‘I’m in a relationship with a woman who is 20 years older. That she will continue to age scares me’

Tell Me About It: ‘If she turns 60 or 65, I have big doubts I would still be physically attracted to her, or if I would have much time left with her’

PROBLEM: I’m a male in my early 20s. I met a woman who is 20 years older than me, and recently got into a relationship, but now I’m overthinking it.

I’m afraid of the future with her. She is beautiful and kind, and I love her so much, but the fact that she will continue to age scares me suddenly after being extremely happy and in love for a month. I fought so hard to prove myself to her and to win her heart after she didn’t believe in love any more.

The age gap worried her, and I tried so hard to brush it off and make her feel okay and I would never leave, even if she started looking old. Now I feel I have lied and I’m going to break her heart again after gaining her trust that this relationship won’t fall apart like her relationships in the past.

I don’t want these thoughts, and I really cry about it, as I love her so much. Her entire world will fall apart if I take my words back and tell her this isn’t going to work out for me. I don’t want that: I want it to work out. But if she turns 60 or 65, or even 70, I have big doubts I would still be physically attracted to her or if I would have much time with her – like, max 20 years and with a bit of luck 30 years, but that’s not really long if compared with dating a girl in my age group.

I’m also afraid a health condition will cause conflicts, and I would never get it over my heart to send her to a care home after 30 years; that’s like dumping a grown dog that once was a cute puppy, and I’m not like that, but I want to feel comfortable about all this. She is a person who thinks talking is important, and she is right, but this is going to give her worries and bad feelings if I tell her I’m struggling with these thoughts.

The only hope and bit of comfort is the fact people seem to age slower – each generation compared with older generations, people also live longer. A lot of research is being done into anti-ageing, and reversal is being done, and it’s accelerating rapidly, giving it the chance to happen in this 21st century, which is their goal; a doctor even states they aim for it to be possible in the near future, which means (in my head) 15-20 years from now. But thinking this way to solve the problem is bad, as if I only like her for her looks – which is not true, but since I’m younger it’s harder to look at the body of a 60-70 year old. Even having sex would perhaps turn me off then, if that wouldn’t fade away too or give other complications.

I’m getting into a depression again because I’m stuck between two walls that are closing in on me until the point that it crushes me.

ADVICE: You think like many people in your age group do, but with time and experience you will develop a more mature version of love and find ways of handling fear of the future. Your partner is capable of making her own choices and she will be well aware of the possibility of a break-up at some point. It is her right to choose this with her eyes wide open.

There is no doubt that it is more difficult to get community support for a couple where the woman is 20 years older, and this reflects a bias in society that is long standing. However, as adults you both get to choose whom you love and with whom you wish to share your life. Your partner likes to talk, and I suggest that this is exactly what you should do. Currently you are protecting her from your fear of future regret, and this suggests that you think she is less powerful than you regarding choices in this relationship.

Hanging your hopes on anti-ageing technology in the future is hardly a sound basis for a relationship. You are also expressing a lot of fear, and this is not the basis from which to make decisions. Instead of enjoying sex and intimacy in the present, you are projecting your response to a fantasy of an older woman’s body, and this is, no doubt, affecting the joy and connection you could be feeling now.

If this continues, your partner may well end things as she perceives your potential distaste and decides that it is not worth her effort to negotiate this with you. However, you are experiencing an intense connection with this woman, and this deserves some honest conversation and a willingness to engage with the thorny questions that are in the air for both of you.

If this relationship is to last, it will require both of you to tackle the issues of commitment, doubts and the fears you both have. The maturity that is needed to handle this may require you to stretch yourself, and you might allow yourself some grace as you are very young to handle such weighty issues.

Right now, you need to have the courage to speak truthfully and have the respect for your partner that allows her to determine her own future. You are trapped in your own thoughts of future regret, and this is your issue to resolve (through counselling, reading, and so on) and this is not something your partner needs to resolve for you. If considering this is causing you to slide into depression, then you need to find support and treatment for yourself immediately, so talk to your family and GP and follow their guidance and advice.

Relationships that do not fit the norm have more possibility than ever before of surviving and thriving, so tackle your own negative thinking and then approach this decision with intelligence and openness.