The author and her husband in 2009.
Photo courtesy of Amber Carroll

  • I met my husband when I was 23 and he was 34.
  • I immediately had a crush on him, but our age gap worried me and I didn’t think it would work.
  • But over time it turned out to be a good thing. We have been together for 20 years now.

Our May-December romance began in 2003. We were both performing at a repertory theater in a converted basement where you could often hear the toilet flushing during performances. He was in “The Fair Maid of the West” and I was in “Romeo and Juliet.” The first time I saw him, he made a grand and hilarious entrance by literally rolling onto the stage. I thought, “Who is this handsome fool?” I need to know more…”

We met about a week later when a friend introduced us. I remembered seeing him on stage and I was excited, but other than saying “hello,” he didn’t give me the time of day. Despite everything, my crush on him hasn’t diminished. Over the next two years, we continued to exchange greetings at various parties or at the theater, until finally, during an evening with actors, we found ourselves huddled in a corner, completely in love. from each other, and he asked me out.

For our first official date, we went for ice cream. He told me about the 10 years he had spent doing theater in another city, and I realized that he might be older than I had initially assumed. I blurted out, “So how old are you?” He said: “34 years. How old are you ? After steadying the ice cream that I had almost dropped in my lap, I said “23.” His smile faded as my heart sank. I think we both felt like it would never work. I needed more ice cream.

I didn’t think my father would like me dating an older man and I was afraid we wouldn’t have much in common. But we had a connection that we couldn’t deny, so we continued to hang out and get to know each other. We were incredibly compatible and it didn’t take us long to realize that we didn’t care about each other’s opinions. We didn’t have to justify our relationship to anyone else if we were happy.

After a year, we moved in together. After six years, he proposed. This past September we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary and 20 years together.

The author and her husband at their wedding in 2010.
Courtesy of the author

Our relationship taught me to value the experience that comes with age

My husband and I learned that our age gap was one of our greatest relationship strengths. At first, I didn’t see the age difference as an advantage, other than the fact that it gave him time to build up a larger savings account. But the things he had already experienced and shared with me influenced some of the growth I experienced over the first three years or so of our relationship.

His advice and support helped me deal with personal and professional situations that I wouldn’t have dared talk to anyone else about as a headstrong twenty-something. It was like I had my own sexy Yoda. No man has ever received a greater compliment.

My experiences were just as valuable to him

He’s solidly in the Gen X age bracket, and I’m on the cusp of the Gen X/millennial divide. I grew up with computers, and he was in college when they were just available to students. As our lives changed during our marriage and his interests shifted away from carpentry and other trades that didn’t require him to put on a forced smile for commercial auditions, I helped him learn to use technology that he was not proficient at.

I would like to think that I provided a safe space to help my partner learn and grow, even if that meant he sometimes asked me questions like, “How do you tell the difference between a PDF and a JPEG?

The author and her husband in 2004.
Courtesy of the author

There are double standards when dating with an age gap

Although my husband was initially hesitant to date someone so young, I noticed the not-so-subtle greetings his friends gave him when they found out we were dating; he was doing his best Leonardo DiCaprio impression. I didn’t mind when it came to good-natured banter because I was okay with it; he was lucky to date me. But I didn’t like it when people insinuated that I was one of his conquests. Fortunately, my husband didn’t like these kinds of sexist comments either and dismissed them before I did. We were on the same page about tired tropes in which older men dating younger women had won some sort of prize.

Meanwhile, none of my friends said, “That’s one way to hook a grandpa!” » But I had a friend at work who was hesitant to go out with him. She asked: “What’s wrong with this guy?” Why doesn’t he date women his own age?

I understood where she was coming from; I was lucky to have a friend with a healthy dose of skepticism and a protective instinct. But as she got to know him, her tone changed and she even coordinated our wedding. Most of my friends noticed that he was there for me, behaved like a mature adult, and was emotionally ready to be a caring partner.

Now we have spent 20 years together; he turned 55 on his last birthday, and at this point no one cares about our age difference. Ultimately, it seems that all that matters to others is what has always mattered most to us in the first place: that we are committed to each other and that we are in love.

The author and her husband in 2019.
Courtesy of the author

We manage life together and appreciate each other’s strengths

Even though we’re still a decade apart, maintaining our health and coping with aging has given us something in common. The things that once separated us are now just a blip on the radar. We no longer wonder whether Journey or Nirvana is the better band; now our mutual concerns are: “What is general policy?” and “How did a pillow send me to the chiropractor?”

The author and her husband in 2023.
Courtesy of the author

We also have complementary assets; I do extensive research before deciding, and he makes choices without much fanfare. Even if we don’t always agree on how to do things, we help each other throughout life and see the positives in each other’s approaches: their way of doing things works best for them. everyday decisions, such as choosing a restaurant, and my This method is ideal for choosing a mortgage loan. Because we’ve been able to solve small and significant problems, we’ve discovered that the scary “adult” things we currently face are more manageable.

Understanding that there are times when we will be in different places in life is inevitable. But we learned to help each other get through this difficult time. One thing we’ve always agreed on is that age is what you make it.

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