Big Age Difference

Q: At age 51, six years after a divorce, I feel incredibly lucky and confused. I met and fell in love with a woman who is 19. She's from Peru, and I'm from the U.S. She's never married but has an eight-month-old girl from her only intimate relationship. We enjoy each other tremendously and have developed a very romantic and interesting relationship. Since we don't share a common background, we don't have many issues and the big things that come up get resolved through communication. Is age that relevant in a relationship? While we don't dwell on our age differences, I feel culturally programmed to see this as inappropriate. -- Ken

Dr. Susan: The age disparity is not necessarily "inappropriate," Ken, but it certainly adds to the challenges you'll have to deal with. Let's see: you're from different countries, you're 32 years older than she is, and she has a baby though she never married. You didn't mention how long you've had this "romantic and interesting" relationship, but I suspect it's not very long yet. And I don't at all understand what you mean when you say that because you don't share a common background, you don't have many issues. That's a neat paradox. Believe me, those issues will be heading your way before long. Once the sex haze begins to wear off, you'll both be seeing your complicated reality more clearly.

Still, you could be the rare couple that can overcome everything in the name of love. This would take several things. First, get to know one another for at least several more months. Be sure you can trust that she's telling you the absolute truth about her past, and find out what role the father of her baby might eventually play in all your lives. Does he even know about the child? Next, keep in mind that she's very young. She may want more kids. Do you? Do you have any way of knowing how she might handle the age difference as you both get older? You could start having various infirmities while she's still young. Will she stick by you if you turn into an old coot? And finally, as you consider committing to her for keeps, are you fully ready to take on her child as your own? I would suggest you not move forward lightly, but with full awareness of how hard it might be.

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