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Date & Relate
by Sara Hodon

Dating and Relationships
Older versus Younger

Twenty or thirty years ago, it was accepted practice for the man to be the older, wiser one in a relationship.  These days, anything goes.   Seeing older women and younger men has become commonplace—it’s hard to visit any grocery store and not see pictures of celebrities like Demi Moore, Madonna, Susan Sarandon, and others flaunting their “Cougar” status.   There is even a new dating show on the air called, fittingly, The Cougar.   According to the commercials, the format is similar to The Bachelor but has a 40-something woman going on dates with young, eager men in the hopes of sparking love. 

Some older women prefer younger men because it helps keep them feeling young.   We’ve all seen those couples and were quick to label them as “sugar daddies” or “sugar mamas”, but there are times when the connection goes a little deeper than that. 

So which is better?   Just like anything else, it’s a personal preference.  Some singles would rather be involved with someone older and in a more stable place in life.   Others gravitate toward younger dates because of their natural energy and lack of cynicism.    I have a friend who historically preferred younger guys, but wound up marrying a man 10 years older.    I have always been biased toward older guys.  It would stand to reason that “older” should mean “more mature”, but I haven’t always found that to be true.   You have to ask yourself if you’re looking for security or fun?   Long-term or a fling?  It can get complicated if you’re clearly working toward your goals, and they are still uncertain about what they want out of life—that would apply to someone older or younger than you.   (People still have their own insecurities and unfulfilled dreams, no matter how old they are!) 

If you’re with someone older, are you ready to settle down?  They may have kids of their own and not want more—is that something you’re willing to sacrifice?  Are you comfortable walking into what is essentially a ready-made family?   On the flip side, if they’re younger, they may be more inclined to drop everything and take a promising job offer across the country.  Meanwhile, you’re well-established in your community, you’ve put down roots, and you may not be in any hurry to uproot your life.  Or they may still want to spend the weekends out at the bar or road tripping.  Have you been able to carve out some “alone time” amid their busy social calendar? 

Below are some characteristics of each demographic in case you’re looking to break out of your dating mold and try someone in a different age range.   They are pretty broad, and there are always exceptions to everything.    But generally, here’s what you can expect to find:



  • Established professionally
  • Financially secure
  • Emotionally mature
  • May or may not have kids; family is main focus
  • “Experienced” emotionally; may have been divorced or involved in at least one long-term relationship
  • Wider range of interests
  • Intellectually stimulating
  • Protective and proud of the younger woman in his life


  • Sometimes tend to be more of an “authority” or “father” figure
  • May be pursuing younger women so he can stay young (i.e. midlife crisis—hey, it happens)
  • Depending on how much of an age difference there is, will your family and friends accept your new relationship?



  • Established professionally
  • Independent; self-assured
  • Intellectually stimulating; has range of interests
  • May or may not have kids; family is main focus
  • More than likely, has had her heart broken in the past (at least once)
  • Has made her own life
  • Maintaining female friendships are important
  • Wants a man, doesn’t need a man


  • Can tend to have an “authority” or “mother” persona
  • Just like dating an older man, depending on how large the age difference is, will your family and friends accept the relationship? 
  • May be dating a younger man so she can try to stay young (can’t women have midlife crises, too?) 



  • Enthusiastic, excited about life
  • Growing professionally
  • Eager to please
  • A little intimidated by older women (in a good way)
  • Tends to work harder at being attentive
  • Ambitious


  • Can tend to be immature or a bit of a “Mama’s boy”
  • May still choose his buddies over a quiet night at home with you



  • Enthusiastic, excited about life
  • Growing professionally
  • Eager to please
  • Not cynical about life (yet)
  • Will either want to impress the older man in her life, or will be perfectly happy to let the older man chart the course


  • Sometimes tend to be needy
  • Can tend to be naïve or a bit immature
  • May not be quite ready to settle down yet; still wants the exciting nights out rather than the quiet nights in   


Date & Relate is published every Thursday by Online Dating Magazine columnist Sara Hodon.

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