“This is going to be difficult.” That’s the first thought my former coworker and now fiancé had the first time he saw me pop up in my Teams video tile as part of his regular work meeting.
It was March 2022, and I had just joined the marketing company where he was a senior account executive as a senior freelance writer. Soon after, he was tasked with leading a weekly meeting that included me and two other people. This continued until the end of that summer when he decided his initial attraction to me put him in an awkward position.
“Not only were you beautiful, but I really started to fall in love with you as a person, so I told myself I needed to back off and keep work and personal lives separate,” Collin, who’s now my soon-to-be husband, later told me. “I’d never been in a position where I felt this level of attraction to someone at work. I thought, ‘I have to give this meeting to someone else — I can’t run this.’”
Our similarities trumped major logistical differences
Collin and I’s communication was minimal until that September when he heard from a mutual colleague that my prior relationship of 10 years had just ended. He asked our office administrator for my phone number and texted me to ask how I was doing. He even sent a picture of his dog to cheer me up.
I had always known him to be a hyper-friendly extrovert, so it took me several days to realize that his text messages were teetering on the edge of being friendly and something more. That’s when I asked how old he was.
“I’m 44, how old are you?” he immediately texted back at the time.
His age came as a shock to me at 27 years old. His personality was so playful that I thought he was maybe in his mid-30s. I was not expecting a 17-year age gap.
Meanwhile, he had assumed I was in my lower 30s due to my career stage and my perceived maturity.
Things were further complicated by the fact that he lived in Boise, Idaho, which doesn’t quite neighbor my home base of Charleston, South Carolina.
Still, we agreed to talk. While our connection sounded a little mysterious on paper, we found out we also have a lot in common: Both of us attended a small music school with dreams of becoming a songwriter — and both of us switched our majors when we realized there were probably more stable careers. Both of us had lived in Nashville but felt a long pull to Charleston, South Carolina, for no identifiable reason.
After a week of talking, Collin booked a $600 plane ticket to fly across the country for a first date — a trip that was hindered by an unexpected nine-hour layover and a change in destinations. Instead of landing in Charleston around 4 p.m., he landed at an airport in Georgia two hours away, where I picked him up after midnight.
It has been love ever since.
Our age difference only makes us stronger
After publishing an essay about Collin and I’s differences when it comes to life stages, finances, and retirement planning, I was quick to realize that age-gap relationships are still quite controversial. I received hate mail for the first time in my life, and it opened my eyes to how couples with age differences are often left out of the broader “love is love” conversation.
In my opinion, our age gap makes us stronger as a couple. We had to have serious life-question discussions from the first week of talking, covering topics like how we define love, where we want to live, and whether we want a family, setting a healthy foundation of vulnerability and honesty.
He has offered a level of wisdom and maturity that helps me battle my own challenges every day, and I help keep him young. While we’re not oblivious to hard situations that could manifest down the road — such as me being his caretaker in older age — we certainly don’t think it’s worth sacrificing everything we’ve found in each other.
We’re both more in love than we’ve ever been and can’t wait to elope and continue building our life together, from big experiences like international travel to the smiles and small moments in between. We’re committed to keeping a lens of curiosity towards each other so that we’re always growing together.
Kelsey Herbers is a freelance marketing writer and journalist based in Charleston, South Carolina. Connect on LinkedIn.