I am engaged to George, who is 12 years younger than I am. I’m 33 and ready to settle down and Nathan is ready, too. Even though he is only 21, George is very mature for his age, and he isn’t intimidated by independent and strong women. He cooks, he cleans, and he makes me laugh, and we have wild, passionate sex. George also has a decent job. I was surprised and delighted when George wanted to take our relationship to the next step, and proposed. But while I should be happy and planning our wedding, I’m stressed out. None of our friends or family approve of our engagement. My friends think dating a “mere boy” is ridiculous, and my parents keep telling me that he will leave me anyway when he decides he wants children. But we have talked over the major life issues and neither of us want children so I don’t see this as being a problem. I look pretty hot right now, but I do have some concern that when I’m middle aged, people will think George is my child, not my husband. Nathan’s friends think he’s crazy to want an “old” woman. Neither my friends, nor his, want to socializes with us, George’s parents disapprove to the point that they have told us they will not attend our wedding. I feel a lot of pressure and so does Nathan, but we really do love each other and I believe that we are good together in all the ways that really count. What do you think? Doesn’t the age difference really depend upon the individuals, involved?
Clarice the Cougar
Alison’s Take: This is a tough one, because my own husband is 10 years younger than I am, and we have been together for literally, decades. And, I dislike the word “Cougar,” which implies that any woman who wants a younger man is “predatory.” It is disrespectful to women, and unjustified. That being said, I do think that a significant age difference can be overcome, but there will always be issues concerning your ages that you will have to face. When you are going through something important at your age, George isn’t going to “get it.” And then you’ll have to experience it all over again, when he finally gets to the same point you’re at now. When you are ready to retire, he will still be working his way up the career ladder (or at least, working). When you start to suffer the issues that older people experience, he won’t understand it. You may lose patience with his decision making because you have so much more experience, and yet you will have to let him make mistakes even though you know they are coming. You will have to keep yourself in remarkable shape so you don’t look hopelessly mis-matched. He won’t get your “remember when” references and you may not like his popular culture preferences either. This is just for starters.
On the other hand, there are plenty of high profile couples who have made their marriages work, even with significant age differences. Consider hunky actor Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness whose ages are 13 years apart (she is older). They have been married 16 years. Also married 16 years are Clint Eastwood & Dina Ruiz-Eastwood with a 35-year age difference. There is a 12-year age gap but 12 years of marriage between actress Megan Mullally (she is older) and her husband, Nick Offerman. I could mention at least a dozen more long-term couples whose age differences run well upwards of the 12-year age difference between you and George. If you really do see eye to eye on major issues like children and finances, and agree on the type of goals and lifestyle you want, and if George really is ready to make this commitment to you out of pure love, maybe it could work as long as you understand that you will always be the one who has to be more mature and understanding.
As to the disapproval of your friends and family, this is an issue that may or may not resolve itself over time. Those who really wish for your happiness, will support you, even if they think you’re crazy. And if they see that you are truly working out as a couple, hopefully, their disapproval will soften. Alas, life is hard enough without being ostracized by those you care about. Still, if , as you claim, you are truly good together in all the ways that count, and you truly want to be together, don’t rush into it. Opt for a long engagement and see how things play out. Both of you still have some time.
Tony’s Take: Clarice, at 33 you are hardly a cougar, and a 12 year age difference is hardly an issue. The older/younger age issue happens the other way around (older male younger female), all of the time. The issue here is that he is 21 and not 30. He has not had the time to discover who he truly is nor had the benefit of those relationships in his 20s to discover what he needs and wants. At 21 most males are still in their partying stage and tend to go out with other males as a pack to play, game, drink, socialize. You must be certain he is not bonded to his friends in this way and that his friends accept you because you need to have him finish growing up without resenting or leaving you. If you isolate him he will never fully mature and eventually the little boy aspects of his personality which you found cute will end up aggravating you. You need to insure that you have common interests, common tastes and enjoy doing the same activities, with the age difference he will be with you the rest of your life which is a very long time. An additional issue is that some 19 to 21 year old woman might end up with a crush on him, even though he is engaged, seeing you as an easy challenge and flirt and tempt him to no end (note that I have seen this actually happen).
Ultimately love is too precious and companionship is hard to find, if he truly wants you and you truly want him I wish you both the best because finding someone your are passionate about who is passionate about you is rare and precious.