When I first met John*, we were just friends. In fact, he was married to someone else, and I was engaged to another man. But he quickly became one of my closest friends, and I found myself constantly turning to him for advice, whether it was work-related, friend-related or, yes, romance-related.
Before you get any ideas, no, we didn't have an affair. We just happened to be in each other's lives when things started to deteriorate in our personal relationships. After we had known each other for three years, John divorced his wife. About four months later, I found myself pausing my engagement. Not because I was romantically interested in John—I honestly only saw him as a friend—but because I was finally starting to see the reality of the emotionally abusive relationship that I was in.
Eventually, my then-fiancé and I called things off, and two months later John asked me out on a date. I'm not going to lie, the idea caught me completely off guard—but it intrigued me. Still, I had just called off my wedding, and wasn't sure I was ready for another relationship. But after thinking it over a lot—and having many conversations about it with my best friend—I decided one date couldn't hurt.
Let's just say it was a great date.
John and I hit it off instantly, and I finally started to see him in a romantic light. "How amazing would it be to fall in love with one of my best friends?" I thought to myself. The idea that it could happen blew me away.
The only problem—at least, to some people—was John's age. Because while I'm 28, a tenured teacher, and have no children, John is 47, runs a family business, and has a 15-year-old daughter.
But John's age was never a problem for me. Maybe it's because he doesn't look like he's 47—a lot of my friends thought he was 35, max, when they first met him—or because most of the time he doesn't act his age (you know, men). It could also be because I tend to act a little older than my age, so it creates a nice balance for us. Plus, at the end of the day, I'm proud to say that I've always been one of those women who really doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks. Still, having 19 years between the two of us does present its own set of challenges. For one, there's his daughter and ex-wife, both of whom have made comments about how they think it's inappropriate for John to be dating someone my age.
I get where they're coming from—I'm sure a lot of his ex-wife's comments stem from jealousy or feelings of betrayal about the end of their marriage. And his daughter is only 13 years younger than I am; she's used to seeing a set of parents where neither person could be close in age to her. So I get it. And while we both listen to what they have to say—especially when John's daughter has an opinion—we're not going to let them control our lives.
As for other people, we're lucky in that not many people have made negative comments about the two of us being together. Our families are both very supportive of us, and friends tell us that we make sense together. I think that's because they can see how happy we are. They can see the chemistry between us, and how well we come together and communicate with each other. (We really do tell each other everything.) So if anyone does say something, it's usually because they have a genuine curiosity about how we make it work. It doesn't really feel like they're looking down on us, or being nosy just to gossip. It's almost like they want our success secrets.
If our age difference does bother someone, John and I try to brush it off. We both get that some people are not going to agree with us being together, and that's OK. We know how we make each other feel, and we help make each other better people. That's not something we're willing to let go of just because some people might not understand.
I do wonder how we're going to make children work, though. The two of us haven't decided yet if that's something we definitely want, but I grew up imagining my future as a mother. It's funny how life changes that viewpoint. Not just because I'm in love with a man who's 19 years my senior—meaning that, if we were to have kids within the next few years, he would be pushing 70 when they graduated high school, and that's a lot to handle. But also because, as a teacher, I've seen firsthand how much responsibility being a parent takes. You have a life in front of you that you have to take care of, that you have to raise, and you want to do all the right things. It's a lot of pressure. And honestly, I'm not sure if it's something I want to take on. I love being a step-mom, and I love our family the way that it is right now. I'm sure another child would instill a positive change in our family dynamic, but it's a big change. So while John has never said he doesn't want anymore children or told me that it's completely off the table, it's not something I'm even sure I want on the table. We're still discussing it.
Otherwise, the only other thing that really seems to be different about our relationship is our awareness of, well, life—and the end of it. Not to be a downer, but with John being significantly older than I am, we've talked about getting our wills situated shortly after we're married so that everything is taken care of right away. That way if anything happens to him—or to me, as I'm fully aware that something tragic can happen at any age—we both know what the other's wishes are, and are able to help our families with any financial burdens that may arise from it. When it comes to our age difference, the two of us just try to be as prepared as we can, while still seeing where life takes us.
At the end of the day, John and I are just two normal people who fell in love and are about to get married. Yes, there are are struggles because of our age difference, but every relationship has their own set of obstacles to get through. These are ours. And honestly, I wouldn't ever trade them for another set of problems, because I know I have the best partner to help me fight through them.
*Names have been changed for privacy.
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This article originally appeared on RedbookMag.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.