On dating younger men

10 years ago

"Older women—they don’t tell
They don’t swell—and they’re grateful as hell.”

--Statement attributed to Ben Franklin, praising dating older women.

In the past year or two, the Cougar as replaced the MILF as the sexual older woman. Predatory, aggressive, and sexually confident, the cougar stalks her prey, dragging the nice young man to her den and having her way with him. There are dating sites where Cougars can meet their (willing) *prey*, 20-something guys on MySpace with IDs like CougarHunter, and 21 books on Amazon.com about dating, sex and Cougars.

While in the media, the older woman/younger man thing seems to very much be about the kind of trophy partner and appearance-oriented sport-fucking that paparazzi and gossip rags celebrate, the reality is that as women’s’ lives change, their need to date someone their age or older shifts. Now that women don’t need to marry men to survive economically, have social lives, or be considered meaningful people, the choice of a lover or partner can be uncoupled from the ability to provide income, children and a home.

As Pepper Schwartz says in her book Prime, “Younger men have seen some of the benefits in older women that younger women have seen in older men. Older women are often richer, more successful and more-self confident. They don’t usually want children and may be available for a more carefree lifestyle.”

Divorced White Female (DWF) an anonymous writer in Jackson, Mississippi, writes:

“Most of us unattached women over 40 know the inventory of males our age and older is much like that of the clearance aisle at Wal Mart – out of date, bent, discontinued or with the labels missing. I know personally the frustration of trying to form relationships with men in my age group, and seeing how boring, out of shape and jaded from previous relationships they are.”

Writing about her spinning class instructor, Tina at Waking Up Fabulous describes her insistence on being authentic and powerful about sex, dating and relationships. She writes,

“The fact that younger men tend to have less money didn’t bother her. She had moved passed needing a man’s money to secure her life. She shared that she had dated men on both sides of the money line dividing the rich and poor. Being with men with money was fun but it never out weighted the importance of being able to respect, have fun and share deeply with the man. She was comfortable enough in who she is that she did not need someone else’s money to assure her of a good life.”

Sexeteria, another divorcee in her 40s, recognizes that younger men are just as interested in her as she is in them: “The younger guys seem to be all over the older women. While they're not ruling out women their own age or younger, they appear to be casting their desired age ranges way above and below their own age. And when I've been out on the town lately, I've been hit on consistently by men easily ten years my junior or more. And the fact I'm older than them doesn't seem to faze them at all.”

In my own relationship with someone much younger, the connection between us started as a friendship, with lots of things in common, and some shared life stages. I was newly divorced, eager for more experience in the world; he was not that long out of school, eager for, yep, more experience in the world. We both were trying to figure out where we fit, what mattered to us, and how to have safe, authentic relationships that wouldn’t lead to getting married. Tentatively, we got involved, and then discovered that the things we had in common—and the ease with which we talked and spent time together—transcended the age gap. What started as a surprising “Oh, why not?” turned into a vibrant friendship with dating attached that’s never going to lead to us living together, but that has been a rich and rewarding connection for both of us—and one that has gone on for a couple years now.

If this was a self-help column, I’d say what are the five things you need to know to safely navigate the older woman/younger man thing?

And the answers I’d point out are:

  • Be open to the idea the *right person* may not be the one you expected
  • Accept you don’t have to be equal economically, socially, athletically
  • Make sure you are equal in terms of values, outlook, ability to communicate, and what you want out of the relationship
  • Don’t talk down or be ageist
  • Find someone who is thrilled with you, regardless of age, but accepts you as the age you are

Of course, since this is a BlogHer column, not a self-help piece, I don’t have to go more into the advice tip, and can instead, ask you all, the community, to share your views:

Is dating someone significantly younger (6 or more years) okay?
What if it’s oh, a 15 or more year gap?
Have you had successful relationships with a younger person?
What made them work? Or not work?
Did society censure you? Accept it? (Aka were your friends shocked or envious?)

Share in the comments, please.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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