What is it about relationships between women and younger men that intrigue us? Is it simply because this kind of relationship is the opposite of what we expect, of what society has condoned for centuries? Occasionally, news of a tryst between a 70-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman raises an eyebrow (or at least gets the family members all riled up about what’s in the will). But for most part, such romantic partnerships are commonplace. The man has the money. The woman has the face and the body. Everyone’s happy.

Demi Moore forever changed our assumption that the woman never publicly pursues a younger man when Moore dated and then married Ashton Kutcher, 15 years her junior. She was immediately labelled a cougar. And she was, apparently and in hindsight, the only one to take their marriage vows seriously. Several years have passed since their separation and subsequent divorce, years that have also removed some of the stigma associated with alternate lifestyles – chief among them, the 2015 legalization of same sex marriage.

I like to think the American public is more accepting than it used to be, even a half decade ago. To be sure, where one lives and what’s learned from one’s parents, peers, and politicians make their mark. And we all pre-judge, whether or not we have enough self-awareness to admit it. But there’s an increased curiosity about and infatuation with allowing people to live a life that feels right to them. And the romantic vision of women who make their own money (thank you very much), may shift from the father figure to the handsome younger guy at the office or the other end of the bar.

Are you a single woman considering dating a younger man? If so, don’t ask him out until you’ve read these insightful thoughts, offered by a 48-year-old woman with a 34-year-old boyfriend.

1) Realize that younger women aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

“He was looking for a change,” she said in an email interview. “The women his age? They are always on their phones. There’s a lot of negativity. And it’s all about them. They would spend the entire evening talking about themselves – hardly ever asking a question about him – and then expect him to pick up the check.”

2) Likewise, know that younger men appreciate women who know how to treat them well

“I give him 100% of my attention when I’m with him. I’m nurturing and caring. And yes, there is a kind of mothering aspect to it. I take care of him, and he appreciates it. I can do this because I’m not looking for him to ‘complete me,’ or to make me a better version of who I am. He likes that I know who I am and what I want in life.”

3) Don’t let his age define your definition of beauty or worth

“I’m pretty confident about my outside appearance, how I look and how I dress. But I started second guessing myself, wondering if the outfit I had chosen was an attempt at looking younger. I am critical now of how I look in the morning, and I have feelings of jealousy when I see him talking with an attractive woman who is closer to his age. But he doesn’t make me feel this way; these are my perceptions. And I do what I can to ignore them.

4) Be wary of your friends’ advice

“My friends haven’t been particularly supportive. I didn’t tell them at first – and they were mad when I finally did tell them because I hadn’t told them sooner. I don’t see why this mattered, though, because now they seem to be indifferent about him. They don’t ask about him, even though I think they’re having conversation about it when I’m not around. This kind of behavior has been hurtful. I don’t feel as close to these friends now, which is okay. But it also means I have no one to talk to about him.”
5) Don’t talk about the future
“There’s a chance something can come of this. I don’t know. I sometimes ask myself, ‘Do I stay with him if it’s just going to be for a couple of years – and then I’m devastated as well as being two years older if it doesn’t last? And then will the older guys I end up dating after him not live up to his standard?’ We don’t talk about the future, other than about all the things we’re going to do this summer. He was in a very long relationship, and I think he’s still afraid of having someone in his life.”

6) Let him be goofy

“He can definitely act his age. He can definitely act like a 12-year-old! But I think a lot of guys are like this. Sometimes he talks about stuff that I don’t know about. And sometimes I reference things that he doesn’t know about it, like a TV commercial from the 80s that makes only me laugh. But there’s nothing of substance that really gets in our way.”
7) Focus on the good
“We talked quite a bit before we first went out. In fact, when he did ask me out, I thought it was as a friend, that he wanted to talk to me about his girlfriend! And we are still talking. It’s easy for both of us. He tells me that he always feels better after he’s been with me. And for me, being with him is pure joy.”
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