What to do when your boyfriend or girlfriend thinks you’re a different age

Manny asks: I’ve been dating people who are older than me by 5+ years and they all have the same impression about me, that I’m older and wiser than most people they’ve encountered over the years. I’m 19 and I’m really scared of the level of maturity I have because of this. There is this woman I have who believes that I’m 27. She’s 33 and I love her and she also loves me, but I’ve never told her my real age and I already feel like marrying her. What should I do? I don’t care that she’s older; I love her for the kind of person she is. I don’t want to lose her, and I want to have a prosperous marriage with her, but I fear that should she find out or I tell her my real age she’ll dump me. Please help!

Hi Manny –



This is such an fascinating issue.  We dogs are constantly mistaken for different ages, and it’s always interesting to see why.


For example, I’ve written a bit about my friend Aria.  She’s a mix of many breeds, but her appearance is all like a German Shepherd – but one about half the size of a normal adult.  So when people meet her, they usually think she’s about six months old, even though she has grey hair on her chin!  (We don’t know her actual age; the veterinarians say she’s somewhere between four and six)


Meanwhile, I have a human friend named K who helps with my website sometimes.  She’s 22, and looks it.  But because she’s, like you, very mature, she comes off as ten to fifteen years older.  In her case, her family moved around a lot when she was young, so she kept dealing with new people all the time, and she’s had to be very responsible and take care of some people, which of course makes someone act more mature.


(And when it comes to me, I may look my age, but I usually act like a bratty puppy, so people often think I’ve got half my years!)


Now you didn’t give me any reason why  you come off as more mature than you are, and maybe it’s just the way your brain is set up.  But it’s very important to note this – it is just as difficult for a person to fit in when they’re much more mature than others their own age as it is if they’re much less so.  We see people with developmental issues who might be 19 but have the brain of a ten-year-old.  And while they can be frustrating, most people are understanding and willing to try to adjust, to deal with that person’s disability.  Well you are JUST AS MUCH of an outlier!  But who adjusts to you?  Who says “Oh we’ll have a special class in school, and give you an aide,” and all that?  No one, of course!


So the fact is, it makes total sense that you would date a woman older than you.  You’re actually the right age for each other, probably!  Or at least, so it seems.


So I have a couple of thoughts for you.  First, and biggest, you come off as mature, and you may well be that way in many ways.  But there might be many others where you’re not, where you’re actually typical for your own age.  For example, most 19-year-old boys/men aren’t really ready to settle down and become fathers.  But a 33-year-old woman might want to have children very soon.  Are you sure that you and she are on the same page on that?  And while you love her and feel very attached to her, if you marry, you’re saying you’ll intend her to be the last woman you’re ever with.  And this includes the fact that when you’re 40 she’ll be 54, and when you’re 65 she’ll be 79.  Those ages will have you and her in different stages of your lives; are you sure you’ll want to stay with her then?


But second, to your overall question, I say there’s only one answer.  You HAVE to tell her.  The sooner the better.  Whether you two break up, or stay together, or marry tomorrow, you HAVE to tell her.  In fact (sorry if this sounds insulting), the fact that you’re struggling with the idea of telling her sounds a little… immature.  You really should have told her long ago.  Part of a mature relationship is that you take care of each other; letting her think you’re so much younger for all this time, letting her get so committed, is a bit irresponsible.


I’m not saying you’ve done something terrible, or that you’re a bad guy – not at all.  Just that getting into this situation sounds like something that would happen to a young man or teenager, not someone who’s ready to be a dad, or even necessarily a husband.


If she’s so upset she leaves you, then yes, that’ll be sad, but it’ll be the best thing for you both.  And if (as is very likely) she’s THRILLED, and says “Oh my everlasting goodness, this means you’ll stay young and energetic and be able to take care of me and the kids and you’ll probably outlive me and What Did I Ever Do To Deserve This Incredible Break!” that’ll be pretty cool too.


So there’s really no bad news here.  Tell her the truth, see how she reacts, and move forward from that.  If the relationship falls apart, you have LOTS of time to find someone new!  And if it doesn’t, and you guys make a go of it, just know that there will still be areas where you’ll need her help to “grow you up” to be just the right wonderful partner for her.


I know it can work.  After all, I’m in one of the most incredibly great committed relationships I’ve ever seen, and my partner is over thirty years older than me!!!


All my very very best,


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