I’m in a Relationship with a 36-Year-Old Man. Is That Wrong?

Dr. Wendy Walsh

Written by: Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh

Known as America's Relationship Expert, Dr. Wendy Walsh is an award-winning television journalist, radio host & podcaster, and the author of three books on relationships and thousands of print and digital articles. More than 1.5 million people follow her sage advice on social media. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and teaches in the Psychology Department at California State University Channel Islands and has been the host of "The Dr. Wendy Walsh Show" on iHeart Radio's KFI AM 640 since 2015. Walsh is also a former Emmy-nominated co-host of "The Doctors," as well as former host of the nationally syndicated show "EXTRA." She was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2017 after speaking out about harassment at a major news network.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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Reader Questions:

I am 18 years old and I am in a “relationship” with a 36-year-old man. I say “relationship” because he and I do have a large age gap, and we are afraid of my family’s reaction. He has his own place and his own career, and he knows I am just starting out and is supportive of me in every way. We just fear what my family might think, considering he also just emigrated from Turkey six years ago.

Is this wrong for us to do? Would it be bad if we became intimate, and how do we navigate through this big hot mess we’ve got going on?

-Caitlin (California)

Dr. Wendy Walsh’s Answer:

Dear sweet Caitlin,

Here’s what I know for sure. No matter what I say, you are going to give yourself the lesson you need.

This is an amazing opportunity. You can feel like a big girl by trying big-boy pants. You can piss off your parents — something every teenager loves to do. And you can get tangled in a hot mess of lies, risky sex and family vengeance. Good times.

But this is also an amazing opportunity to give yourself the love you deserve. Self-love. This is a chance to go deep and find out what missing piece of you makes infatuation with a man twice your age so healing.

The answer is a 10-session therapy trip — but let me lay out the possibilities here.

This man represents: protection you don’t feel, financial security you don’t have, a rescue from having to learn peer-to-peer emotional and sexual communication, a rescue from your family who doesn’t seem to understand you.

There are probably more voids this guy fills for you. So I ask how can you get whole, fulfill your needs and grow into a mature person at the right pace?

Can you love yourself until your beautiful mind oozes out every pore and opens your eyes to the fact you have far more choices than this man?

Hey, maybe that mature, self-confident, kick-ass beautiful woman who emerges will look at this middle-aged dude and think he’s a bit creepy for lusting after a teenager. Who knows?

This is an amazing opportunity for you. You are going to teach yourself something here. This could be an opportunity for a really painful lesson (pray it doesn’t become a permanent lesson because of a pregnancy or STD), or it could be an amazing opportunity to say NO.

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