He’s 18, I’m 54. Am i right to feel guilty?


I’m a 54 year old woman, i have been together with a boy who just turned 18. I’m starting to feel very guilty and it doesn’t feel right. But he was so wonderful and I’m starting to fall in love with him. I think he loves me too, but it’s against every traditional norms, and if any of my fellow 60 year old friends find out that i have been together with him, they will think i’m crazy and they will stop talking with me. Please help me Suzie!!!

Age differences are funny things. When one person is 14 and the other is 30, I think you’d be clear about the fact this is a potentially abusive relationship, whichever of them was male or female. And if one were 54 and the other person was 38, you’d know it was equal. But 54 and 18 – whether the younger is male or female? If you read about this, what would you think? And if you were male and he was female, what would you think? The essence is whether the younger person is mature and independent enough to be making a free choice, untainted by any notion of the other having authority over them or being seen by the younger as special, impressive and all-powerful simply by virtue of their age.

You say you’re starting to feel guilty and that it doesn’t feel right. And your instincts are correct. I’m sure he’s wonderful and yes, I know it does on some level feel lovely. But the traditional norms are there for a good reason; not to be a killjoy, not to shield you from jealous old biddies but to protect both of you from doing something potentially harmful.

When an older person goes with a younger, both of them get an immediate ‘payoff’. The older buys youth and beauty and a big, fat boost to their self esteem – “Look at me, still young and good looking enough to be loved by someone half (or in this case, a third) my age. I can still cut it!” The younger feels ““Look at me, mature and wise and clever enough to be able to attract someone three times my age. Wow, I must have something special”. The younger one looks at people their own age and feels warm and protected by the greater experience and skills of the older, and looks down, sometimes with contempt, on the fumbling attempts of their contemporaries.

But sooner or later, it all ends in tears. Both realise you’re speaking a different language – you have three generations separation on tastes and experiences, on likes and dislikes and on common friends. The younger realises they can’t get to enjoy and explore new experiences because the older is always there, in effect saying “Oh how boring, I’ve done that, been there.” And once they go back to being with people there own age, they don’t fit because however much they may want to be a young person again, they still have learned to look down on and despise inexperience.

I think you need to honestly look at why you feel so drawn, and why you feel so out of control about this. The reality is you have full control over your actions and however much you may look, you don’t have to touch. He’s nice, he’s good looking, he’s sweet but he’s 18 years old and young enough to be your grandson. If not for your sake, leave him alone for his sake.

But what’s happening in your life that going back some 36 years seems so attractive? If you’ve lost someone lately or something has made you feel alone or angry or upset, deal with that and soon. Don’t see the remedy in this – it isn’t there, I promise you.

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