By Sarah Fader
Updated May 09, 2019
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Are you older women dating a younger man? Or a younger man dating older women? If so, you're not alone.
At first, it was just a few celebrity couples. But we expect them to do unusual and offbeat things, so we didn't think too much about it.
Then we noticed that it was happening on a regular basis. Older women are dating younger men in greater and greater numbers. And they are not just dating them, but embarking on long-term relationships with them, even marrying them.
Society points all kinds of judgmental fingers, accusing these women of preying on impressionable young men, even labeling them "cougars." But regardless of what anyone thinks, it's clear that this is a phenomenon that is here to stay: in a recent AARP survey, 34% of women between the ages of 40 and 69 were dating younger men.
Why Is This Happening
What are the reasons behind this trend? Is it all about sex? Or is there something else going on?
A closer look at the personal stories of older women dating younger men reveals an array of reasons why this arrangement holds so much appeal for both parties.
Not surprisingly, sex is a factor. Most women hit their sexual peak in their forties, and enjoy the increased stamina (as well as the greater physical attraction) that a younger partner can provide. But this is only a small part of the puzzle.
Women over 40 also enjoy having a partner who is free from the emotional baggage associated with divorce and children. Also, younger men were typically raised by strong, career-focused mothers, so they are comfortable with ambition and intelligence in a partner, where older men can find these qualities threatening.
But the appeal is by no means one-sided. Younger men find that older women have a lot to offer, too.
Older women are confident, smart, and assertive. They have figured out their needs and knew how to express them. These qualities can be a welcome change to younger men because women their age tend to be more insecure and sometimes manipulative. They find that older women have a lot to teach them, not just about the physical aspects of a relationship, but about relationships and life in general, and this strength and wisdom can be very appealing. For all these reasons, a man in his 20s or 30s may decide that dating an older woman is just what he needs.
If you are interested in dating an older woman, then you have probably already considered the many advantages as well as the potential drawbacks. But what's really behind the trend? Can these relationships last, or are they best as casual and temporary arrangements? And what do you need to know about dating younger men or older women to make it work for you?
Benefits Of Dating Older Women
Yes, it's true, older women have a lot going for them. If you're an older woman or thinking of dating one, here are all the things you can look forward to.
- No need to waste time figuring out what she wants. It will come as no surprise to anyone that men are not minded And yet, in dating situations, they often find themselves spending many days and hours trying to guess what a woman wants from them. Older women have learned not to waste any time on that. They communicate about their needs directly.
- She can teach her partner a few things. Older women have learned a few things about sex, relationships, and life in general. Her partner will benefit from her knowledge and experience, and gain a new perspective.
- She has control over her emotions. An older woman has weathered enough tough times to know that they are only temporary. She won't let a bad day destroy her emotionally. She has the confidence to know that she can handle anything…because she already has.
- She is independent. A woman at this stage of life is usually secure. She is not looking for a man to provide for her financially. This can relieve her partner of a huge amount of pressure. He can relax and have a good time without going into debt because she can't pay her share in supporting their lifestyle or activities.
- She can have fun with no strings attached. Often, divorced older women are not looking for anything serious and want to have a good time. This can prove a refreshing change to younger men who get tired of women with an agenda to settle into marriage and family.
Before you take the plunge into a May-December romance though, just be aware of a few potential downfalls.
Challenges of Dating Older Women
No relationship is perfect, and older women do come with their own set of challenges.
- She is at a different stage of her life than you are. She is likely to be occupied with her career and possibly with children. These things will take first place in her life. Also, she may have more financial security than you do, which can be a source of conflict with couples, especially if she wants to go on vacations or go out to nice restaurants.
- Family and friends may not approve. There is still all kinds of stigma around dating older women. (We'll talk more about this later.) Though unfair, the fact remains that sharing your relationship with family and friends may invite negative comments which put a strain on your relationships with them.
- She may not want to have children (or be able to). An older woman has probably already raised young children and doesn't want to do it all over again. By the age of 40, her ability to get pregnant is severely compromised, with menopause starting between the ages of 45 and 50. If you want to have a family someday, this is something to consider.
- She will have different social references. This may be nothing more than a minor annoyance, but over time it may become frustrating that she often refers to movies and TV shows with which you are not familiar, or that she doesn't like the same kind of music.
Making It Work
If you have decided that this kind of relationship is for you, here are some suggestions.
Tips For Older Women
- Be open to the idea of dating younger men. Don't go hunting for them, but don't rule them out as an option. Simply your openness may attract one into your life.
- Exude confidence. This quality, more than any other, will set you apart from the younger crowd.
- Throw away all your preconceived notions of younger men. Be open to the possibilities. In fact, younger men may surprise you with their emotional wisdom and their sexual abilities.
- Enjoy the new experiences that a younger partner will bring. Allow your relationship with a younger man to open you up to things that may be slightly outside your comfort zone, like going to a nightclub or listening to rap music.
Tips For Younger Men
- Don't Focus On The Age Gap. Sure, it's great that the two of you hit it off so well in spite of your age difference…but don't keep dwelling on it. She may find this emphasis on her age to be slightly rude.
- Don't Rush Her Into Sexual Intimacy. As much as you're looking forward to it (and she is too!), older women have other priorities. Invest time in the beginning in romancing and getting to know her.
- Communicate Clearly And Assertively. Older women don't want to waste time playing games. They will respect you more if you state your needs assertively and with confidence.
- Don't Label Her. Avoid words like "cougar." She may find such terms offensive. Relax and let the relationship be what it is.
If you need help navigating your relationship, seek the guidance of a trained therapist. The experienced counselors at Better Help can help you fine-tune the ways you relate to each other.
Stigma And Double Standards
By now, you're convinced that dating an older woman, despite its challenges, is pretty great.
But even in today's enlightened world, society still has all kinds of negative things to say about this powerful pairing, labeling older women dating younger men as sexual predators.
This is especially troubling when you consider that no such stigma exists for older men dating younger women.
At worst, older men dating younger women are viewed with a condescending chuckle, earning the term "sugar daddy," as if they were a benevolent father figure. Younger women dating older men are considered to be sweet and innocent.
The words used to describe older women in this scenario are not nearly as kind.
Why does this double standard exist? Why is dating older men perceived as quaint, but dating older women is considered dangerous?
The reasons for this may go back to our perceptions about the value of women. Traditionally, women have been valued directly about their ability to have children. For this reason, women, as they age, are often dismissed as no longer beautiful, while gray hair and wrinkles on men are seen as marks of distinction.
Men have long been valued for their power and their career successes. However, we now live in a time when women can be valued for these attributes too; and a new generation of men are aware of that, and see older women for the unique qualities they bring to the table.
So don't be ashamed of your relationship with an older woman or a younger man. It's not just the new wave of the future. It's the wave of the here and now.