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TiCam
11-24-08, 10:02 PM
Exploring the modern coupling phenomenon
By Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.

[coverattach=1]There appears to be a trend of older women dating younger men, notably illustrated by celebrity couples including Demi Moore and Aston Kutcher (http://omg.yahoo.com/ashton-celebrates-30-with-his-celeb-friends/photos/1334), Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry (http://omg.yahoo.com/halle-and-gabriel-get-their-shop-on/photos/1887#id=3), and the most recent fling between 48-year-old Linda Hogan and 19-year-old Charlie Hill. According to a study of 50,000 women daters over 30, conducted by an online dating site in 2007, more than one-third of the subjects showed interest in men at least 5 years younger. And in 2003, an AARP survey revealed 34 percent of 3,500 women (between ages 40 and 69) dated men who are 10 or more years younger than themselves. This trend appears to be shocking to some people, but I don't find it so unusual.
Socially, there's a role reversal of sorts going on, women are more powerful now than ever before and may want men who are younger, and perhaps, more flexible; men who can handle it if the woman's career and lifestyle takes priority over their own. Media portrayals in "Sex and the City" (like movie characters Smith Jerrod and Samantha Jones) and "Desperate Housewives" are also showing women that dates don't have to be older. Women who have high-powered careers -- or a well-developed self-image -- are exercising more choice. Women who have been divorced and are established single moms may enjoy having a playmate, someone to have fun with; who doesn't try to control her.

[coverattach=2]Can these older woman/younger man relationships last?
In my counseling office, I have seen many relationships succeed with this kind of older woman/younger man scenario.
The media focuses on the age difference, but what really makes or breaks the relationship is how well the couple can form a partnership that works.
Age difference is an adolescent worry: When you're a teenager, an age difference of even two or three years makes a vast difference in your experience and your outlook on life. Such a difference can interfere with communication, life goals, outlook, and relationship experience. In addition, for the young, the social reaction to such a relationship is often negative. If one partner is underage, a sexual relationship is even against the law.
But, as you get older, life experience and emotional growth help to equalize your relationship skills and resources. A 10-year or more difference in your ages makes little difference in how well you can conduct your relationship.
Don't focus on an arbitrary numbers difference in your ages. If you are getting along, you have good communication and problem solving, and you love each other, that's a precious thing, and far more important than any age difference could be. If other people have a problem with it, let it be their problem.
Whether or not a relationship is healthy is not determined by age differences, but by the interaction between the partners. A 10-year difference is not too difficult to bridge, but a 20-year differences or more in age can lead to some difficulties as the partners get older. For example, the younger partner may mature and reconsider his or her choices, or an older partner may confront aging problems much sooner. But, as long as both parties are adult, and the couple has talked about their age difference and the future possibilities, I don't make judgments about their respective ages.

[coverattach=3]Dealing with the generation gap
There are healthy and unhealthy reasons to date someone of a different generation.
One inappropriate motivation for dating a younger person is fear of aging on the older person's part. A younger partner isn't going to reverse the aging process or protect you from old age. Obviously, a man or woman who dates someone as young as his or her children is going to run into some social opposition, but the differences that can cause the biggest problems within the couple's relationship are differing maturity levels.
As more and more women choose younger partners for relationships, the question arises: Are women in their late 30s and early 40s likely to be successful with partners who are 10 to 15 years younger than themselves?
Success in these relationships depends on what the motivations of both people are. Some older people feel younger at heart than their contemporaries and like to date people who are as active as they are. Chronological age doesn't always reflect either physical capability or emotional maturity. Sometimes an age difference creates a mentoring relationship the older person advises the younger one on life or career. This can backfire if and when the younger person decides he or she has learned enough, and wants to move on.
If you're asking: "Is it OK for me to have a partner who is much older or younger than I am?" You'll do better off if you forget about your ages and concentrate on whether the relationship works for both of you, or not. What really makes a romantic relationship succeed is the emotional connection.