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Exceptions To The Rule

Direct Answers 'Column for the week of March 29, 2004

Yesterday I turned 48, and she just turned 21. Uh-oh, I can hear the gears turning in your heads already.

She will graduate from university in England in June with a degree in psychology, and we have discussed her coming to live here with me in the States. So far she's come once, for a week, against her parents' better judgment. That's another story. I've been to see her twice, a week each time.

We are unbelievably content when we are together. It's as if we've been together all along. When I look at her, I don't see "21," I see a woman I am completely crazy about. When she holds my hand, my heart races.

At first I'm sure it was the novelty of the situation. She was enthralled with the spoilings and attention of an older man, although she's never asked me for anything. I was completely enraptured with the concept that a woman such as she would be interested in me, but it has gone past that for both of us.

Yes, it's a physical thing. The lovemaking is the most passionate I've ever experienced, but it's also become a thing of the heart. She has even mentioned (oh no!) marriage. And thus my question. Am I wrong for not being able to see this as permanent? With a 27 year age difference, how long could it realistically last?

For medical reasons, I can never give her children of her own, which is a very sore point with her parents. And for at least the next few years, she will have to deal with the social pressures of being with a man twice her age, which can be quite cruel. Acceptance on my end is not a problem. My close friends have met and like her, and she is emotionally beyond her years.

I've considered leaving things as they are. I think deep down I fear keeping her as my own will cheat her out of the best part of her youth. I am open to your comments and suggestions. I know that in the end, I (or we actually) will undoubtedly follow our hearts.


Arthur, a short distance from our house is a roadway with a curve. It's a very mild curve. The road jogs a few feet to the left and then jogs a few feet back to the right. It's such a gentle curve it's hard to imagine it could ever be a problem. That's what the parents of the 20-year-old college student who died there must be thinking.

The accident happened at 11 o'clock in the morning, no drinking or excessive speed involved. Their son just missed the curve and hit a tree.

We cannot live our lives based on actuarial tables. Those tables describe the behavior of great masses of people, but they are a poor guide for individuals. Nonetheless, there are serious issues for the two of you to consider. Roll them around, look at them, turn them over. Love may lead you in either direction.

She is on the cusp of adulthood. You are more than a generation apart, and age difference will be a factor for her the entire time you are together. If having children with her husband is an imperative, this relationship can't succeed. If her parents' approval is an absolute requirement, that is another barrier.

Give yourself enough time to see if the novelty wears off. You have been with each other only a short period. See if the love grows and builds and if issues are resolved.

Most people who marry are close in age, and half of American marriages end in divorce. Age does not make or break a relationship. Love makes or breaks a relationship.

Actuarially speaking, the odds are against you, but actuarial tables are not a basis for living a life.

Wayne & Tamara

About the Author

Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at

Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email:


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