I happened to be seated next to a lovely young lady on a flight recently. We hit it off really nicely, talked a lot during the flight, and she signaled she was single which is nice because I am too. She seemed to really like me and of course I liked her a lot as well. She lives in a different part of the country but she travels a lot on business and goes to where I live several times a year.

When we landed I conjured up the courage to offer to give her my number so I could see her when she comes to town (so I could show her around etc), and she eagerly texted me on the spot so as to exchange phone numbers. I texted her something funny the next day and she responded right away and we've been doing that from time to time.

There is one problem however. I am in my early forties but I look much younger whereby people who don't know usually think I'm in my early thirties. I estimate she must be around 32 years old, 35 max. As I recall I wasn't able to work anything into the conversation that might signal the age difference. I am very concerned she might feel deceived and lose interest or something when she finds out about the difference.

How do I signal the difference without her being mortified and thinking I'm some creepy old dude hitting on her? I mean, a lot of women would have no problem with a ~10 year difference, but I imagine many would.

I should mention I am fairly inexperienced in these things.

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    Can you add a country tag? Different countries and cultures can have differing views on what might be considered too big an age gap. – Kozaky Jul 10 at 15:14
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    How do you know that she's in her early forties but looks much younger as well? :) – LinuxBlanket Jul 10 at 16:07
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes like opinions or chatting about age differences, we have a Interpersonal Skills Chat for that! – Tinkeringbell Jul 10 at 18:45
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    Did you tell her yet? – Strawberry Jul 12 at 12:54
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    Not yet! I'm waiting till my birthday in a couple of months. Contact now is so rare and brief (texts) that it doesn't matter and it'd just be forced and signal insecurity (which exists). I'm waiting until she sets up a trip to come out and then I'll make sure she knows before she decides whether to see me. Thanks for all the great advice folks!! – Duke Leto Jul 12 at 14:58
up vote 293 down vote accepted

"I am too old for her" is a decision, and not one that's yours to make. "She is too young for me" is your decision to make, but it doesn't seem to worry you at all. So assuming you don't want to make her decisions for her, let's rephrase your question to "How do I tell her my age?"

Look what happens when you make that mental change. When you think about telling her:

  • I'm too old for you
  • You're too young for me
  • There's a huge age difference

These are all full of judgement and negativity and they are stressy to think of disclosing. In contrast, imagine telling her any of these:

  • I'm 43
  • I'm left-handed
  • I like spaghetti and meatballs
  • I have an aunt who lives in California

These are all just facts. Things you reveal about yourself as the relationship progresses. They just are. They don't change if you hide them; you can't fix them if she objects to them. They just are. Moving your age into this mental category gives you the tools to make it easy to tell her.

If you have a birthday coming up, that's a natural time to mention it. Or a family birthday. You can either directly say "I'm turning 43" or make a joke like "one thing about being in your forties is that even your baby brother is turning 35" - or that your child is 21, or whatever. Work it into a conversation and then that's done, the information is there, she can do with it what she will.

If you have no natural opportunity then you could ask her (perhaps wrapped in a claim that you don't care, eg "I was telling my sister how I unexpectedly enjoyed that flight and met a lovely person, and she asked how old you were and I realized I don't even know! I'm 43, by the way.")

You can't control her reaction to the simple fact of your age. Don't make a big thing of it and don't conceal it. Get it into the open and see what happens. Enjoy this little gift from the universe of meeting someone and hitting it off so well.

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    Did you intentionally leave out the option to openly voice the concern? "I was wondering... I really enjoy your company but I'd estimate you're around age X and I am about 10 years older. It is not a problem for me, but I'm concerned it might be for you questionmark." – lucidbrot Jul 11 at 7:27
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    @lucidbrot This answer focuses on bringing it up naturally and to not make a big deal out of it. I feel like your text does not fit this idea. – LVDV Jul 12 at 15:12
  • When you change "huge" to "big" I'd say that "there's a big age difference" belongs to the second category. It is a factual statement, doesn't contain judgement by itself and can be a starting point to discuss your situation but isn't a firestarter by itself. I guess that goes to show that these categories are not absolutely defined and can differ between persons and between cultures. – Jasper Jul 13 at 8:41
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    @lucidbrot Also, your question is loaded with the presumption that she's planning to date him. From the OP's description they aren't at that point yet. – JBentley Jul 14 at 13:32
  • @Jasper I agree with your advice, but I don't think you can really use words like "big" or "small" in a really factual statement. Things are big or small, tall or short compared to something (it's usually implicitly compared to what is considered standard in the context/culture it is said). Is a 1,70m person tall or short? Well, it depends on the locale and the time period. Is a 15 yo girl too young to have a baby? Is a 200k ly galaxy big or small? Is a 10 years age difference in a couple big or small? How about a 30 years difference? There are places and times where no one would bat an eye. – xDaizu Jul 17 at 9:47

It’s not much of an answer—Kate Gregory’s is much more useful—but it’s “answer-ish” and I don’t think it’s appropriate for a comment, so:

You are blowing the age gap out of proportion

I am thirty, and a very good friend of mine, younger than me, is marrying a man older than you next month. We couldn’t be happier for her: he’s an incredible guy, and so many kinds of perfect for her. Were we surprised she decided to date a man so much older? Yes, we were. Was it ever a problem? No, it was not. It’s only a problem when it actually causes a problem: no harm, no foul.

Don’t hide your age or anything, but don’t make a big deal about it, either. She’s an adult, and not even barely so or anything: she can make her own choices. She probably hasn’t totally missed it; she may not be aware of the specifics, and she may be thinking the gap is somewhat smaller than it is, but she’s probably aware that you are older, and by a fair bit. It’s not likely to be a complete shock to her.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with larger age gaps is the differing life experiences, expectations, and plans of each party. Those differences are a lot smaller between 32 and 43 than they are between 21 and 32—a 21-year-old is possibly fresh out of college, possibly still living with parents or only just moved out, and so on. The “adult world” that is so new to the 21-year-old has been something the 32-year-old has been dealing with for a decade. Their life experiences are very different. Shift it back further—an 18-year-old with a 29-year-old, say, to keep this 11-year gap—and that gets much much larger.

But 32 vs. 43? You have a decade more experience than she does, and that’s substantial, but at those ages it’s a difference of quantity rather than quality—you have both experienced the “real world” for quite some time, so even if you have more of that experience she’s not inexperienced. That matters.

But really, even that only matters so much. I might advise more caution for the 32-year-old interested in a 21-year-old (and more still for the 29-year-old with the 18-year-old), but those relationships still can work, even if it’s harder. Again, no harm, no foul: those people are welcome to try it to see if it can work for them. And so can you, and while obviously every relationship is far from guaranteed, any impediment caused by your difference in age should be quite a lot less than the same gap might have been if you were each younger. So if it’s not a problem for you, don’t assume it’s a problem for her—that is at risk of being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Give the relationship a chance.

Some questions which I feel will answer your question

  • You don't know her age. She may look young like you. How do you know she's early 30s?
  • Why does age matter to her if she didn't ask you?
  • Why would she feel deceived if you didn't tell her your age?
  • What if she loses interest in you because at one time you owned a lizard (making this up, but making the point that she obviously doesn't know more about you than she knows, so it's absurd to think this is deceiving someone)?

As for your creepy comment, in your question you implied this wasn't creepy to many women

I mean, a lot of women would have no problem with a ~10 year difference, but I imagine many would.

See the problem in your question? You actually don't know and you imply both groups of "having a problem" and "not having a problem" have a lot or many women in them which seems contradictory. If a woman has a problem with age, wouldn't she ask?

  • Actually, as OP said, he looks younger than his age. This would make a woman has a problem with age satisfies with her requirement, so she doesn't need to ask? – Ooker Jul 12 at 2:52
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    There's nothing contradictory about "a lot of women have/don't have a problem". If the split is 50/50 (or even 30/70) both groups are large. – Martin Bonner Jul 12 at 9:35

Please, do not be concerned about this! Do something to get to know this lady and see if things can work out between you two. I am a nearly 30-year-old woman, very much in love with a man who is 20 years older than me.

I don´t care about his age at all (in terms of that being a problem). In my opinion we are a great match; I have never met anyone I would feel so comfortable and happy with. But I suspect it is him who has age difference issues, perhaps preventing us from being together...

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    This looks more like advice suggesting that the OP doesn't worry about age rather than an answer to their question about how to tell someone about an age difference. Can you edit your post to more clearly focus on answering the question? – sphennings Jul 12 at 11:06

I think Kate Gregory's answer is very good. Another thing you could try if you don't want to disclaim your age by a personal anecdote for whatever reason, you could also use cultural patrimony which is clearly dated, e.g. make a joke about a show which was broadcasted when you were young, or bands you were listening to when you were a teenager, aso.

I would go for something like:

Did you know Katie Holmes is turning 40 this year? We can say she's very well conserved compared to me!

This gives your age in a simple, disinterested way, and lets her the freedom of doing whatever she wants with this piece of information.

  • I don't think this clearly gives your age at all. I don't know who Katie Holmes is, or how old you would have to be to know that. Worse, it artificially brings up one of the things people worry about when there's an age difference - that the partner won't "get" cultural references - and does it for no good reason at all. It emphasizes and highlights that the one person is "omg Katie is 40" and the other is "Katie who?". If you want the person to know how old you are, don't trick them into guessing while they feel left out and insecure because they don't know what you're talking about. – Kate Gregory Jul 16 at 13:58

Don't worry.

The difference between your and her physical age is about ten years. What really matters is difference between your mental ages. maybe you are little younger and she is older making the mismatch negligible.

If you were "creepy old dude hitting on her" you would push more to score and mask your actual age.

I suppose the flight chit-chat was something neutral and entertaining both of you. Nothing like sneaky bedwards attack. Maybe she already realised you are interested in her, not scoring her.

Continue in that natural and relaxed tone and if you are really worried about your age, as allready suggested, make funny remarks on your age. "When I was young and coal bloomed I watched/listened to X".

You wrote you would like to show her your town. "You know, when I was at college this cafe just opened."

I am very concerned she might feel deceived and lose interest or something when she finds out about the difference.

You can either tell her about it now and risk losing a potential relationship, or hide it and risk destroying an established relationship later. Which one would be worse for both of you? Would you be comfortable and honest and your true self in a relationship that is potentially built on a lie?

You should tell her as soon as possible, and NOT via a text message. Face-to-face - the next time she's in your area - would be best, failing that a phone call.

I know how difficult it is to potentially torpedo a relationship that seems like it could be something special, especially if you're a lonely heart - but dishonesty is far more likely to kill any relationship than just a number.

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