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LOVE LETTERS

The young and the restless

He’s 32 and ready to get hitched. She’s 23 and wondering if it’s the right time.

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / August 13, 2011

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Q. I have been with, you guessed it, “Rob’’ for three years, I have lived with him for almost 3 years. Things moved incredibly fast, that much I’m aware of. Rob is 32 and I’m 23. The age difference has never been an issue until recently. I’m feeling as though I have too many things I want to experience before I settle down and really commit to someone like he wants me to. He has been talking about marriage for about two years now and it’s kind of a scary thought to me. Rob is a great guy. He fulfills a lot of the things I need in a relationship. We’ve had our problems but they have nothing to do with why I’m looking for advice.

I’m very young. I don’t always make the best decisions and I know I’ve got a lot to learn. The point of all of this is, I know I’m not ready, but I care about him very much.

Can you shed some light on how you’re supposed to decide between throwing away a great man and a good relationship so that you can live your life and be ready for settling down when the time comes - or whether you’re supposed to stay with someone who cares very deeply for you even though you might be stuck wondering whether there is something more suitable for you than just a nice guy?

WHERE TO GO, Boston

A. You have to fly free, little bird. Your boyfriend was talking about marriage when you were just 21? He should know better. He probably wasn’t ready for that kind of thing until he met you when he was in his 30s, right? It’s time to tell him that marriage won’t be on your mind for a long time - maybe years.

Your letter doesn’t say, by the way, that you’re madly in love with Rob and confused because of your age. You call him “great’’ and “nice,’’ not “the guy I know I want to marry, just not now.’’ Even if he wasn’t talking about marriage, you’d be having doubts.

Come clean about where you are in your head. Make it clear to Rob that you’re not on his track - not now, and maybe not ever. He might make this decision for you.

I know that the thought of being alone is scary, but isn’t the commitment scarier? You asked how you’re supposed to give him up. My answer: by trusting yourself and leaning on your friends. You’re 23 and you’ve got lessons to learn, but you know what feels right. Believe in that.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND

The key to this story isn’t you as the 23 year old, it’s your 32 year old boyfriend trying to marry someone that young. It is ludicrous and it makes me wonder about his capacities. Believe me, this will make a world of sense when you reach 30, and you will look back at him fondly yet feel a sense of relief for moving on. There are plenty of guys out there at your own age experiencing life at your pace. Go enjoy life and become well rounded, not grounded.

SPACEMAN10101010

When I was 23 I dated a “Rob,’’ someone in his 30s who should have known better, as Meredith said. The irony is, he tried to make me feel like I should have known better, that I was passing up something amazing - and that I should just trust him - almost like he had done the living and experiencing for both of us. This caused a lot of resentment on both parts - I felt unheard and discounted. He felt like I was selfish and immature. Needless to say, I wish I had trusted my instincts more - which you seem to have going for you. Lucky for you, the small voice in your head and in your heart won’t go away - it’ll just get louder the more you (or your boyfriend) ignores it or tries to diminish it. Listen to it. Trust yourself. (And yes, there is something more than just a nice guy).

LILAC22421

This is easy. You don’t even sound that much in love. You don’t take on a marriage like an insurance policy, to protect against loneliness later in life. Yikes. I think he’s nuts to have been talking about it when you were 21. Be clear about this. You don’t want to marry anyone right now, and you don’t want to marry him, maybe not ever. And don’t let him wait around for you. He’s ready to get married so he needs to get back in the game.

WENDY

I can tell you from experience that you need to let Rob go and live your life. I have been Rob the older guy with a younger woman. I saw that the woman I was with needed to go and explore and have fun. I let her go even though she wasn’t too happy about it at the time, but we are now friends and we both know it was the best decision for the both of us. NUBIUS78

I’m a 22-year-old woman, in an amazing relationship with a 22-year-old man, and I can understand where you are in life. The big difference I see here? You and your boyfriend are at different places in your lives. Of course he is ready to settle down. You’re feeling like he had his 20s to be free, and you want that, too. That’s fine!!! Have your 20s! It doesn’t mean you’re throwing away a great relationship. It means you’re opening a door to a life feeling like you haven’t settled.

SUMMA-BABY-BUMMA

Caution: Don’t be emotionally blackmailed by him into staying in this relationship because your future will be filled with regret. Be ready to cut ties (and grieve the loss) with this difficult break in the relationship.

KAYROX

What is Rob’s crime here? Seriously?

ZEPTEMBER

I don’t think Rob should be bashed at all. Whether he knew it or not, he did take a risk in giving his heart to someone who is in the early stages of discovering adult (as in post-college) relationships. If he didn’t see that risk coming, I do feel bad for him. But he followed his heart and gave it to someone. She’s just not feeling ready to be someone’s forever girl.

SCHLIPPO

He is ready for marriage, and he is 32. If you aren’t ready for that and can’t reach a compromise about waiting, then if you care about him you will let him go and find someone that is ready to settle down. . . . And the most important part of my advice: After you end it with him, pass along my number will you? thanks!

BOSTONGAL109

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.