Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: When is an age gap in a relationship problematic? I've been single for nearly a year after getting out of a controlling, long-term relationship. I've lately become friends with a man who is significantly younger than I am (10 years). I initially rebuffed him because of the gap, but the more I got to know him the more I got interested.

When is a gap like that OK, and when would I be taking advantage of him to take him at his word that he's an adult and he would like to date?

Answer: What does his "word" have to do with his status as an adult? He is or he isn't. If he is, mazel tov, and if he isn't, pass.

Question: He's 20, so, an adult - I just keep seeing articles about brain development and I guess I was worried that a 20-year-old really isn't? Maybe I'm just psyching myself out.

Answer: Just anecdotally, having been 20 once and then 30, and also currently knowing people who are 20 and 30 (not simultaneously, because that would just be freaky), it's hard for me to envision people those ages in a relationship that isn't hampered somewhat by age. If you were 40 and 30, I wouldn't blink, but 30-20 means one of you is a teenager plus some calendar-flips.

However, anecdotes are not applicable except as a thought experiment, and chronological maturity is not something you need to puzzle out beforehand: If you like each other, are both adults and both act like adults, then get to know each other better. That will tell you much more useful things about the relevance of age than any general opinion on age differences will.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.