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Why is it acceptable for an older man to be with a younger woman but not the reverse?


Q. I am a 40-something man who cares very much for a woman 14 years my senior. I won't say we're in a relationship or even dating, but I need your help to overcome the barriers. Even though I've known her for seven years, only recently were we able to even talk about how we felt or what we thought. I don't make it a habit of seeking older women but I've fallen for her. She thinks it's inappropriate. I think that, while it is uncommon, such relationships exist. I equate being against them to being against the mini skirt or gay rights – merely ideas society was slow to accept. I'm also the victim of a double standard. Why is it more acceptable for an older man to be with a younger woman but not the reverse? Coincidentally, her previous husband was 20-plus years her senior, so I'm very confused about her apprehension. Your advice?

—Jack, Mississauga, Ont.


A. It is a double standard. You’re right. But does it really matter? According to a study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of relationships where women were at least 10 years older than their partner rose 23 per cent between 1996 and 2006. But sometimes attitudes are hard-pressed to catch up to reality, as you point out – be they public or private.

“We have strong 'shoulds' on ways of partnering up," Dr. Kathryn Elliott, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana, told NBC news. "We are victims of inner-critic constrictedness. We think we should only weigh 120. We should marry people within two years of our age. We pathologize anything that isn't within those shoulds."

So where do you go from here? Find out why this friend of yours thinks a more intimate relationship is “inappropriate.” You need to understand what her concerns are. Maybe it has something to do with the age difference of her former husband. You just don’t know.

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