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Dating Advice 97 - Shaving Off 10 Years

May 9, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

He lied about his age in the dating profile, and has yet to fess up. Should she call him on it?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am 39, divorced, with 3 kids. I met a wonderful man, who treats me and my children with love and respect. (He couldn't possibly want me for my money as I have none!)

His dating-site profile put him two years older than me. Everyone wants a good listener, and I guess I must be, because within three months of dating, I managed to gather enough information from our pleasant conversations, to figure out logically that he is 12 years older than me.

Simple facts:

1. I care very deeply for him irrespective of age.

2. My initial search criteria was set at up to 10 years older, but with leeway for chance meetings with a man even a little older than that, which is something he knows.

3. He does have a slightly vain streak in that he is in great physical shape and doesn't like to be considered "old," being also very lively and young in spirit.

4. I was able to figure out his real age because everything else he said was the truth. (Not a very good liar!) One day I accidentally spilled a drawer of papers while helping him prepare for a business meeting, and found a document that includes a photocopy of his ID and clear indication of birthdate -- and I was right!

Perhaps in his mind it's a practical joke of sorts? Perhaps he's testing to see if I'm smart-analytical-logical, which academically he truly is. Or perhaps he's checking if I really listen -- which is something his previous wife apparently didn't want to do.

How do I approach him with this? On one hand, he should be the one to admit it of his own volition. On the other hand, it seems we are heading toward marriage, and he may be totally frightened of losing me over this, so keeps putting off telling me.

What should I do? Help! Please!


Dear Lori,

The fact that you are so even-tempered about the discrepancy between your beau's actual age and the age he pretends to be is a sign of both your ability to understand and forgive, and the quality of the courtship you have. These are interrelated; if you did not recognize your beau's many sterling character traits, or sense that the two of you are building a future connection, you would not be as forgiving and understanding as you are.

As you recognize, it is very normal for people who are dating to misrepresent their ages. We're not endorsing dishonesty, but this seems to be the one area of less-than-truthfulness that is most easily forgiven. Some people can't accept even the smallest amount of deception in a date; others can understand that when a person is otherwise honest and trustworthy, the fact that he initially misrepresented his age is something they are willing to overlook.

Your letter describes a good courtship that is clouded only by this one understandable issue. You're wise enough to understand that none of us is perfect, and that a relationship works when we can respect, admire and care for someone regardless of his imperfections. We hope that the two of you will be able to clear the air about your beau's age soon; at any rate, this should be done before you become engaged.

Your question is two-fold: Who should bring up the issue of his age, and how should you handle the discussion?

It seems that you may be right about one thing: This man is afraid to raise the issue because he seems to have backed himself into a corner. He may think you will react negatively and accuse him of betraying your trust. This little "secret" may actually be preventing things from developing as well as they could.

If you feel this is the case, then bring up the topic yourself. You'll have to figure out the best way to do so in a non-accusatory manner. You may want to start by saying, "I think that we have developed a positive openness, and would like to clear the air about something that's been on my mind for a while. It's something I think is keeping us from moving forward. I've figured out that you are older than the age that was listed on your dating profile. (Don't tell him that you saw the age on his papers.) I think I understand why you said that you were younger than you are and why you haven't told me your real age. Because I care so much about you and see that we have such a good potential relationship, I wanted you to know that the age difference doesn't bother me. In addition, the fact that you listed a younger age doesn't bother me either. I think you are a fine, trustworthy man and I had hoped you would be able to bring this subject up on your own, but since you haven't been able to I wanted to bring it up myself. I think that things are going well and I'd like to see them blossom even more."

Alternatively, you can make a joke out of it, to let him know that "you know." After he does something particularly athletic, you could say: "Gee, you sure don't look like a 51-year-old. But I think that's the perfect age for you to be."

We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,

Rosie & Sherry

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