The Male Perspective: Loving A Woman 20 Years Younger

Name: Dr. Bob Sanborn

Age: 67

Hometown: Muncie, Indiana

Family: Wife, Dawn; daughters Kristi, Samantha and Maddie

Job: English professor and musician


PAM: What first attracted you to your wife Dawn?

BOB: Her eyes were full of life. I met her in a very strange way. I was on a date with someone else, and she was our server in a restaurant. She ended up sitting with us at the end of the night, just chatting. I thought, what an absolutely amazing person. I thought she was about 20 years old, when she was, in fact, 31. 

I first liked her as a friend because I wouldn’t have even imagined dating someone that young. Men have two modes. There’s the hunter mode, and then there’s all the other modes rolled together. I had my hunter mode turned off, so I was able to see her in that other way. I was able to like her just as a friend.

PAM: How did you know she was “The One?”

BOB: I went to her house for dinner; I opened her fridge. She was a single mom, living on a fixed income, but it was burgeoning with the finest meats and cheeses. It was stuffed with fresh, delicious food. I thought, here is somebody who’s got her priorities in order. She had two young children, and she fed them well. 

She thought about freshness and quality and providing for people. She’s a nurturer. (The woman I dated before Dawn had a jar of mustard and a bottle of margarita mix in her fridge.)

PAM: Is it taboo in this society to marry someone a generation older or younger?

BOB: I can’t imagine why in the world it would be. To me, it’s the simplest logic in the world. I know people who are 20 years old who are mature, smart, fun. I know 50-year-olds who are idiots. It’s just as easy to be an idiot at 50 as it is at 20.

Age is a number; it’s irrelevant in love. A 20-year gap is not that big of a deal. Why do we put artificial barriers in the way of other people’s happiness? There are enough barriers without creating more.

PAM: Do you have any advice about raising other people’s children?

BOB: I don’t know how it should be different from raising any child. Kids are an absolute blast and are really much more complete than adults think. If you listen to them, it’s easy to relate to them. Too many people try to follow some formula. The key is to care about children and want to be around them. Figure out what they need and be that.

I didn’t think of Dawn’s daughters as being someone else’s kids. When we told them we had decided to get married, Sam and Maddie danced around the room. They were 7 and 5. That same evening, the girls came to me together, and each one asked if she could call me “Dad.” Those were beautiful moments.

PAM: What’s your secret weapon in the marriage?

BOB: I give everything a chance. No matter how odd it seems to me at first, I instinctively reflect on it and think it through before I give a response. In other words, no snap judgments or knee-jerk reactions. I think about what’s been proposed, and I look at it from both perspectives. I ask, what’s my initial reaction? Why would she want to do this? This method has always worked for me. Both men and women can be combative and reactive in relationships. Sometimes the issues are really small and insignificant once you measure them against the backdrop of how long you’ve been with this person and how much history you have together.

PAM: Both of you have said that you never argue or fight.

BOB: There is nothing but peace. I haven’t known a time that Dawn wasn’t supportive and on my side. Maybe some of that is a choice and some is a realization on both of our parts that this is a journey we’re on together. Marriage is the long haul for me. 

Before we met, I was single for 20 years. During the second half of that time, especially, I believed that if you were in a good marriage, you were the most fortunate of people. But if I held out for 20 years, I must have had pretty high standards. I think I was holding out for that moment, that refrigerator door moment. Once that happened, all I could hope was that the feeling was mutual.