What’s it like to be 10 years older than your husband? Awesome? Weird? Are you exhausted by never-ending Cougar jokes? Today, Melissa shares her story.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Melissa. I’m a former high school English and AVID teacher born and raised in Sacramento, California. In 2011, I’d been teaching for nearly a decade and was looking for out-of-the-box ways to raise money for college scholarships for my students.
I started selling the jewelry I was making—chunky wire-wrapped rings with encouraging, affirming notes to accompany them. This idea grew into Compliment.
In 2013, I left the classroom to pursue this business full-time—sending tens of thousands of “gifts to uplift” to women all over the world, while continuing to raise tens of thousands of dollars for under-served girls in my community. I’m 38 years old and for fun, I like to sleep (I have an almost one-year-old and am due with my second baby in about 8 weeks).
What’s your husband like?
My husband Nick is not your average human. Even his family says that when he was a kid, he was always known as the “old soul.” His grandma tells me a story about how when he was around seven years old, the family was watching a sports game on TV.
When the game was over, everyone in the room was debriefing what happened during and Nick chimed in with stats and in-depth knowledge about the players the adults were discussing. They asked him how he knew, and he said he’d been reading the ticker at the bottom of the screen during the game.
That’s so indicative about the kind of person Nick is—he’s hyper-aware and observant, and really quick-witted. He’s thorough and thoughtful and loves people. No one ever guesses he’s 28. He is a meditation coach and a Community Outreach Manager for a local Urban Farm.
He is very self-assured. He comes from an awesome, big, loving family, which I think has given him a sense of inner confidence. He’s very ok in his skin. He worries very little, if at all, what others think of him—and not in a overcompensating arrogant way.
He’s sure of his values and how he wants to live his life. He’s very well-liked and is a genuinely good person. That’s what I love most about him. His goodness.
Growing up, did you have any specific ideas about what marriage would look like for you?
Yes, I definitely thought about marriage. My parents got married at 20 and 21. All my aunts and uncles were married by, like 23, so I just thought that’s when people got married.
I had a boyfriend all through high school and college, and I suppose I assumed we’d just get married young and start having kids right away like everyone in my family.
That didn’t happen. But, kind of close. I got married at 25 to a guy who I actually knew from high school, though we didn’t date until after college. We dated for three years and were married for seven. He was a teacher at the same school I was—the same school we graduated from when we were kids.
And then, one ordinary Monday night after I’d cleaned the dinner dishes, he told me he didn’t want to be married anymore and that he was selling our house and I should find another place to live.
Our relationship was far from good, but (and I know this sounds crazy) but I didn’t really realize it until I was out of it. I just kind of wrote off our problems (which were massive in hindsight) to “all marriages go through rough spots,” or “all couples argue.”
I never in a million years thought I’d ever get divorced. But there I was—32 years old. Divorced. It happened really fast and was not amicable at all.
But now, having gotten to the other side, I see that period of my life as the greatest gift. At the risk of sounding trite, it led me down a very unanticipated path and to my soul’s true mate.
How did you meet your husband?
Nick and I were friends for 2 years prior to my divorce and another year before he ever asked me out. I met him when he applied to be a tutor for the program I was teaching. He was in college and was considering getting his teaching credential. So he was sort of like my assistant or my student teacher.
During the group interview when I was hiring our new crop of tutors, I asked everyone around the table what they saw for themselves in the future. All the interviewees mentioned things like finishing their degrees in order to attain their career aspirations.
When the question got around to Nick, he said, “I’m still not sure what career I want, but my biggest goal is to be a great husband and father.” I remember it so clearly. I rolled my eyes and scoffed and thought, “Come on, dude. You’re laying it on so thick in front of these cute girls who are interviewing. Take it down a notch.”
(What’s so funny, is that now that I actually know him, he wasn’t exaggerating or flirting in the least. His life ambition is to be of service to the people he loves. That includes being the best husband and father, and son, grandson, cousin, friend. He meant it.)
The rest of his interview was good and I ended up hiring him. Over the next two years, as we worked together, I got to know him better and found that he was super smart and funny and really cared about the students he worked with.
Our whole team loved working with him. He and two of the other tutors became part of our teaching team. We were all great friends and worked together to get the best from our students. I respected Nick for how seriously he took his job as a role model for our students.
How did you respond the first time he asked you out?
So let’s back up a bit. I ended up leaving the school where I’d been teaching because I didn’t want to work with my ex-husband after we divorced. It was ugly and I couldn’t stand having to face the heartbreak AND be colleagues at the same time.
I moved to a school across town and started the school year there. Nick was finishing his degree about an hour and a half away. While I would still consider us friends, it’s not like we were hanging out at all.
The last half of 2012 was a blur. From June through December of that year, I’d gotten a divorce, moved homes, moved schools, and lost three family members unexpectedly under pretty tragic circumstances. I was beyond heartbroken. I couldn’t get off my couch most days. I left the Food Network on 24 hours a day to keep me company.
I had posted something on Facebook about being heartbroken after my Uncle passed away, just four days after Thanksgiving, and Nick reached out in a private message. He invited me to a meditation workshop. It definitely wasn’t a date, but it was, unbeknownst to either one of us, kind of the beginning of a deeper friendship.
I went to the workshop. I cried pretty much through the whole thing and Nick was so compassionate and not weirded out at all. After that day, he texted me periodically to check in on me to make sure I was okay.
And then, the following summer 6 months later, when he was home from his last semester in school, he asked if I wanted to meet up for coffee. That wasn’t necessarily abnormal. But coffee lasted 3 hours and he asked me to dinner.
I looked at him kind of confused. “I’m not hungry right now. So probably not.”
“No,” he said. “I mean on another day. Like, you and me, and I pick you up and take you to dinner.”
And as he describes it, I paused for a second or two and then covered my face in my hands and said, “Oh my God, you have a crush on me?! Noooooooo! I’m too old for you!”
He said, “If by crush, you mean I think you’re pretty and I like hanging out with you, then yes.”
I said no a few times more, but he was convincing. He said, “Look, we have fun together. We just spent three hours laughing over coffee. Why not?”
And you know, I was so sick of being sad. I had been grieving for such a long amount of time. My whole life felt different. So I said yes. What the hell? I’ll go. And of course, we had a great time.
When you first started dating, did you see your relationship going anywhere?
When I was in the moment and really not thinking about the perception of others, I felt how different this relationship was than any other I’d had. I felt fully me. It felt easy and fun and like we were our best selves when we were together.
But then, I’d get all in my head and pushed him away and thought, “I’m crazy. He’s a decade younger than me and everyone is going to think I am a weirdo and this is probably going to be an awesome story that he’ll tell his buddies over beers at the bar.”
Do you think your age difference affects your relationship?
Now that we’ve been married for two and a half years and have a kid together with another one the way? HA! Yes. Our age difference does affect our relationship because he currently has more physical strength and stamina than I do. Whether that’s because of his age, or because he’s not the one who is pregnant, I don’t know. ☺
Other than that, I never feel our age difference in the way we relate to one another. Part of that is because our parents are the exact same age, which means we were raised with similar pop-culture references from our parents.
Also, because I have a decade more experience working, I’m further along in my career—simply because of me being older. But that doesn’t play that big of a factor in our day-to-day.
How do people react when they find out you’re 10 years older than your husband?
Ninety-nine percent of people I meet have no clue. I don’t think you can tell just by looking at us. When other women find out I’m older, most give me a high five and a nod of respect that I was able to snag a younger man.
But when people really know us, they see how happy we are together and what a good fit we are and don’t really make a big deal about it.
I did get some weird reactions from my friends when I first told them we were dating. One of my friends asked, “What happens when you’re really old and maybe get dementia? Is he prepared to take care of you?” I was like, “Ummm… what if YOU get dementia? Is your husband prepared to take care of YOU?” Like, who is ever ready for that? No matter how old you are?
What has surprised you about this?
I have been surprised that some of my most “woke” friends, initially, have some big biases when it comes to an older woman with a younger man. Culturally, we wouldn’t blink an eye at a guy who was married to a woman ten years younger. But it’s still somehow so taboo.
What have you learned from this that ANY of us could apply to our daily lives?
I think many of us face situations where we make choices that please others at the expense of our own well-being. I was very close to telling Nick that this was never going to work, even though when I got really quiet with myself, I knew he was my absolute perfect match.
I think it’s no accident that my whole life had to fall apart to reach the “eff it” point where I started saying yes to opportunities that felt good, despite what others might think. There’s a saying floating around the interwebs that says, “The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.” I like that.
My marriage with Nick is among the greatest blessings of my life and I thank God every day for him. We are both so happy to be building our lives together that if people feel the need to scoff at our age difference, it doesn’t affect us at all–a total non-issue.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Melissa! Are any of you significantly older than you partner?