"I dated a man 21 years my senior. Here's what I didn't realise at the time."

When I was 19, I met a man who lied to me about his age.

He said was he was 38, but he was actually 41.

Some of you may be shocked by the 38 bit, let alone the over 40 bit. But I was cool with it. My own father had recently left our home for another woman, so I was looking for a father figure, not a young boy.

I’m now the age he was when we started dating, and my step son is the age I was. And I can see now, so very clearly, what a power imbalance that was.

The lie about his age was the first red flag I should have heeded; but I was 19 and in control of my decisions, right? I was a ‘consenting adult’. No laws were being broken.

I should take responsibility, and I can’t blame him…

So why do I now think of our relationship – which happened during my first decade as an adult – and feel a bit ripped off that he didn’t think more of what it all meant for me?

Because, whilst I didn’t realise it at the time, I made too many decisions based on his age. I started living his life stage – with his children, school uniforms, parent-teacher interviews, early nights and early mornings, school holidays…and tied to the city we lived in – not mine.

I didn’t know what I was giving up, because it didn’t feel like a sacrifice at the time. But at 21 years older than me, had he thought a little more about me, and less about how great it was to have a young chick who was devoted and loved shagging, I might feel a little bit more fondly of our years together.


Instead, I feel a bit blindsided.

Chances are, you’ve had a ‘baked beans’ partner in your life according to the Mamamia Out Louders… Post continues after.

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My parents were never happy about the two decades this man had on me. Of course I know now, they were right to be concerned.

They were correct that I deserved to feel special, and enjoy a relationship without an ex wife and small children around.  At just 19, I hadn’t had that yet.

My parents knew, because they were only a bit older than my partner. So he knew, too.

But, this is what pisses me off: he didn’t care.

He never once said to me, “think about where we’re going in this relationship, I know this is a big ask, with an ex wife and kids.”

He never said, “Go and live in London with your sister, because that’s your dream and you should get to do that. I’ll still be here if you want.”

Sure, I was an adult, and a consenting one at that. Sure, I made the decision to live his life stage, and not my own.

But as anyone in their 40s knows, you have no way of fully understanding what those sacrifices mean in your 20s.

But. He. Should. Have. Known.

We couldn’t get pregnant, because he was a smoker, and combined with his age, his seed was dead.

He never said to me, “I don’t want you to give up your dream of having a child”, because he already had kids, so he wasn’t thinking of what life would be like without them. We only conceived because of IVF, and he resisted his contribution to that constantly.


Because he wasn’t thinking of me as an individual, he never thought he was asking anything special of me. It all suited him – so why would he alert me to the sacrifices I was making – the sacrifices he wouldn’t have made at his age?

Ultimately, I’m very glad he didn’t let me go, because I am so grateful for the son we eventually created.

But I would never ask the same thing of anyone I was dating. In fact, last year I split with a great guy – who was 28 – for this very reason: that I wouldn’t have any more kids, and he wanted a big family. I couldn’t give him that – so the right thing to do was let him go.

Because I loved him, and wanted more for him.

Because I know how it feels to realise that someone didn’t consider the bigger picture for me.

So while I was obviously a consenting adult, the huge power imbalance certainly taints my memories of our decade together. As many of us recognise, with such an imbalance, one person has a greater influence. And more knowledge.

Isn’t that at the core of what we find problematic about Woody and Soon-Yi? And even Monica and Bill?

I’ll always feel that my ex was a grown up, and I was just becoming one; which is why I know better than to take advantage of anyone like that.