5 year age gap seems bigger now i am older?
September 23, 2019 1:36 AM   Subscribe

He's a good match for me, we have the same values, but I cant get over his looks and age. What to do? I have not been in a relationship for ages because since my last relationship 10 years ago, I have struggled to find someone with the same values as me. I recently met a guy who is essentially a unicorn and i keep feeling he is it and I should stop looking. But he is 5 years older - which didnt seem a big deal when i was in my 20s but now seems to be?

Essentially I am a shallow idiot and tend to go for men who are younger or look same age as me (i look about 10 years younger than my age according to everyone). Generally speaking I have struggled to meet men who have the same values as me so my relationships in the last 10 years, mostly with men in their late 20s fizzle out. Finally met guy, he is super cute and i am physically / sexually attracted/ drawn to him. But i cant seem to get over the fact that he is 5 years older - which shouldnt be a big deal. But because i look years younger than I am it seems like a bigger gap physically. I have never been attracted to older looking guys like Clooney/Beckham etc like other women are. I think I feel this way because deep inside i feel men always get the younger girl as some sort of trophy, or when they are done sowing their oats, they look for a juicy young thing to settle with - and i think its a continuation of patriarchy and I dont want to perpetuate the stereotype. Sometimes i see him and he is gorgeous to me, other times I see an ageing man! I feel like shit thinking this way. Its only been a few months of seeing each other. Should i continue since the foundations of a good relationship is there...i.e. same values, want the same things, get along well..and maybe i'll get over this 'thing' or will it never change?
posted by philosophicalmusings to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia have an interesting page dealing with age disparity in sexual relationships. You could even read off the graph implies by the "half your age plus seven" rule.

Of course, that rule is arbitrary and just some fun - but it does have some real life correlation with whether or not relationships will be lasting and non-exploitative. Notice, therefore, that from the graph your age would have to be mid 20s or less for his 5 year advance on you to "raise eyebrows" with the rule. Since you are somewhere in your thirties - there is no violation - but if you do feel and act 10 years below your age - and more especially if he feels or acts more his - then it may feel like there an issue.

There is no rule that says anybody needs to "act their age" in life - but there is probably some merit in learning to "own" your age: you may be a very young looking thirty something and that is great. But that doesn't alter your biological age and it does not stop you taking advantage of your experience. Can you learn to enjoy both your youthful looks and the wisdom of years? I think this is probably something people do learn to do more as they get older - again bourne out by the graph. By your mid 40s you could be in a relationship with a partner who is in their thirties through to one in their 70s; nobody cares. The same applies for appearances: a 60 year old can look like somebody of 40 or 75.

Owning your age also applies to those who seem older than their years too: sometimes that happens because of burdens of responsibility, career difficulties, health issues and so on. But my experience is that disparity too can reverse itself : I have met people who seemed to be rather over-mature in their 20s but who seem much more youthful in their 50s.

The idea of patriarchy/ trophy wives/ cougars etc - should hopefully be secondary if you are attracted to each other. Personally I think an age gap does create some kind of obligation on the older partner to try to stay in physical and mental shape so as to keep up and stay healthy. If he is somebody who is unwilling to go there - then that could be an issue.
posted by rongorongo at 2:38 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

You seem to be extra-aware of your own youthful looks and I can’t help but wonder if in him you see yourself getting older. When time catches up with you will you be prepared to date a man who looks your age, or even a bit older, or will you be looking for a juicy young thing to settle down with?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:47 AM on September 23, 2019 [29 favorites]

You can be as shallow as you want. Dating is optional. He's not entitled to date you because it's "better" (for women, usually) to be less "shallow." If you're not into him at the outset, it's over. Find someone you're into to date.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:51 AM on September 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

Could the other relationships be fizzling out because you're dating men who are younger than you? Some of the values and what-people-want stuff is partially a function of life stage. You say you often date people younger than you but those relationships often fizzle out; now you're dating someone a bit older than you and you're on the same wavelength. Is this a coincidence or are those issues (age and compatibility) related? If it's coincidence, then sure, go satisfy your shallow side and find someone younger. But I'd give some thought to the idea that they might be related.
posted by salvia at 2:57 AM on September 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

@ Tell Me No Lies - you're right. I think i am scared of ageing and now i realise that I AM AGEING! And it will happen and I need to accept it asap. I guess its because i still have very young guys chasing after me (for now) but none of them have been able to give me what i want - a serious relationship.

@internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 - I dont know....i have heard of people who werent sure at the onset and then fell madly in love and got married. I'd be happy to fall in love with and get married to him. I am just scared at the moment because it seems he is the right person for me and i am scared/ wondering why i am hesitating :(
posted by philosophicalmusings at 3:00 AM on September 23, 2019

@Tell Me No Lies its not that i would want a young juicy thing when i am/feel old. its more that i want to have a VERY LONG sex life. As i've never dated an older guy and i am naiive and stupid, i dont know if guys sex drive fizzle out with age? I guess mine could too but i dont know i just want to know we would be having lots for a long time. I dont want to think he'd rather go fishing 5 years into our marriage or whatever. Also i still like being social and going out etc. Not sure he does. It could be a lifestyle issue than an age issue now i think of it. I guess i dont want someone who just wants to sit on the sofa and watch TV...slowly fading out....................
posted by philosophicalmusings at 3:10 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Up to you. I think, though, that feeling like you "should" be into a man because he's nice etc. is a common trap women fall into when dating/marrying, and it leads to a long life of iffy physical attraction leading to little-to-no sex and general meh-ness. JMO

I also think that attributing previous relationships not working out to age is sort of iffy. Not all guys in their late 20s and early 30s (meaning, your age) are alike; it's possible to find someone you're physically into and have it work out. This is even more possible as you get older, frankly.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:11 AM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

i dont know if guys sex drive fizzle out with age? [...] I dont want to think he'd rather go fishing 5 years into our marriage or whatever.

That would not be the normal case. In years past it wasn’t uncommon for physical problems to arise (or, ahem, fail to arise) as men aged, but Viagra has come along and revolutionized sex for men into their fifties, sixties and beyond. In fact it has revolutionized things so much that the current hotspot for STD outbreaks is nursing homes.

I think your questions about lifestyle (in particular about going out every night) are likely more important. Sex may not be an issue, but in general people’s lives do seem to get quieter as they get older.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:42 AM on September 23, 2019

[philosophicalmusings, moderator here. Just quickly, so you understand the conventions of Ask Metafilter: it's not a place for back and forth discussion about a topic, but a place to get a variety of suggestions to help solve a specific problem. It's fine to answer essential questions to clear up any misunderstandings, but beyond that, it's better to just relax, consider the advice offered, and pick and choose what seems most helpful to you.]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:50 AM on September 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

You will not always look 10 years younger. Believe me. It's a bit of a shock when you suddenly look your age. Not to be mean, but get over ourself. Sexy times last, barring illness, which is unpredictable. Before Viagra, people well into their seventies and beyond have always done the deed with enthusiasm.
Get a man you're compatible with all the time, and enjoy your life.
posted by Enid Lareg at 6:30 AM on September 23, 2019 [18 favorites]

So I can relate to this. I (in my 30s) too have historically dated *slightly* younger guys, vastly prefer dating slightly younger men, and am only marginally attracted to older men. I have never dated more than 2 years older. One of the reasons I feel this way is that my mother had an arranged marriage of sorts back in the day to my 14-years-older father, and they were horribly mistmatched, so that's causd some of my anxiety about going older -- the fear I'll relive her mistake.

I also have a deep fear of being controlled, and associate "older" with power/control/tyranny. Finally, I have a deep fear of growing up -- not so much growing *old*, but of settling into a boring routine, giving up my spontaeous travel, relinquishing my freedom and hobbies. I'm fearful that process will be accelerated by taking up with a significantly older partner. (Side note, I am an ardent feminist who thinks about lot about relationship norms and gender dynamics, and like you I also feel that my my dating younger is a rejection of patriarchal norms to some extent.) Anyway, I'm listing out my issues because I wonder whether any of these things are a factor for you too.

Also, I thought I should point out that I usually when I feel inconsistently attracted to someone, it's because my gut is telling me something is wrong. In my case, one guy had started displaying signs of what turned out to be serious anger problems, another turned out to be cheating on me with escorts, and a third I started feeling conflicted about when I realized how badly he had treated his ex-girlfriend, and so on. Could you dig deep with a friend or therapist and try to work out whether something like this is at the root of your wavering attraction?

Like others have said, don't force it if you're already having these thoughts. Try to work through them and resolve them in case it's something solvable, but if not, don't force yourself into a marriage you're not all in for. You're allowed to be shallow, after all.
posted by shaademaan at 6:31 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

You’ve thought deeply about patriarchy, and that’s great. I wonder if trying to think as deeply about ageism in our culture would help you. Examine your assumption that it’s better to look younger. You reveal some stereotypical thinking here, i.e., that older people want to sit on the couch instead of going out. That’s not necessarily a function of age. Ageism saturates much of Western culture. Think of phrases like “young at heart,” as if there is something wrong with a wise, old heart (I first heard this from Miss Manners). When I was doing online dating, I considered it a red flag when a man would say he was a certain age, but looked and acted younger. It meant he bought into ageism, which really is as pernicious as any other ism. I don’t say this to make you feel bad. As I grow older, I’ve found that most people are ageist and don’t even think about it. The idea that a younger wife is a reward comes from both sexism and ageism. You like this guy, but your acceptance of a stereotype is getting in your way. Can you move beyond it? With luck you too will grow old. It will be easier if you recognize that much of the shit you’ll have to deal with is a function of ageism, not aging.
posted by FencingGal at 6:39 AM on September 23, 2019 [13 favorites]

It sounds like there's a lot more going on than "he's 5 years older". That's standing in for a bunch of fears you have. I would not junk a relationship where I described them as "he is super cute and i am physically / sexually attracted/ drawn to him." and with the same values because I had a flare-up of avoidant/insecure attachment and I was afraid of looking older. I'd go talk to my therapist about it.

Anyway, how old people LOOK is far different than how old they actually are, a lot of the time. I'm having a bit of a puzzle aligning he's attractive to you but apparently looks very old? The amount of care people take of themselves is a consideration in a relationship, and you do want that to match up as it's one value. (That's quite a broad topic and I'm in no way judging or suggesting any way is right, but it encompasses everything from eating, activity level, mental health practices, going to the doctor, etc. etc. etc.)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:52 AM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

I relate to this as an androgynous person who is now 36 but has historically looked ten years younger based on the amount of sleep I have had any given moment and who has attracted people that much younger than me. Vanity aside, you get over it, and trying to maintain that youthful appearance becomes more and more difficult and time consuming and down that path madness awaits, etc. I didn't find older men and age to be attractive until I just did and younger people became less and less compatible with my world view and my desires/needs. That's not to say anything negative about people in their 20s, just that we're in different places and that is very hard to overcome so the ego boost I received from them became less and less pleasurable. But yeah, fear of looking older because men at all ages seem to have their pick of younger women is also there, and I suppose my attitude toward that is to enjoy what you can while you can but to keep your sense of self and pride outside of a relationship in case the worst happens and you're dumped for a 23 year old. Besides, either it ends because you're dumped (which hurts, but you'll live) or it ends because you grow apart and dump them, so why not just relish it for now?
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Five years is a very minimal age difference, assuming that you're in your 30s, at least? I don't think I even considered 5 years to be an age difference at all once I got to my early 30s.

Do you have a lot of difficulty making decisions in other areas of your life? Do you quit jobs, change friends, move cities, etc? Because this seems to be a lot more about you than him, or your relationship with him. Or, you just don't actually like that much, you just think you should.
posted by schwinggg! at 7:26 AM on September 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

its more that i want to have a VERY LONG sex life.

I wouldn't base any decisions on this. First, because different people lose interest in sex at different times (many of us never; some of us before 40); second, because letting a single partner dictate your sexuality is not necessary.
posted by metasarah at 7:43 AM on September 23, 2019

Check your memail.
posted by yawper at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2019

Age aside, it sounds like you're just not that into him. If you have to talk yourself into being attracted to someone at the beginning of a relationship, it's a bad sign.

Also, he deserves someone who isn't grossed out by him half the time.
posted by missrachael at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Here's my feminist lens:

(i look about 10 years younger than my age according to everyone)
i look years younger than I am
deep inside i feel men always get the younger girl as some sort of trophy, or when they are done sowing their oats, they look for a juicy young thing to settle with - and i think its a continuation of patriarchy and I dont want to perpetuate the stereotype.

You're buying into patriarchal views of women when you keep talking about how you don't look your age. You have bought into this same garbage -- that younger women are somehow better or worthier than older women. You don't get to stay a young woman, but you look like you are younger than your peers, therefore you feel, on some level, you are better. The attention and interest of younger men makes you feel like you are a better person because you are still applying patriarchal values to yourself. Your youthful appearance is obviously important to you. I'm sure you can articulate that women who (god forbid) look their age or (gasp) look older than their age are still worthy human beings, but you don't believe this to be true for yourself.

I get this because I am currently dating a younger guy, and I wish I didn't care, but I do get a bit of an ego boost from it. It's an incredibly common thing to compliment women on looking "the same" as in high school or on looking younger than our age. But all of this is built on the idea that aging is bad and terrible and to be avoided--we have an incredibly profitable beauty industry that's built on fueling these insecurities. So, yeah, you've bought into these same values (of course! They are all around us!).

You won't score a win against the patriarchy if you end a relationship with potential in order to go back to dating younger guys. And those guys will age too, you know. And dating a younger man is no guarantee of a robust sex life. I've known men in their 40s with higher sex drives than men ten years younger.

Sometimes i see him and he is gorgeous to me, other times I see an ageing man!
He is both of these things. And guess what? You are a gorgeous women and you are an aging woman. You are a gorgeous, aging woman... because we are all aging.

I think it's worth it for you to explore what's really going on with this man. Is your resistance because something isn't quite right but you can't quite articulate to yourself what that is? Do you have doubts that this relationship does have potential? Or, is it that maybe, despite you saying you want a serious relationship, maybe you really don't? You're in a pattern of dating younger, attractive men, but then they aren't mature enough for the relationship to work; now that you are dating a man who is just about your age and who seems to be a good match, you are coming up with reasons to be unhappy. So do you really want a serious relationship? Or do you want to keep dating younger men and getting that ego boost and then moving on to the next guy? It's okay not to want a serious relationship; it's okay to want a serious relationship but not with this guy. But no partner will be perfect. I think it's worth figuring out if you are finding fault with him because of real concerns or because you have some fears around intimacy.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:57 AM on September 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

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