Every society has its taboos about relationships. Some of these are very reasonable. Others are less so when you actually examine them.
One taboo that is not been challenged much or debated much in society is older women dating younger men.
As a result, many women in these relationships face discrimination and even some level of subtle harassment for the love they have towards a younger man.
What kind of age gap is ok?
Western society has a serious preoccupation with the ages of people in relationships. When people talk about it, they talk about power differences and how relationships should be equal.
Relationships should be equal, however the root of the taboo against older women dating younger men seems to go deeper.
For some people at least, there is an instinctive feeling of disgust; attraction by a young man to an older woman is almost as unusual as a woman’s attraction to younger men. But in reality, is it really that big of a deal?
Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, many previously taboo subjects have become accepted in normal life. However, older women dating younger men still has a whiff of seediness and even something wrong that is totally unwarranted.
Sadly, there seems to be such a cultural double standard as many will accept with open arms the more typical scenario of an older man with a younger woman, but the antithesis of that is frowned upon.
Everybody has a different opinion on what kind of age gap is ok. For some it might be five years, for others it might be ten.
Our societies seem to think that any kind of relationship that is not of people who are the same age might involve predatory behavior or exploitation of the younger partner.
For people who are both adults and mentally or emotionally competent this is very unfair.
How old somebody is in a relationship is not a very good indicator of their character or the way that they love somebody
Unfortunately, it is often the first thing we see, so our initial reactions are based on that.
This is prejudice.
Age discrimination takes on many forms, and this is certainly one form of age discrimination. Why does age really have to do with anything if both are adults?
We act as if we know enough about their relationship by simply knowing the age of the people involved. When you ask people in age gap relationships how they feel, we usually find that age is not something they focus on daily.
There are many things more important to older women dating younger men, and to the men in these relationships as well.
In fact, most people say that the biggest problem is (unfortunately) what other people think.
Attracted to older people
While men tend to date younger women, it is more unusual to see the other way around. However, a significant portion of men are almost exclusively attracted to people older than them.
Older women dating younger men is not a disorder. A disorder is something that causes you distress.
Nobody chooses who they fall in love with or who they find attractive.
But for some reason, this age disparity seems wrong to many people. Although this is a matter of some debate, attractions to older people are classed as paraphilias.
Falling in love with somebody older or younger than you does not make you unusual. About one-third of women report that they prefer to date younger men.
So, what is the problem?
There isn’t one. According to the office for national statistics in the UK, there is no difference in divorce rates when there is an age gap in a relationship.
Clearly, in recent years as society has changed some of its norms, more people are free to choose their own partners and many opted for age gap relationships.
Marriages are strongly protective of health and increase your average lifespan quite a lot. This effect is also consistently observed in age gap or intergenerational marriages. So, people are happy in their relationships and it is good for their health.
The taboo breaks down when you really start to dissect it.
Our societies have great difficulty with relationship taboos. For a very long time the only acceptable kind of relationship as one between a man, preferably older, and a woman, because that was the only way that children could be born and that was the point of women, apparently.
Throughout history, opinions and views of women have been mostly ignored.
Now that women are getting more freedom and more power, they are more able to have the kind of relationships they want. However, there hasn’t been very much debate on this matter, or not enough to change our views.
People perceived that it was predatory. These older women were exploiting innocent young men and only using them for their bodies or their looks.
The media has not helped. The 1967 film The Graduate only reinforced stereotypes about age gap relationships.
The older woman was seen as predatory; in fact the term cougar was coined around this time to describe older women who had an insatiable appetite for younger men.
A similar narrative appeared around relationships with older men and younger women and has always existed for adults and children.
For people who had age gap relationships, this perception was nothing like their experiences within their own relationships.
When you ask them, they say that they are just normal relationships. But a woman in her 60’s who announces she is in a relationship with a man in their 20s is viewed as a predator at worst, or exploitative at the very least, and only in it for one thing.
In reality, of course it is very different. Most of the time, men are the ones who pursue their older partners. It is as if we believe that because there is a difference in age, there cannot be equality.
The reasoning would be because one person is older, they are more powerful. This is obviously nonsense.
No relationship is truly equal, people give up their power in order to meet in the middle and have a loving relationship.
Another aspect to this taboo is the fast fading view that women should not be breadwinners. A man should provide for his family, or so was an older mindset.
Men who relied on their older female partner for income and support were less “manly”. Some modern cultures do not believe this so much, however in the West the man providing is still a part of modern masculinity.
Why do older women date younger men?
There are quite a few different theories on this matter.
One commonly held theory is that people choose partners who are more able to give them the things they need. Older women have a greater share of resources than young men because they have worked many more years and have things like houses and savings.
The theory goes that these younger men are looking for a relationship that can support them. This theory made some sense when one person in relationship was the breadwinner.
However, as women have been taking greater roles in the economy and many work no matter what the age of their partner, that argument doesn’t really hold up. Supporters of this theory are missing a very crucial aspect of most relationships: love.
Attraction is not something you choose and chemistry between two people is an unknown, magical force. Age gap relationships are like any other kind of relationship, there are difficulties and there are benefits.
Age gap relationships
Even though age gap relationships makeup about a quarter of those in total, this subject has not been very well studied.
Older women dating younger men is common, however the big differences in age are much less so. Generally, men prefer females who are younger to them and women prefer men who are older.
A huge study of 37 different cultures found that this was a consistent pattern across humanity. Most human behavior falls in quite a narrow gap.
Prejudice and issues
Judging people about their relationship because of age is unfair. Age discrimination is a real form of prejudice.
In some cultures and in some families these relationships are wholly unacceptable and are seen as unnatural or bad for the individuals involved.
Women’s fertility drops off significantly after the age of 35. For young men who would like to start a family, falling in love with somebody who is older than 40 can mean that he does not get to have his own children.
This might be extremely disappointing. Some couples adopt, but when the older woman is in her 50s or 60s, she may very likely be done with that phase of her life and not want to have children again or at all.
This is something very real for men to consider when dating an older woman.
You are younger than my own children!
Even grown children are sometimes upset by their mothers’ new younger partner.
The social perception that young men go after older women for their resources and not because they love them comes up again and again.
So, if your mother is one of the older women dating younger men, let your misconceptions and judgments go and begin to be happy for your mom if she has found love!
This type of love and support is a fundamental sign of respect.
One partner dying before the other
Older women dating younger men is not a problem, but it places a limit on the length of a relationship. The most socially accepted and expected relationships are with people your own age and you get married once and grow old with them.
Ideally, you died within days of each other at the ripe old age of 100! In reality, most people never achieve this.
Half of all marriages result in divorce and even when they do last, many women outlive their husbands.
An older woman dating a younger man is more likely to die before he is and that is particularly heart-breaking. Only a fool would think that love is not worth it because it might end one day.
All relationships end, through death or parting; it is not unusual to find oneself alone after a long period of happiness with somebody else.
Benefits of older women dating younger men
Now we have discussed the difficulties that people in age gap relationships face, let’s talk about the good things:
Older women have experienced more of life. Experience can help them have more generous and stable relationships. Being young is difficult; it means you have to figure everything out for the first time.
Someone who is willing to help guide you through life is always welcome, and, inside of a loving relationship, it is wonderful.
Your partner, being able to help you through the difficult young years and into your later ones with the perspective of having done it themselves is a huge benefit to many young people.
It’s what you like
Some younger men find older women attractive. In the past, it was very difficult for people with these preferences to find relationships that fulfilled them.
Now, as taboos and prejudice are falling away people are free (or freer) to have the relationship they want.
Financial and logistical support
It can be very difficult to find your own way in life. A loving partner who is older than you might have significant resources to invest in your education or in your business idea.
People in age gap relationships can find it can be easier get ahead.
Lots of relationships with older women date younger men will give the younger men freedom and possibilities that they might have had to wait decades for otherwise.
Youth and vitality
Being around younger people makes you feel younger. As women get older, they can find themselves isolated and lonely.
Having a younger partner who is full of energy and inspiration gives many women a new lease of life.
Some people travel more, some people study again, both parties in this type of relationship then find that they are happier and more energetic.
Older women have been through it all before. They have already gone through their more tempestuous years and have gained the emotional maturity that only comes through living life.
A partner who is wise and more emotionally stable is always a good thing.
Some studies have shown that people in relationships with an age gap of 10 years or more have more stable marriages.
With the Western world in a marriage crisis and most marriages failing, it looks like we should be promoting these kinds of relationships, not condemning them.
Love is love, regardless of the age. Nothing more needs to be said.
Older women dating younger men – pros and cons
There are many positives and negatives in any dating relationship, older women dating younger men is no different. Let’s look at the main pros and cons of this kind of relationship:
Pros for the woman
- Younger men have more energy.
- If you’re an active woman, you will want a man who has bounds of energy. Choosing to date a man that is younger than you means you’re likely to have someone who can keep up.
- Let’s face it, women may not be as visually oriented as men, but they still have eyes! And younger men look a lot better than older ones.
Pros for the man
- She knows what she wants. An older woman won’t beat around the bush. She’ll tell you what she wants with no qualms.
- If you like a woman who is self-assured and confident, you’re more likely to find an older woman that fits the bill.
- More stability. Older women have less of the insecurities than their younger counterparts.
- They’ve probably achieved financial stability and will be able to stand on their own two feet without relying on a man for stability and income.
- She doesn’t want (more) children. Older women, whether they have kids or not already, aren’t likely to be wanting babies.
- If you’re a young man who knows for sure that you don’t want to be a dad, going for an older lady is a good idea.
Cons for the woman
- You need a thick skin. Dating a man that is younger than you will leave you open to criticism and jokes from your family and friends.
- If you’re thick-skinned and can take being called a cougar, then you have nothing to worry about.
- You might not have much in common. Be prepared to work that little bit harder to find out what each other is interested in.
Cons for the man
- As with your older lady, you need to have a thick skin. Your friends may tease, but ultimately, it’s not about their opinions.
- If you want a family. If you do find yourself in a relationship with an older lady then you might have to move fast if you want to be a father and her biological clock is ticking.
- Don’t let this put you off, just be honest from the start if this is something you need in your life.
Although dating with an age gap might raise a few issues or, at the very least, a few eyebrows, it’s important that you don’t let this stop a potentially wonderful relationship.
Age is just a number!
With effort and communication, you really can surpass any barriers that you come across if it’s what you both want. So, what are you waiting for? Find love without age restrictions!