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Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.


I am a 17-year-old girl in a relationship with a 21-year-old guy. It is not sexual, but we have kissed. I really enjoy spending time with him, but can it work given our age difference?


Age is certainly something to consider in most relationships, especially when you are young. However, an age difference of a few years does not necessarily imply that a relationship is doomed. Some people are more mature, thus are more inclined to share similar interests and values with an older partner. Others are late bloomers, and find they relate to people who are younger.

The main issue to consider is often the direction your lives are going at your ages. For example, are one or both or you going to college? If so, will you being leaving the area? Do you frequent places that restrict admission of people under the age of 18 or 21? If so, you both may be setting yourselves up for major problems. Are you old enough to make a decision about who you are involved with, sexually or otherwise?

In your case at age 17 you probably are unless your state has different laws about statutory rape and/or the age a youth can consent to sexual relations. Do your parents or guardians know about your relationship with this guy? If so, do they approve or are you taking risks by sneaking around that may cause problems for one or both of you? If not, are you jeopardizing your relationship with them by being dishonest (if you are lying about who you are with or where you spend your free time)? Are you keeping up with your school work and other responsibilities? Is he? Have either of you dissed your other friends and limited yourself to spending time with each other and nobody else because your other friends disapprove of this relationship?

If you have negotiated all of these issues successfully, you may have a good chance. I worked with older teens and young adults for many years (I was one many years ago, too). These issues are usually the key ones to consider. As long as you are not making lifetime commitments, you may okay. However, my experience has been that people change so much between the ages of 18 and 25 that they may not have the same interests and values in a few years.

This seems to be particularly true if you go to college, as higher education teaches us to think about things differently and exposes us to many new and alternative ways of thinking and being. For that reason I usually caution against making long-term commitments as a young adult. As you can imagine, every situation is different and yours may be an exception to the rule, so there are no right or wrong answers to your question.

Best of luck!


LuAnn Pierce, MSW, CMSW
Author of Growing up Sane (in uncertain times)
Seminar Leader Growing Well Adjusted Kids
Editor-in-Cheif Person to Person: Strengthening Youth & Families
Telephone Counselor Affinity Counseling Center
Affinity Books & Resource Center: Your Source for Emotional Wellness


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