So I was watching a rerun of Friends the other day (I admit it, I still love that show). It was the one where Phoebe’s half-brother Frank, who’s 18, announces that he’s marrying his high school home economics teacher, who’s 44. Everyone was shocked at unusual pairing, and even more so at their very amorous behavior. But in the end, the couple prevailed.
Recently, I read a blog where a separated, late-40s woman stated that she wanted advice on how to land a much younger man – say, late 20s or early 30s. Men her age don’t take care of themselves, she claimed, and they couldn’t keep up with her energetic, fit self. The dating expert told her to get over herself and the readers’ commentary ensued. If you want to get people into a heated discussion, forget politics or religion – bring up an older woman wanting to date a man half her age.
This isn’t to say that the reverse doesn’t create a heated discussion. A middle-aged man who gets divorced and wants to date 25-year-old women gets ridiculed for that even more than for buying the red convertible Corvette. But because it’s so common (men wanting to date much younger women, not actually getting to), even if people don’t approve, they aren’t surprised. Historically, men have been providers for women and children, so an older man can provide while a younger woman can bear the kids. This model makes some sense in low resource situations or when women have no rights or education.
Times Have Changed
With the creation of birth control in the 60s as well as other social changes, more women are going to college and filling the workplace. More than 50% of medical school graduates are women and more women are running their own businesses. When you can take care of yourself, you don’t need to look for a man to. You can choose men based other qualities. And because of this, more women, especially older women, are opting to date younger men.
Some people struggle with the idea that many women have begun dating younger men. But more people struggle with the opposite notion: why younger men would want to date older women. “This Cougar thing is a fad,” my Dad said recently. “Those guys aren’t serious about older women. It’s just for sex.” To my Dad, someone who has a history of choosing younger women, it doesn’t add up. But my Dad is from a generation when that was rarely heard of. People see this change and may assume that, as with men trying to date younger women, that it must be just about sex – the Cougar’s in her sexual prime and wants a good time with a young Hottie, and the young Hottie wants sex with no strings attached. This is the stuff that makes the news. Nobody talks about younger man-older woman relationships. Relationships are boring. Sex makes news. But Census data don’t lie: from 1960 to 2007, marriages where the wife is at least five years older have increased, and marriages where the man is at least five years older have decreased.
Why Do Men Want Older Women?
Men want to date older women because they are, on average, more independent, more confident, more successful, and more into sex. Men like all that. This isn’t my opinion – this is what the men have said. But older women aren’t as hot as younger women, some argue. So? Anyone can look good when they get older, if they’re willing to put in some effort. And wanting young and hot isn’t about LOVE, it’s about EGO. Most men figure out that hot is nice to look at, but it doesn’t touch your heart. No heart, no successful relationship. It’s that simple.
I’ve dated my share of younger men. They ranged from 6-10 years younger than me. They didn’t care how old I was. They found me attractive and they liked me. These weren’t drunken 20-somethings at some bar; they were smart, good men I met at work, online, and through friends, and they were looking for a relationship.
But I’ve wandered. Back to the original question. Should you date a younger man? If you like him and he’s a good guy, hell yes! As I say in It’s Not Him, It’s YOU, don’t be strict with age limits on men, and don’t rule out younger men. You never know who you’ll wind up connecting with.
However, the bigger the age difference, the more flack you’ll get from others, and, more importantly, the more challenging the relationship will be. Ideally, aim for a man no more than 10 years younger. More than that is okay too, but once you get in the 15-20 years younger range, you’re dating a different generation altogether, and only in exceptional situations does this ever work out.
Also, there’s a difference between being open to younger men and ONLY wanting to date younger men. When someone, male or female, wants to ONLY date someone younger than themselves, especially if MUCH younger, they aren’t looking for love – they’re looking for an ego boost. You will see this behavior in separated or recently divorced people who are middle-aged or older, like the woman I mentioned early in this post. These people aren’t impressed with what they see in their age bracket and swear they’re “different” than people their age. Most of the time, this is really just a desire to regain one’s lost youth, to somehow make up for time lost in a bad marriage, to feel like they still “got it” and can attract someone young, or to otherwise fill a painful void. If you’re one of these people, you can still date younger for fun, but beware of your motives and always treat your younger “prey” with respect.
If you want to date younger men, do it. You never know where you’ll find love. Just make sure, as with any man you date, to look for a real connection. Often, that connection doesn’t come in the package we expect.