Older Women, Younger Men; Younger Women, Older Men

Human choice of mates can be tremendously variable.

Posted Mar 24, 2018

My freshman year at college, my very first lover was 26 when I was not quite 17. I was 18 when I began a relationship with a 38-year-old psychoanalyst. I loved going to professional conferences with him since psychology was my major. His colleagues were polite to me, but I could feel their raised eyebrows whenever they saw us.  

When I married, I was almost 22 and my husband days short of his 25th birthday. The differences between us were socially approved: He was older (but not too much), taller, and had one graduate degree more than I did. After 13 years we separated. I was 35.

At 36, I became infatuated with a man of 22, and while the love affair didn’t last very long, the friendship is still very much alive after all this time.

In the years since, I have had several interesting and satisfying relationships, two of which were with men 13 years my junior. One of them lasted as long as my marriage. Shortly before I reconnected with my current partner, who is 1 ½ years my senior, I met and had a very enjoyable dalliance with a man somewhere around 40 years my junior. I don’t know for sure, but from what he told me of his family, I was probably older than his grandmother! When, after his initial sexual overture, I pointed out that there was a matter of an age difference between us, his response was, “It doesn’t bother me. Does it bother you?” It didn’t. Our connection was excellent. I figured he was my last hoorah.

So did any of my relationships shock you? Do you believe there is an age limit that’s acceptable between a man and a woman and is not acceptable if it’s higher or lower than that number? Do you always assume that the younger one is in it for the money and the older one for the sex and that they couldn’t possibly have much to actually say to one another? What if the two people were the same sex? Does that make a difference to you? Does the culture from which you come sanction certain age gaps within a couple that is different from current American standards?

I cannot remember which anthropologist recommended two marriages for everyone. A young girl would marry an older man who would teach her the ways of the world, support her, father her children and provide for them. When she reached a certain mature age, with her children grown, she and her older husband would part. She would now marry a very young man and nurture and support him the way she herself was educated and cared for until he was secure enough in himself and the world to take on that role for a young girl. When both had done their duties, they were free to live single or choose a same-age mate. Makes sense to me.

Now in my senior years, I am very happy to have as a partner a man of my own age and background, one with whom I can share cultural references and the medical miseries of aging bodies; in other words, a peer. 

When it comes to suitable partners just look around you. There truly isn’t any one size fits all, is there?