I Used To Date Much Older Guys—Here’s Why I Never Will Again

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, my dating preferences almost exclusively involved men who were at least a decade older than me. It seemed normal at the time, but now that I’m a few years older and wiser, this is why I’ll never aim for large age gaps in my relationships again.

They were all immature for their age.

For a while, I liked dating older guys because I thought that guys my age were too immature for me. Honestly, the older guys were just as bad, if not worse. Even though I was up to 10 years younger than the people that I was dating, I was the one who was financially self-sufficient and knew how to communicate properly, while these dudes were still relying on their parents to help pay rent and relied on childish manipulation tactics to get their way when we argued.

They were looking for someone they could easily manipulate.

Like many young adults, I was convinced that I was mature for my age and the older guys I dated reassured me that I was too. But the reality was that I was naive, and that’s exactly what they were looking for. They wanted control in their relationships, and because I knew less about the world and had less experience in relationships, I was easy to lie to and offer false promises. They encouraged me to move in with them right off the bat and quit my job and I’m glad I never agreed to it — it would’ve made it that much easier for them to control everything about my life and harder for me to leave.

They wanted me because women their age wouldn’t put up with their crap.

Because the men I dated were such bad partners and lackluster people, they knew that they’d never make it in the dating world with women their own age. They needed to date someone who’d tolerate their manipulation, childish habits, and neediness, and that’s what they found in a younger me. I didn’t have enough dating experience to have set healthy standards for myself and my partners and they knew it. They got away with just about everything they wanted to because I didn’t know better than to tolerate it.

They rarely had pure intentions.

One of the older men I dated seemed to genuinely like me for me, but he was the only one. The rest seemed to only want to hook up with a pretty young girl on the regular, and the fact that I was easy to get along with and boosted their self-esteem was an added bonus. Their motivation was purely selfish and our relationships only ended once they got bored with me or I finally wised up to their nonsense.

I knew they’d leave me when I got “too old” for them.

Even though these guys promised they saw a future with me (and they all promised it), even my younger, naive self had a feeling in her gut that they were just blowing smoke. They all admitted having a “thing” for younger women and pursuing them, so I knew that even though I was attractive to them at age 20, I’d probably be way less desirable to them even in just a few years. These guys had a targeted age demographic for a reason, and it was only a matter of time before I literally grew out of it.

We were at completely different stages of life.

When I was in college, I thought it was hot that men who were already financially stable and successful in their careers wanted to be with me. Now that I’m older, I think it’s unattractive at best and really creepy at worst. What could a 33-year-old business executive possibly have in common with a 21-year-old whose life experience barely extended beyond a college campus? Now I know that a relationship is much more likely to be successful if both of us have relatively similar amounts of life experience, and that’s not likely to happen with a large age gap.

I was almost always used as a rebound for an older ex.

It was no coincidence that most of these guys were basically fresh out of a divorce or breakup with a woman much closer to them in age. I did all kinds of mental gymnastics to tell myself that it was pure chance that the next girl these guys fell for was barely out of her teens, but the reality was that I was serving as either a revenge tool or a self-esteem booster for these guys — they wanted to prove to their exes and themselves that they still “had it” and could attract much younger women.

I constantly felt like a “trophy girlfriend.”

At first, I felt a bit of an ego boost when my older partners would take me out with their friends. To me, it meant that they were proud to have me around and that they saw something long-term with me. But the more it happened, the more I felt uneasy about it. It seemed like they were showing me off the way you’d show off a fancy watch or a nice car. I was a status symbol for them and looking back, I hope their friends were as creeped out about it as I am now.

The age gap wouldn’t be so appealing a few decades later.

I still think that a lot of 40-year-old (and even 45-year-old) guys are pretty hot, but now that I’m at the age where I’m considering looking for someone to settle down with, I’m more realistic about what a future might look like with a partner who’s considerably older than me. Do I want my kids to be barely graduating high school when their dad is easily old enough to be a grandpa? Do I want to be in my sexual prime and dating someone with a declining sex drive? Right now the age gap might be attractive, but I know it’s a question of “when” rather than “if” it starts to become a problem.

I can find decent guys that are closer to my own age.

It’s not like I didn’t understand my younger self’s attraction to much older men — it’s not exactly easy to find 20-year-old guys who have their acts together and make good partners. But now that I’m in my mid-twenties, it’s easier to date men who are independent, mature, and looking for the same things that I am. I basically grew out of my need for relationships with a large age gap, and I’m a happier woman because of it.

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