Ask Amy: My ex says he was too young to consent to our relationship. How do I respond?

DEAR AMY: About 10 years ago, I very briefly dated someone who was 15 years younger than me — I was 38 and he was 23.

He pursued me. The age difference bothered me from the beginning, and I told him repeatedly that I didn’t want to date because of it. I was also dealing with suicidal depression, was unable to work, and didn’t want to date anyone.

He persisted for months and eventually wore me down (he texted and called daily, showed up at my house uninvited, and made his case through mutual friends. He even had his parents call me to tell me that they approved).

We dated for about two months. We had nothing in common. He and his friends were heavy drinkers and drug users, and my depression worsened.

Ultimately, I ended it (kindly). It shouldn’t have been a surprise to him. The entire time we dated, I told him – and all my friends and family – that I was uncomfortable with the age difference and with dating anyone at that time.

My health improved and I moved about 1,000 miles away. We haven’t been in touch for 10 years.

Recently, he contacted me on social media and said his therapist is suggesting there had been an inappropriate power imbalance because of the age difference and that he had been unable to consent – all very #metoo ideas.

I haven’t responded. I am alarmed because, well, it’s not accurate.

I work in the media now and am a little worried about being canceled. But I’m more concerned that he feels this way.

Should I respond?

  • Worried

DEAR WORRIED: No, you should not respond. Taking at face value the details as you describe them, being in touch with this man would be like pressing “go” for a person who previously violated reasonable boundaries, engaged in behavior that sounds like stalking, and who seems capable of overall relentlessness.

You state that you were not working at the time of your brief relationship, so I conclude that you were not his superior at work. He was 23-years-old – over the age of consent. The 15-year-age difference between you two is immaterial.

It seems reasonable for a therapist to suggest that there was a power imbalance between you two, because many failed relationships are the result of a power imbalance.
Don’t read any #metoo allegations into this unless he explicitly makes them, and don’t apologize for participating in a very brief relationship that you broke off.
Preserve and print out any communication between you two.

Most of us have regrets from choices we made in our early 20s. You can hope that his therapy leads to insight instead of allegations.

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