Is It Wrong for Me to Want to Date Younger Men?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

Hallelujah! I just retired at age 63 after four decades in the loan industry. I can’t wait to see what retirement holds for me.

After my husband died in 2004, I wrapped myself up in my work and put romance and sex on a very dusty shelf. I went on one date in 2011 with a man five years older than me, but I wasn’t ready and I really didn’t feel a spark with him anyway. Now that I am retired, I am thinking about filling my time with someone (or maybe multiple someones!) new again. I feel ready this time. But I also feel sure about something else: At this stage of my life, I find myself much more attracted to younger men than older men or even men my own age. When I say younger, I mean 20 or 30 years younger. Something about that feels wrong, but I think that’s more because of society’s expectations than mine.

I signed up for my first dating website yesterday and lo and behold I already have a whopping 18 messages! I was surprised that most of them are from younger men—one is a college sophomore! I am blushing but also smiling and laughing, if I am being honest. Apparently there is no shortage of younger men out there who are looking for “older” women like me. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by that, but I am. Pleasantly so.

I know there may be potential complications with dating outside my generation. We may not have a lot in common and there may be gaps in maturity, wisdom, and life experience. I’ll probably get funny looks. I might shoot some funny looks back, though. Is it so wrong for me to want to date younger men? Could be fun. Ha! —Young at Heart

Dear Young at Heart,

You go, girl! Thanks for your spirited question, though I’m close to positive you already know the answer. Why in the world would it be wrong? First of all, you seem comfortable with it. Sixty-three leaves a lot of life to be experienced—having turned 50, I hold fast to that statement. To each her (or his) own. Love is not only blind, it often has a sense of irony.

Where is it written only men may seek out younger companions? I can only imagine by the tenor of your note that you are flattered by the attention, and why not? You experienced the loss of your husband (belated condolences) and have worked hard in your career. Why not have a little fun now that you have time on your hands?

You mention some potential pitfalls. There are always pitfalls in any situation. Also, it is hard to generalize about differences in regard to generations, maturity, and so forth, since we are all so unique. Some of us are “beyond our years,” others not so much. There is no such thing as being “mature” or not; usually there is maturity in some areas but not in others. (Maturity here is not to be confused with being stoic or emotionally reserved.) We may be patient and sage in the office, but frantic or angry behind the wheel, and so on.

Of course, there are stages of life that a younger guy might not be able to understand personally—such as retirement—but perhaps he’s a good listener and willing to learn about your experience, and isn’t that something you’d want from any partner?

As a therapist and psychoanalyst, I can’t help but be curious about what draws you to younger men. The most common reason for this, which may or may not apply to you personally, is the theme of youthfulness or vitality.

I think the key here is “having fun.” Life is heavy enough; why not keep things light and get to know some of these guys in person? You may know this, but there’s no substitute for in-person interaction, and it’s easy to build up our fantasy of another person before meeting them. This may also be old news, but I’d encourage you to try to keep it short and sweet the first time. Maybe coffee or a drink in a safe, public venue. An hour tops, which gives you an “out” if it’s not a match. Finally, I find that having a disagreement or two during the first few dates isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it shows how the two of you resolve conflict— key to any relationship, short- or long-term. Nothing is less fun than rigidity. Thus endeth my advice.

Additionally, and in the spirit of keeping things light, please take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. As a therapist and psychoanalyst, I can’t help but be curious about what draws you to younger men. The most common reason for this, which may or may not apply to you personally, is the theme of youthfulness or vitality. Older men often seek younger women because of a fear of their own mortality, which aging makes impossible to ignore and which many folks experience as a traumatic loss. For many men, a loss of virility or stamina or peak physicality (and impending retirement) can create massive insecurity. Women for whom appearance is important are often distressed by aging, and many of the women I work with in therapy report that age brings a kind of reckoning of one’s life’s choices, both the positive as well as opportunities lost or shrinking.

I would be curious about what this interest in a younger guy means to you, which does not at all mean you shouldn’t pursue it. Quite the contrary; being clearer about what appeals to you (and what doesn’t) makes the dating process easier, since you know what attracts you and what might qualify as deal-breakers (which may or may not include dishonesty, lack of empathy, and so forth). One of the nice things about getting older, I find, is we can be more direct with ourselves and others about what we like or don’t like, in and out of the bedroom. It’s advisable to be up front about what you are or aren’t looking for with whomever you date, even if you’re not sure yet. Clarity on the front end tends to circumvent misunderstandings or hurt feelings, even if you’re uncertain about where things are going with someone.

Finally, the “father” side of me wants to say be cautious about who you let into your life, meaning access to intimate details of health, family, finances, and so on. This is not to imply you’re likely to meet a scam artist (though they do exist), but it takes time to get to know a person, and people reveal themselves through their actions and behavior over time. Most of us try to be on our best behavior in the beginning and let the rough edges slowly emerge. It can be intoxicating to meet a special someone and feel like you want to give all of yourself right away, but trust is precious indeed and needs to be earned little by little. There is a balance between caution and openness, which everyone finds for themselves. Indulge and have fun, take a weekend away to a new romantic place, take dancing lessons, try a new cuisine or neighborhood you’ve never visited, go to a rock concert (you’re never too old), be adventurous … just remember in the back of your mind it takes time to get to know someone—the good, the bad, and the in-between.

Having said all that, I wish you all the romantic fun in the world, with some well-earned enjoyment—as well as good wishes for the new year. If you would like support in navigating this journey into unfamiliar territory, therapists are here for you. Thanks again for your question!

Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT

Darren Haber
Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT is a psychotherapist specializing in treating alcoholism and drug addiction as well as co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, secondary addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma (both single-incident and repetitive). He works in a variety of modalities, primarily cognitive behavioral, spiritual/recovery-based, and psychodynamic. He is certified in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and continues to receive psychodynamic training in treating relational trauma, including emotional abuse/neglect and physical and sexual abuse.
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  • Cara

    Cara

    February 5th, 2018 at 11:05 AM

    No not wrong! I’m 8 years older than my husband. We love each other that’s all that matters

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