Older Women, Younger Men: Does It Really Work?

Older men have dated younger women for centuries, but in the past decade, the tables have turned: Older women are now coupling with younger men in droves. In fact, a National Association of Retired Persons survey found that one-third of single women between 40 and 60 are currently dating younger men—and for some very interesting reasons.

Happily Ever After?

According to the same survey, women prefer to date younger men because they have less baggage from previous relationships. Older women also enjoy the flexibility and spontaneity of their younger companions. In addition, more and more women are pointing to companionship and travel as their top priorities, rather than settling down.

And men have jumped on the bandwagon, too. A recent Match.com poll revealed that the majority of the site's male members were willing to date up in age.

What's more, it's gone beyond dating: A 2000 U.S. Census Bureau survey revealed that 12 percent of all marriages were between older women and younger men. This doesn't mean, however, that relationships between older women and younger men are problem-free. According to experts, the biggest issue between May-December couples is the same one that challenges the success of any relationship: different priorities.


6 Tips for Success

According to psychologists at the University of Louisiana, the key to long-term relationship success is choosing someone with a similar "voltage type," meaning someone who has the same intensity for life that you do.


Beyond that, consider these six relationship-enhancing guidelines:

  • Communicate.

    Make sure you're open about the concerns you have regarding your age difference. Unique challenges may present themselves because of the age factor, and they're not going to disappear just because you don't want to talk about them. For example, if one person is interested in having children while the other is not, it's important that this issue be discussed before the relationship becomes too serious.
  • Stay strong.

    While the number of older woman-younger man pairings appears to be increasing to some degree, not everyone has embraced the idea. Moreover, the bulk of the scorn still seems directed at the reputation of the older woman. Therefore, it's important that you figure out how to deal with this criticism so that you don't mar your relationship. In the end, whether or not this relationship is right for you is solely up to you to decide.
  • Manage conflict.

    Fighting is bad for the heart--literally. One study by researchers at the University of Utah found that couple who were hostile or controlling also had an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems. In any relationship, it's important to acknowledge and express your anger, instead of avoiding conflict or bottling up your emotions. Discuss your problems calmly, without pointing fingers at the other person. Remember to use "I" statements, such as "I feel hurt when..." instead of making accusations.
  • Write it down.

    Take 15 minutes a few days a week to jot down your feelings about the relationship. A University of Texas study found that participants who wrote about their relationships in a diary were more likely to still be together after three months than those who wrote only about mundane activities. The study's authors suggested that the act of writing might help make it easier to identify potential problems before they boil over.
  • Do nice things for your partner.

    Whether it's a small act, like making dinner, or making a large sacrifice, like moving for the other person's job, making these types of gestures can greatly improve a relationship, according to a University of Rochester study. The study found that people who did nice things for their partner because they wanted to--not out of a sense of obligation—were even happier in their relationships.
  • Don't compare your partner to others.

    Instead of pointing out your partner's weaknesses and fueling their insecurities, try to extend at least one compliment. If you listen without criticizing, the other person is more likely to feel safe and trusting.