“…They’ve been dating long distance for about 2 years and they live in the same state, but roughly 8 hours apart. He [21M] never talked about her [33F] voluntarily, and I [26M] never really pressed it. However, our friends and I enjoy conspiring about it out of curiosity since he’s so hush-hush. He’s definitely private-person over-all. But one night, we were hanging out and I asked him point-blank about his semi-secretive relationship because the topic had come up. He admitted she’s 12 years older and the dynamic isn’t perfect. He sounds like he likes her a lot (seemed a bit shy about saying ‘love’), but he’s having a really hard time adjusting to the fact that they never see each other and that maybe he’s being naive dating such an older woman. Which to be frank, I think it IS a bit naive…but is it crazy that I think it’s a horrible idea? I mean, they live far apart, she’s 12 years older and is in a completely different place in life. He’s in his 3rd year of university and she’s been working as a lawyer for several years now. I don’t understand why a grown woman, who has explicitly stated she wants to settle down and have children one day, is interested in a 21 year old university student. I’d say he holds himself quite well, and when we met I figured he was older – sure…but the ‘maturity’ of someone is really subjective so.
Since then, he confides in me frequently and always asks me what I think. I try my best to be impartial because I don’t think he feels comfortable talking to anyone else about it and I don’t want to pass judgment. Probably because he’s reserved in general. But he’s able to articulate the situation well and seems to have a good understanding of the underlining problem….so I really don’t know how to express to him how weird I feel about the situation (or if I even SHOULD give him my opinion), but I’m not entirely certain if I have a right to tell him I think it’s strange. Is it the correct opinion to believe he’s being pressured by an older partner and he’s risking ‘growing up too fast’ and ending up in a situation he really doesn’t want to be in. It seems unusual to me, and maybe there’s more to the story than he’s letting on. I mean…if the gender roles were reversed, how would I feel, right?
What do you think reddit? Should I tell him to get out now or maybe just let him work it out and just be there for him?”
You are a great friend. Your friend is lucky to have you. But I also think that there are some obvious ambivalence and cognitive dissonance in your post that stand out to me. On one hand, you are looking out for your friend’s best interest. But on the other hand, you can also recognize that you are a bit removed from his relationship to know if your perspective is really that unbiased here.
So let’s start with that. I have personally seen a lot of men – myself included – struggle with the different skill required for one-directional listening compared to providing fundamental advice. When your friend decided to come to you to talk about his relationship, he could be asking just for a sympathetic ear because you have been so nonjudgmental about his relationship so far. Forming strong platonic bond among other guys can be tricky, especially in support of their romantic relationship. So please do keep it in mind to not take advantage of this safe and vulnerable space that you two have co-created together.
I also believe that you are within your own rights to feel discomfort on behalf of your friend. Obviously, your friend is much more romantically and emotionally entangled with his partner. If you are seeing obvious warning signs (i.e manipulation on her part, taking obvious advantage of her age gap), then you should stand up and say something. But short of obvious abuse signs, your opinions are just that – your opinions.
I do not think that it would be a fair assessment to flip the genders here and expect the same results. I strongly believe that the differences here are too wide to apply the same logic. There are couple really great things here to support their relationship. The length of their relationship is a good sign. His relative maturity compared to his age – that even you recognized – is another good sign. And it honestly sounds like she has been doing her best to communicate her expectations and needs pretty well and fairly without disregarding your friend’s place in life.
So continue to be there for your friend, as a support. And celebrate his happiness.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!