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Picture this scenario: you meet an amazing man, have instant chemistry, and are lost in enthralling conversations for hours.
He’s funny and vibrant, the sex is incredible, and you’re having more fun than you ever have before.
…the problem is, he’s a few (or more than a few!) years younger than you, and you don’t know how to feel about that.
Some of you may have already been in this situation, while others may be terrified of ever dealing with the prospect.
But why is this seen as a “problem”?
Why are we so hung up on the idea that women are only supposed to date older men (or that men should/can only be attracted to younger women)?
Why not date a younger man?
Societal double standards are more than a little ridiculous, aren’t they?
For example, few people even think twice about a male celebrity dating a woman who’s 15, 20, or even 25 years his junior, but balk if a famous woman’s partner is even five years younger than she is.
Johnny Depp was 22 years older than Amber Heard when they married, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend is 23 years his junior.
But then, older man + younger woman seems to be accepted as absolutely normal.
After all, young women are considered desirable because they’re full of youthful vitality, not to mention fertility. They’re a catch, right?
As women mature, we tend to be viewed as maternal rather than desirable, whether we’ve actually had children or not.
Older woman + younger man isn’t understood quite as easily.
This pairing is often seen as unnatural, against basic biology. Desperate, even.
The term “cougar” is often used to describe these pairings, implying that the older woman is a huntress who’s out to prey upon an innocent young man.
The truth is that a relationship with a younger man isn’t much different than a relationship with someone your own age, or older.
Sure, there are going to be issues to navigate, but that’s par for the course in any kind of partnership, right?
Have you met a fabulous younger man, but are worried about the pros and cons of a relationship with him?
Let’s dive into a few helpful tips that may help you along.
1. Remember that maturity isn’t dictated by age.
I recently counselled a friend of mine through a relationship crisis that left her quite flattened.
Her boyfriend had pitched a fit at her over something really trivial and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him as he went.
He then broke off the relationship via text, and insisted that she leave the house so he could gather his things without having to deal with any confrontation.
Sounds like an issue a woman would have with a much younger partner, right?
Unfortunately, the man in question is in his late 50s, proving that emotional maturity really has nothing to do with a person’s chronological age.
Repeat that to yourself: maturity has absolutely nothing to do with age.
A woman in her mid 30s might be solidly engrossed in her career, or she may still be living at home, trying to find herself.
She might be a mother of four, or an avid skateboarder.
If she’s led a very sheltered life, she might be quite immature emotionally, compared to a woman who’s been living on her own since her late teens.
Similarly, a guy who has gone through a lot over the course of his life may be a lot more emotionally mature and dependable than someone twice his age.
In contrast, a grown-ass man who’s been babied and coddled all his life might have the overall maturity of a teenager.
2. Make sure your man isn’t looking for mom 2.0.
It’s a good idea to determine early whether your partner is, in fact, looking for a replacement mama.
A lot of younger men are drawn to older women because they like having someone who will take care of them.
These guys tend to be the ones who left home quite late, and had mothers who did pretty much everything for them while they still lived at home.
Their moms would have done everything from doing their laundry and sorting their financials for them, to cooking and cleaning while they played video games.
These men might not have Peter Pan syndrome per se, but they often have a tendency to relinquish personal responsibility.
Quite simply, they’ve learned to expect that someone else will step up and take care of things, so they don’t have to.
If you find yourself involved with a guy like this, don’t expect to be able to change him.
You can try to force him to step up and be responsible for himself, but he’ll probably end up resenting you for it.
He’ll likely end the relationship and find another woman to take care of him, or date a much younger girl who won’t try to make him do anything.
Clues to watch out for:
People lower their guard and act more authentically over time, so take note of any behaviors that set off red flags.
– Is his place usually a mess?
– Does he do his own cooking, or does he usually get takeout/order in?
– Do you find that he asks you for help with things he should be able to do himself?
In a similar vein…
3. Don’t fall into a “teacher” role.
This is one surefire way to transform your current romantic relationship into a platonic friend zone.
The younger guy you’re dating may not have as much life experience as you do, but that doesn’t mean that you need to provide him with all the answers he’s seeking.
Nor should you be expected to figure his stuff out for him.
If you find your relationship moving in this direction, set some boundaries.
He might feel comfortable asking you for guidance, and that’s great… on occasion.
But if you’re constantly placed in that role, the relationship dynamic will shift pretty quickly.
Before you know it, he’ll see you as an authority figure or guardian of sorts who’s there to guide and protect him.
In turn, your perceptions about him will shift to something far more… maternal.
Unless you’re really into Oedipal dynamics, that’s not a road you want to go down.
If he feels that he wants/needs an older woman in his life to offer him advice and guidance, suggest that he find a therapist or counselor who can fill that role for him.
You two shouldn’t be everything for one another, so maintain those healthy boundaries, even if you need to be firm on occasion to keep them in place.
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4. Acknowledge that you likely have different energy levels.
If there’s an age gap of more than five years, you may find that your partner has significantly more energy than you do.
This is especially true if you’re further along in your career than he is, or if you have children from a previous relationship.
He might be really into the idea of going out drinking on a Saturday night and not crawling home until the wee hours of Sunday morning, while you’re more into curling up with Netflix and a really lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is where communication and compromise come in: you can probably handle the occasional late night out, and he can probably enjoy the occasional night in.
When you don’t have the energy to be all “WOOOOOO!!” until dawn, send him out with his mates. They can go to the pub and he can tell you all about it over a late brunch on Sunday.
Similarly, when he’s out with the guys, spend time with your girlfriends, or enjoy a much-needed evening alone.
When it comes to physical activity, having a younger guy in your life may keep you more active than you would otherwise be.
If you find physical activities that you can both enjoy, that’s great! It’ll be a wonderful way for you two to spend time together, while also keeping fit and active.
Same goes for sex: his libido might be a lot higher than yours, so that’s something you’ll need to address tactfully.
He may not have the stamina that an older man may boast, but can make up for that by being ready to go several times a night.
As an added bonus, a lot of women find that their sex drives actually get significantly higher after age 35.
If you’re involved with a younger man, chances are you could be well matched rather than exhausted.
5. Be open to new ideas and experiences.
This could range across the board, really.
You may have a ton of things in common, but chances are he’ll have his finger on the pulse of some things that you’ve never heard of, and vice versa!
For example, just a few years’ age difference is enough that you two might have a wide array of musical interests that the other has never heard of. This is a great opportunity for both of you to discover a bunch of “new-to-you” bands.
Same goes for literature, film, TV shows, games, art… you name it.
If you’ve never played a video game before, you may balk at the idea of doing so because you consider it to be juvenile.
But it’s a good idea to try something before turning your nose up at it: you may discover that you actually really enjoy gaming.
Before you know it, you will be bonding over late-night Skyrim dates and having a blast while doing so.
6. Understand that it’s absolutely okay to have different interests.
My partner is younger than I am, and we work really well together on numerous levels.
That said, although the age difference isn’t huge, it’s wide enough that we have slightly different leanings when it comes to entertainment and personal pursuits.
Sure, he teases me gently about the fact that I actually like to knit, and I roll my eyes playfully when he spends hours obsessing about a video game, but it’s all in good fun.
Furthermore, our respective interests give us time and space alone to do our own thing, or when out with other friends.
You don’t need to have every hobby and pursuit in common with your partner. In fact, it’s healthier if you don’t!
It’s really important for the two of you to have different hobbies and interests that you can pursue on your own time.
So many people seem to think that they need to do absolutely everything with their partner, but the truth is that too much togetherness can be detrimental.
Similarly, it’s vital for you to hang out with friends independently, whether it’s get-togethers at a pub, or group sports, or art gallery outings… whatever you’re into. Time away from each other, with wonderful people you care about.
Are you familiar with the adage “familiarity breeds contempt”?
In simplest terms, too much time together can make you grate on each other’s nerves. This is especially true if there are noted disparities in your respective interests.
For example, he might want company to attend an event that you’re really not interested in.
You may go with him out of a sense of obligation, but have a miserable time.
He’ll resent the fact that you’re not enjoying yourself, he’ll have less fun, and you may end up having an argument about it.
Or vice versa.
Encourage him to have his own social circle, and you cultivate your own.
Not only will you both get to do things you love with awesome people, you’ll have new stories to share when you get back.
7. Let go of any insecurities.
Some women have said that they’re afraid of dating a younger man because he’ll “inevitably” leave her for another woman – particularly one who they think is prettier/fitter/more interesting than she is.
Darling, if he wanted to be with someone else, he would be.
He’s with you because he wants to be, because you’re awesome. End of.
Women have been taught to be in constant competition with one another, with the cult of youth demanding that we try to look as young as we can, for as long as possible.
In truth, everyone is attracted to different traits, and a lot of men prefer older women for a number of different reasons.
One of these is the fact that a person who is more emotionally mature is less likely to play games.
Also, we all age at different rates, with factors ranging from genetics to personal experience and hardships all taken into consideration.
A room full of 100 35-year-olds will show a very wide spectrum of people. Some will look younger, others will look older.
There will be varying fitness and energy levels, gray hair (or lack thereof), and interests ranging from skydiving to Agatha Christie TV marathons.
If you’re the type of woman who has captured the interest – and the heart – of a younger man, it’s because you’re absolutely amazing in his eyes.
8. Remember to communicate.
This is absolutely vital for any and all relationships, but is especially important when bridging an age gap.
Learning how to communicate effectively takes time, and if you’re several years older than your partner, you have those extra years of experience learning how to express yourself, and how to listen actively and attentively.
You’ve likely also learned how to hear what the other person is saying without taking things too personally, or immediately jumping down their throat.
Your partner may not have developed all of these skills just yet, and you’ll need to be patient with that.
In fact, he may learn from your example and develop more effective communication skills really quickly, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for the occasional outburst that isn’t necessarily on par with your own maturity level.
If and when these conflicts happen, it’s a good idea to point them out to your partner instead of just ignoring them.
Growth and change don’t happen when we just maintain the status quo for the sake of peace.
When things have calmed, explain your side of things to him, and make suggestions about how you can communicate more clearly in the future.
In a similar vein, try to refrain from being condescending or power tripping if you get upset.
A lot of younger men can suffer from “foot-in-mouth syndrome” if they haven’t yet learned how to be tactful rather than blurting out whatever’s on their mind, when it arises.
Your knee-jerk reaction to being hurt by a flippant remark may be to hurt him back in turn, but try to draw back and see the entire exchange without emotional involvement.
Did he seem like he was intending to be hurtful?
Or did he just say something that popped into his head at an inopportune moment?
Consider the tone of his voice, his body language, etc. Was he being cruel, or oblivious?
These are things that you may have to address with a younger partner until he learns to be more aware of other people’s emotional states and mindsets. He may also need to learn more about boundaries.
Similarly, if he’s still in a mode where he can be really self absorbed, you may have to bring that to his attention in a gentle, non-judgmental manner.
Suggesting that the two of you should spend more time doing fun things together is a good approach.
Yelling at him to stop treating you like furniture while he plays games on his phone is less effective.
9. How to deal with other people’s opinions about your relationship.
A quick internet search about “older woman, younger man” couples will show you the worst that society has to offer.
Stay away from anything posted on Twitter, and avoid the comments section on any celebrity gossip site.
Otherwise, you’ll get really bogged down by people’s disparaging remarks.
In contrast, when you actually pay attention to what younger men say about their older partners/wives, they talk about how much they grow with the unconditional love and support they get.
Whereas a lot of younger women turn to older men to feel secure, older women are confident and self-assured in their own right.
Women who don’t need constant reassurance are hugely attractive to men, especially younger ones who are tired of needy, clingy girls who demand all their attention.
Older women have their own interests, and appreciate their own space, and in turn, encourage their partners to grow as individuals – not just as extensions of themselves.
There are going to be people who disparage your relationship, sure… but then, those types of people would likely find fault in just about any partnership.
That really has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their own personal issues.
The bottom line is this: people are going to think whatever they like, and it’s up to you to determine whether their opinions actually matter to you or not.
Ultimately, age really is just a number, and love transcends human boundaries.
If you love one another, and you’re happy, that’s all that matters.
Be good to one another, enjoy each other, and don’t allow yourselves to be constrained by the illusion of time.
Still not sure about the ins and outs of dating a man who is younger than you? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.