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Posted by Meredith Goldstein  July 17, 2013 08:25 AM

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Q: Hi Meredith,

I am relatively new to your column and thoroughly enjoy learning from each story. My story is about the doubts that stem from age differences in dating. I know that everyone is different and that many subscribe to the old adage that age is just a number. But is it?

I'm 24 and feel settled and quite established in my life in Boston. I have great friends and a small but supportive family. I have been out of the dating scene for a while. A job and a new life in this city have prevented me from truly allowing myself to open up or even think about seriously dating. Things are starting to change in me as I meet more new people and make new friends.

In the past I have dated guys my age or a year or two older. I'm not necessarily blaming their immaturity on their age, but they certainly did not have the same emotional stability and maturity that I think I had at the time we dated.

I find myself now getting to know someone who is eight years older and from a vastly different culture. We met through OkCupid, and while online dating seems a bit iffy to me, I gave it a chance on a day I was feeling particularly brave.

We have so much in common and he is so sweet. I have had tough experiences in the past (I am currently talking to a mental health professional), some of which makes it hard for me to trust people quickly. That being said, I do want to move forward and maybe he's the one to try to do this with. We've been seeing each other for two months.

I just don't know what's normal for men in their 30s. He's showering me with attention, there's constant communication, he plans fun and elaborate dates, and he is a true gentleman. He always plans ahead for the next occasion, and has been respectful but persistent. I told him I want to take things one day at a time and he agreed to do what made me comfortable though he has expressed that he has developed strong feelings quickly.

I must concede that I find this extremely nice behavior to be odd because it is so out of the ordinary. Might it also be attributed to him being from a different culture? I guess I've just been used to guys not calling, not planning, and running away from commitment, so this behavior is throwing me off. Could it be that he's genuinely interested and genuinely nice, or why do I think there must be a hidden agenda?

Lastly, I know I'm 24 and an adult, but for some reason I am having trouble telling my family about our age gap. How have other women bridged the subject of dating someone seven-plus years older with their (extremely close-knit) families?

OK, maybe those were a lot of questions, but any advice/perspective would be greatly appreciated.

– Ms. Skeptical, Cambridge


A: The eight-year age gap isn't a big deal if he wants the same things. I think you'll find that people in their 30s are a lot like people in their 20s -- just better (hopefully).

I can't attribute this guy's good behavior to his age or culture. I don't know why he's such a nice guy. Maybe he's just naturally great. Maybe he's learned from past mistakes. Or maybe (drum roll) he's just really excited about you. I can’t come up with a hidden agenda -- besides sex. And sex isn't some awful, malicious hidden agenda, right? When you like somebody a lot, you usually think about that kind of thing. It's a good thing to think about.

You have some trust issues, which is not uncommon. My advice is to take a deep breath and enjoy this. Go on more dates. Take the lead and plan a few dates yourself. Get to know him better. Let things evolve, and let your questions answer themselves. If it doesn’t work out with this guy, it's just another experience. It doesn't mean that you messed up and picked the wrong suitor. This is why we date -- to see if we're compatible with another person. At two months, you just can't have all the answers.

And please, when you see your family, just tell them that you're seeing a guy in his 30s and that you're a little concerned about the age gap. Find out what they think. Let them ask questions. Our families aren't trying to sabotage us or judge us (hopefully). They want to see us happy. Let them support you.

Readers? Is the age difference a problem? Should she tell her family? Does he have a hidden agenda? Discuss.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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