Dear Renita,
I am a 41-year-old woman who has just begun a relationship with a 29-year-old man. I do not know what to expect, but I can say that I have never felt so much love. My question is this: Should I give us a chance for love? How can I remain attentive to his needs as well as my own? Insecurity is a fault of mine, and I do not know how to overcome it. I am older, he is much younger, but he makes me feel so young and in love that I want to take the chance to feel like a woman for the first time in my life.
--Young at Heart

Dear "Young,"
Ah yes, falling in love...who can resist the heady rush of falling headlong over a cliff with nothing more than a bungee cord around your ankle? It's the most exhilarating yet terrifying feeling in the world. So relax--it's perfectly normal to find yourself swinging between moods of euphoria and dread when that magical love dust gets blown in your face. You've never felt more exhilarated and alive than you do at this moment. At the same time, you've never felt more vulnerable and defenseless.

The challenge is to not let insecurity get the best of your love. Nothing strangles a romance like the harping complaints of a partner who lacks self-confidence and harbors anxieties about the relationship.

If the insecurity you mention has to do with the 12-year difference in your ages, that's understandable. Some women find it more difficult than others to reconcile themselves to falling in love with younger men. They worry about their ability to compete with younger women for his attention; they worry about what others will say when they see the two of them together; and they worry about possible differences in tastes and viewpoints related to age. But these things can crop up in any romance. Loving a man closer to your age doesn't protect you from the threat of other women, the opinions of other people, or the muck of having to work through your differences.

If you leave this romance now, you may lose out on discovering what just may be the luscious benefits of loving a man twelve years your junior. What makes you so alive in loving him are quite possibly those precise things that stem from his being 20-something instead of 40-something; his receptivity to new and daring experiences; the new experiences he introduces you to; and the fresh and different perspective he has on life.

Anyone who has ever fallen in love will tell you that it's not unusual to feel like you're being gobbled up alive in the beginning. As exhilarating as falling in love feels, you wonder if you'll ever have time for yourself again.

Let me assure you: You will and you can, if you make sharing and communicating honestly about your needs an important part of the relationship. Just remember: When the hormonal haze settles, the real relationship begins. That will be the time that you two will really get to know each other as real people—sans the bungee anklets. Only time will tell if the 12-year difference in your ages is an impediment to lasting romance. Time will also tell if it was worth throwing yourself headlong over this cliff-hanger called love. After all, that's why it's called "falling" in love. And, if falling in love with a man 12 years your junior doesn't turn out to be all it was cracked up to be? Well, we fall down, and we get back up again.

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