Q. I’m 40, a single mother to two daughters with a full-time job. I’m dating a 29-year-old. He is sweet, smart, and, yes, very hot. The problem: Sometimes I feel like I have a third child. Since this is his first truly "major" relationship, he’s a lot more excited about "us" than I am. He’s always wanting to plan romantic dates and surprises, to talk and e-mail several times a day, etc. When I’m too busy to adequately give him what he needs, he doesn’t say anything, but I can just sense his disappointment. I care about him a great deal and value the relationship, but it’s just a part of my life, not my whole life. Since our relationship experience and needs are so disparate, is there no hope for a middle ground? — Annie
A. The great part about being mature: You don’t feel like you need to jump just because some hot guy offers a fantasy experience. The crappy part about being mature: You don’t feel like you need to jump just because some hot guy offers a fantasy experience.
"Here’s a guy who makes an effort to be romantic, and of course that isn’t right either!" points out Dan Collins, a co-columnist for The Baltimore Examiner‘s Single in the City. "As Norm from Cheers said, ‘Women. Can’t live with ‘em, pass the beer nuts.’"
But seriously, have you spoken to Le Hunk about your wish for a little less moonlight and text messaging? While he lacks the relationship experience — and resultant fatigue and cynicism you possess — he still might be capable of communication along with his much-demonstrated ability to canoodle.
How to broach the ticklish subject? Cecilia Green, an Illinois-based public relations executive, offers this advice: "When I was 41, I dated a 29-year-old man, much to my three teenagers’ embarrassment. I told Darrell at the outset, ‘While I’d love to be able to drop what I’m doing and talk to or see you on impulse, it’s not going to happen. When I’m not working late during the week, it’s because my kids have an event. So let’s touch base during weekends when we can enjoy each other more." Now 64, she and Darrell have been married 21 years.
On the other hand, the boundary-setting might not always work out so successfully. Dating columnist April Masini (askapril.com) says bluntly, "Men don’t mature as quickly as women to begin with. It might be unrealistic to expect him to behave like a 40-year-old."
Since it’s also unrealistic to expect his romantic enthusiasm not to eventually wane (all of us have ADD at heart!), define your goal for this relationship. If it’s short-term enjoyment, savor the roses. They’ll wilt soon enough, and he might not leap up with another bouquet. If this relationship has long-term potential, see if he can step up to the plate.
Elaine Bloom, another veteran of an older woman/younger man liaison asks, "Can and does he want to take responsibility in certain areas, like with your kids or certain household chores? Do you encourage him or let him do it?" The New Jersey professional organizer (livesimpler.com) married her 17-years-younger boy toy, but the two eventually split. Now 63, she adds with regret, "Ultimately, we were just in very different places. It was personality as well as age differences [that led to the breakup]."
Remember, even though you’re definitely not looking for a third child, watch out that you never lose touch with your inner child!
Do you have a tough question about dating or relationships?E-mail Sherry at DatingExpert@More.com and your question might be featured in an upcoming column.
About Sherry Amatenstein
Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW, is the author of Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and Q&A Dating Book. She runs dating seminars around the country and does private coaching — not to help singles marry in 60 days, but to uncover their blocks. She has given relationship advice on the Early Show, Regis, Inside Edition, CBS News, VH1, BBC, and many other programs. Her philosophy is that the most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.