Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting past the fling

We’ve been amazed and delighted by all the traffic on this blog since Michael’s essay ran in AARP magazine. And we are tremendously moved by so many of your stories. One thing that I’ve noticed as the comments have been piling up: Many of you women in relationships with younger men say you were more troubled by the age difference than your man was. And some of you mention that your guy pursued you enthusiastically before you believed it was for real.

My experience was sort of the same: The age difference bothered me a lot more in the beginning than it did Michael. I felt embarrassed by it (can’t she get a guy her own age?) worried that I was making a huge mistake, and yet afraid it wouldn’t last.

On the other hand, Michael was wary about starting a new relationship (he had recently ended a difficult one) and so he didn’t really pursue me in the classic sense. He did bring me flowers once, but his early gifts tended toward more practical things, like cheeseburgers for a late night at the office or the loan of a record album.

Here’s some of what our readers shared:

Practicallytwisted, who’s just starting a relationship with a man 18 years younger, said: I'm more preoccupied with the difference than he is, I think, and I leap too far into the future instead of remaining in the present where it is wonderful and exciting.

An anonymous poster, married to a man 12 years younger, wrote: He said to tell you he doesn't even think about the age or the dying, but rather the living! I must admit that I think about it though.

Dally, married to a man 9 years younger, wrote this after reading Michael’s piece: Until now I have felt rather isolated, as far as our age gap goes. But now I'm saying, "Wa-hoo! No big deal!" (which it has never been for my hubby) I'm 63 and he's 54, and we've been married 8 years.

Another anonymous commenter in a him+17 marriage for 21 years writes: I was more uncomfortable about the age difference than he was at the start (he was 30 and I was 47) and now I can't imagine why I was so concerned.

But here’s my favorite. This, from KK, who has a younger boyfriend: I tell people that I did not rob the cradle, he robbed the grave! He pursued me until I finally gave in...thinking it was just a whimsy and it wouldn't last.

I’m happy to know my experience wasn’t unusual. I wonder if we just can’t believe our good fortune in finding a soul mate and so we tamp down our expectations. I’ll just have a fling, we tell ourselves, or it’ll be fun as long as it lasts. And then, surprise! It lasts!


  1. I just read the article in AARP and enjoyed it very much. For the past five years I've been in a relationship with a man 24 years younger than me. I have always been an insecure person, so in the beginning I was a nervous wreck. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. He has never given me any reason to be concerned about other women. He'd just gotten out of a bad marriage and I had lost my husband to a brain disease a year and a half before we met. I worry about my looks fading but that doesn't seem to faze him. If he can put up with it I guess so can I. Neither of us want to get married so we know that what keeps us together is not a piece of paper. We are just comfortable with each other.

  2. @Michael,
    The article in AARP is great. I'm inspired by comments and pieces that add a motivational spirit. Time for me is fluid, I will always choose my age, however, the rocking chair is not in the equation.
    Learn to play hard. Learn to beat up your body. Never, never, ever let your muscles say they're too tired to continue. Rock on girl!
    I'm going to be 67 in two weeks....old enough to know better, too young to care.

  3. joanne h. says.....

    This article took me by surprise.... I am in a relationship with a man 17 years younger than me, we have 2 children and are still not married happy with the way things are

  4. I'm running a bit behind in my reading so, just had the opportunity to read Michael's article in AARP Magazine.

    I am married to a man almost 13 years younger. We have been married 23 years. When we met I had no idea of his age. I didn't ask as it wasn't important at the time. He knew I had 3 children so I guess he could pretty much figure out I was a bit older. He asked me to marry him and I said no when I found out his age. He had never been married, he would want children of his own one day. I had my tubes tied several years before. He pursued me with much determination. His determination paid off. We were married in 1988. The issue of children was never an issue. He is Dad to my two youngest and a friend to my oldest. I've never regretted my decision and I can say the same for him.

  5. I was sitting with my husband having coffee this morning when I grabbed the AARP magazine from the coffee table. I don’t often have time to read. I was glad I took the time this morning because Michael’s article, Partners In Time, brought me back to life in the sense that I was beginning to feel sorry for myself.

    You see, lately I have been feeling a bit old. Let me say first that my husband Ray is 8 years younger than I am and on August 27th we celebrated 28 years together. It has been mostly a happy road with perhaps a few twists and turns, but I look forward to continued traveling through life with this wonderful man by my side. The how’s and why’s and wherefore’s of our meeting back in November of 1982 are no doubt similar to many who have love stories to tell. Our first date was the eve of the new year 1983: a quiet dinner in Greenwich Village, a drink at McSorley’s Old Ale House, a walk through Washington Square Park, a train ride back to Lynbrook on Long Island and to my mind—at that time—the promise of a new relationship. I was 33 and he was approaching his 25th birthday. It didn’t matter. It was love and we knew it. None of the ‘he’s younger than you, she’s older than you’ warnings so lovingly offered by our respective siblings were heeded and we soon married. It’s as simple as that.

    Only lately have I been feeling a great divide in our ages. I sometimes wonder if I am cheating my husband out of his youth and that he is succumbing to an older perception of his vitality because I am getting older—as if I am getting older and he is not. It is my perception of our age difference that is changing, and I am projecting this image onto my husband. He may really be quite fine. I’ll have to ask him.

    I love your blog and look forward to frequent visits.

  6. Delighted to find Michael's essay in AARP! Such good writing on a subject dear to my heart, and so rarely covered.
    My husband, Chris, is 22 years younger than I am. He's 52...I'll be 75 in November. I'm a potter; he began working in my studio as an assistant in his late teens. . We always had fun together - working in clay, laughing, listening to music. We were buddies, and I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to "fix him up" with daughters of my friends. After several years of just being friends, it became clear that there was a deeper relationship underneath it all. We started living together and finally married when he was 27, We'll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in December of this year.
    We earn our living as potters - and recognize that we are an anachronism in this modern world. He is a highly skilled sculptor, and I can still throw clay. We have, by hard work and good fortune, landed in a place that we both love. The state of the economy has given us much practice in frugality in recent years. Who knows what the future will bring? We're facing it together.
    Best wishes to you both.

  7. I teared up when I read the article in AARP and then your blog..I am 13 years older than my husband. We have been married for 19 years.It has only been the last 8 years or so, as I've really started to show and notice my age (I'm 63), that I've become very self-conscious about the difference in our ages.I am having a very hard time dealing with it.I am looking forward to looking through the archives, but I had to let you know how much I enjoyed the article and thank you. I wish you both only the best!

  8. Hello Anonymous-- I'm 63, as well, and Michael and I have been married for 18 years. I too am getting more self-conscious about looking my age. (Flabby arms, for example.) But Michael is also looking older, and some people think we look closer in age than we used to. All of us age-gap couples are navigating new waters, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. I hope the rest of your journey goes well.

  9. Hi I am 62. I took note of your shoulder injury. I had a cup injury two years ago and could barely lift my arm after one years. This was horrible because I exercised lifting my body weight to avoid the wings. A friend introduced me to Bikram’s yoga and after 30 days my shoulder healed. I am interracially married for 40years my husband is from Austria and I am African American. After having stage four breast cancer in 1988. I am lucky to be alive because of the cancer I was on sick leave when I lost 8 fellow crew members on the Pan American 103 terrorist attack over Lockerbie, Scotland.
    I realized the most important thing in life is your health .I am lucky to be here and discovered that it is the aches and pains that make one feel old. To the point that when you are say 85 you say forget Christmas let me go. Yoga gives flexibility. I also play tennis and go to the gym. I play with people who are all in their 80’s. Yoga also helped my knees as your knees are very important in active sports.

  10. I was so happy to stumble upon the article in AARP. I am 52 and the man I have been involved with for 8+ years is 14 years younger. I met him at work just 4 months after my husband died. I was left with 3 teenagers and no family in the area. He had just returned from Greece serving in the military as a Greek citizen. He became a very good friend, and soon was engaged to another woman. That didn't last but 6 months and he decided to move back to Greece. We corresponded via email and phone and it was during this time he admitted to having strong feelings for me. I thought he had lost his mind!! He was young and knew having kids of his own was extremely important to him. I couldn't have any more kids, plus I had just been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. To make a long story short, he committed himself to pursuing me, and I am, to this day, very glad he did. I went through a rough 8 years dealing with my husband's death, 3 teenagers, and financial problems. He has never let the age difference bother him at all. I did in the past, because I was embarrased. Now, people ask what the age difference is and I tell them with pride. Not because of the difference, but because we have a wonderful, solid relationship. I am so blessed having him in my life. He has been my rock since we met.


  11. Just another me-too comment. My late "wife" was 17 years older than me. It never bothered me; as far as I was concerned she was the best thing that ever happened to me. (Though it was a little strange being only five years older than her oldest child.) She spent much of her life with people of a different age. She was younger than her high school and college classmates. Then after raising a family and going back to school she was older than her new classmates and co-workers.

    We started out with one-year contracts and shortly just skipped the formalities. Life was the same as anyone else's, ups and downs, excitement and boredom. The only time the age difference came up was when she said she would die before me and I pointed out that that was not necessarily the case. After her stroke, I became her caretaker, which was not difficult (I was retired by then) but simply a way of expressing my love.

    She died 1,000 miles from home and five years before I expected. It was not a scenario either one of us expected, but then neither was our getting together 36 years before.

    Life has a way of throwing something unplanned at you now and then, grab it --- it may be the best thing that happens if you keep yourself flexible.

    Gene Bjerke

  12. I was very happy to read how successful you and your wife have been in your relationship. It is hard enough to find someone to spend a lifetime with, much less the age space of 17 years entered into the equation. I too had a romance with a man 17 years younger than me, he was 29 and I 46. It lasted 2 years, and age difference was a factor in ending our affair. I am not saying that we could have made it without the age difference, but I am saying, we ended things for that reason.

    I always regretted letting myself fall for someone who so much younger than me, it felt as if I was just trying to sabotage my chance at finding someone to spend a happy life with, (basically a pattern of mine). Our breakup debilitated me for a long time (emotionally) and I still miss him at times today. I have not seen or heard from him in almost 11 years.

    I don't have any regrets today that our affair ended, it is what it is, and I look back on our time with pleasant memories. I did manage to see some photos of him on facebook recently, his is still as beautiful as he ever was, and me at 60, well, I am showing my age pretty well today. So, actually for me, I feel our breakup was the right thing to do. But, I am very pleased to read others who managed to make this work. Thanks for the blog, I will enjoy reading some of it I am sure.

  13. I just read the article this morning while my husband and I were enjoying our cup of coffee and the Sunday paper. I picked up the AARP magazine and read your article. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I am 70 years young and my husband is 56 years old. I look and act like a woman in her early 60's and he looks and acts like a man in his late 60's. My late husband was 21 years older than I. Prior to meeting and dating my present husband I had a long term relationship with a young man 18 years my junior. I broke it off because I didn't think the reverse age difference would work. That young man had always dated older women starting with his being a junior inhigh school and dating one of his teachers. He later married a woman 16 years his senior and they have a wonderful life replete with two great children.

    I too kept brushing my present husband off. He persisted and pursued. We have been married 23 years. Our problems have been no different than those of couples married to a similar aged spouse. Our ages are in our minds. I will probably outlive my husband as my family seems to like living until they are 98 to 102 years old.
    PS I have worn garter belts, seamed thigh high stockings, bustiers and sexy bedroom outfits since I discovered them. I wear them for myself because I enjoy them. I like my men to wear different outfits but most are too conservative so I don't putsh it. I am a very succesful business woman and lead a darn good life. My advice to any woman entertaining the thought of a relationship of "cougar and cub" JUST GO FOR IT....ENJOY IT FOR AS LONG AS IT LASTS AND FOR HEAVENS SAKE DON'T DWELL ON THE "WHAT IF'S"


  14. Just adding to your new fan base from the AARP article, which my spouse (17 years older) handed me a little earlier today. Your story & mindset certainly have some things in common with ours. Thanks for the blog too!

  15. I liked the article. I am not married or in relationship, but I do like the look of younger men, so probably would "go there" if I was really looking. If I have another relationship it will just have to happen. My second husband was 6 years younger than me and he liked a little older woman.

  16. I am a 47-years-young woman in a relationship with a 25-year-old man. My dear friend (age 60) gave me a copy of the article Partners in Time. As I read it my eyes welled up with tears. Then I went to your Blogspot and read more, including reader comments, and the tears continued to come. I realize how much I need some support. I have been divorced for 20 year and raised two beautiful daughters by myself. They are now 21 and 24. In the past, I dated men older than myself, a few times 20+, and never thought twice about it. Like several of the comments I have read, my young lover/boyfriend/partner pursued me for several months, gently but persistently. Although I found him extremely attractive, my mind would not allow the possibility for some time. As time passed, I began to realize that our friendship was growing into something more for me. I still resisted. I was terrified of what people would think. Then there came the moment when I got honest with myself, and made the decision to be open to the experience. Now, over two months later I can say that this is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I have opened myself to a beautiful, life-changing experience, and have let go of what I think people think about me - it has been very liberating. I do have issues with my thoughts of the long-term viability of this relationship (I am done having children, he may want children), so I make myself return to the present and just enjoy this experience, but it is a nagging thought in the back of my mind. I wonder if that thought might sabotage things a bit. Help.

  17. This is a lifespring to read this blog and comments. I am 63 and in a relationship with a 47 yr old man. It has been going on for almost a year now. He does not even see the age difference and could care less. I struggle every day with trying to also maintain that attitude. It's hard to blow off my worry of 'what people think" I realize that I have to update what I think about older women/younger men! This has been a wonderful adventursome year. He says he can't keep up with me in energy or spirit. I have to say that except for how I know I look older on the outside, there is really no difference in our ages on the inside, it seems. I worry about the day he wakes up and says, "oh my God, there's this old woman in my bed!"I have assumed this couldn't possibly be permanent. But reading this blog makes me realize we're not the only ones! And yes, he pursued me. One funny thing though: When I told him "I don't want to be seen as Mrs. Robinson," he replied: "Who's that?" :)