Why You Should Date an Older Guy

November 26, 2012


Women in college perceive a dearth of relationship-minded men, so those who want to fall in love and have a serious relationship often look to graduation as the time when things will improve as traditional dating reappears. They hope they can leave hookup culture behind with the extra-long twin sheets and grungy shower flip-flops. 

As women go out into the working world, they do find a more diverse set of approaches to meeting and dating men, with better odds:

1. The sex ratio evens out in many environments. 

2. Their same-age male peers are potentially more interested in relationships, now that they’re the younguns again (which means fewer options).

3. Online dating offers a traditional dating model, though its success among women in their early 20s is mixed, as many are reluctant to go with the “blind date” approach so quickly. 

4. They now have access to men of a wider range of ages. 

This last item represents a significant opportunity for women in their early 20s, who are near their own reproductive peak. It can be more challenging to meet older guys, who are unlikely to hang out in the same venues frequented by the post-college crowd. The best way to do this, in addition to online dating, is through work, social circles and activities. 

How Much Older?

What is the peak of male attractiveness? Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that 28 is the sweet spot for males physically, but that’s entirely subjective, so I decided to do some research.

I. David Buss’ study of sex differences in human mate preferences found that preferences around age were quite consistent for women:

Ideal age difference for women: male 3.4 years older

Ideal age at marriage for women: 25.4 years

Therefore…ideal age of husband at marriage: 28.8 years

II. OK Cupid data on desirability by age
As you can see, male desirability peaks at 26 and stays strong until about 30, at which point it decreases rapidly. But not as rapidly as a woman’s! She ends her prime years at 31, while the male stays in his prime through 36.
III. The Rule of Half Your Age +7
The question of age difference for mating can be a controversial one. As one male writer put it, “We don’t want high schoolers going after middle schoolers or dads going after their daughters’ friends.” Norms vary by culture, but the French came up with the rule that a man should divide his age in half and add seven to get the youngest appropriate age he might date. For example, Alain is 34. Half of that is 17, plus 7 = 24. We might expect some eyebrows to be raised if Alain tries to date 19 year old Yvette. For a 30 year old, 22 is the lower limit. (It’s not known when the rule came into being, but it is referenced in the 1953 movie The Moon is Blue.)
However, men have a strong preference for younger women, as illustrated in this OK Cupid graph of male messaging by female age:

As you can see, men tend to focus on the youngest women in their already skewed preference pool, and, what’s more, they spend a significant amount of energy pursuing women even younger than their stated minimumNo matter what he’s telling himself on his setting page, a 30 year-old man spends as much time messaging 18 and 19 year-olds as he does women his own age.

(Rule? What rule? :) )


IV. The Socionist blog has an interesting analysis of male attractiveness over the life span. 

I’ve divided qualities determining male attractiveness into 3 groups:
  1. Physical qualities: sexual maturity and potency, physical maturity, health and fitness level, probability of surviving through critical years of childraising
  2. Psychological qualities: self-confidence, charm, mental sharpness
  3. Ability to support a family materially: income, financial independence, social status and standing, capacity for work, ability to focus on productive activity
“Attractiveness” shall be defined as the sum of these three qualities.
Here’s how it stacks up:
Note that the peak of physical attractiveness is from 25-30. That’s when he’s hottest. However, his confidence and charm are ascending at this time, and are just below his peak physical attractiveness. In addition, his income is climbing rapidly, which increases his MMV, or marital market value.


Locking him down at his physical peak is the optimal female strategy, as this takes him off the market before his full MMV has been realized, and also while he is closest to the female ideal of 3.4 years older. 


The Downsides to Dating an Older Guy

There are some tradeoffs in dating a guy quite a bit older than yourself:
I. In Hitting Your Peak, AskMen describes men’s physical changes after 30:

According to a recent survey of adult sexual behavior, men over the age of 40 were two to three times more likely to report a lack of sexual interest compared to men under the age of 30. In many cases, that precipitous drop-off has to do with a natural decrease in testosterone, the male sex hormone that allows you to sustain an erection, ejaculate and have an orgasm. 

Studies show that most men experience a 2% drop-off in testosterone production each year after they turn 30. In addition to causing a lower libido, that decrease can also result in changes in mood and emotions, a decrease in strength due to loss of muscle tissue, and an increase in body fat. In other words, your loss of libido is perfectly timed to coincide with your brand new lard-ass physique and moody attitude. If that isn’t incentive to get married before you turn 40, we don’t know what is. 

 II. Compared with younger dads, older fathers pass on significantly more random genetic mutations to their children.

A study published in Nature finds that the age at which a father sires children determines how many mutations those offspring inherit. By starting families in their thirties, forties and beyond, men could be increasing the chances that their children will develop autism, schizophrenia and other diseases often linked to new mutations. “The older we are as fathers, the more likely we will pass on our mutations,” says lead author Kári Stefánsson, chief executive of deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik. “The more mutations we pass on, the more likely that one of them is going to be deleterious.”

…Fathers passed on nearly four times as many new mutations as mothers: on average, 55 versus 14. The father’s age also accounted for nearly all of the variation in the number of new mutations in a child’s genome, with the number of new mutations being passed on rising exponentially with paternal age. A 36-year-old will pass on twice as many mutations to his child as a man of 20, and a 70-year-old eight times as many, Stefánsson’s team estimates.

III. Finally, while you may find a bit of gray in the sideburns sexy, keep in mind that a man’s age will affect his parenting style. 

There’s something to be said for dealing with infants in one’s youth rather than middle age. Playing catch, roughhousing on the floor, and even pulling the inevitable all nighters get more difficult over time. 

All in all, I recommend that women in their early to mid 20s focus their efforts on men in the 25-35 range. Young women are somewhat resistant to this idea, I have found.  They tend to wonder why such a “great catch” is still on the market. Is he avoiding commitment? Is he a reformed player who’s trying to hop off the carousel and find a good girl to marry?

Listening recently to a woman describe relationship woes with a man ten years older than she is, I noticed her friends were quick to say, “That’s why he’s 32 and single.” That seems awfully harsh to me – 30 is the median marriage age for college educated women. Men are becoming increasingly resentful of this kind of scrutiny that questions their character simply because they are unmarried in their 30s.

Joshua Pompey fights back in 3 Misconceptions About Men Who Date a Lot of Women

Sometimes women are way off-base with how they perceive men. This is especially true when it comes to the perception of men in society who are constantly dating different women.

There is a terrible stigma tied to these men. If a man dates many women and is single past a certain age, women often make the assumption that he must be flawed in some way, a womanizer or a man that refuse to grow up. Women will then label these men as guys who are not serious candidates for long-term relationships.

Pompey makes the following key points:

1. Most men are looking for a life partner.

The reality is that many men date multiple women for the same reasons women date a lot of men. They are looking for “the one.” A lot of these perceived players are simply playing the numbers game, hoping to find that special someone as quickly as possible so that they don’t have to endlessly date anymore.

While women sometimes assume these men are playboys who are having the time of their lives, in reality, most of these men are exhausted and would love nothing more than to settle down with the right girl. They just have not found the right woman yet and will keep trying until they do.

That’s in keeping with what Amber Madison found in her 10 city survey of single men:

On Openness to Relationships

  • 99% of men would welcome a relationship with the right girl
  • 73% said their primary interest in women is “someone to have a relationship with”
  • 95% intend to marry

2. Quality men are in no rush – they understand that their MMV is increasing.

Quality men know that they deserve the best life has to offer. They aren’t going to just settle down with any pretty face because they know they deserve the best that life has to offer, not just whatever life has to offer.

These men know that there is a difference between an amazing girl and an amazing girl who is right for them.

They may stay single for years, knowing that at some point they will find what they are looking for. It is not a fear of commitment that keeps these men from settling down; it is a high sense of self-worth and the determination not to settle.

 3. Quality men date as a means of shopping, and they are quick to exit once they’ve determined it’s not a match.

When high-quality men give the relationship a fair shot and it still doesn’t feel right, they don’t stay with women just for the sake of being with someone. They will try to do the right thing for both parties by ending the “mini relationship” sooner, rather than later.

The real motivation for cutting things off is that these men don’t want to waste time with the wrong person before it evolves into something more serious. They would rather go back to pursuing “the one,” despite the fact that their lives will likely be worse off in the short run.

In another sign that men feel the pressure, The Frisky asked six bachelors in their 30s about their state of mind after one guy friend worried that he was becoming a “toxic bachelor:”

I want to settle down. I want to start a family. Plus, I’m getting to that age where if I don’t do it soon, I’m in danger of becoming a ‘toxic bachelor.’A toxic bachelor is when it’s no longer cute to be single, and seems sad and desperate instead. 

Four of the six could strongly relate, while two were not affected:

The Editor, 36

It’s not an internal thing for me. I don’t think I’m toxic. But I have sensed from people around me that they’re starting to think that of me. That I’m broken. Forever. It’s kind of enraging, actually.

…I have maybe one friend who envies my singlehood. And I have lots of friends who envy the fact that my time is all my own—but that’s because they have kids. It doesn’t have to do with being married. But I think most people would be terrified to be in my position. Which is why they assume there’s something wrong with me.

The Producer, 34

Nope, I think timelines and cut-off dates are mainly a female pathology driven by biology/society cocktail. 

The Comic Book Writer, 35

I definitely do worry about that. Age is a factor. In occasional paranoid brainstorms, I sometimes wonder if being divorced is preferential to being single at a certain point. Because at least you tried and someone tried with you.

…For men, 40 seems an obvious tipping point and it’s earlier than that if someone isn’t involved with anyone.

The Music Critic, 32

 HUGE. For me, it isn’t such a feeling of being “toxic” as being “creepy.”

 I think men also feel an anxiety when their friends are partnering off and having children. My friends constantly tell me “you’re so lucky!” and “you’re free!” But they don’t understand that it becomes more difficult to connect with people as the years trundle on. And this perceived “toxicity” is part of it, I think. But men absolutely feel a sense of shame or anxiety when their peers are all booed up and they’re not.

The Community Organizer, 37

 What if I am one of those sad sack bachelors hitting on too young women at the bar? I’m already often the oldest guy in the room at social events. But I haven’t had a hard time dating and finding someone who is interested.

The Texan, 37

That sounds like a term invented by a woman projecting. I don’t care what people think about me. I just don’t. I never have and I never will.

…It’s a stupid concept. As stupid as anyone who would judge a woman for being single at 40 or 30 or 22.

…Many men, I think, wake up one day and realize they didn’t really choose to be a bachelor, and that it might be too late to have a family.

To Summarize:

Dating a man 5-10 years older carries significant benefits and minimal downsides. While  you may not want to focus exclusively on older guys, I recommend that this be one strategy in your portfolio. There really is something very sexy about a bit of gray in the sideburns. 

You’ll need to be extra vigilant to filter out cads who have no intentions of committing to anyone, but you’ll also find this to be a group of men who are more financially secure, socially adept, well-rounded intellectually and emotionally stable. They’re likely to be highly motivated to settle down compared to their bro competitors. 

It goes without saying that you’ll need to be a quality woman worthy of commitment. Your youth and beauty may get you the date, but they won’t suffice for the real deal.