‘My stepchildren are the same age as me’

Abuse, drugs, cheating… Linda (36) always fell for the wrong men. And then suddenly there was Cesar (57). The fact that they are 21 years apart is not a problem for her. She is happier than ever. “But his kids didn’t like our relationship at all at first.”

Linda: “When we all go into a restaurant or amusement park, it almost always leads to confusion. People cannot judge our family relationships or draw their own conclusions. Usually they assume that I am in a relationship with Xavier, my friend Cesar’s son, and that my son Sam and Xavier’s daughter Michèlle are our children. Cesar is then automatically their grandfather. This is how we are addressed.
When I explain that Michèlle is my step-granddaughter, Xavier my stepson and Cesar my friend, everyone looks at me in surprise. Isn’t that man too old for me? It makes things even more complicated when my son Sam says “grandpa” to Cesar. You see people thinking: is she having a relationship with her father?

Wrong choice

“I’ve been looking for years. I really wanted a relationship, but I didn’t know how to choose the right person. I had a penchant for bad men. The fitness types who were only concerned with themselves and used me for a short time or were downright bad to me. I’ve had a really bad boy who is now in jail for shady dealings. And a man who abused me physically and mentally that I even had to undergo EMDR trauma therapy for. So you could say I wasn’t lucky in love, I bounced from one short-term relationship to another, each time hoping that I had now found the right one.
After my thirties it got even worse. My ovaries were screaming, I wanted to live together, get married, have children. But the men I liked weren’t ready for that. Eventually, my biological clock was ticking so fast that, at the age of 33, I chose to only have one child with a donor. It took the pressure off finding a man. I stopped going out and dating apps. I was so busy with my son that I let go of all dating.”

Nice, honest conversation

“I had known Cesar for years because he plays as a singer in a band that is quite well known in the area. He once performed at my cousin’s wedding and I spent some time talking to him. Because of our age difference and the fact that he was married at the time, I never saw him as a potential partner. We were Facebook friends. I liked pictures and videos of his performances, he liked snapshots of my son. Furthermore, our contact was very superficial.
I first really got to know him at a mutual acquaintance’s birthday, where I sat next to him. We immediately had a nice chat about motorcycling and music. He confessed that he had just been away from his wife for a few weeks after thirty years of marriage. He was very honest and told about their many struggles and sexless years. Conversely, Cesar was very interested in everything I did. He called me a tough bitch because I had chosen single motherhood and thought that – as far as he could see on social media – I was fine.
When we talked about a new song he wanted to record, he invited me to come to his studio the next day. Then I could hear the song first. Maybe naive, but I really went there just to talk about music. We did at first, but soon we were talking about everything while enjoying a glass of wine. We became more and more free. No subject was too crazy.
I liked his interest and he seemed sincere in his questions. He didn’t think anything was strange either, didn’t judge me. I felt that I could tell Cesar everything about my past. Maybe because he was a bit older, although his age completely disappeared during our conversations. He may be much older, but because he plays in a band with people who are much younger, he acts that way. Suddenly I realized how sexy he really was. He has beautiful blonde curls and looks a bit like Tom Egbers in the distance. At the end of the evening he brought me home and then he kissed me intensely. In fact, I was in love at that moment. Never thought it was possible, but I really fell for his cuteness first and then his looks.”

approved

“Fortunately, Cesar was just as in love as I was. The age difference didn’t bother him either. Okay, I was a year older than his son and a little younger than his daughter, but he didn’t see me as a child. He believed that I was a responsible, independent woman who had her life on track and who was also deliberately raising a child alone.
Unlike my previous relationships, he made me work. Cesar showered me with attention and gifts and cards. We called and texted for hours. He made fun dates and took me and Sam to the zoo and park. But what I liked the most was his respect for me. He treated me so lovingly.
My environment responded amazingly well. Of course, my parents were not thrilled that I chose someone 21 years older, Cesar was hardly different with their age. But after all the misery, they were happy that I finally had a reliable husband. For the past few years I had come to them and cried every time I got hurt again. They suffered with me. So even if Cesar had been thirty years older, as long as he didn’t beat me, deal drugs, or cheat on me—like my last three exes—they would have been happy for a long time.
They looked at me that it was right with Cesar. I had never beamed so much, my mother said. And he was nice to Sam too. They almost thought it was even more important. My father was especially protective of his grandson, but he trusted Sam completely with Cesar. Also my sister, my dear
girlfriend and colleagues were unanimously happy for me.”

Uncomfortable

“Cesar’s children struggled more with our relationship. The divorce had just been finalised, they were just getting used to the idea and their father got a new girlfriend after only a month. One who was also much younger. To put it mildly: they didn’t need to. The first few weeks they were definitely angry with him and wouldn’t meet me. This resulted in some rather awkward moments when they first called to see if the coast was clear before visiting him. If I was with Cesar, they would not come until I had gone to my own house.
Fortunately, his son Xavier recovered quickly. He is very gentle and looks like his father. If he loved me and was serious, he thought he wouldn’t mind. Divorced himself and with a four-year-old daughter, he knows how relationships work. A load off my mind. For Sam, it was extra nice when Xavier had his father’s weekend and then came to us. His daughter Michèlle became my son’s playmate.
Cesar’s daughter Moniek remained stubborn for a long time. She has a strong bond with her mother and took her side. Cesar’s ex was upset about the divorce. Ending their relationship was not her wish
and there was some jealousy. She admitted it
The marriage had been bad, but financially they were fine and they lived in a nice big house. She would have rather been unhappy together than alone in an apartment, she blamed Cesar. She also hoped deep in her heart that they would get back together one day. That’s why she was not at all happy that he got a new girlfriend so quickly and also someone he seemed madly in love with.
Moniek was loyal to her mother for a long time. She only wanted to get to know me when her mother also started a new relationship six months ago. From that moment she just came with her partner to her father when I was there. So easy. Because I was now staying with Sam at Cesar’s. So now I no longer have to hide with my parents when she comes, and we can celebrate birthdays and holidays together.”

Potpourri family

“Sam was still a baby when Cesar and I got into a relationship. So he doesn’t know any better than that there are three of us and we have a big extended family. He loves Cesar’s kids and is absolutely in love with Xavier’s daughter Michèlle. They play super cozy with each other. Because of Michèlle, Sam now calls Cesar ‘grandpa’ – of course he’s just repeating her. We all think it’s very funny and a good resolution: Cesar is a father figure, but not Sam’s biological father. Grandpa has it fine. Only that adds to the confusion for others. Outsiders don’t understand our relationship: I’m Sam’s mom, but I kiss his dad, how about that?!
We have been together for a year and a half now and we are all doing well. Aside from some silly comments about the mid-life crisis Cesar must be having because he has a younger girlfriend, or the crazy situations that arise when we’re together as a potpourri family, our environment seems completely familiar to us. I myself am happier than ever. I really don’t notice that Cesar is older. He is more sporty than me. Runs three times a week, lives healthy and can last a long time during sex. I have nothing to complain about.
There is only one. Deep in my heart I want another child, a brother or sister for Sam. I love children and enjoy my son every day. Especially now that Cesar’s daughter Moniek is pregnant, I’m also starting to itch a lot.
But Cesar doesn’t like another child. He has already been sterilized and does not want to regret it. Not because he feels too old, because he is now also helping to raise Sam and he is doing well. But he said that would make things even more complicated. Then he wanted two grandchildren and a baby. He thinks that’s crazy. He also does not want to offend his own children.
So for now, I’m just enjoying what I have: a lovely relationship with a sweet man who loves us and is good to us. I think it’s a crazy idea that Cesar will be ‘older’ in ten years and get a state pension, but no more than that. It’s a huge cliché, but it’s true: age is just a number. I still believe we will live happily ever after.”

Text: Joan Makenbach. For privacy reasons, all names have been changed. The real names are known to the editors.​​​​​​​
Photo: Getty Images

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