Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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I am dating someone who is in his late 20s and I'm in my mid-30s. It's a bigger age gap than I have had before, but I decided to be open minded since he seems to be a genuinely nice guy and I really enjoy spending time with him.

HOWEVER. He has only been in 1 relationship prior to me and it lasted a couple of months. So I think he has a lot of insecurity, and because I am older than him he likes the idea that he is "being taken advantage of" by an "older woman". So he used to make comments whenever I expressed my attraction to him like "am I just a piece of meat to you?" and it really turned me off. Because I did NOT pursue him, he pursued me. And I would NEVER want to be in a relationship with someone who didn't desire me equally. I finally was able to find a way to nonconfrontationally bring it up with him and explain how it made me feel, so he's stopped doing it so much.

However, we work together in a large company (in different departments). There isn't any policy against dating other people at work, and many people at my company do it. But the other day, he showed me an email where he told someone at another office that he was dating someone at work and he joked that he is collecting evidence of all of my harassment of him for a lawsuit. He didn't name me, and it was clear it was a joke, but this wasn't a close friend of his, just someone he works with regularly via email. It really concerned me, even though it was a joke and the other person knew it, I just think it's really not something to joke about with just anyone at work unless you know them well.

Also, one of the things I decided after I broke up with my ex after over 6 years (he was 3 years younger than me, very controlling and selfish) was that I was going to date a MAN. My ex was immature in the fact that he wanted everything to revolve around him. This current guy is not like that at all, but he frequently says things like "I'm a manchild and that's why I'm so adorable". He actually is responsible and has his life together and is pretty clean for the most part, so I actually started dating him because he seemed mature, not because I thought he was a manchild! But he seems to think that being a manchild is cute and that he is one. He does have some things that are a little bachelor-esque in his life like only owning 1 bath towel, but for the most part he's pretty mature.

I really want to express to him that I am NOT attracted to manchildren, and that I want an equal partner who is an adult (which I think he is). But how do I do that without hurting his feelings, since he seems to be wrapped up in the self-image that he is a manchild?

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    I should add that I do NOT want to try to change him at all, and I don't want to make him feel like I don't accept him. I'm also worried that he would just do whatever I say because he has a lot of his self esteem wrapped up in the fact that he is in a relationship now (he's mentioned that he feels better about himself knowing that someone wants to be in a relationship with him). I've been there before, where I was willing to change myself to be acceptable to other people, and I know it sucks. So I don't want to do that to him. However, I just want to say something like "why do you think you are a manchild? I see you as a responsible adult who makes a great equal partner in a relationship" or something like that.

    reply to anonymous
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    So say that! It sounds reasonable, and will give him something to live up to.

    If he still makes jokes and comments that make you uncomfortable AFTER you've explained how it makes you feel? Well, then you've got problems. But first you have to identify the problem, tell him about it, and give him a chance to correct it.

    reply to Ashley
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    You may be over-thinking this.

    I doubt he's wrapped up in his supposed image of being a man-child. He doesn't *behave* like a man-child, and actions speak far louder than words. He calls himself a man-child as a bit of a joke, which means that he's probably slightly embarrassed by his youth and lack of experience and has turned it into a little comedy bit to cover his feelings.

    I'd try to emphasize in conversation which of his mature elements are attractive to you. As well, you can compliment his youthful attitude as it relates to enthusiasm and/or adventurousness.

    If he starts *behaving* like a man-child, then you'll need to reconsider things. For now, just make sure you reinforce his positive behaviours with positive comments -- and enjoy!

    reply to Kal
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