Dear Patti,

I’ve been a widower for two years. My wife of 20 years was a formidable and beautiful woman who accomplished an unbelievable amount in her career with multiple charitable organizations. While we had occasional challenges in our marriage, it was getting better and better. I would’ve been faithful for the rest of my life.

For the past six months I’ve been seeing someone completely inappropriate. She’s a 25-year- old who is my neighbor’s French nanny. Aimie is 31 years younger than me, barely finished high school, and has no desire to return to school or better herself. She’s probably the least ambitious woman I know, but she does love children. Aimie has ankle tattoos and her hair has bleached tips.

When we accidentally met, the chemistry between us was instantaneous and we became lovers right away. The sex is incredible, and she always makes me laugh. I truly can’t get enough of her and always want to be around her. She sees me as this classy, brilliant, powerful man and that’s totally new to me. My wife loved me but never saw me that way.

When we’re alone, we’re perfect. She opens up a whole new world for me and, in turn, I do the same for her. Twice I’ve introduced her to good friends of mine; both times it was a disaster. They were obviously flabbergasted and couldn’t understand why I was with this young woman. They couldn’t wait to point out that I had money, she had nothing and socially we came from different worlds. Too make things worse, Aimie became very shy and didn’t reveal to them the alive, shining part of her personality that I love. I admit I became ashamed of our relationship and have taken to hiding it ever since.

I’m not in denial. I know I can’t pretend to live on a deserted island forever. This relationship won’t work for the long-term but right now I can’t make myself break it off. I’m so happy when we’re together. I hate the idea of returning to my old life of loneliness and boredom.

  — Jack

Dear Jack,

Yes, there’s a greater possibility of heartbreak and losing a relationship when there’s not only a large age discrepancy but also different financial and educational levels, social status, dreams and ambitions and dissimilar developmental life stages. The hardship of sustaining such a fragile relationship is very high. It’s not my place to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t take a risk. Only you can decide whether you’ll look back in 10 years with regret for being so romantically impulsive or disappointed you didn’t see it through to the end, whenever that may be.

Sometimes in life, a mentor can arrive in a form you least expect. It seems as if this is the case here. Despite her youthful demeanor and lack of education, she’s coaching you to live in the moment, open up to new experiences and connect to undiscovered aspects of yourself. She’s supporting you to value yourself. No matter what happens, she has given you invaluable lessons. Respect her for that.

While she’s very good at inspiring these lovely parts of your personality to come alive, realize that much of what you feel when you’re together are actually parts of your personality that can emerge whenever you want. It may hurt deeply if or when this relationship ends, but it will hurt less if you take a fuller and more complete self with you. Likewise, you’ll be teaching Aimie valuable lessons she’ll probably always remember. After the experience of being accepted and loved by someone she views as classy and brilliant, she might possibly be changed for the better.

Among the many reasons there’s a strong chemistry is the possibility that—even if the relationship doesn’t merit a lifetime commitment—the exchange between you enhances both of you in some fashion. For as long as you stay in the relationship, be respectful of Aimie, her feelings and what she has helped awaken in you. If or when the honeymoon aspect starts to wear off, don’t respond to her as a broken person needing to be fixed or be ashamed of. Appreciate that you’ve given each other the gift of what it’s like to be cherished for however long it endures.  


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com.