Dear Dr. Gail: I am divorced and have become intimate with my son’s friend. We have been friends for 11 years and have had a strong emotional bond since we first met. I am 55 and he is 35. During my separation and divorce (my husband left me for another woman), he was my best friend, but there was no intimacy until the past two years. His family never objected to our friendship, until I was divorced.I have experienced sexual desire and feelings for the first time in my life. Sex was a rare part of my marriage. My husband made me feel dirty and unloved. But physical intimacy is a primary focus of this relationship. We have so much fun, and we do love each other. We are not “in love” and have no plans to marry, just to live life one day at a time and enjoy what we have. After two years of physical bliss, it just gets better and better. Do you think his mother will ever accept me as a normal, healthy part of his life — or am I going to be taboo forever? — Hot, But Dissed Mama
Dear Hot Mama: His mother probably won’t ever accept you — but I strongly suspect that is not really your question. If you were totally comfortable with this relationship, you wouldn’t care what she thought. You are feeling some amount of discomfort — and her feelings are only adding to your own worries.You are really asking: Is there anything wrong with having a wonderful sexual relationship with a man much younger? The answer is “no.” Two grown-ups are entitled to have sex with each other if they choose. You are lucky to have found a great physical companion you like being with. (I will add that, if the sexes were reversed, this wouldn’t even be an issue. I don’t have 55-year-old men writing me with concerns about the 35-year-old women they are dating. They would get a pat on the back rather than a wagging finger. It’s unfortunate that it’s generally considered fine for older men to be romantically involved with younger women, but not the reverse.)
The bigger question lurking here involves the future. If you really feel you are living one day at a time and are glad to enjoy the moment, that’s fine. But you belie your anxiety by asking whether you will be taboo “forever.” This affair has a finite quality to it, which I suspect you are feeling. It’s unrealistic to stick your head in the sand and pretend the future will never come.This younger man may decide he wants to settle down with a wife and biological children, whereas you’ve already “been there, done that.” So I suggest you discuss both of your wishes for the future. He might not want children of his own, and continue things with you indefinitely. On the other hand, he might have no plans to marry you — but will end things as soon as he meets someone with potential to be a wife and mother.
If he suppresses his other desires to stay with you, he could become resentful, trapped and angry at you. That’s when people pick fights and things turn ugly. If he ends things abruptly, despite your protestations about being happy to live one day at a time, you will be terribly hurt. It’s likely that his mother wants him to marry and have children, and views you as an impediment to that.So, if you two had some kind of clarity about the future of the relationship, he might be able to relay this information to his mother and therefore defuse things. For example, he might tell her he doesn’t want to have children under any circumstances. Or he might tell her he is having fun right now but doesn’t envision this for the long haul. Both might get his mother to back off.
In addition, his mother might be uncomfortable because of the oedipal, incestuous undertones of this situation. It makes her think sexual thoughts about her own son, which is uncomfortable. She might feel jealous because she has no great lover of her own — or competitive because her son is involved with a peer rather than with a hot young woman.
As long as you are not avoiding the realities that the future will arrive, there is nothing inherently wrong here. But you will have a better, kinder resolution for everyone if you prepare ahead of time. This whole situation might be a matter of having a wonderful guy but terrible timing. You are not the first person to face this kind of sorrow.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: There is nothing wrong with two adults participating in a physically intimate relationship where nobody gets hurt. But acknowledging the realities will temper future disappointment.