(From and Article by Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D). You’re a driven, successful, single woman. You can have a relationship with a person of any age, but maybe you don’t know what you’re looking for or you notice the dates that feel most comfortable or promising are with guys that are younger than you. Or you’re a young man who feels drawn to older women. In both cases, this may be due to the allure of the possibilities that come with mixing ages, interests, and backgrounds.
Many women who have reached an above-average level of success in their careers grew up in a time when there weren’t that many women in positions of leadership or authority. Until the last decade, there have been far less female CEOs or women in high-level managerial positions. What is also powerfully influential are the ever increasing and empowering lead roles created for women in movies, on TV, and through infinite social media forums. Through the years many have watched, or already understood their mothers and sisters to have a powerful say in how they regard women. Though a gender gap most certainly remains, there are many, many more women in positions of leadership, who do not back down from challenges, who compete in many of the same fields as men, and who work side by side with men. Today’s younger men have had the opportunity to grow up seeing these powerful women – it’s been a more regular part of their experience in everyday life. Because many women work full-time and raise families it enables men who have grown up with this norm to feel less threatened by female success.
For many men, a woman in a position of power is a normal, familiar circumstance can help younger men be eager, open, and appreciative of the wisdom, the guidance and decisive nature that mature, successful women can offer. When you’re a successful woman who gravitates toward younger men, it may be because you find in them a non-defensive willingness to absorb what you can provide.
How to be the approachable older woman. You may struggle with balancing your work identity and your single woman savvy self. Being a successful woman in the workforce means that when you’ve got your career hat on, you assume the role of authority – you’re the go-to person and you may be used to calling the shots. To have achieved the success you have means you’ve spent a lot of time in this role and it can become intrinsic, a natural part of who you are. For someone who may have had less exposure to women in positions of authority, dating you in your “career hat” can be intense. With less gender-specific stereotypes, a younger man might appreciate a woman with a little more life experience by the mere fact that you have been alive longer.
Use this to your advantage. You want to be appreciated, adored, cherished, and not experienced as threatening or placed in the role of being a parent in a romantic relationship. First off, get the age question out of the way up front and don’t let it rule as the elephant in the room. This will enable you to feel confident and stop questioning “Am I too old for him? Do I look too old? Am I a ‘cougar’?” Don’t add doubt where doubt does not exist by continually asking him for validation in this area. Find comfort and confidence in the fact that he is interested in you, or you would not be having this conversation in your head!
Once you have established common ground – you both have a mutual interest – you can experiment with softening your approach. Let him take the lead in planning dates sometimes. Encourage him to share his dreams and passions with you, even if he is still developing his career. He may need to feel that, despite the age difference, you don’t take him any less seriously and you welcome the energy and vitality he brings to your relationship. When it comes to intimacy, take a moment to assess your chemistry and see how you both interact alone. If he likes to dominate here, let him show you how he can cherish and please you. But mix it up – you don’t always have to be in control in this arena, and he may relish the chance to show off his skills in satisfying you, but sometimes you can take the lead and blow his mind. In time, one would hope things progress to a point where you forget you have any years on him at all, and he is merely your boyfriend, lover, and partner.
How to be taken seriously as the confident younger man
If you are the younger man choosing to date an older woman, you may be interested in her because you are not threatened by a savvy woman with stories and life experience, and you already regard women as powerful (not necessarily stronger than you, but not necessarily less than you either). There is openness and excitement with what an older woman can bring to your relationship – romantically, sexually, and emotionally. The whole package comes with seasoning and maturity and those are qualities in women that you are drawn to. Younger men can find these qualities provocative and exciting – not threatening, but challenging.
To show your best qualities as a man, and to be taken seriously in the dating pool, compliment your female partner when she discusses her success in her career. When she shares her stories of how she grew into the amazing creature she is, don’t be shy in holding back your admiration. This helps to break down the barriers that may exist if you are both at different points in your careers and life. You would not be spending time pursuing older women if you felt threatened or were experiencing reverse age-stereotyping. Remember that no matter their success in the outside world, almost every woman, and person, wishes to feel adored and appreciated. Demonstrate your interest by planning creative dates and offering compelling and interesting conversation. You are equal in her mind, so remember this and exude confidence with her.
If you are tired of dating in your own age pool because maybe those women are immature, or not ready to commit to something more than casual come and go relationships, honor the woman you are with by verbalizing what she means to you and letting her know without question what you bring to the table. Eventually, you both can come up with joint interests and goals as a partnership, and the age question will melt away into a distant memory. You will just be a twosome and hopefully, your differences in age will not affect any aspect of your experience.
In general, we’re all figuring this out as we go and this, like everything, is written from that perspective. But if you’re a successful woman saying to yourself, “Why do I want someone younger? What’s wrong with me?” – or if you’re a younger man wondering why you gravitate toward older women, know there are reasons this arrangement makes sense uniquely and specifically. When an older woman dates a younger man, it may be easier for both to find the emotionally rewarding experience they are looking for.