He’s 45; She’s 20 — Is That Wrong?

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Reader’s Question

I have a concern for a friend of mine. He is 45 years old and is starting a relationship with a 20-year-old woman.

I keep telling him this is wrong. My therapist says it is wrong. His therapist tells him to “be careful” and “take your time.” He tells me that he feels it’s wrong, but doesn’t know why. He really wants an answer with a very clear explanation. He says he is going with his heart and exploring the relationship.

Psychologist’s Reply

As the song says, love is a many splendored thing. It comes in all varieties and cuts across race, ethnicity, religion, gender and politics. It even cuts across age. There are many so-called ‘May-December’ romances (those relationships in which one partner is much older than the other) that have worked out fine. As long as both people are consenting adults, there may not be a problem.

The reason why some people are wary of such romances is that sometimes one partner may be in it for the wrong purpose. This is especially true when there is a lot of money and/or power involved. For example, many people were appalled when then 26-year-old Anna Nicole Smith married J. Howard Marshall, a man more than 60 years her senior. People believed that she married him for his money while he may have married her for her appearance.

Another reason why people get concerned about age-appropriate romances is because they believe that the couple may find that they have little in common. This could be true in the case of your friend because they may be at different stages in life. For example, she could be thinking about starting a family while he may be past wanting children. She may be struggling to settle on a potential career while he is looking toward promotions in his vocation. Similarly, at 25 years his junior, his girlfriend may not understand the generational influences that shaped his life or share in the memories that he has of growing up (and vice versa).

However, as long as both people understand that the relationship may have some age-related challenges and are willing to put in the time and effort to make it work, only they can decide whether the relationship is right for them. I have to admit that I am curious as to why you and your therapist are so concerned for him. Unless you believe that she may have undue influence on him, it seems like his romantic life is up to him. If there is unease because of potential monetary difficulties, he can always explore his legal options (like a prenuptial agreement, should it get that serious) and they can then agree on what is comfortable for both of them. Other than that, I see nothing wrong with him following his heart.

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