These days, dating is definitely tricky, and technology has in some ways managed to make it more difficult rather than easier. While singles or those in ethically non-monogamous (ENM) relationships have more options at their fingertips, the reality is that navigating dating life is harder. 

In particular, pop culture’s collective views on concepts around gender equality, gender fluidity, sexuality and even a woman out-earning her male counterpart in heterosexual couples are all factors that have changed the dynamic. This even applies to long-accepted matches like older men with younger women. 

A Long History of Age Gap Relationships

While people might give side eyes or pass judgy comments, seeing an older man with a younger woman is nothing new. Historically, it was in a woman’s best interest to get coupled with an older man because he usually represented financial stability. In previous generations, an older man had an established name, and was better able to provide for a growing family as compared to a younger man that was still finding a trade. 

As the economy shifted from agricultural to industrial and eventually white collar career paths, the “mid life crisis” emerged and it wasn’t uncommon to see an older man essentially chasing after his fading youth by finding a younger girlfriend or wife. Again, this was still framed as him acting as a benevolent benefactor or even a kindly mentor — even if the age gaps were significant. Even today, society still gives a lot of latitude towards older men (especially celebrities) that are routinely coupling up with much younger women. 

Podcast Bros Shifted Society’s Views on Older Men with Younger Women

In recent years, conversations around the weird dynamics that are sometimes at play in age gap relationships often translate into society re-examining previously accepted behaviors. Of course, this is a nuanced conversation and can’t be blanket applied to every conversation. 

But recent discourse on social media, especially with the rise of “podcast bros” giving unsolicited and often controversial relationship advice, has made a lot of people step back and dig into what it means when an older man routinely seeks out younger women. A common theme that’s discovered is that an older man will praise younger women as their preferred type because they can more easily dictate the terms, and control a relationship with a relatively inexperienced younger woman — as compared to getting into a relationship with someone his age. In “podcast speak” this is often couched as not wanting a woman with baggage, a woman who has too much life (and sex) experience, or seeking a woman who’s more submissive. 

To be clear, not every man in a relationship with a younger woman is looking for someone that’s malleable, gullible or less likely to speak up for themselves. Sometimes the heart just wants what it wants. But if a man is consistently seeking out younger partners and will nearly exclusively create an age range that’s significantly younger than him, this is a red flag. 

Why Do Older Men Seek Younger Women?

There are plenty of reasons a person can find themselves in an age gap relationship. Just like older women might prefer a younger man because of sexual flexibility, youthful energy, and a desire for excitement, so can men. Add on preference for proximity to youth and beauty, and it’s understandable why some men would gravitate towards younger women. 

Why Do Younger Women Seek Out Older Men?

Similar to younger men seeking older women, there are a variety of factors that can make older men an attractive partner for a younger woman. First, older men can often represent stability — especially of the financial order. A woman who’s put off by younger men demanding 50-50 bill splitting on dates might prefer a man who’s established in his career and financially stable enough to not require going half on dates. Likewise, this can spill over to potentially include regularly spoiling her with gifts. 

Likewise, there is a legitimate mentorship angle to a relationship that can occur, depending on where that older man is in his life stage and whether he genuinely has knowledge to impart. Similarly, it’s unlikely that a more established man is going to ask rookie questions like “what do you bring to the table.” The assumption is, he already recognizes what it is that’s attracting him to her and therefore doesn’t need her to voice this reality. 

An older man may also be more experienced sexually, and willing to prioritize a younger woman’s needs as part of the bargain for snagging a younger partner. 

Conversely, there’s also a possibility that a woman may be playing out an Oedipus Complex (also casually referred to as “daddy issues”) in real time or with a complex attachment that compensates for what was previously lacking. Especially if a woman’s relationship with her father isn’t ideal, or he was non-existent in her life it’s possible she can seek out that authority and guidance figure in romantic partners. 

Can Older Man Younger Woman Relationships Last?

Of course, age alone isn’t going to dictate whether a relationship is made to last or if it fizzles within a month. But research suggests that there is a general guideline of relationship age gaps that tend to be more successful than others. A scientific review from 2016 found that when the age gap extends beyond 10 years (regardless of which gender is older or younger), relationship satisfaction starts to diminish. But of course, there are always outliers to this reality. For reference, research tends to suggest that the most common age gap is between two to three years in heterosexual couples. 

As with any relationship pairing — regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or age — communication, emotional compatibility and a willingness to address situations when they get difficult are going to be the foundation for a strong match. Especially if the age gap is significant, be willing to have tough conversations about life goals such as marriage, having children, and even where each partner sees themselves in the next five, 10 or even 15 years.