Our daughter is dating an old man!

August 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 44 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan, my wife and I have enjoyed watching your show on TCT for several years.  We have also appreciated reading several of your books and listening to your podcasts.

 A little background: we are a blended family; I am Jewish, and my wife is a non-denominational Christian. Neither of us have been regular attendees of any church or synagogue. We have one daughter, 41 years old, who lives a few hundred miles away; and who we see 4-5 times per year.  Sadly, we did not introduce her to either Judaism or Christianity during her upbringing, and she is now an agnostic. We love her dearly, and respect that she has made herself a self-supporting and independent woman.

 Our problem: our daughter has recently told us that she is “exclusively” dating a 62 year old man. She has apparently known him for about two months, and the exclusivity began about one month ago.  We do not believe they are living together. He has been married, and has children and grandchildren.

 Our daughter has never been married, but once had a 5-year live-in relationship; and she is childless. She recently stepped up her on-line dating, because she said she realized that the pool of eligible bachelors was getting smaller as she grew older.  This was how she met this man.

 We have not yet met her “boyfriend”, and are quite reluctant to do so until after we have first had an opportunity to visit with her alone and face-to-face.  We told her that a few days ago when she called to arrange a visit from the both of them.

 We are both having great difficulty with accepting the idea of her having an intimate relationship with a man easily old enough to be her father.  Frankly, from a photo we’ve seen, we think it’s likely he’s actually older than the 62 years he claims to be (which we understand is common with on-line dating).  My wife and I are in our early 70s, and he doesn’t look any younger than us.

 When we next visit with our dear daughter, we plan to discuss the difficulties we see, should she continue this relationship; not the least of which being the statistically-likely steep decline in health he will suffer over the next ten years.  We will try to use our best logic to overcome her apparent emotional attachment to the man. In the meantime, I’m looking at public sources to try to find out more about him.

 We are really baffled by her choice. Regardless of whatever good qualities he might possess, his age is the real issue for us.  Are we wrong to feel this way? We certainly don’t want to alienate our only daughter, who we love deeply. But we do believe we should try to discourage the relationship.

 Please give us your advice.

B.W.

Dear B.W.,

Oh dear. As painful as it is to watch our children fall off their bicycles and scrape their knees when they are little,  it is harder to watch them head for what we are certain is unhappiness when they are grown. The almost irresistible urge to protect our child doesn’t disappear at a pre-ordained birthday.

You clearly love your daughter and, just as clearly, she has been an independent adult for many years. We hope our words don’t cause you pain, but we don’t think you are in the best position to offer her advice in this situation. 

Had you asked us initially (and we say this not to hurt you but hopefully to help someone in the future) we would have suggested holding your tongues and professing happiness at her happiness until and unless you found more red flags than age.  We are saddened to have to tell you that you made a mistake in telling her that you won’t welcome her and her man in your home until you’ve spoken to her alone first. Think about how that sounds to her and you’ll understand why we say this. You are indeed fortunate that she wants you to meet someone who is becoming important in her life. At this point, after your negative reaction, she is probably less willing to share any concerns with you than she otherwise might have been.  

There are a few possible rays of sunshine. Let us play this out and see what might happen. Your daughter is a mature and sensible woman who is probably quite lonely and has made a conscious decision that she wants to be in a long-term relationship, possibly marriage. At 41, she is probably not thinking of children and she is probably very aware of common age-related health issues. Perhaps she has made a very concrete analysis and decided that this man is so wonderful that even if they only have a few good years together, she wants those few years. And as we all know, he may turn out to be the healthy one in the relationship – there are no guarantees. 

Opposing her relationship only on the basis of age tarnishes your opinion in your daughter’s eyes.  We’d have recommended you enthusiastically welcomed their visit. During that visit, you might have uncovered other flaws than age which you would have been able to discuss rationally with your daughter.  Alternatively, you might have been so impressed with him that even you would have seen the age question diminish in importance. Either way, your stance would have enhanced rather than eroded your relationship with your daughter.  

You don’t say if this man is divorced or widowed, but his children and grandchildren may be an asset in your daughter’s eyes. Maybe she sees herself being welcomed into a loving family. Not only shouldn’t  this man’s age alone automatically disqualify him, but his age may have some benefits. Again we can’t help mentioning how happy you should have been that she values your opinion enough to bring him to visit you.  A visit, we might add, which would have been awkward for the man too. Give him credit for having been willing to do you the courtesy of visiting you.

Maybe this isn’t the best outcome for your daughter. Two months is not a very long time. We imagine that her friends as well as her own awareness will lead her to assess the situation if it continues.  At age 41 she is probably not unaware of what is involved in becoming a step-mother and step-grandmother. Looking at it from his family’s point of view, it is possible they are concerned at the age gap from the other side. They might be viewing your daughter as a fortune-hunter! Yours may not be the only objections. 

If you told us that your daughter had two identical suitors except that one was fifteen years older than the other, we would agree that the older age was a liability. But she isn’t asking you for help in choosing between two men; she is letting you know that she is interested in one man. In this case, we actually see no reason that this man’s age should automatically disqualify him from getting your approval. You may still be seeing a young woman when you speak to your daughter; it sounds like she is acknowledging that she is no longer in that category. 

However this progresses, your daughter and you need to continue in a loving relationship.  Try your hardest to undo the hurt caused by telling her she’s not welcome with her friend.   If she is making a mistake, she will need your support and if she is making a rational and wise move you will want to share in her joy. 

We pray that all turns out for the best,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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44 comments

JasB says:

Your thoughts are so on point. This had to be a frustrating case to confront when they come to you for advice after already taking action. One of the things that puzzles me though is why nobody seems to connect age with wisdom. In some societies it is more common for women to marry men who are much older. And, especially in our current society, younger “men” tend to be boys. The recent construct of “childhood” is being extended to pretty ridiculous ages lately. I have seen cases where males don’t actually become men until after they have experienced decades of building a fortress of marriage in which to nurture a family. There are certainly downsides to being physically older but perhaps a more important consideration might be: in what ways have those extra years added to the person? I hope these loving parents can salvage their relationship with their daughter.

Susan Lapin says:

You are making some good points, Jas.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear JasB=
There are obvious incompatibilities in a couple with a large age difference; we’d be foolish to ignore it. However, it is obviously not necessarily a deal breaker. What is a large age difference? I’d not answer this because it is different for everyone.
Cordially
RDL

pat says:

So you are not opposed to people who are not close in age to be in a relationship or marry? What does the bible say about this? I know of people who are 30 years apart. Is this against God’s plan for us?

Susan Lapin says:

The Bible doesn’t see an age gap as problematic in and of itself.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Pat–
There are no Biblical restrictions for a couple wishing to marry with a large age difference. 30 years is obviously a large difference but again, not necessarily a disqualifier on its own. It depends on other available options and many other factors.
Cordially
RDL

Janet Huey says:

She’s 41. Enough said…They are giving unsolicited advice to a 41 year old?
All they will get is fewer and fewer visits whether the relationship progresses or not..

Many parents would be thrilled at visits at all from their adult children.

Susan Lapin says:

You are spot on, Janet.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Very true Janet–
Yet unsolicited advice is seldom welcome by people of all ages.
Cordially
RDL

Mary says:

I think your advice is very thoughtful and good.

Susan Lapin says:

Mary, as parents of grown children we get the concern. We, too, have to tell ourselves, in some situations, that we need to listen more and speak less.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

We aim to provide the Biblically correct response, Mary
Cordially
RDL

Esther Weiss says:

Thank you Rabbi for speaking the truth in love.
It was a blessing to hear your wisdom today on Daystar.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Esther–
I like the folks at Daystar and always enjoy visiting with them. Other things I taped with them will air soon.
Cordially
RDL

Gus says:

As always your advice is priceless. Well said.
The only thing that I see to me is that being a father I would try very hard working in Christianity or just plain getting saved. Part of any conversation with the two, daughter and boy friend should be finding or understanding what denomination they would like to participate in or may already be part of. This may not be in the total context of this story, but I feel strongly in the need for FATHERS to understand the important of making sure his family knows and understands the Bible the Torah, Christianity.
May you be Blessed always
Gus

Susan Lapin says:

Gus, we agree with you in concept, though we think this happens best when children are young. If these parents now wish they had given their daughter more of a spiritual worldview, all they can do now is change their own lives and hope she sees that it adds to their lives.

Sarah says:

I am the daughter In This situation (23 year age difference), except we were younger when we married(21&44). We have been together over 20 years now with children together and now I am a grandmother to his grandchildren, and it is beautiful. My parents were not very open to this at first(my parents are only 5 years older than my husband). Their lack of support did in fact drive a wedge in my relationship with them. It took many years for them to ‘get over it’. But once we had children that seemed to change things. Now they have come to see him for the wonderful person that he is and they love him and now we are close again. My husband now even financially supports my mother after my fathers death. Wow! What a turn of events. Think about that! His children are my best friends and have the coolest relationship with their younger half siblings (my children with him). And my children have such special relationships with their new niece and nephews. The age gap has added a really fun dynamic to our family. So I totally agree with the Rabbi and Susan’s response. Give it a chance, call her and tell her you were being silly and that you are so excited to meet him, and then when you do meet him, act like you are excited. Make him feel comfortable. You may end up with a son in law as awesome as my parents got! It’s funny how now when I’m having a ‘moment’ with my husband and my mom sees it she tells me how great he is, and how lucky I am to have him!

Susan Lapin says:

Sarah, thank you for sharing your personal experience. We all need to think outside the box sometimes. Sounds like you have a “knight” for a husband.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

So good to hear a story that worked out so beautifully, Sarah,
It is always interesting comparing how one felt about some personal matter or another while newly married and again how one feels about it as a parent of grown children forming their own families.
Thanks for writing.
Cordially
RDL

Jeff says:

Rabbi Lapin, Sound words !

I have a good friend who had a similar situation happen 10 years ago .
Their 30 year old daughter married a 52 year old widower who has grown children. . They had difficulty dealing with it but welcomed both with love.
Today the couple are 62 and 40 years old, happily married & they have 2 beautiful children.
Last time I spoke to them they said it has all worked out well.
My friends love their grandchildren and son in law who is the same age as them .

Susan Lapin says:

Jeff, one of the shocks that awaits many parents is that their children choose different spouses than they dreamt about from the time the baby was in their arms. Sometimes its a great choice (and sometimes it’s a terrible one.)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

You have such a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, Jeff,
that you have an almost endless supply of personal anecdotes from your vast experience.
Good talking to you the other day while I was in Dallas.
Cordially
RDL

Doreen says:

Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
I am in total agreement. You gave superb advice. I admire how you both speak truth to us ( audience of readers ) in a loving way. I wish the parents and thier dtr well .

Susan Lapin says:

As do we, Doreen.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Doreen,
We’ve noticed sometimes our readers agree with our responses and other times they vehemently disagree. The hardest cases for us are situations where by the time we are asked, actions have already been taken which have severely exacerbated the problem.
Cordially
RDL

Robin says:

I married a much older man. I was 27, He was 52–3 years older than my dad. It was my second marriage, his third. He had children and grandchildren. I had no children. (It just smelled like trouble–my mom said but I wouldn’t listen). I left an abusive first marriage, dated a lot of guys in my age group but it just wasn’t working. I was looking for maturity and stability. We met at church. I would love to say it worked out but it didn’t. The marriage lasted six years. He admitted after we got married that he didn’t want children. His adult children didn’t like me. Thought I was a gold digger. And he treated me like I was a child instead of a wife. Thirty years later, I am still single. Not bitter though. Every May-December relationship doesn’t work–but many do. I wish this couple well. I think the woman’s parents need to meet the suitor before fearing dread. At 41, most single women are looking for a permanent loving relationship and it sounds like the older man may be her Boaz.

Susan Lapin says:

Robin, your words “not bitter though,” say it all. If only more people could accept the ups and downs of life and still stay positive and open. Wishing you the best.

Jack Stoskopf says:

I hope you had some happy and fulfilling years. I’m curious how long you was married and why it ended. I hope the best for you now.

Jack

Rosemunda says:

What a wise practical answer.
We have a 36 year old unmarried daughter, the darling of our hearts, a wonderful woman.
When she was a baby, I asked God to provide the man for her, just as He provided Abraham the ram. I do not have enough wisdom, nor do I know the heart of others so that I could “judge” rightly whether or not they would be The Husband for her. That doesn’t mean I am free of all concerns, it just means I believe God has chosen to guide her life in a specific direction, as He does all of us (however much we detour, His purpose will be served), and I am determined (in spite of my typical motherly concerns, especially as I see the time passing) to LEAVE this in His very, very capable hands. He alone knows men’s heart and He moves everything to our ultimate good. He also tells us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. For this lady/daughter, it is a time to REJOICE. Give this situation to the Lord and then Rejoice with her and rest in Him. .

Susan Lapin says:

Rosemunda, we certainly do need to trust in the Lord and leave things in His hands – we also need to make our efforts and work towards our goals. I hope your daughter finds her knight soon.

Kevin B. says:

41! And they see her 4 times a year? Not sure they could offer her any words of advice because it seems that they do not even have a relationship. Sorry if that stings, but wow.

You and the Rabbi have a lot of restraint that I admire. I don’t know how you are able to calmly and kindly respond to folks. You always tell the truth, but are able to do so without body slamming folks. It’s a gift for certain!!!

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, Kevin. Ancient Jewish wisdom is actually full of direction on how to speak. We don’t always get it right, but we do try not to be snarky and to empathize with others.

Jean says:

I can appreciate the parents’ point of view here, but frankly, I would be more concerned about the on-line dating part of the picture rather than the age difference. Anyone can tell you they are anything on the internet, and dating sites do zero background checks on their participants. Too many people who engage in on-line dating are predators of one sort or another, looking for easy marks.

My experience here is that when I was 25, I met and fell deeply in love with a man who was 20 years ,y senior. As a change of life baby, my sister was 15 years older than I, so I was always used to interacting with people who were significantly older. I have to say that my relationship with Glen was incredibly good; the barrier to marriage was that his job required him to relocate, and the logistics of maintaining a long-distance relationship were too much for both of us.

I do hope that the parents engage with this man, and ask some of those questions that their daughter may be too “in love” to think about. Such as, is the man financially stable? What is his relationship like with his kids and grandkids? Those would be at least two of the “red flag” areas worth looking into.

Susan Lapin says:

Jean, our hope was that the parents would agree to meet this man. Once they have done so, their influence with a 41-year-old daughter is still probably limited, but at least they can flesh out if they truly see some red flags.

Vanessa says:

Rabbi and Mrs Lapin
Out curiosity, from AJW what was the age difference between Boaz and Ruth?

Susan says:

Parents,
An apology for your initial over-reaction would demonstrate humility and integrity. To follow that up with an affirmation of confidence in your daughter’s ability to judge for herself, and even to issue a warm invitation for her to visit and to bring her boyfriend along wouldn’t be going too far. Actually, it would be pretty impressive.

Eat the humble pie as you travel the high road. Regain her trust. If it turns out that your concerns were justified, your daughter will learn something, and your little family will remain intact.

My only child is a grown son, and a “wise son” at that. As he moved through his 20’s, I had to learn to “zip it.” Now that he’s married, I have to zip it more than ever. Truth be told, I liked my role as mother, fairest of them all, center of the household, signer of permission slips. As my son has grown up, I myself have had to grow up a little more, too. It’s sometimes painful, but I’ve learned that if I mind my own business, I actually come out looking pretty good!

Part of relinquishing control is accepting, but resisting, the impulse to try to keep him safe. He’s got a great job and a very smart and kind and beautiful wife. He’s a homeowner, yet I get wobbly about any decision he might consider that could cause him pain (if I even know about it!)

He knows this. I’m open about my anxiety and we laugh about it together. I’ve told him many times that I still see him as that little boy who used to live in my house, as well as the fine grown man that he now has become. To me, he is both, but I do remind myself that he’s 36, not 6. Growing up is tough, even in our 60’s and 70’s.

Susan Lapin says:

Very well said, Susan. We often see ourselves as younger than we are and we see our children through the same lens.

Janice says:

I really appreciated this question and your response. I agree wholeheartedly that age should not be the only factor to consider in a marriage relationship – far from it! Marriage is way more complex than simply an age difference – respect, kindness, faith, similar interests, moral values, etc, etc. I have numerous first degree relatives that have what we would think of as “unacceptable” age differences and in my case, ALL of those marriages are (were) just as satisfying (maybe even more so) than the marriages with little to no age difference! I think the writer should rejoice that her 41 year old daughter has hopes of a man that will love her and hold her hand on long winter nights. Even if she becomes more of the caregiver in the future, I think it’s wonderful and meaningful to give of ourselves to another person. It would be sadder for this daughter to walk through life alone than have a companion that is farther on his life’s journey than herself.

Susan Lapin says:

Janice, I do hope these parents read your words as well as everyone else’s.

John says:

What’s the problem? She gets the life insurance 20 years before her friends.

Moses Abah says:

That’s an amazing answer Rabbi and Susan. Sometimes I wonder when I’m going to be as wise as you both. You both are my marriage mentors. I think I’ve heard you speak about how you “home-schooled” your kids. I greatly celebrate that and celebrate you for your work to humanity. I’m following from Nigeria.

Asredi Sakala says:

I like your reply Rabbi. I think it is wise. I also hope all goes well.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Asredi–
It is always interesting for us to read the comments that people post here.
Cordially
RDL

Jack Stoskopf says:

Dear Rabbil

I read your response with great interest especially because I have been in love for several years with a lady 22 years younger. She heart is the same for me. However she belongs to church that forbids marriage to anyone over 15 years in age difference. This teaching was not known to us until much too late and I chose not to fight against this as she is a new believer. I respect her decision even though she fights internally her thoughts and feelings for me. All I can do is remain in a distance and guard my heart for whatever might never be for me. I can never love any other. I think it is more important for her to be grounded I. The Word of God and for her to come to her own conclusions. She puts her church teaching above God. I’m not in a position to give her advice. I think it is better for her for me to remain silent in this matter and remain as a friend no matter how much it hurts.
God bless you
Jack

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