Dear Dr. Romance,

I read your article about “Age Differences in Dating” and thought you might be interested in a case history. I was married to a younger man for twenty years.He was 21 and I was 40 when we met.

I had been in a very unhappy marriage for twenty years and had three sons. I had no intention of marrying again.When I met this handsome younger man who openly pursued me I was flattered. Dating developed into a physical relationship.He was the exact opposite of my former husband and I was amazed that we could talk for hours without boring each other, were interested in the same things, liked the same music, books, etc.There was not even a glaring difference in our physical appearances as I looked ten years younger and he looked that much older, with premature gray hair.

However, when he asked me to marry him I insisted that we should live together because I could not envision this lasting forever.He was relentless, and enlisted the help of my teenage boys to talk me into marriage. I have to admit that the first few years I secretly kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.He was serious and conservative, I was funny and free spirited.He once told a friend of ours that I was the funniest and most exciting woman he had ever met and he never knew what to expect from me next.To me he was a rock of dependability and security and the most caring, gentle, loving man I had ever met.I guess we complimented each other and each fulfilled the needs of the other.

We worked together to build a life and I helped him climb the corporate ladder to become a Vice President.As he became more successful he insisted that I quit my job so I could travel with him on business trips. It was the first time in my life I did not have to work. I was delighted to finally be just a housewife.We traveled everywhere.Australia, Hong Kong, London, Paris… places I never dreamed I would see. On our thirteenth wedding anniversary we vacationed in Hawaii and everyone thought we were newly weds. We never had a serious disagreement, we did everything together and I felt safe and secure because he took such good care of me.It was the happiest twenty years of my life. I finally felt confident that the other shoe would never drop. I trusted and believed in him… in us.

Then one day, shortly before our twentieth anniversary, he walked into the house and said he was in love with someone else and wanted a divorce. He moved in with her that night. He had been having an affair with her for two months. I later found out that she worked for him. I was devastated, of course.I had no idea he was unhappy in our marriage. I lived with him for 20 years and was suddenly confronted with a total stranger who told me our age difference was more than he could handle. His friends and co-workers did not approve. After all, my oldest son was only three years younger than him. A fact that had not changed over 20 years.

I was 62 years old, had not worked for twelve years and had no means of support.I lost everything because Texas had no alimony at that time. It took years of counseling to get my self respect and self image restored. I am 75 now and have rebuilt my life with new surroundings and new friends.I am still blessed with excellent health and lead a very active life. But there is rarely a day that I do not think about him. I was naive to believe age doesn’t matter.There is a double standard on age, and I don’t think that will ever change.However, I would not change that 20 years and will continue to hold those wonderful memories of our time together for the rest of my life.

Dear Reader:

I’m sorry you were so disappointed. The same thing might have happened had you married a man of your own age. I’m proud of you for re-building your life, and for not being bitter, but enjoying your memories. None of us can predict what the future will hold.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

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