Is she too young for me?
April 28, 2016 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I am a 36 year old guy who has gotten out of a divorce about a year ago. I have known this girl since approx 5 years, but not very closely for most of that period. She is 22 now. She told me some time back that she has a huge crush on me and wants, at the very least, some sort of a fling with me. I am not sure how to respond because of background and some practical challenges.

We met briefly 5 years ago and interacted for a while, became Facebook friends and then went on our way. We would chat sometimes on Facebook and exchanged a few messages. All the time, I never thought of her in romantic terms and I was always polite and respectful to her.

Then I got married and my interaction with her almost petered out. I did meet her once when she came to my city on a visit, stayed with me and my ex-wife and I showed her around the city. We ended up spending the day together and it was fun. But I was married and actually working hard to save my marriage. So, for me, it was just a friendly meeting. My wife, though, was not happy to meet her and, though she had known in advance and agreed about this girl's stay at our place, threw temper tantrums and fought with me which this girl oversaw.

Anyway, after that, I apolozised to her and we ended up exchanging how-are-you messages once in a while. After I got divorced, I told this girl about my divorce. We ended up talking quite a lot after that. She lives in a different city and is in final year of her college.

We would end up chatting almost every day and talking couple of times a week. I found her to be pretty mature and balanced in her views. We got very comfortable with each other and would talk about everything, including sex and relationships. That’s when she told me that she has had a huge crush on me for a very long time and wanted to be with me.

I was very confused and a bit uncomfortable as I had never looked at her as a romantic partner, thought she was too young for me and anyway, we lived in different cities. But I tried not be flippant or dismissive of her feelings and expressions of love.

She said that she understands if I don’t love her but she loved me and was sure that she wanted to have, if nothing, a short fling with me anyway as this would help her get it out of her system. She wanted me to come over to her city (as a student, she doesn’t have money to come for a visit) for a weekend at least. I refused to do that as I didn’t want to travel to another city for just for a fling.

We are still talking these days and she is pretty aggressive (blatant suggestions, innuendos, love poems, ..etc) in her attempts to convince me to have a fling/take the next step/play along with her. She thinks that my previous relationship has made me wary of commitment otherwise she is perfect for me.

I am not sure how I should respond. She talks well and can reason in a pretty mature way but, at heart, I think she is still too inexperienced about relationships. Also, I am getting older and am not sure if a year-long mostly long distance fling will be good for me. I must say that her attention has been pretty ego boosting after the divorce.

Should I be firm with her and ask her to stop trying to "woo me" or should I give in and respect her freedom of being a grown up 22 year old woman and making her own decisions and play along/have a fling (as she terms it)? After all, I am single and she is pretty attractive.

Also, as I start dating in my own city, how much of this I need to tell any potential girlfriend and at what stage of relationship should I discuss this?

Her birthday is coming up and would it be okay to send her a gag sexual gift? We discussed some sexual fears she had and, at that time, I thought, this gift would be perfect for her to overcome these fears, and asked for her address. Now she is expecting a gift (mentioned it couple of times in conversation), and I worry that sending the gift would be encouraging her.
posted by questionsquestions to Human Relations (88 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're coming across as a super creep. Even before the final ultra-creepy paragraph. Eew. Stop it.
posted by The World Famous at 10:26 AM on April 28, 2016 [119 favorites]


Is she too young for me?

Yes.

would it be okay to send her a gag sexual gift?

No.
posted by dinnerdance at 10:28 AM on April 28, 2016 [132 favorites]


Ghost her. It will be better for each of you.
posted by Etrigan at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


So she's saying "fling" but she loves you and she's perfect for you? She doesn't actually want a fling, and if you don't want a relationship with her, it would be wrong to "go along with it" (which is kind of icky phrasing as it implies you don't have agency here).

I'm sure the attention is very flattering, but you're leading this woman on. Don't visit her, DO NOT send her a sexual gift, and stop flirting.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:32 AM on April 28, 2016 [42 favorites]


It sounds like you're not interested in anything but a flirtation or fling, which she's okay with, but you're not interested in travelling just to have a fling. It doesn't seem like you're interested in having a relationship with her. So isn't that your answer? She seems to think she's in love with you, which is kind of strange, and speaks to immaturity or perhaps some kind of father issues on her part. I don't think she's too young for you NOW, but she was too young for you 5 years ago...that part, including adding her to your facebook, was pretty inappropriate and strange, even if you were just talking.

I don't think whether she's too young for you is really the question. You aren't interested in a relationship with her, and you don't seem to think she's capable of an adult relationship. So what you want is a FWB situation in which you will have sex with her when it's convenient but will not travel for the privilege of said fling...while pursuing potential long-term serious relationships with women who are presumably closer to your age, in the city where you live.

So...leave the girl alone, don't visit her, don't have sex with her, don't send her a "funny" sex toy. It doesn't sound like she's willing to just be friends, since she's been coming on so strong, so just cut her loose.
posted by serenity_now at 10:33 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


It very much sounds like she's using the whole "just get it out of my system" thing as a backdoor way to possibly enter a relationship with you. I mean, maybe not but "I am in love with you so let's just screw around just for a little while" is ... suspicious at best. I'm not saying she's trying to entrap or trick you, just that she's 22 and at 22 none of us have the best grasp on our emotions and wants and needs, or the ability to properly voice them.

If you do not shut this down, it will go further and two lives are going to be shittier for it. She is 22 years old and has had this on her mind since she was a teenager and I think you know damn well this isn't the Totally Appropriate Desire Of An Emotionally Mature Person and I don't think trying to convince yourself of that because you want to sleep with her will get either of you anywhere good.

Be the adult you are. Shut it down, don't talk about sex with her, don't send her a gag gift, don't milk her for post-divorce attention and stop talking with her if she continues to carry on like this.
posted by griphus at 10:33 AM on April 28, 2016 [78 favorites]


You have given your answer pretty clearly in a couple places:
"I was very confused and a bit uncomfortable as I had never looked at her as a romantic partner..."
"....at heart, I think she is still too inexperienced about relationships."

You think she's too inexperienced about relationships. Now, I don't know if you are correct about her or not--I don't know her, and you don't know her perfectly, either. But I know this about you: you think she is too inexperienced. If you believe someone is too inexperienced about relationships, you should not form a relationship with them.

You are also confused and uncomfortable. That's not good. In general, when you find yourself feeling confused and uncomfortable, that's telling you something important about your circumstances. When it comes to the possibility of having sex, feeling confused and uncomfortable usually means you shouldn't have that sex.

Is 36 too old for a 22 year old? Well, it depends on the specific individuals in question. And what you are saying is that you're confused, uncomfortable, and don't believe she's really mature enough. That's your answer.

I would suggest that you don't encourage her. Try to avoid talking about sex with her. Given how inexperienced and emotionally young you make her sound, it seems kind of like a red flag that she's coming on to you so strongly. From your description of her, I worry about her. It sounds like you worry about her, too. You shouldn't agree to have sex with her.
posted by meese at 10:34 AM on April 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


Agree with all the answers so far. She may think she can handle a fling, but she already sounds emotionally invested. And she is very young, even though she's legally an adult. The human brain matures more slowly than our laws on voting, drinking, and fighting would indicate. It's generally by the mid-to-late twenties that people become more reflective and stable, especially in our current culture with extended adolescence being the norm. I think you should find someone your own age to have an equal relationship with. She's not that person.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:37 AM on April 28, 2016


Having a fling with her and/or sending her a sexual gift will just keep alive her hopes of having a romantic relationship with you. That's not a kind thing. You'd be stringing her along. Stop the sexual talk and make it clear that you won't be having any kind of romantic relationship or sexual fling. Let her get over you so she can move on.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 10:39 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


whoaaaaaaa nope, walk away, walk quickly away. one day she is going to be an actual grown-up, not just a legal adult. At that time, she will look back at this whole deal and either laugh or cringe.

The way to make sure it's "laugh" and not "cringe" is for you to just walk the hellllllllll away.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:40 AM on April 28, 2016 [36 favorites]


She is too young and you are not mature enough. You have no idea how to have a fling and respect her boundaries while sexually involved. She likes you because you respected her, but you did that because you thought of her in non romantic terms. If you sleep with her, you are going to crap on her and this is going to go bad places.

Work out your post divorce issues some other way. Ghost this kid that you keep calling a "girl."
posted by Michele in California at 10:42 AM on April 28, 2016 [46 favorites]


I also agree that you've been getting good answers so far. The attention she gives you is no doubt flattering, but I don't think the question is precisely whether you're too old for her. Dan Savage says that older people in relationships with younger people must observe the Campsite Rule -- leave the scene in better condition than you found it. From everything you've related, it doesn't sound like that'd be in the cards in any relationship with her, including the one you presently have.

You should cut the relationship off, or at the very least insist that the flirtation/sex talk has to end. And under no circumstances send a sex toy, especially a gag one, as a birthday gift.
posted by Gelatin at 10:42 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I was the 22-year-old in this situation. Attention and affection from an older man made me feel sophisticated and wise beyond my years and it was, to this day, the headiest intoxicant I've ever known. But the dude took me to the proverbial emotional cleaners, dragging me through the most painful parts of his obvious-in-retrospect not-quite-midlife crisis for literally no reason other than I was the only woman around who was dumb and naive enough to put up with it. I wasted the finest years of my youth trying to heal his wounded spirit and broken heart. He made me feel incredibly special and unique, but the only thing I actually was was young. It started as a fling and wound up with me being groomed into the role of daughter-mother-wife-nursemaid while he repeatedly tried and failed to get his shit together. So gross, so unnecessary.

Now that I'm the age he was then, all I can think is, "He was an adult. He knew better. Why didn't he walk away?" At least a tiny silver of you knows better, too -- that's why you brought it to the green. Please walk away.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 10:44 AM on April 28, 2016 [171 favorites]


Nothing about this sounds like a good idea. You sound like a huge creep to even be considering this, she sounds incredibly emotionally vulnerable and like she hasn't been listening to your boundaries on this (or maybe you haven't been stating your boundaries because the attention is flattering and you think it's harmless). She's not going to stop because she is desperate for your validation and attention and you give her just enough to keep her attached. She's definitely not interested in just a fling, she's just willing to settle for whatever scraps you'll throw her way, and that's a recipe for disaster.

You need to grow up and stop using her as an ego boost. She has had 5 years of intense fantasies about you being The Perfect One and you are clearly not invested in fulfilling them. Shut it down, let her go, and either stop being sexual with her or cease all contact. (Seriously the fact that you refer to her as "this girl" but are considering having a sexual relationship with her + the age difference/that you met when she was a minor is freaking me out like what the HELL man you're 36 why are you even considering having sex with someone you clearly consider in your "too young" zone.)

I have been the younger person in a similar scenario and once I grew up and got my head out of my ass I realized that the person I was so fixated on was TERRIBLE to me and I really wish they had had the maturity to cut me off instead of leaving me with all sorts of mental health bullshit to comb through later. DO NOT DO THIS.
posted by buteo at 10:45 AM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


Okay, I think you are in need of a little more self-honesty in terms of the circumstances by which this girl entered your life. Your description to me is full of what I would call "intrigue" - that kind of maybe no but maybe yes that opens a door to sexual encounters. Like this:

"We ended up spending the day together and it was fun. But I was married"

This implies that you being married had relevance towards the type of interaction you were going to have with her. And that if you weren't married, it might have been something different. It is possible to have a completely safe, no-intrigue, no-innuendo kind of relationship with a girl who is 14 years younger than you, but if that's what you were having, you would have used different words than the ones you did.

When you met she was 17 and you were 31. I am very curious exactly what kind of relationship you thought you were opening up with this girl at this time. Why your marriage seems to have interfered with what could have been there otherwise. And now, of course, of course she wants to be involved with you romantically. You've been grooming her for this for five years. You started laying the groundwork when she was 17 - a very vulnerable age. And you're still doing it. You're creating this situation in which it is cool to be "open" about sex, i.e. to not talk about sexual boundaries. "overcome her sexual fears"??? Jesus, I shudder.

Give your head a shake. Try a little more honesty. Take some responsibility for the situation you have created. And recognize that her best interest -- she is the vulnerable party here -- involves you removing yourself from her life promptly and permanently.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:50 AM on April 28, 2016 [132 favorites]


You know in your gut that this is SO unlikely to end well.

Not just your gut, even. You know as an experienced adult that this is not going to end well. You even have a pretty good handle on why!

You are too old to let your decisions be made by your boner. Trust the little voice in your brain that knows this is a terrible idea. You will find other ways to get laid and feel fancy.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, as I start dating in my own city, how much of this I need to tell any potential girlfriend and at what stage of relationship should I discuss this?

There is no "this" right now, just two people who have behaved in not the most emotionally mature way toward one another. Don't let whatever is happening become a "this" because if you ever have to, god knows why, explain "this" to an emotionally mature and age-appropriate romantic interest, it will reflect very, very poorly on you and your judgement and actions.
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2016 [26 favorites]


my first maaaybe question was "is she too young for you to do what, exactly?"

but then Percussive Paul wrote this and i realized it was all i needed asked:

When you met she was 17 and you were 31. I am very curious exactly what kind of relationship you thought you were opening up with this girl at this time.

You got divorced, youre in your mid thirties - i can easily see how a fling with someone in their early twenties could be a good idea (or at least fun). Thats not really what you were asking or a very faithful description of whats happening here, which i think explains the largely negative responses to your question.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:54 AM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


We all fuck up and behave badly sometimes. I think you've probably behaved badly in regards this woman. But the good news is it's not too late. You can just stop and every night fall asleep thanking your god and Metafilter that you slammed on the brakes before you went over the cliff. So yeah. Let her get on with her life, and get on with yours.
posted by howfar at 11:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


I came by to say what griphus said, but in WAY stronger terms. There is no 30-something year old woman who will consider you appropriate relationship material after hearing this story, assuming it ends in any way other than "and then I blocked her on FB and ghosted." Just, no. No no no no. Or if yes, go ahead and bring an engagement ring on your first sleepover, because you're pretty much done with women in your own age cohort after this. (Where "this" = sexual relationship with someone you started grooming when she was a child.)
posted by instamatic at 11:09 AM on April 28, 2016 [50 favorites]


Her birthday is coming up and would it be okay to send her a gag sexual gift? We discussed some sexual fears she had and, at that time, I thought, this gift would be perfect for her to overcome these fears, and asked for her address.

The rest of this stuff seems like it needs to be up to you and her and isn't any of our business, but no, no, you really shouldn't send her a sexual gag gift to help her get over her sexual fears.
posted by Huck500 at 11:10 AM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


I, too was a casualty of a May-December "romance" that left me broken for years. Please don't do this. She is too young. Leave her in your fantasies where she belongs.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:11 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


The gag gift will not get her over anything at all. It will just make things worse. You help people over something like that by being kind, respectful, considerate and so on, not by essentially pointing and laughing.

Get therapy. You aren't ready for any kind of relationship at all.
posted by Michele in California at 11:15 AM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


Whoa!

Thanks for the responses. Though I know I dont owe any explanations, Its never a comfortable thing to read oneself being described as super creep or "coaching someone" or "grooming them".

I didnt look out or connect with her on FB or even try to. For me, she was 1 of the 600 odd people who are connected because you came across them this one time. And any conversation was about topics of mutual interest that might have come up on the timeline. Till a year ago, for me, she was just some girl I knew one time. So, please avoid the "coaching her" or "grooming her" insinuations. They hurt ... a lot!

I have been very respectful and polite to her. And I am even now. I dont do/initiate any sexual conversation. The toy thing came up as she wanted to get my perspective on some sexual fears she had and talked about her problem. Her fear was much bigger than warranted and I thought the toy would help her put it in perspective.

The two reasons why I havent ghosted already:

one: I have always respected her point of view and pespective and have not tried to become her moral guardian or be preachy to her. Thats why just shutting it down seemed weird to me. I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down. Wont ghosting cause her to feel rejected and thus add to her emotional insecurity?

two: She is fun to talk to.

If you noticed, I have not asked if I should have sex with her because I know the answer to that. I have turned down her invitation to do that. My questions are:
1. Should I ask her firmly to stop her innuendoes? - I get that answer is yes.
2. Would sending this gift be right? - I get that the answer is no, dont. And I think I see where that comes from.
3. What do I need to tell the people I want to have sex with? Would they understand - From what I get, most wont. Hopefully they wont accuse me of grooming etc, though.
posted by questionsquestions at 11:16 AM on April 28, 2016


I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down

That sort of thing: being guided by an older man she is attracted to who has reciprocated in some way is the very "coaching/grooming" thing people are mentioning. They may be ugly and hurtful words, but you're literally expressing the desire to use her attraction/fondness/respect/whatever for you to direct her emotions in some way. You are very much the last person in her life who can help her stop being in love with you, and interacting with her in that context even with the best intentionswill just lead her on more. Ghosting will cause her to feel rejected and may add to her emotional insecurity, but it sure as hell is going to do less damage than further integrating yourself into her life, especially her sex life.
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2016 [88 favorites]


In theory, no she is not too young for you. This specific situation is coming off weird and creepy though, considering that you were Facebook friends when she was a child, among the other specifics of this situation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:21 AM on April 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


If you have to ask if she's too young for you, then yes, she's too young for you.

You seem to be enjoying the attention from her, and that would be ok except that she's clearly hoping for something more. Also, frankly, although I can't tell you exactly why I feel this way, I get the feeling that she would turn into a stalker if you had a fling and didn't agree to turn it into a relationship.

I would cut off all contact.

Oh, and just for future reference, if you ever again find yourself in a position of fighting to save a relationship, don't have a young, single, female friend come stay with you and then spend a lot of alone time with her.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:24 AM on April 28, 2016 [30 favorites]


If you reject someone and they feel rejected, their feelings are in line with actual reality. That is better for their mental health than you squirming around looking for ways to "not hurt their feelings" while telling them No. That is, frankly, a kind of gas lighting that really fucks with people's heads.

You aren't qualified to guide her through jack shit. The only thing you can possibly do here that isn't shitty is walk away now and "do no harm."

I say this as someone who has had good relationships to older men. I know what that looks like. This is not it.
posted by Michele in California at 11:25 AM on April 28, 2016 [41 favorites]


Yeah, 14 years is not an insurmountable age difference but it sure as hell is creepy when it started when she was a child.


two: She is fun to talk to.

Yeah, she's fun to talk to because she is validating you emotionally and sexually by finding you attractive and appealing and interesting while you're in the middle of a divorce. She's openly telling you "I have a crush on you and I want to have sex with you." OF COURSE you think she's fun to talk to.

What do I need to tell the people I want to have sex with?

Honestly if you want to tell them about the ambiguous relationship you have with a 22 year old that began when she was 17 you might as well have that learning experience under your belt.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:26 AM on April 28, 2016 [68 favorites]


What do I need to tell the people I want to have sex with?

What, why do you need to tell them anything? I can't imagine that I would need to tell my sexual partners about a non-sexual, non-family, not-even-a-close-friend acquaintance that I had. What's there to "understand"?

I mean, are you planning on going on dates with people and telling them that you flirted with a 17 year old when you were 31? Why would you do that? Don't.
posted by chainsofreedom at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


This is pretty much how I met my husband I was 36 he was 20 when we first met, we were friends for a few years. I lived in Australia he lived in the USA, for the first year I actually had thought he was also in his 30's as I got him muddled up with someone else from the website I met him on, but we remained friends when the age difference was discovered because we got on well. Then I went to the US & visited him, he came to visit me & then one trip to the US later the moment we saw each other again we weren't just friends. Here's the thing, I never thought of this as just a fling, I took a great deal of care to give him space & let him work things out himself. I assumed when our relationship became more than just friends that it wouldn't last because of the age difference so I told myself that I would leave him in better emotional shape than I found him, so to speak, that didn't go to plan as we have now been married 6 years (together as friends & more for 12) & our relationship is still going strong. Because we work at it, because we are serious about our relationship & because this relationship has been & is good for both of us we work at it every single day.

Having said all that, you want a fling, you aren't ready for commitment & she's flinging herself at you and you are ready to catch. You are recently divorced. You seem to be more interested in her as an OMG I can still have sex with a 22 year old than a person you care about & want to have sex with because you feel close to her. This has disaster written all over it.

1. If your intentions are just a fling stop all non friend like behaviour from both of you.
2. Do not send the gift, candy or chocolates or something neutral, not romantic & not sexual from your town if you must send a gift.
3. If she is your friend. You are acting friendly with & are just friends with & mostly just talk online what's to tell the people you date. She's a friend you met online.
posted by wwax at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down.

Trust me, she does not need closure, guidance, or resolution from you specifically. There is no reason this particular set of knowledge has to be delivered to her, at 22, by a dude who's coming up on 40. She has the whole big wide world to learn from, and if she seriously needs earnest psychological counsel, she would do much better seeking it out from a professional, rather than someone who's hoping to be able to continue basking in her youthful affection and attention.

Wont ghosting cause her to feel rejected and thus add to her emotional insecurity?

Again, trust me: Continuing to engage will either wind up with you rejecting her anyway (and her feeling, imo quite justifiably, strung along by someone she totally has the hots for) or you 'accidentally' sleeping with her anyway, because you're using her attraction to you as an excuse to edge right up against the boundaries of propriety.

If you don't want things to get stupid really quickly, tell her straight-up that you're sorry, but you can't be friends anymore. And if, at 36, if you're still learning such incredibly valuable lessons from and having so much fun with someone who's barely old enough to get into a bar, you might look into talking to a therapist rather than a woman you still refer to as a girl, who's had a crush on you since she was a child.

Also there is definitely no need to mention your feelings about this experience to women (your own age) who you are looking to date AT ALL. Seriously, if a dude my age told me a story like this, even if it ended with "and then I ghosted on her," I would run for the hills so fast that flames would spontaneously arise from my footprints. It's not like women are unaware or just don't understand that many, many men prefer the company of women who are much younger than they are; we just don't really need to hear about it.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:34 AM on April 28, 2016 [36 favorites]


questionsquestions: "So, please avoid the "coaching her" or "grooming her" insinuations."

Well your ex-wife had her suspicions about your relationship with this girl when she visited, and it looks like she was right. What do you think grooming is?
posted by crazy with stars at 11:34 AM on April 28, 2016 [108 favorites]


She will learn and grow a hell of a lot more from figuring out her emotions herself than from you coaching her through what you think her emotional response ought to look like. Leave her be. That way there is no reason to disclose anything to any present dating partners, because there won't be anything there to disclose.
posted by Phire at 11:35 AM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down

This won't work. She's been fixated on you for years and any further attention from you will just fuel it. And if you try to slowly ease off, she's going to use every chance she's got to hang on. Besides, how the heck are you going to "guide" her through getting over you? It doesn't work like that.

I think you should tell her, once and for all, that you're not interested in anything romantic or sexual with her, and that you need to go no-contact for both your sakes. Then do it. No moments of weakness, no just-checking. The only way she's going to get you "out of her system" is if you actually leave her system.

Yes, she'll hurt. Breakups hurt. And given how long this has gone on, and her conviction that you're meant for each other, there is no way this can end without her getting hurt. The way to minimize the hurt is for you to cut her off cleanly and swiftly, and then get the hell away.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


In contrast to the posts above, I do not see you as creepy or your actions as grooming (as they don't have your own ulterior motives in mind). You seem well aware of the difference between what she wants and what you want, and why. You seem to have kept her at an appropriate distance, and you have not let things go further. That's honorable. She's been pushing on your boundaries, and that's difficult.

Yes, she is too young for you and wants different things from you than you from her, and you should not take advantage of her seeming willingness.

You should disclose this interaction to future girlfriends, but by then you'll be able to tell them that you kept her at a distance and will continue to do so. Nothing wrong there. Be the person you want to talk about being in 5 years.
posted by Dashy at 11:50 AM on April 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


You seem to be enjoying the attention from her, and that would be ok except that she's clearly hoping for something more. Also, frankly, although I can't tell you exactly why I feel this way, I get the feeling that she would turn into a stalker if you had a fling and didn't agree to turn it into a relationship.

Yes, I think it's important to remember that a younger women can be both a bit intrusive/stalkery/flawed and a victim of grooming or social pressure. It's not either-or.

And as a forty-year-old, I have to say: twenty-two is very, very young in any case absent some overwhelming, anomalous circumstance. Don't seek out twenty-two-year-olds even if you haven't known them from childhood. I have met far more women who really regretted dating much older men and who felt that the power balance was screwed up and that the relationship had been driven by their own unhappiness and ill-balance than I have met women who dated much older guys and felt really great about it.

I don't feel that great about a relationship I had with a guy when I was 21 and he was 26 - the age/power balance was really off in that relationship even though on balance he was a good guy.
posted by Frowner at 11:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [35 favorites]


For context, when I was a teenager, I had a great friendly relationship with a man in his early thirties. He was my Sunday school teacher, and a bit of a mentor. I would hang out in his workplace and do interesting projects-- that's where I learned Mathematica, he's the person who gave me the Tao of Physics, St. Augustine's Confessions and the Fountainhead to read. I'd go on long hikes with him. With about 10 other kids and adults. I'd go over to his house. And babysit his kids while he and his wife went on dates. Thirty-mumble years later, and he's still a family friend. Because he was a grown-up and I was a kid. And now we've both been adults for a really long time, but he's still firmly in the "mentor" mental category. And friend. But never, ever anything else.

When I was in my very early twenties, I had a serious relationship with an older man. In retrospect, he was far too "old" for me. He'd already figured out How to Adult, and it was just... not what I needed in life, to be with someone who'd give me The Answers on Life, from income taxes to...well, OK, I mostly just remember the taxes thing. What a weird thing to take away from a relationship, huh? FWIW, he was about 5.5 years older than me, and that, for me/us, was too big an age difference at 20-22.

For the record, I am not Frowner. (jinx 😉)
posted by instamatic at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have also been the kid in this situation. It fucked me up and I've never forgiven him for taking advantage of me and not drawing the line where it should have been drawn, when I clearly wasn't emotionally mature enough to draw it. Extremely don't do this.
posted by babelfish at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have said before my sister married a man who is 14 years older than her, give or take. It can absolutely work out.

But this situation? No. Back out. Unfriend her from FB. Cut off contact. Everything about this is creepy and potentially unhealthy, and your clarification doesn't make it any less creepy. These are the situations that have people telling others to stick with someone their own age. Both of you: stick with someone your own age.
posted by zizzle at 11:59 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do want to add, though: good that this is worrying you enough that you asked a question, good that you're questioning your behavior, good that you haven't just jumped into an affair with her. Your instinct that this is not really good for her or you is the correct one, and - regardless of everything that's gone before - you should feel good that you are doing the right thing and pulling back.
posted by Frowner at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2016 [33 favorites]


As this thread is starting to show, many of the women your age will find this "relationship" to be "run for the hills" levels of problematic. Often it is because we were once that 22 year old woman; often the much-older man did not do the appropriate thing and walk away asap. What is a "fun fling" at 22 with a "mysterious older dude" commonly becomes "wow, that was a fucked up thing that happened to me when I was younger" when hitting one's 30s. You're getting dangerously close to becoming this woman's cautionary tale.

She could use someone to help her process this situation, but it certainly isn't the dude who got her into it. She'd probably do better to befriend your ex-wife TBH.

You need to shut this down and go no contact.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


[A couple comments deleted. OP, please limit followups to clarifications and noting if any answers have been helpful. For commenters: OP has said he's not going to pursue this, please dial down the rhetoric a bit and keep it constructive. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Run. Far, fast, and in the opposite direction.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:13 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


What do I need to tell the people I want to have sex with? Would they understand - From what I get, most wont. Hopefully they wont accuse me of grooming etc, though.

Skipping to this question from your follow up, you don't need to tell them anything. Because as you've stated already, you aren't going to pursue this, or her, any further. Hopefully you will take the advice to leave this woman alone, and then you will not have to explain why you have emotionally and sexually charged conversations with a person 14 years younger than yourself.

If I was starting to date a man your age (which is similar to my own), and he told me something like this, I would not be ok with it at all, and would not continue to date that person because. . . CREEPY. (Sorry if that is painful to hear, but it's true.)
posted by ananci at 12:14 PM on April 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh my god, yes, you are too old to date a 22 year old.

Please be the adult in this situation and turn her down gently using language that explains that this would be highly inappropriate, and would most likely result in her being hurt in the end. Then cut off communication for a while, in order to clear the air.

This is not "ghosting". This is being an adult. "Ghosting" is if you sleep with her and never call back. Which you should also not do.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 PM on April 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


Regardless of how you see things my advice is the same: take responsibility for your actions. Young women do not just randomly enter someone's life like a falling leaf; relationships have two people in them. They enter sexual territory because someone guides it there and the other allows it. People can be hurt terribly when heir partners don't see or understand their own power. Respectfully, you are asking the wrong question and you are still asking it. The question you've asked is 'what's best for me?' But the question you should be asking, with her and with all of your partners, is 'what's best for her?'

I didn't throw that accusation out of nowhere, you know. In between the words you wrote the pattern is glaring. I see it because I've been in your shoes and I've behaved this way myself. I promise you if you go through life without really owning the decisions you make, you will leave a trail of wreckage and you will one day be tormented by the knowledge of how much pain you've caused.

I'll say it again. What's best for her? What does she need? what does a 17 year old beimg pursued by a 31 year old need? it will be uncomfortable, but I encourage you to follow that line of thougt and see where it leada you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:28 PM on April 28, 2016 [20 favorites]


I am not actually trying to attack you. Maybe it would feel less awful to think of it in terms of people telling you that you had a shitty childhood and the world is a shitty place and some of the ideas you have been exposed to really do not work. The answers you are getting to this question are highlighting that fact.

I say you aren't qualified to guide her because I was sexually abused as a kid and men I knew intimately helped me get over a lot of hang ups. None of them thought that making fun of my hang ups was the way to do that. That idea tells me you really have no clue how to help a young woman with hang ups.

The other thing I will add is that your desperate desire to find some way to avoid making her feel rejected tells me that your entire life experience involves shitty answers where people punish you and are ugly to you instead of just saying No.

So, you clearly feel like telling her a firm No is the same as telling her she is an unlovable piece of crap and no man will ever want her. And there is no reason to conflate those things. This is more like telling her "No, I will not let you stick your hand into the fire" or "No, I will not help you drink poison."

I had an amicable divorce. It began when I stopped screaming at him and said "I don't want to do this anymore. I am tired of hurting you. I am tired of being hurt. I think we have both given it our best and if we could do this dance, we would have figured it out by now. I want a divorce." And the divorce went a lot smoother than the marriage.

You tell this girl "I am flattered, but this is a super bad idea. I am not interested in hurting you or messing up my life. I need to get my act together and we obviously cannot be platonic friends. That ship has sailed. It is time for me to say goodbye." And then you cut her off.

Then you go get therapy and explore some of this crap like "Why do I feel that saying No is the same as telling someone they are an unlovable piece of crap?"

You tell her No and you cut her off as the only loving thing you can do. And then you go sort your shit without dragging her through it.
posted by Michele in California at 12:35 PM on April 28, 2016 [45 favorites]


Hint: if you're calling someone a "girl" and you are not yourself a child or teenager, she's too young for you to date.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:36 PM on April 28, 2016 [26 favorites]


While, in theory, a 14-year age difference between two consenting adults who want to hook up is not a deal breaker, the specifics of this situation, your circumstances, and your history with this young woman are all huge, glaring signs pointing unambiguously in the direction of "NOPE".

Her own stated desire to get together with you (whether for a "fling" or anything beyond that) does not put you in a position where turning her down means disrespect. Pursuing further contact with her is basically a guaranteed path into Dramaville, and I think you know that. And the desire to avoid bringing drama upon yourself is a perfectly valid reason to not reciprocate someone's advances.

Now, if you honestly don't care about the drama factor, and are willing to jump into this thing for the sake of simply having fun and (most likely) short term validation, that's really something I am fine leaving between the two of you to work out. You ARE both adults, and neither of you is responsible for managing the other's potential to maybe regret your actions down the road.

BUT: that aside, this bit here from your follow-up comment -- "The toy thing came up as she wanted to get my perspective on some sexual fears she had and talked about her problem. Her fear was much bigger than warranted and I thought the toy would help her put it in perspective."-- is worrisome.

It's not up to you to state that "her fear was much bigger than warranted". Warranted according to whom? What makes you the arbiter of what someone else should or shouldn't be afraid of? The fact that you'd even consider making a joke out of something she apparently told you made her uncomfortable suggests that you have a lot of work to do on figuring out boundaries, and how they tie in with genuinely respecting someone.
posted by aecorwin at 12:43 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think it would help a lot, in thinking about this "girl" and probably future relationships, to follow PercussivePaul's suggestion to take ownership of your actions and query yourself on your own motivations a bit more.

You mention a few times that this young woman's attraction to you had been brought to your attention, either by her or by your wife. Or maybe you knew it on some level. ("So, for me, it was just a friendly meeting." - did you know it wasn't just friendly for her? "I had never looked at her as a romantic partner, thought she was too young for me and anyway, we lived in different cities." - so it did cross your mind, it just mattered to you less than it did to her.)

Benefit of the doubt, it was a lack of awareness on your part, unconsciously taking what was offered up to you. Given that. And especially given that you still are unable to see the points made through this thread, and are only reluctantly and superficially understanding why the gift is inappropriate, it is very seriously not your place to be the person to help this woman through this. You are spectacularly ill-equipped.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


Take Michele in California's advice. It's spot-on.

Also, I hope that by the time you're ready to date again, the fact that you even considered sleeping with the 22-year-old will be relegated to the place in your mind labeled "What the Fuck Was I Even Thinking?" (Because I think we all have that special storage unit in our brain for those mortifying things we do when we are perhaps in the aftermath of a traumatic life event, or catching up on some arrested development.) Framed in that way, whoever you're dating might not run screaming for the hills. But even then, some of those regrettable things we do or think on the way to maturity don't need to be confessed to another human. The important thing is, as Michele said, that you gain self-understanding about why you feel like rejection = complete devastation. You are, in the end, only accountable to yourself.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 12:45 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sorry, but I just can not picture a scenario where it's not super creepy that a married 31 year old guy needs to befriend a 17 year old girl and then have her come stay at his house while his marriage is rocky. I think you've crossed too many lines already. If you're really serious about trying to be a decent human being, grow up and leave this girl alone.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:45 PM on April 28, 2016 [43 favorites]


I don't think you're a creep or that you were grooming her (also, 17 is not a child, we may draw a legal line at the 18th birthday but that doesn't mean anyone before that is a child and anyone after that is an adult). I also don't think you're "too old" to date a 22 year old. I met my fiance when I was 19 and he was 30. We've been together nearly 15 years.

HOWEVER you should run the fuck away from this chick.
The sexual fears (and the fact she brought them up with you) and aggressively pursuing a much older man are huge red flags. You're on the rebound and looking for fun, she sounds a little bit creepy stalker-ish, obsessive and probably quite damaged. You weren't even interested in her until she showed interest in you. None of this is the foundation of a healthy relationship (even if its just a fling)

I had a much older male friend when I was a teenager - we met online (don't remember how, probably an AOL chatroom). He was a teacher, I think in his 40s, I was 14. He wasn't grooming me, he never asked to meet or made any sexual comments. He was just an adult I could trust and talk to.

If she wont respect your boundaries, you may need to ghost her. She needs to find someone her own age to have a fling with.
posted by missmagenta at 12:53 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I get a real Jodi Arias vibe from the description of this girl / situation. You should put a stop to this now.
posted by misseva at 1:08 PM on April 28, 2016


As someone who was on the other side of weird "relationships" like this friends had(and i'm trying to be as nice as possible here) for the entire age bracket being discussed here, if you have a decent bone in your body seriously just block her number and social media and walk.

This never, ever ended in a positive way. Everyone looks askance at it pretty hard the whole time it was happening. Anyone in your peer group with whom, as you said you wanted to for some reason, discuss this with is going to give you serious stink eye even if they don't openly state it or show it.

There's a reason you're asking this question, and it's because at best this is sketchy as all hell.

There's reasons to seek this kind of thing out as opposed to any kind of relationship with someone close to your own age. Very few are legitimate or respectable, and a whole lot of them are unhealthy or creepy. Just don't.
posted by emptythought at 1:15 PM on April 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


yeah tbh the age difference (while it's a factor) isn't my main objection to this situation. It's that this girl is demonstrating all the signs of really not having it together in a meaningful way. And you are demonstrating all the signs of having some really effective denial mechanisms.

Since she's 22 i'm going to guess that the REASON she doesn't quite have it together is that "she's super young," rather than "she has a mental illness". If she were 28 or 30 and acting like this, I might say her behavior seemed a little disordered.

Either way though, the answer is: don't.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:19 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Her birthday is coming up and would it be okay to send her a gag sexual gift? We discussed some sexual fears she had and, at that time, I thought, this gift would be perfect for her to overcome these fears, and asked for her address.

no no no no no no no no no no no no nope.gif.
posted by maryr at 1:41 PM on April 28, 2016 [18 favorites]


Something like this happened to me when I was around 19 or 20 (I'm 26 now)--a really intense crush on an older man who I told a lot of very personal things to and pursued in a very aggressive way. I ended up having that short-lived "fling" with him and it was pretty emotionally disastrous for me because sleeping with someone is possibly the worst way that exists of getting them out of your system. The whole thing took me a long time to get over and caused me a lot of emotional harm. So yeah, don't do this.
posted by armadillo1224 at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


Some questions to ask yourself as you work this out:

- What specific outcome do I want from this woman and this situation? A fling? A relationship? A marriage?

- What would be the best case scenario for me? The worse case scenario for me? For her?

- What is driving me to make a decision one way or the other? What emotions do I experience when I imagine making one decision vs another?

Your question reads as though you're looking for approval and permission from us, rather than advice. If I had to guess at some of the forces underlying the question, you're interested in post-divorce sex and affirmation, and the infatuation of a younger woman is appealing. Which is perfectly understandable. But do try to understand your own thoughts and feelings before making a decision one way or the other.

Her birthday is coming up and would it be okay to send her a gag sexual gift? We discussed some sexual fears she had and, at that time, I thought, this gift would be perfect for her to overcome these fears, and asked for her address. Now she is expecting a gift (mentioned it couple of times in conversation), and I worry that sending the gift would be encouraging her.

Yes, sending a "gag sexual gift" to a woman who has made no secret of the fact that she's interested in you for something from "a fling" to "a relationship" would be encouraging her. Very much so. That is a very, very big signal about interest in sexual contact with her.
posted by theorique at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


OP, I'm going to take you at your word that you're going to cut this shit out and leave this poor woman alone, and I'm going to address your question about what you should tell potential girlfriends.

Do not come clean with this to any of your dates. This is an embarrassing story, and what you do with this is pack it away in your baggage. You also pack away all your stories about your divorce, all your negative comments about your ex-wife, and any weird details about your previous relationships. It should be a long time before you need to unpack any of this. Do not dump this on an unsuspecting first date.

FWIW, my husband had a similar thing with a 22yo woman when he was in his early 30s. It was a heavy flirtation but didn't go anywhere. He mentioned it, embarrassed, after we'd been dating awhile (I met him at 33; he was 37). Our long relationship gave me the context of him to put that story in perspective with his overall journey; I knew more about what was going on with him at the time, and I understood it. I don't respect that story, but I respect the person that he is now.

People who are dating in their 30s will have baggage, whether they're divorced or never married or whatever. They all have baggage. They all have embarrassing stories. Control your impulse to dump out all your baggage immediately. Make it your goal to avoid adding embarrassing stories to your baggage in the future.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:30 PM on April 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


Its super easy to put myself in your shoes.... for but by the grace of god, this could easily have been me. I'm genuinely glad my rebound crush was close to my age and knew exactly what she was getting into... Personally, I think I'd have felt bad looking back if she was 22. At 35, 22 is the far edge of acceptable. Borderline? Possibly, for special special circumstances, but probably not healthy.

That aside, I think there is enough red flag on both sides that I'm glad you are not planning on pursuing. I hope you stick with it.
posted by Jacen at 2:45 PM on April 28, 2016


If there was nothing amiss and she was just one of 600 or so acquaintances, there would be no reason for you to ask for advice as to whether or not to disclose this relationship history to prospective sex partners.

Be honest with yourself. You don't need to say anything here about it, but in your own mind and heart, be totally honest, then make the decision you know is right already, and don't look back - ever.
posted by The World Famous at 3:14 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down.

So, I kind of understand where you are coming from with this. If there was no possibility of either of you being attracted to the other, like if you were both straight men or something, then sure, it would make sense to offer a nonjudgmental ear about sexual issues to a younger adult, in a mentorship sense. I have that kind of relationship with a friend who is 15 years older than me.

BUT THAT IS NOT THE SITUATION YOU ARE IN.

You need to tell her in completely unequivocal terms that you are sorry if it hurts her but that there is no way anything romantic or sexual will ever happen between the two of you, EVER.

For what it's worth, I don't think you're a creep. But I do think you are very, very naive.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:16 PM on April 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


There has been a lot said about doing right by her. There has been less said about why you should really not want this.

I think you are still smarting because of your divorce and you think a much younger woman cannot hurt you. You think it gives you a measure of safety. It doesn't. A young woman can be just as capable of jacking your shit up as a woman your age.

But, the other thing is this: the most fucked up men I have known were not the ones who got crapped on by life or got stupid messages from the world. The most messed up ones are the ones who did something icky to a woman to meet their own needs and cannot forgive themselves because they finally realized it was icky and there is no means to make it right. They have no way to live it down. Their conscience haunts them and it eats them up and poisons future relationships, even if the partner has no idea.

This has no hope of being a platonic friendship. Just not having PIV sex with her does not make it a nonsexual relationship. The relationship is already sexual in a not healthy way. You need to cut her off completely.
posted by Michele in California at 3:30 PM on April 28, 2016 [34 favorites]


I am getting older and am not sure if a year-long mostly long distance fling will be good for me

A year long? That's not a fling.

Ages aside, it sounds like you aren't all that interested in this person, and are only considering traveling to have this fling or whatever because she keeps pestering you.

Someone pestering you is not a good reason to get into a relationship.

She said that she understands if I don’t love her but she loved me

In this instance, it's actually really mean to get into a relationship with her. I get that you feel like it would be kind to her to get into the relationship, since she is insisting that's what she wants, but it's really rather cruel to others to pretend you are interested in them when you aren't. It's even more cruel if you draw the charade out by going to their city and having sex with them.

On your followup...
If you noticed, I have not asked if I should have sex with her because I know the answer to that. I have turned down her invitation to do that. My questions are:
1. Should I ask her firmly to stop her innuendoes? - I get that answer is yes.
2. Would sending this gift be right? - I get that the answer is no, dont. And I think I see where that comes from.
3. What do I need to tell the people I want to have sex with? Would they understand - From what I get, most wont. Hopefully they wont accuse me of grooming etc, though.


I'm not sure why you feel you would need to tell people that you want to have sex with about someone who flirted with you when you didn't even live in the same city, and you broke things off instead of going to see her.

You could warn people you want to have sex with that you have a tendency towards poor emotional boundaries and sometimes feel yourself pulled into relationships you don't actually want to be in -- but that sounds like a better thing to tackle with a therapist so you can change it.
posted by yohko at 3:34 PM on April 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


1. You can either tell her to stop and explain why, or just ghost with no explanation but you should definitely be cutting off contact and you cannot be friends.
2. You won't be sending her a gift because you won't be friends with her anymore.
3. I can't imagine any circumstance where you'd want to bring up this embarrassing situation, and since this young lady isn't in your life from this point forward you won't have to.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:04 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I dont do/initiate any sexual conversation. The toy thing came up as she wanted to get my perspective on some sexual fears she had and talked about her problem

How does that work? How are you not having sexual conversation if you're talking to her about her sexual fears?

And why would you need to tell people you do want to have sex with about your young friend if you don't want to keep having a sexually charged relationship with her?

You are kind of not being honest with yourself here. I wonder if the reason your wife "threw tantrums" was that you were being similarly disingenuous back when you hosted your friend. That kind of "who, me?" passive-aggressive business can be pretty difficult to deal with in a partner.
posted by gingerest at 4:13 PM on April 28, 2016 [29 favorites]


Absolutely no. This way lies madness.

I have met far more women who really regretted dating much older men and who felt that the power balance was screwed up and that the relationship had been driven by their own unhappiness and ill-balance than I have met women who dated much older guys and felt really great about it.

Though there are always the exceptional cases in which this really does work, and more power to them, I agree with Frowner that they are unicorns. The above has almost always been the case in my life experience, and I was one of those "girls" too, and really wish I hadn't been. And really disrespect the man that thought that was a good role to take; in hindsight, it's easy to see how damaged he was. I was too young to tell.

Also, here's the thing: you don't seem to have reckoned with yourself, with how old you are and what your position is in life. You seem to be going from "divorce" immediately to "people I have sex with" without stopping for five minutes to think about who you are, how you've changed, what your new relationship goals are, what your future is going to look like, and how you're going to make choices that create that future. That's a process you really need to engage in, and if you aren't ready to engage in it, then put the kibosh on any and all romantic entanglements until you do. If you go out there without understanding what kind of relationship life you want, you become essentially a loose cannon rolling around the deck of a turbulent ship, and you're going to take out a lot of good people and yourself in the process. Things don't "just happen" to you. This didn't "just happen." You need to really get ahold of your own agency in your romantic life.

You need to work on your self-knowledge and self-awareness. Based on your self-description, I get the sense you may not really even have a strong sense of how old you are. When you divorce, the clock doesn't roll back to whatever age you were when you got married, and you're not going to hang out with people that age or date people that age or act that age (I hope). You have changed, and you need to figure out how. The way you relate to people that age has changed, and the way you appear to them has changed, even if you have yet to realize it.

You're no innocent. Stop participating. Cut this one off, and in future, here's a suggested script for when a "girl" says "oh, I never tell this to anyone but I have this embarrassing sexual fear and somehow I feel like you'll understand" - which, of course, is a pretty bald manipulative ploy on her part to steer the conversation toward sex, not something that just 'came up': "I'm not really the right person to talk about those things with. I'd prefer to keep this less personal." Followed by a complete change of subject.
posted by Miko at 4:54 PM on April 28, 2016 [26 favorites]


It sounds like you are in major denial about your role here. Major. Where is your agency here, where are your boundaries? "Letting" this happen is the same as actively causing it to happen. I am your age and there is NO WAY a boy in college would somehow be at the point of "just happening" to have sexual conversations with me. No.

I'm not going to call you names or make accusations but I have to tell you, hand to god, I got chills of disgust reading this. Hopefully mine and these other responses won't render you so defensive that you miss the wake-up call. I get that you're not intending to fuck her. But are you getting why your role here has not been appropriate at any point? It's not just your ex who sees this-- it's also a bunch of strangers, who only have your telling to go on, in which you presumably want to look innocent, who also see things you seem to refuse to see.

You can play naive, or maybe you really are naive, but that doesn't change anything. This is a college student. (A virgin? A sexually traumatized person? I have this sick feeling that penetration is the sexual fear and the sex toy an insertable. In any event, it is not your place to help her with sexual problems, even--especially--if she begs you to. You, a 36 year old man on whom she has an admitted crush, are the DEAD LAST person who should be "helping" her with sexual fears. Don't you see that?)

You are a 36 year old man with a marriage already under his belt. You are not in the same life stage as a college student. Does that make sense? It's not so much the years but the life stage.

Only in your case, it's the years too. If she were over 25 with a few serious relationships under her belt, and totally independent, then 14 years would not be so creepy. 14 years is creepy when she's a 22 year old student. I also don't get what a teenager and late 20s-early 30s man would be hanging out for. You continue to gloss over that, as though befriending teenagers/college kids to the point that they come visit you is something all adults do. It's not. That doesn't "just happen." None of this "just happens" unless the person with more power (that would be you) wants it to. That's what all of us are seeing. That's what is scary that you don't see.

And even if she were 40, this is not a great thing you're doing. Continuing a relationship that veers into confessions and sexual discussions with someone with an admitted crush on you, when you don't reciprocate, is actually pretty damn cruel. A fling to get someone out of your system is exactly the sort of thing a young inexperienced person would come up with, and a mature person should see right through as the folly it is. Are you familiar with the phrase "stringing someone along," and why it's not right?

Maybe you don't want to be that bad guy here but that is sometimes what grown ass men have to do. And kindly and clearly cutting her loose is really your only way to be the good guy here.
posted by kapers at 5:14 PM on April 28, 2016 [52 favorites]


I will add this advice as a woman in her 30s, who had some experience navigating similar situations in my late teens / early 20s and can relate what many other men in your situation fail to do appropriately here:

Help her out by encouraging her to connect with men her age. You are emotionally cockblocking her from seeing men her own age as her equals, by continuing to encourage her to pursue intellectual and sexual intimacy with older men like you. And you're not doing younger men (like you were once yourself) any favors by being an older male in competition with them for intimacy with young women from their age cohort and stage of life. Be a good person and man attractive to women of your age and life stage by knowing/learning your intergenerational boundaries please.

Elaborate on Miko's script above with something like this: "I'm not the right person to talk about sexual things with, and it's not okay to keep bringing these things up with older men like me. I want to see the best happen for you, but the only way I can support you is by keeping this less personal."
posted by human ecologist at 5:42 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know a woman who in her early 20s had an intense crush on a much older man. He never tried to sleep with her but enjoyed the attention and didn't discourage it.

Now, years later: when she runs into him she remembers that situation, feels uncomfortable and embarrassed, and wishes in retrospect that, as the more mature party, he'd had better boundaries.

I think the best thing you can do here is to back away. She'll be stung of course, but she'll get over it. You really aren't in a position to help her.
posted by bunderful at 6:32 PM on April 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


It seems like you're framing this in terms of the impact it will have on her, and not acknowledging the impact it will have on you. It will probably be hard to lose this connection you have. I'm sure it makes you feel good to talk to her and hear about how she loves you and is attracted to you. But since you posted this question, I think you know that this is a dangerous road to go down. I think the kindest thing you can do is tell her, "You are a wonderful and beautiful person and I care about you, but nothing romantic or sexual is ever going to happen between us because we're at different stages in our lives. I need to cut off contact for a while to allow us both to move on." And then do it -- even though it will be hard for you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:58 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think you know this is quite inappropriate. The mere fact you started speaking with her when she was 17 in boundary crossing enough. Can you imagine having a 17 year old daughter and finding that she's speaking to and staying with several random 30-year old man she met on the internet? You'd probably be livid.

It's best to let this die. I can't see how any more interaction will help. Lines have already been crossed multiple times and sending a sex gift to someone who says they're in love with you and wants to have a fling is just encouraging their affections.

Date and sleep with more mature women, don't tell them about this. Every women knows what it's like to be hit on and/or desired by an inappropriately older man...it's always creepy. So I'd keep this a secret and move past it.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 7:38 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's very common for women to pursue older men. Starting when I was 15, I dated some older men. Boys in high school are generally horrible. Older guys love the attention of a younger woman and can generally pretend to have their shit together. I don't know why, but I was a very lucky younger woman and I dumped all of those older guys when they would put their "age difference" hang-ups on me. She will do something or say something that is totally appropriate for her age and experience and you won't be able to help yourself by pointing it out. Maybe because it makes you feel superior, maybe because you will continue to be uncomfortable with the age difference and wonder if you're creepy. Maybe you'll even resent her for being so youthful and full of potential. And if she doesn't dump you the very first time that happens, she will regret the relationship.

As I grew past the age of these men that I dated and then even further still, I became even more confident that they had no business dating me or trying to be with me. The latter group included two (young) married men. And I was so smart to just move on.

I think you'll be smart, too.
posted by amanda at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


someday you might be ready for the Campsite Rule, but you clearly are not right now. This relationship is already too weird - and you probably already did the damage.

22 year-old women have agency and can consent, but this has been weird for a long time.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:56 PM on April 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Contrary to almost everyone else, my thinking is: if you can look deep inside of yourself and you can treat this as a real relationship - that is, you're not just going to use her for a quick fuck - then yes, I think you should "respect her freedom of being a grown up 22 year old woman and making her own decisions".

She's an adult. If I were her, I'd be pissed that you're treating me like a child and not respecting my feelings.

People are resilient. If she's a Fragile Flower and you're a Complete Bastard, then yeah, you could hurt her a lot. But she doesn't sound especially fragile, and for purposes of this discussion, I'm going to assume you're a halfway decent fellow.

Honestly, I think the real 'danger' here is that you two will get together - and she'll be less than impressed and dump you. I've seen this pattern played out too many times. I'm sorry.

Oh - gag sex gift? Go for it. If it's a complete FAIL - then maybe it's best to discover this sooner than later.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:21 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just want to make clear that "making innuendo, love poems" and confessions of love, trying to get you into bed, confessing a long term crush, trying to convince you she's perfect for you, etc are NOT the thoughts and behaviors of a mature woman.

And the fact that you're taking this behavior as "mature" and "reasoning" is a bad sign. It seems like you don't have a good baseline for what a mature courtship should actually be.

In addition, not to pile on, but I think you need to really explore why you were okay forming a relationship with a 17 year old in the first place. I mean, how did you even meet her? Where were you that it was okay to become Facebook friends with a 17 year old?

You are the older one. You need to literally block her and do not contact her any more. You need to examine how you got into this in the first place. You need to examine how you view relationships and why your marriage fell apart. You need to examine why you didn't take your ex-wife's concerns seriously or why while you were "working on your marriage" you invited a barely-adult to stay in your home and spend the day with.

And, I say this as a young 26 year old that actually would describe myself and pretty emotionally mature. I think others would agree, as would my husband whom I meet when i was 19. So having pretty damn recently been 22, and even been a very emotionally (newly married) 22 year old, I can't imagine a man coming into my life the way you came into this young woman's. I can't imagine any of my friends having any sort of "relationship" like you have with this young woman being good in any way. I would be so scared for them and very worried.

Please leave this young woman alone. If you want to have a fling, find someone you own age and your own maturity. But please do talk to someone about the worldview that lead to this.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:54 PM on April 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down.

This is a gross and misguided idea. You don't go into a sexual relationship with someone with whom there is such an obvious discrepancy in power and knowledge - a discrepancy that you yourself admit to being flattering, which is also another warning sign that you need to back out of this.
posted by like_neon at 2:32 AM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'll join in to say no, don't agree to have any kind of "fling" with her. I don't think you're a creep. The only thing that gave me pause was the last paragraph - I can't imagine a scenario in which such a gift may be appropriate unless coming from a lover (preferably after a discussion) or a very close friend. I don't get the feeling you're either of those things. But aside from that - it's great you're asking this question and willing to do the right thing.

I, like many women, apparently, have been that girl, absolutely certain I love this older guy and hoping desperately for any kind of relationship that would allow me to be close to him. Just as in your case, I was the one pursuing him. Well, it worked out about as well as you'd expect - with a broken heart a year later and questioning what the hell love is, anyway. I don't think she's asking for a fling - what she is really hoping for is that the fling will lead to something serious. If you don't want that, just walk away. The difference in experience that comes with the age gap can be difficult enough, but the kind of imbalance where one partner is just "going along" with the other who loves them will create an awful mess later on. Quite possibly, very soon.

And someone here has already mentioned that this relationship is probably keeping her from finding someone else - I agree. So make it very clear to her that "no" means "no". Don't give her false hope. She's got to stop fixating on you.

The only situation in which I'd say go for it would be if you had genuine feelings for her, but were just worried about the age difference. That doesn't seem to be the case.

I think I could help resolve the situation better by guiding her through it rather than abrupt shutting down.

Really? Guiding her? How do you intend to do that? Are you a therapist who can help her untangle all her feelings and get over this without heartbreak? And, suppose you think you could - well, are you ready to invest the time and effort such "guidance" requires?
A gentle, but firm "no" would be so, so much more helpful.
posted by Guelder at 2:48 AM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to provide what I hope may be a helpful thought on the "creep/not a creep" discussion. It's not the most helpful term, as it's a shorthand for a sort of a complex of predatory behavior. But I don't think most people we could call 'creeps' identify themselves as creeps, nor do I think creeps are dramatically different in presentation from the general population. They are often acting from unconscious impetus arising from their own issues; they don't necessarily [all] wake up in the morning saying "let me predate on some more vulnerable sexual targets today!" They are people who have poor boundaries and lack self-awareness and use other people to shore up their self-esteem. They are not that different from other people, except that other people have acquired more of those life skills along the maturing process and have learned to create healthy and socially supported boundaries.

If any of those skills are weak in you, then even if you don't mean it, your behavior can qualify you as a 'creep.' If you don't want the term to apply to you - and who would? - it's easy; don't do things creeps do. Unfortunately in this case, you've started doing them - but you can stop now.
posted by Miko at 6:41 AM on April 29, 2016 [39 favorites]


I want to third Michele in California's advice above. Also this bit:

You tell this girl "I am flattered, but this is a super bad idea. I am not interested in hurting you or messing up my life. I need to get my act together and we obviously cannot be platonic friends. That ship has sailed. It is time for me to say goodbye." And then you cut her off.

... is how you minimize the negative impact on her. She'll be hurt in the short term, but as all the women here who have been in this girl's situation have described, she will be thankful 10 years on.

Since you mentioned being hurt by the "coaching/grooming" labels, I just want to encourage you as well for checking in with everyone here. Good work. You mentioned you're recently (ish) divorced - it seems like you would benefit from working through some of that stuff with a therapist. Personally, I've had periods where I haven't been on an even keel emotionally, and making relationship decisions during those periods has not turned out well. I'd encourage you to consider if that's where you are, and maybe recognize the circumstance and not trust yourself to make a good decision.

Generally, with evidence present in this thread, 14 years' difference is not insurmountable - but the way you met this girl and the way you describe the situation make it a non-starter. Cut the cord - I don't see this situation leading anywhere you want to go.

Finally, hurting from a divorce and wanting attention and to feel loved and yes, sex - there's nothing wrong with any of that, but as Lyn Never mentioned, you should go somewhere else to get it (but exercise self-care, and perhaps work through at least the divorce first so you don't make things worse for yourself emotionally).
posted by iffthen at 7:43 AM on April 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


I know it probably feels like you're getting piled on, but I want to leave one more comment, specifically about your perception of this woman as mature for her age. If you had asked the guy I dated when I was 22 about my maturity level, I'm sure he would have told you the same thing -- god knows he told me all the time. But I wasn't mature for my age at all. I was shattered. I was terrified. I was like a walking wound. Frankly, I was not in my right mind, and I used false bravado as a shield against my true feelings, because when he talked to me, it felt like he was talking to the person I desperately wanted to be, and I thought the only way to become that person was to be with someone who already thought she was real.

The grim reality of the situation was obvious to basically everyone around me, but this guy in particular refused to see it -- not because he was stupid or blind, but because he didn't want to. It was in his best interest to see me as a fellow grown-ass adult, because he wanted to be able to treat someone like a disposable object and not feel guilty about it... and well, I was right there, telling him it was OK. I told him it was OK if he didn't love me. I told him it was OK if he used me and then walked away. I told him so many things were OK when they weren't OK at all. He took my words and ran with them like they were the plain truth, and eventually, he shoved them back in my face as proof that I had obviously expected to be treated poorly, so how dare I get upset when I got exactly what I was expecting?

I'm not saying that 22-year-olds are lying or deceitful by nature, or that they purposely try to act tough when they're really weak and scared. I'm saying that when a 22-year-old woman tells a 36-year-old man that it's OK if he doesn't love her, that it's OK if he just uses her for sex and then bails? She's lying because she knows that's what he wants to hear, and if he believes her, it's for no reason other than his desire to give himself permission to treat her like shit.

You aren't an innocent bystander. You've contributed to the development of this dynamic for years, even as her lack of maturity has become painfully clear. So don't erase your own culpability in this, and stop taking advantage of her desire to please you at the expense of her own dignity.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2016 [45 favorites]


The grim reality of the situation was obvious to basically everyone around me, but this guy in particular refused to see it -- not because he was stupid or blind, but because he didn't want to. It was in his best interest to see me as a fellow grown-ass adult, because he wanted to be able to treat someone like a disposable object and not feel guilty about it... and well, I was right there, telling him it was OK. I told him it was OK if he didn't love me. I told him it was OK if he used me and then walked away. I told him so many things were OK when they weren't OK at all. He took my words and ran with them like they were the plain truth, and eventually, he shoved them back in my face as proof that I had obviously expected to be treated poorly, so how dare I get upset when I got exactly what I was expecting?

This, this, this. We live in a contract-minded age, where as long as you get verbal "consent" to a thing, it's all supposed to be gravy, and we're all supposed to assume that everyone can take care of themselves if they're a certain age or a certain status or can verbally assure us of that fact even when confronted with evidence to the contrary.

To my mind, if you are significantly older or significantly more experienced or otherwise have significantly more power than someone, you have the responsibility of considering and compensating for how that age/experience/power advantages you. And if you have reason to believe that someone is making a bad decision out of ignorance or personal pain, you should not participate in that decision. It's not your job to run their life, but you should not actively assist in something that you think is a mistake, much less rationalize it on the grounds that "it's their choice".
posted by Frowner at 8:38 AM on April 29, 2016 [24 favorites]


Many of these comments are super super harsh.

I was in two of these kinds of relationships in my early 20s. They didn't ruin me, but they also weren't super awesome wholesome experiences that everyone should go through.

The age range she's in (late teens to late 20s) is a weird range of coming to feel like you have agency and wisdom and power and deserve a certain kind of treatment, but not yet having the skills and experience to gracefully navigate the kinds of situations we throw ourselves into.

Relatedly, some of the "immature" behaviors listed by Crystalinne are things I'm "guilty" of in my early 30s. Humans are irrational, emotional creatures. It's a thing. Under the influence of hormones and pheromones and telephones, we do things that don't play well with logic and rationality, but punishing ourselves for it isn't usually the best way to react to it.

The wisest thing to do is to cut contact, but for the love of humanity, please do not do it silently or passively. Tell her in unambiguous terms that "This is not a healthy friendship for me" or "I am not interested in the kind of relationship you want."

I've gone off the rails and tried to argue people into loving me, and the most frustrating thing about those episodes was my own inability to take silence as unambiguous rejection. Silence = "hold on, be patient, maybe it will happen", but when that silence is preceded by "No" or "Stop", it's harder to rationalize holding on to a one-sided relationship.
posted by itesser at 3:25 PM on April 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not for nothing, but because it's been bugging me, and perhaps it will be useful to you... You report that you apologized to the 22 year old after she witnessed you and your wife fighting, but you don't mention apologizing to your wife. Something like, "Honey I'm sorry, I crossed a line. We're in a rough patch right now, and I unintentionally pushed beyond your comfort level by inviting my young friend to stay. I completely understand how this might look shady, and I'm sorry I didn't exercise better judgement. It must have been humiliating for you to have a total stranger witness our very private business. Because you and our marriage are vitally important to me, and I'm hoping to regain your total trust I have ceased all contact with my young friend. This will never happen again. "

I don't know, maybe you did do that. It's certainly what a person trying to save their marriage would do.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:14 PM on April 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


If you ghost irresponsibly, she's left wondering, left to deal with the Zeigarnik Effect. As a former 22 year old, I offer you my recipe for how to 'ghost' responsibly:

Have one (1) conversation with her in which you take the time to clearly and consistently explain your reasons for going no contact and thank her for the years of friendship. Answer her questions and address her concerns, but keep a clear boundary: this is not an opportunity for you to change your mind. Then go no contact -- be consistent and stay no contact when she reaches out to you!

This is the appropriate way to ghost; it allows you both the closure to move on with your lives.

Note: I define ghosting differently than Sara C. in that I don't think sex is necessarily a pre-ghosting requirement.
posted by aniola at 8:52 PM on April 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Strictly speaking you are both consenting adults and free to do whatever you like with one another. How this will work out for her own psychic health and sense of self-worth is another question entirely. You cannot inoculate a young person against pain and confusion, but I suggest that this doesn't mean you need to be the cause of it.

Problem is you're now in the position where no matter what happens, she is going to be confused and in pain. If you "ghost" her, she will be heartbroken. If you share a life with her through a relationship, it will be extremely difficult, probably take a while, and the likelihood is that it will end up in heartbreak regardless.

There will probably be some good times along the way, and some hot and exciting times as well, but I think for the most part this is one of those situations that, on the whole, will introduce more misery into the world than it will happiness, and so should probably be avoided.

Your own pain and confusion is of course another matter entirely and regardless of how intense it is or how you ended up there, it shouldn't be dismissed, and I don't doubt that sleeping with a 22 year old will alleviate some small part of it. In fact, I guarantee it will. And, again, you are both of an age to decide to do such things together. I still don't think it's a great idea, unfortunately.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:10 PM on May 2, 2016


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