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September 1, 2018

I am a Single Mom Dating a Man Much Younger Than Me & He Wants To Have a Long Term Committed Relationship: What Should I Do?


Q. I am a 37 year old single mom and I have been seeing a 25 year old man for a while. Since the relationship began very casually with no real expectations, it was fun, lively and enjoyable. Recently, he expressed his interest in a long term committed relationship with me. I am excited but scared. I am excited because I want to be in a committed relationship as well but I am scared  because of our age difference.

I know a lot of people who say age doesn’t matter, but I am not quite sure that’s true. Moreover the age difference between us is 12 years which I feel is too big. I have been burned in previous relationships by being too idealistic, so I am trying to be as practical and pragmatic as possible.

Should I put the age difference between us aside and work with him on building a long term committed relationship or should I end the relationship right now and part ways?

Please advice.

A. This is a great question and one I can understand struggling with. A few things stood out to me in your narrative.

First, prior to him approaching you about becoming more committed, it sounds like you all were able to enjoy your relationship regardless of the number of years between you.

More importantly, you all have been able to establish and maintain a relationship despite age differences. Not only that, you all have been able to build a successful enough relationship that it progressed to desiring the next level of commitment and you were excited about the prospect. This says a lot about you all as a couple already.

While age can be a factor, it is not likely the sole factor your relationship is built on. Instead, your relationship is built on other strengths and qualities you mentioned, like being “fun, lively, and enjoyable.” Consider what else your relationship is built on and what role age plays on these building blocks to your satisfying relationship.

If age was not a major issue prior to commitment, it will likely remain a non-issue in the next level of commitment.

However, if age was a frequent or consistent issue throughout dating, you may need to consider how that will continue into the next stage of commitment and if it is a tolerable issue or a real problem. Contemplate if age is a hang-up or a deal breaker before making a decision on what to do with it because we will always find hang ups in those we date. While these hang-ups can be frustrating at times, they are not necessarily deal breakers.

Finally, you mentioned wanting to be practical and pragmatic.

I can already see your pragmatism in simply reflecting on past decisions and wanting to approach future decisions differently. To think practically, think about how your relationship is demonstrating a readiness for more commitment. What exactly are you noticing that tells you the relationship is or is not ready for more commitment?

Ultimately, whether you are 2 years apart, 12 years apart, or 20 years apart, the qualities and strengths that assemble your relationship will demonstrate a certain readiness for the next step and lead you to knowing if you should commit any further.

This reminds me of a great couple I knew who contemplated their relationship future with 20+ years between their ages. They were such a fun, loving, and compatible couple who struggled with this question as well.

Ultimately, they felt their age difference could not supersede their strengths as a couple and could not minimize the many great qualities they found in one another and shared together.

For them, losing this to find someone else based on age was a greater risk than finding ways to navigate age differences in their strong, satisfying relationship.

Last but not least, be sure to communicate your worries to your partner and see if he can help you gain another perspective as well as share with you how he worked through any concerns about your age differences.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and take time thinking through or writing out:

1. What are some qualities and strengths I am proud of in my relationship?

2. Which of these qualities are independent of age?

3. How could age play a role in the relationship’s strengths over time and as commitment builds?

4. Is the relationship I described ready for more commitment? What do I notice in the relationship that tells me this?

5. How will I know when I’m being practical and pragmatic about my relationship? What exactly will I notice is happening when I’m being pragmatic?

About Dr. Randi Hennigan


Dr. Randi Hennigan is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Her areas of specialty in couples counseling include: relationship enrichment, improving communication & conflict resolution, pre-marital preparation, restoring sex & intimacy, parenting, blended families, work-life-love balance, friends & family conflicts, etc.

To know more about Randi, visit her website www.uptowncounseling.org.

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