Dear Rabbi Shmuley,
I'm a young woman, on paper anyway—I'm 24. But I find myself drawn to much older men, men who are at least in their late 30s or early 40s. I find them to be more mature, more settled in their lives, and less, to be honest, like the "boys" my age. My parents and friends think I'm crazy, setting myself up to get involved with someone dangerous. But I think I just know what I want and where I can find it. What do you think?
--Likes Older Men
Hi, Likes Older,
I understand what you're saying about finding men your age immature and boyish. It's a real problem these days. Men seem to be maturing much later than women, that is, if men reach maturity at all.
Women are partially to blame for this late-stage male development. Women indulge men and tend to spoil them to such a degree that even highly immature men can still get girlfriends.
Women are prepared these days to put up with the most unacceptable male behavior. He can burp loudly and regularly, ignore her in conversation, even cheat on her, and she’ll still take him back. So what incentive is there, really, for a man to actually become a man?
Think back for a moment - romantic love, as it was conceived of in the Middle Ages, was all based around the idea that a woman is an unattainable prize and that a man has to become a knight in shining armor, battling bad guys and dragons, to earn the fair maiden. In more modern times, this idea translated into men 'courting' women, becoming gentlemen, exhibiting refined and romantic behavior, and battling their male demons all for the sake of the woman they wanted to make into their wives. But today, in an age where women are so insecure about themselves, men can behave like shallow narcissists and women will tolerate it. So grown men remain little more than boys at play.
In light of the general immaturity we both see in men today, I see nothing intrinsically wrong with dating someone older than you, so long as its not a generation older – twenty years or more. Fifteen is pushing it, but it’s really going to come down to the character of the person involved. I have two female friends both of whom married men about fifteen years older than them and they are very happy. Then I have a female friend who married a man eighteen years older, and they divorced. In both situations, it was the character of the men that led either to a successful or broken relationship.
To be sure, though, your family is right that you have to be a bit wary. A lot of men who date women fifteen years younger are actually boys who can't grow up. As you state yourself, a person's age on paper does not always correspond to their maturity level. Some "older" men are interested only in women who are like dolls to them, young and nubile, and they cannot appreciate the glories of a more mature woman. All too many men refuse to date women their own age for this reason, and that is a problem. So do be on the lookout. You don't want to be in a situation where after a few years you are suddenly discarded because you are, to a boy who refused to become a man, too old. So look to see if there is a pattern, if the guy you're dating only dates women in their twenties, in which case he is not choosing you for you, but for your age.
I wish you a life of love and happiness,