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“It’s Been Nine Years and My Much Younger Girlfriend Still Won’t Tell Her Parents About Us”

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I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for nine years. I’m 60 and she’s 34. She’s always had to try to make sure her parents didn’t find out about us and she feels guilty as she’s usually very honest. I’ve been living 50 miles away and she is in a rented accommodation, or was until recently. Now she’s moved back with parents as her flat-mates left and she can’t afford to rent on her own. I’ve not been able to move near her as I was trying to finish four barns that I’m developing. And neither of us wants to live at my place.

Now I’m in a position to move near her which I’m doing. But since she’s left her rented accommodation, she dropped a bombshell and said we can’t be together. She says I’m the perfect man for her, and she sends me emails saying she misses me and that I’m the love of her life. She desperately wants a baby; I had a vasectomy years ago and then had it reversed in my only marriage. That marriage produced my son who’s 19 now.

So despite the love we have for each other, she feels she needs to meet a younger man to have a family and keep her parents happy. She’s a beautiful woman but lacks confidence in her body and detests the thought of showing it to anyone (except me). I’ve no problem having more children, and despite my age I’m very fit and active. She says she misses me and wants to come see me next week and stay friends and share what we can.

Since the split we’ve either texted, chatted or emailed every day. Our breakup is killing me and I know she’s hurting. Do I just walk away or stick around knowing that, if she meets someone else, I’ll be gutted? — Her Older Man

This woman is a grown adult and she’s kept your relationship a secret from her parents for nine years?! Yes, you have a big age difference, and she was only 25 (to your 51) when you started dating, which might make many parents anxious or suspicious, but it’s been nine years! If at no point in these last nine years she felt like the risk of upsetting her parents was worth being open about whom she loves, it says something about her character and her commitment to you.

Maybe she really, really does love you, and maybe you can and are willing to give her what she says she wants (a family), but it doesn’t seem that she’s able or willing to give you what you want. Her actions speak volumes. And love her as you do, you’re doing yourself a disservice hanging around in this relationship purgatory, settling for whatever crumbs of attention she’ll give you, hoping that, if you “stay friends and share what you can,” she might come back around and be your girlfriend. It sounds like you are pinning hopes on the idea that she won’t find anyone else — that her lack of confidence will keep her single and that loneliness will propel her back to you. Do you really want to be her person by default? Furthermore, if you really loved her, wouldn’t you want her to find someone she felt she could love openly and who could give her what it is she says she wants (and thinks she can’t get from you)?

Nine years is a long, long time to be in a relationship that doesn’t move forward. Nine years is a long time to be closeted from a loved one’s loves ones. If I were you, I’d cut off all communication with her and tell her that, if she wants you in your life, it’s all or nothing. She doesn’t get to keep you around to “share what she can” while she searches for a younger man she’s not ashamed to introduce to her parents. If you’re going to be gutted anyway, get it over with now so you can start the healing process and begin to move on.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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{ 20 comments… add one }

Amanda Amanda August 18, 2014, 9:34 am

Oh, LW this makes me sad. She doesn’t love you anymore, she just wants to keep you on the side. Please, move on and find somebody who won’t keep you hidden from the rest of their life.

FireStar FireStar August 18, 2014, 9:48 am

She told you she wants to break up. I think all your what-if-ing doesn’t mean much in the light of the decision she made. For what it is worth – it sounds like a sound decision. If she wants a family then having that with a man closer to her is age is a better bet. Maybe she wants someone who wants a family too…not just someone willing to make a baby to keep her. It is time to cut contact with her completely and to move on with your life. She has a lot of growing up left to do. Why would you set yourself up to wait in the wings, watching her life unfold? Go live your own life.

A little introspection about the type of woman you want might not be amiss either. You picked someone half your age with a stunted maturity level. Despite being a grown woman she kept you hidden from her family for NINE YEARS. In all that time she never had the emotional wherewithal to stand up to her family for her relationship. As it is she is 34 and back living with her parents. Sometimes life hits you hard and, if you are lucky enough, home is a great place to regroup and re-launch your life…but all that happened to her is her roommates left. Maybe that is what you do at 19 – but not 34. You might want to examine why that type of women appealing to you.

avatar SGMcG August 18, 2014, 10:20 am

If she TRULY loved you, you would be treated much better than you currently are now. The fact that you’re suffering n and she is still communicating with you, knowing you still care is very telling. She has said she wants to move on from the relationship she once had with you and if you loved her as you claim you do, you’ll help her with that endeavor and suggest a hiatus from communication.

avatar Essie August 18, 2014, 10:28 am

I was going to talk about her lack of maturity, and her unwillingness to stand up to her parents….but the truth is, you haven’t been doing much standing up, either. As in standing up for yourself. There should have come a time, long ago, when you said “I can’t continue to be in a relationship with someone who is so ashamed of my age that they have to keep me hidden from their family.” In a sense, you’ve allowed her to continue to be childish and dependent. She could continue to treat you in this appalling way, and never have to deal with any consequences for it. I don’t mean to beat up on you, LW, I can only imagine the pain you’re in. Just trying to present things from a different perspective.
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I can understand, at 25, being a little nervous about introducing mom and dad to a boyfriend that’s twice your age. I totally get that. But she’s approaching middle age now, for pete’s sake! Nobody cares how old your partner is when you’re 34.
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I’m sorry, but I think the only thing for you to do is break it off completely. Tell her not to visit; that you’re going to be in her life as her partner, and openly, or not at all. I’m suspecting that this sudden need for a baby came because her parents are pressuring her to settle down and have a child, and she’s afraid they won’t want her to have a child with an older man. So she’ll try to keep you around secretly until a suitable father-to-be is found, and then you’ll be history.
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If she really, truly does love you, maybe losing you will help her find the strength to live as an adult woman instead of a dependent child. I wouldn’t count on it, though. I don’t think she has that strength. But that’s something you need to find out. I’m not a fan of ultimatums, but it’s time to bring this to a head.

Kate B. Kate B. August 18, 2014, 10:34 am

It’s time to move on. She’s a very immature 34. At 34, you should be able to stand up to your parents and live your own life and make your own way in the world. Why would you want to be with someone who keeps you hidden from her family for nine years? Wouldn’t you want to be with a woman who is proud to say you’re the man in her life? Cut off all contact. You’ll heal faster and be ready when that woman comes along.

avatar Portia August 18, 2014, 10:41 am

I agree with Wendy, cut off communication. LW, she’s keeping you on the hook and it’s just going to make you more miserable since she’s already made up her mind. Maybe she does miss you and still love you, but so what? She obviously does not see a future and hasn’t for a while if she’s kept you a secret from her family for so long, so it’s time to move on. Even if she did come around (and it doesn’t look likely), it wouldn’t be because of your pleas to get back together.

Lyra Lyra August 18, 2014, 11:18 am

I have one question for you LW: aren’t you tired of being someone’s secret? You deserve better.

Diablo Diablo August 18, 2014, 11:25 am

A 34 year old who hasn’t got her act together to live independently is not someone you want to be hanging your hopes on. A 34 year old who won’t stand up to her parents and introduce you is either really immature (to be overly worried about her parents opinions at that age) or, frankly, gaslighting you. You seem like a bit of a pushover. i suspect you are a nice older man who can take her places, buy her stuff and generally shore up her fragile ego. I’m suspicious that she never really had the intention to make it permanent, and your offer to move closer has forced her hand. I doubt she deserves your affections, but more than that, you just need to man up and smell the coffee. Sorry, man, but this thing is over. Don’t let her use you anymore. Find yourself a lady who’s more your equal, who has her life in order, and who is not ashamed of you.

bittergaymark Bittergaymark August 18, 2014, 12:03 pm

That’s the problem with dating children. They, uh… tend to grow up.

avatar something random August 18, 2014, 12:11 pm

I honestly don’t understand being 25 and still scared of your parents reaction to your significant other. I think we (in America) infantilize young people way too long. Twenty five year olds have typically had a good seven years of adulthood to figure out the fundementals. Of course life isn’t some organized, milestone road map. But if you are ashamed of your parents meeting your significant other at 25 (and you like/respect your parents), Its a pretty good signal the relationship is going to be temporary and you won’t be doing Christmas’s together.

I can understand a 51 year old father of a ten year old boy being comfortable with a more casual, temporary relationship. But I think you both may have overstayed your time together. If after nine years you are still living an hour away with someone who wants kids and a family, your relationship probably went stagnant a long time ago.

And about being willing to have children. You are 60 years old. You have presumably worked for around 40 years now. You are within a decade of social security. Retirement planning is usually set to about 90 years of age. You have a young son who may be in college. Wouldn’t you like to be able to slow down in the next ten years? Wouldn’t it be nice to have financial security and a clear plan of what lies ahead in the next twenty to thirty years.

The truth is this woman is in a different stage of life then you. There is nearly half the gap between herself and your son than there is between you and her. If you had a vasectomy reversal your chances of conceiving are already reduced. Even if you reconciled, got married, and started right away there is a significant chance it would take a while to conceive. And that is only if you had one child. It doesn’t sound like you can reasonably expect to have a life you both would want, together.

Your ex is wrong to keep looking to you for comfort. And you are wrong to let her. This will only prolong both of your pain. Even though it hurts, grieve this. Stop communicating with her. Seek out the comfort of your friends and family. Give it time. I’m sure you know all of this. Just be brave and do it.

avatar AndreaMarie August 18, 2014, 12:30 pm

LW, you need to move on. She’s a 34 year old child who doesn’t haveit together enough to live on her own. She most likely never stood up for your relationship and relay it to her parents because her parents probably would have disapproved and their disapproval most likely would be attached to the cutting off of financial support. In the end, you guys are not a match anymore. She has given you a psuedo relationship for 9 years, she’s clearly never going to give you anything more than that, even if you get back together. There is not a future for a real relationship between you too. Also, even if you get a reversed Visectomy, just becuse you can give her a baby doesn’t mean you can provide a family life.

avatar j2 August 18, 2014, 12:54 pm

Again, my mathy friend’s rule is not to get serious with anyone older than you by more years than you are older than 18. So, when she was 25, the oldest guy she should have gotten serious about would have been 32. At 34, the guy should not be older than 50.

FireStar FireStar August 18, 2014, 12:59 pm

I like this math!

avatar anon August 20, 2014, 1:12 pm

I personally wouldn’t date anyone much older than me, but my parents have been married 30+ years and are 22 years apart in age. They have a marriage that is stronger than most and are incredibly happy. Granted, it is unusual but a huge age difference doesn’t always spell disaster. Having similar interests, goals and mutual respect go a loooooong way in any relationship.

avatar karenwalker August 18, 2014, 1:13 pm

9 years of lying is almost impressive. Like, I don’t understand how someone could pull that off.

avatar kali August 18, 2014, 1:48 pm

She’s lied to her parents for nine years (by omission, if nothing else). What makes you think she’s not lying to you?

Sorry, LW, MOA!

avatar Sunshine Brite August 18, 2014, 9:49 pm

Woah, I know my in-laws have a pretty decent age difference (17 years or so) but they were both independent adults when they met. Actually my FIL was less so as he was struggling with the loss of his first wife and alcoholism when they first met. They didn’t keep one another secret. That’s not what you do when you’re madly in love with someone.

I couldn’t picture doing it myself. I am 26 now and I can’t imagine dating someone who’s much closer in age to my father even though I have been attracted to older men at various points in time. I just can’t see it actually turning into a relationship for me and maybe it never really did for her. I’ve had people that I’ve cared about who I didn’t want to bring home before and maybe that’s what happened here.

Either way, it’s gone on for waaaay too long. MOA and pick up the pieces of what’s left around you. Cut off contact and build a new vision for your life.

fast eddie fast eddie August 19, 2014, 8:17 am

The only important issue with a relationship between couples who have that many birthdays out of sync is the happiness that they share. Her hang up about telling her family about him screams immature and lack of self confidence. If the LW can tolerate that aspect then hanging in there. I never meet my wife’s parents (they died before we got married) and she didn’t meet mine before our wedding. Much of society puts far more emphasis on maintaining a strong family connection then the value of it merits. That being said those that do have healthy ongoing family relationships are lucky or so I guess. We didn’t and the world kept spinning.

avatar something random August 19, 2014, 8:55 am

Fast Eddie,

I respectfully disagree. I think their are a lot of practical issues between ANY couple that are important regardless of their respective ages. Children are one them. I do agree if couples are happy and content in their joined life then it doesn’t matter what their ages are. But I really don’t think he should hang in there after she broke up with him. Its my opinion that it won’t be good for him in the long term.

fast eddie fast eddie August 19, 2014, 3:26 pm

In 1918 Charlie Chaplin was 29 when he married Mildred Harris when she was 17. It was common for men to marry very much younger women until the 19th century. It’s much rarer today but very recently an older (35+?) “star” married an 18 year old with the blessing of her parents. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business but the couple involved. He’s the one with concerns which speaks well of his character.

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