Wednesday 22 November 2017

Dear Patricia: He has asked me to marry him but it's more than the age gap that worries me

Patricia Redlich

I'M 41 and have been dating a man who is 18 years older for nearly a year. I am confused, or have an ongoing worry about the relationship. Or perhaps it's just that I'm unwilling to admit some truths to myself.

He has asked me to marry him. We have happy times. He is a very light, easy-going individual to be with -- no pressure and extremely kind; always putting me first.

I have a real hang-up about the age difference. It means he's in an older age-bracket. He's divorced and doesn't have a social circle. And he's not great at developing friendships. In fact, I think he actively avoids it.

I probably feel responsible for him. I don't know if the relationship is enough for me. I certainly wish he had friends or even family, but he was an only child and his parents are long dead. He also lived and worked abroad for years, which doesn't help.

Yet he has a relatively successful career. He is a good man and I believe he would be a good partner. I often find myself checking how much I really fancy him. I care for him greatly. I love him as a person. I doubt if it goes beyond that.

I have recently met a younger man through work. I found that we had a real ease in communicating. I also find him attractive and have great respect for him. This compounds my confusion.

Patricia replies:

ARE you telling me that you don't sexually fancy this man? Is that what this is really all about? Lots of men are loners. And 60 isn't old if someone is vibrant and alive and engaged with the world. Conversely, 40 is old if someone isn't -- vibrant and alive and engaged with the world, I mean. Ease of communication isn't about the age divide either. It's about shared interests, a similar sense of humour, wanting the same things from life. And this man is honourable and wants to marry you.

So what has this younger man you met recently got that your partner hasn't? You say you respect him, but you respect your partner too, from the way you talk about him, anyway.

So where does the confusion lie? Are you finding it hard to admit to yourself that sexual attraction is the defining moment for you in deciding about marriage? But it is the defining moment. Even at 60, or 70, or any age, I doubt if many people marry because they are looking for a house-keeper. So this man of yours desires you, I imagine. If you don't desire him back, then you are in for troubled times should you marry.

I think what has really happened is that you've met a good man, who would make an ideal husband, if only you fancied him sexually. But you don't. Am I right?

If that's true, then you have to tell him and allow him the chance to find someone else. Given how nice he is, that shouldn't be difficult. So you don't have to feel overly responsible for him. In fact, your only real responsibility to him is to tell him the truth.

And who knows? Perhaps you will manage to remain friends -- and thus help him set up that social circle you say is so lacking in his life.

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