mid/late 30s, and I'm definitely coming to understand that a lot of guys who are still single at that age are single by choice or otherwise don't really seem like the marrying kind. I've dated a surprising number of guys who are in their late 30s and have never been in love, never had a serious relationship, panic at the idea of becoming a parent, and aren't looking to settle down anytime soon if ever. If you are dating with an eye towards commitment, you might want to prepare yourself for this late-30s guy to not be looking for that at all.
posted by Sara C. at 4:56 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

His strangely pristine background

FWIW everyone on dating sites' background is "pristine". Nobody is ever going to go online -- especially on Match, for chrissakes -- and write "periodically dysthymic homebody with a receding hairline seeks woman physically out of my league for football widowhood and anal sex." Instead, they're going to write about their positive attributes, their accomplishments, the things they're interested in, and what similarly rosy things they're looking for in a partner. This isn't really a bug, and it also isn't really a warning. It's just how life works.

Think of online dating profiles as ads. Just like there's nothing wrong with an ad for Dran-O that says "removes tough clogs!" but avoids mentioning "reeks of noxious chemicals!", there's nothing wrong with someone putting their best foot forward. Everybody has flaws.

The real concern is when people lie. But you've provided nothing here that implies this guy is lying to you. The phrase "multiple phlianthropies" sounds stuffy, but a lot of people work in the nonprofit sector and there's nothing wrong with that as such (especially if you do, too).

You will find out if this guy is a liar when you meet him and figure out whether what he wrote in his profile matches the person you actually interact with. And for deeper-seated stuff like what he does for a living and where he gets his money and how much time he really spends volunteering, if you like what you see initially, that stuff will reveal itself in time. It's as easy to meet a liar in person as online.
posted by Sara C. at 5:09 PM on January 3, 2015 [22 favorites]

Anecdata: A guy messaged me on one day. I almost didn't reply because he was 8 years older. (I was 34 and he was 42 at the time) However, since it was clear from his message that he had actually read my profile, I wrote back. He was fun to talk to and we talked on and off for a few months, then met up. I really wasn't expecting anything other than dinner out and good conversation. It wasn't love at first sight for me (although he was much better looking in person) but we had a good time and I left thinking I wouldn't mind seeing him again.

Six and a half years later, we're still together. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 7:25 PM on January 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

age difference not necessarily a big deal. but no one has time to run more than one charity, so don't be too impressed- it's probably a lie or at least an embellishment.
posted by emd3737 at 9:06 PM on January 3, 2015

I'm almost exactly 10 years older than my girlfriend of three years. I was a bit unsure about the age difference, at first. Possibly more than she was, actually. There were a couple of things, however, that eased my mind, going in to our first date:

1) She messaged me, first (a huge and frequently-welcome change in the typical male/female online dating dynamic)

2) She had clearly read -- and appreciated -- my profile, and seemed to match up with who I was looking for in some key areas

Things haven't always been perfect; there were/are some mismatches (sexual experience levels, missed cultural references), but the age thing hasn't ended up being that big of a hurdle. I'm sort of "younger" than I am, due to roughly a decade of addiction struggles, and she's somewhat "older" than her cohort, so things kind of balance out on the maturity/life position front. We may have an age difference, but this has turned out to be the most mutually-supportive and objectively "healthy" relationship I've had, to date.

The irony was that I was actually attempting to meet someone older than me, for once; I'd always dated people who were within a couple of years of my age. But despite that goal, and the rather glaring "red flag" that she didn't have a profile picture, I decide to give her a shot.

And that seems to be the theme of the responses here, OP. You can't know this guy until, well, you've tried to know him. Instead of building up a fantasy version (of either unrealistic perfection, or unfounded disappointment), maybe you should just get together IRL and see what happens. Watching for flags and playing detective are reasonable precautions in the dating world, whether online or in person. But they ultimately can't open up possibilities; rather, they can only limit them.
posted by credible hulk at 9:28 PM on January 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Remember that this is an issue a lot of people will feel passionately defensive about, and take advice with a grain of salt.

I would also, in your shoes, be concerned about the "starting multiple charities" angle. It's not impossible, but seems unlikely, and if true, indicative of a dilettante, who tend to make bad boyfriends.
posted by corb at 1:57 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came in here to say what corb did about the charities. One charity takes a lot of work to run, let alone several? Even if he did operate them consecutively, I think that's potentially a red flag. Why so many? Was he forced out? There are also in the nonprofit world a lot of ineffective charities that range everywhere from well-intentioned but inefficiently run (i.e. 90% of revenue goes to overhead like admin salaries) to out and out fraud. Does he trumpet his involvement in the charity (making it about him) or engage people in the cause?

I'm not saying that any of these things are necessarily the case with this guy, but they are things to watch out for.

Since you say you're inexperienced, below are some of the kind of things you want to look at to determine compatibility. Hobbies and interests are nice but they won't carry a relationship. Neither will being "kind" or "good;" pretty much everyone has those qualities in some way. You want to know if a potential partner has those qualities in a way that works for you.

- as mentioned by many other commenters, are your life goals compatible? Are you each at the stage of your life where you know what those goals are? If not, how motivated are you to define and pursue those goals? Are you, OP, the kind of person who will put their goals on hold for a relationship - which can lead to regrets later?

- who or what is important to you? What priority do you give to work, family, friends, children, exes, hobbies, and other things that require investment of time and energy? Is one of you going to feel that you're taking a back seat to these things, or alternatively, suffocated because your partner thinks you should spend less time on these things?

- What do you each hope to get out of a relationship? For some people (and forgive me, but in my experience this disproportionately includes older men) the answer is sex and occasional social companionship. Some people are looking for a best friend and soul mate. There's no right or wrong answer but your expectations should be compatible. Related: how do you each prioritize relationships, especially in relation to the factors in the point above? How do each of you handle conflict?

- how do you relate to money? Do you have similar spending/saving habits? Do you agree over the relative degree of control each of you want over household finances? This is something to consider especially for someone presenting themself as wealthy. When I was younger I worked briefly in a call centre that did bill collecting, and let me tell you: people with the outward appearance of wealth are not always what they seem.

- marriage and kids. If, and when. (The "when" is a big part, as evidenced by the trope of relationships where one partner is ready and the other is perpetually not ready "yet")

- are your values compatible? Do you agree about religion, household labour division, etc.?

These aren't necessarily questions you can directly ask the other person, nor are they anything you'll have answers to on the first date. You can get a sense of them, though, by paying attention to what the person does and says, and keeping these things in mind.

I hope this helps, good luck!
posted by AV at 6:10 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're definitely overthinking it. Meet him for drinks or coffee and see where it goes. You have essentially nothing to lose here. Really, in the time it's taken to read this thread, you could have met him by now!
posted by evil otto at 12:27 PM on January 4, 2015

Response by poster: Dude's a bossy creep! Sad day. Thank you for the major reality check, all. :( I need to get my head out of my ass before I do this again.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:12 PM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Don't beat yourself up about it. I mean, it sounds like he's the one who's a jerk. Just in general remember that an online dating profile is really just someone describing themselves. "I'm a good guy who gives to charity" doesn't necessarily mean you will actually enjoy spending time with them. Also, don't put all your eggs in one basket! Rather than waiting until you "get your head out of your ass", just keep meeting people. They don't have to look perfect on paper. Dating is largely a numbers game, and it will get easier the more relaxed you are about it.
posted by Sara C. at 5:17 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

« Older Improving my Mac Mini's performance?   |   What are these ice droplets called? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.