Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ask Dr. Helen

My PJM column is up:

Older men and much-younger women is a hot topic on which everyone seems to have an opinion…just ask Fred Thompson. PJM advice columnist Dr. Helen Smith offers her take on the subject, along with her opinion on a reader’s very different, very loaded definition of mixed marriage.

Go read about older men and younger women and let me know here or there what you think.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Older women are also getting together with younger men. I have never given either choice a whole lot of thought.

Big difference between 18 and 40, vs. say 35 and 60. Were one of my daughters involved, I would be having long talks with both of them before giving the union my blessing, if at all.

Privately, were it a couple I knew, I might wonder if it would last. But as with any marriage, I would be hopeful.

6:28 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Three years is a big difference? Really, a couple's usual desire is to remain together. As such, the difference becomes more moot with aging. Bigger difference between 80 and 53?

At forty, your daughter has the right to choose any mate she wants. If you want to continue a relationship with her at any workable level, I would personally suggest you only warn her about any actual negative attributes you find in the fellow and even then, think long and hard first.

Perhaps you subscribe to the current phenomena of determining that anyone one wishes to suppress the desires of is now a "child", like service people or people who can vote wanting to drink or have sex?

I don't. Are they old enough to be held responsible for their actions? That's all.

7:15 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

When I was 39 I dated a man who was 19 and very hot. Never regretted that decision for a minute.

One day I will quit all this running around and get married. I plan to marry a man much older than myself. He will be rich and preferably with a heart condition.

7:17 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


I thought you were independently wealthy--why the need for a rich guy?

7:53 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger TJIC said...

I've always been attracted to and dated women a few years older than me...and I've laughed a bit at the stereotype of 40 year old guys chasing 25 year old women.

My desire to marry and have kids, coupled with the fact that I'm now in my late 30s, means that I really should be looking at women no older than me, and preferably a few years younger.

8:18 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

Helen: As Wallis Simpson always said, you can never be too rich or too thin.

8:53 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger SarahW said...

Your genes want perpetuation.

9:45 AM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

view people as people, rather than numbers

Now, you're just gonna go undo decades of careful work by oh, so many doing things like that! That beautiful house of cards of obsessing over numbers rather than reality could all come crashing down! See people as people, indeed... pff...

But more seriously, though the topic of older men/younger women has come up in the public consciousness again, the emphasis is on again. It follows the fairly recent discussions on "cougars", which is the same thing, gender-flipped. That the term sounds rather more positive than "dirty old men" is probably more than coincidental, as suggested by the general tone of the articles written, which was less "tut-tut" and more "tee-freakin-hee".

But what is the big deal? Love may be blind but is wonderful however it happens; whereas jealousy is a crueler mistress than Ms. Winehouse.

10:34 AM, September 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sarah - My genes want perpetuation of fantastic sexytime with many girls half my age or younger.

If only their genes were similarly inclined...

12:48 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger sam said...

Thanks for the support. I married one of my university students while I was teaching in Latvia for the Peace Corps in 1995. We are 22 years apart. Now, after 12 years of happiness together, even my most traditional relatives have accepted us. We just knew in some intuitive way that it would work for us, and it has. You've said it well and we thank you for it.

2:02 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...


Bad advice. Read Mr. Farrell.

Look, I gotta call 'em as I see 'em. But you just watched a big fat fastball walk down your sweet spot for strike three.

Oh yeah.

You want the instant replay, you've got my email.

Oh yeah.

2:08 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

Did 1charlie2's question appear as a comment on here? It sounds familiar.

2:16 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Arden McLean said...

Age has never mattered much to me. Love is love. But looking at the nature of sexuality and basic instinct explains why an older man is so inclined to be with a younger woman. For instance after reading "the naked ape" age gaps between men and women start to make sense. A man needs to make sure his seed can take and obviously that would be in a more fertile female.. a younger female.

2:34 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

The other irritating thing about it (which would probably irritate far worse if I were female) the apparent assumption on the part of the critics that the younger woman is entirely helpless, having apparently been selected out of a lineup or something and purchased like a piece of furniture. They would have us forget their usual mantra that young and gorgeous wants young and gorgeous, just long enough to accept insinuations of whorish behavior (marrying for money).

I could (and am tempted to) go on for aye on the topic, as simple description of the double standards, dichotomies, hypocrisies and sorts of cognitive dissonance that come up in rapid succession in these conversations; but frankly, it'd be preaching to the choir, here.

5:07 PM, September 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A 40 year old male and an 18 year old female - I see a problem. To some that may seem unfair, even condescending. A 35 year old woman is old enough to know what she wants.

I'm always in dad mode. Can't help it. Don't want to "help" it. Were my daughter 18 and a 40 year old wanted to marry her, he'd have a lot of explaining to do - before I still said no.

When the female is that young, what I see is a starry eyed Monica Lewinsky type who wants out of mom and dad's house.

And as always, I'm not asking for anyone to see my point of you. But that's how I see this one.

6:34 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Charlie Martin said...

Having just had my 52nd birthday, I'm all in favor.

9:21 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

br549 --

You honestly believe women don't know what they want until they're 35? Wow. That's not 'even' condescending, it's way past that.

Unless your wife was 35+ when you married, you're showing some hypocrisy.

9:26 PM, September 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with BR549.

I have two daughters and I will not approve of either of them getting married at 18 to any man of any age.

When they get to their mid-20s, then they can marry some 40-year-old if they want, but 18 and 40? Not a chance.

My wife and I were 23 and 26, respectively, when we married. Our marriage is 14 years strong and life is good.

However, neither of us were mature enough to handle the responsibility and commitment of marriage at 18.

Yes, I know there are many people who got married when they were 18 and they are doing fine many years later, but an extra four or five years of maturity can go a long way toward making the relationship a lasting success.

10:27 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger GM Roper said...

Dear Dr. Helen.

I became a widower at 49 after some 27 years of marriage to a wonderful woman. I remarried at 51 to a woman 13 years younger and she not only keeps me young, but she helps keep my mind sharp. After almost 10 years marriage, I wouldn't trade her in for anything and asking her if she would trade me in, she got thoughtful and acknowledged that she did have her eye on a new BMW Convertable... ;-)

10:46 PM, September 04, 2007  
Blogger Cash for Cars Indianapolis said...

I am all for older men and younger women. Of course I am an older man.

1:18 AM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The part of an 18 year old marrying a 40 year old is where I object. And I did not really grab those numbers out of the air. I have seen where a 40 year old man married an 18 year old girl. I can see a young girl being starry eyed. But a 4year old man has a problem if he prefers someone that young. The day before your birthday, you're a child. You turn 18, immediately you're an adult? Naaaa.....
50 and 28, big difference. 60 and 38, big difference.

The 35 / 60 ages I pulled out of the air, for comparison. You can't run for President unless you're 35, for instance.

I'm looking at it from the perspective of a dad, with daughters. And of course, there isn't a man in the world good enough for my daughters, anyway.

My daughters would never consider such an age spread, (18 / 40) so I have no real concerns.

Do you have daughters?

7:10 AM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

dogwood --

"When they get to their mid-20s, then they can marry some 40-year-old if they want, but 18 and 40? Not a chance."

You will prevent a legally responsible adult from doing this how?

br549 --

Did I say immediately? No. Many are mature at 18, many aren't. Many aren't at 70. You're point would be?

You can serve your country and die at 18 -- for instance.

I presume you also think 18 yr olds are not competent mentally to determine a life path such as one that includes military service?

Read my past posts, daughter.

I ask again, do you honestly believe women (for, I see no argument on your part about men's ages) are not mature enough to decide marriage until 35? If not, what age and why?

7:53 AM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met my ex when I was 20 and she was 28, and we were together 6 years. I met my wife when I was 28 and she was 35, 8 years and counting.

"The day before your birthday, you're a child. You turn 18, immediately you're an adult? Naaaa....." WRONG, that's exactly how it works, at least according to the law. The trick is to start treating them like adults well before their 18th birthday. Telling them they're not mature enough to make their own life decisions until they're 23 is a disservice to both you and them.

8:20 AM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

oligonicella's right. Obviously, rationally so, demonstrating the sort of lucidity and even-handedness most commenters here insist on.

(This disagreement actually reminds me of a few years ago, when Sean Hannity interviewed Gene Simmons. Hannity got off his rational footing and became entirely emotion-based in his arguments, thus getting disassembled by a cool, thoughtful Simmons. Bizarre but hilarious episode.)

10:24 AM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Or, on the other side of things, a comment from W. S. Gilbert:

Nankipoo But I would wait until you were of age!

Yum Yum You forget that in Japan girls do not arrive at years of discretion until they are fifty.

Nankipoo True; from seventeen to forty-nine are considered years of indiscretion.

11:53 AM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am expressing my view on the subject, oligonicella. Not arguing your opinion vs. mine. My daughters wouldn't look at someone our age twice anyway.

Whatever fluffs up your mashed potatoes, though.

Great first marriage, mel. The differences that split you and your first wife apart probably had nothing to do with the changes you went through between 20 and 26.

What? You guys are hollerin' at me - back at ya!

1:14 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

I am under 25 and the youngest age of a woman I would want is 21. Then they have some life experience beyond high school, are legally able to drink if they so choose, and possibly did some college or had a job. I will probably seek out someone who is very close to my age. I think father's are obligated to give an opinion of their daughter's boyfriend. But an adult woman has the choice to ignore it. As long as both partners have a say in a relationship then I suppose age isn't so important.

1:41 PM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oli, Oli, Oli,

Don't put words in my mouth.

Did I say I would "prevent" my daughters from getting married at 18?

No, I did not.

What I said was that I would not "approve of" their marrying a 40 year old.

You do understand the difference, don't you?

Just because you are legally able to do something, doesn't mean you are mature enough to do it.

And when it comes to marriage, more maturity is definitely a plus.

3:21 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

dog, dog, dog --

Didn't put words in your mouth.

"When they get to their mid-20s, then they can marry some 40-year-old if they want, but 18 and 40? Not a chance."

The double spacing between that and the preceding sentence fooled me.

Maturity doesn't come with age, either, but it is indeed a plus.

7:07 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...


I apologize for not qualifying my previous comment. I've dated older and younger women myself but I've always been very careful about entering into relationships with women who are significantly older or younger then me. When I was 26 I met a 17-year-old girl at a friend's wedding & we hit it off. We spent about a year talking & emailing before I decided to give it a go--we first got together on her 18th birthday--I was 27 at this point. In college I dated a woman who was 29 (I was 21). We got back together again for a while 6 years later--yes, I know you can do the math. This happened very shortly after my brief relationship with my (then) 18-year-old girlfriend.

(It was an amicable break, btw. Frankly, I was a bit more high-maintenance then Stephanie was prepared for. I could tell it was a strain & that she was a sticker so I figured the honorable thing was to let her off the hook...because she wasn't going to dump me. She did seem relieved.)

Anyway, point is, I'm not that concerned about age (within reason) where I'm concerned. I've always had trouble playing with kids my own age. I typically describe myself as a highly sophisticated adolescent. I get along well with younger people because I love their enthusiasm & optimism & lack of world-weariness. I like being around older people because they seem to understand and sympathize with some of the rough stuff I've lived through.

So for me, older or younger usually works better.

Based on observation, however, I would strongly caution older men & younger women against plunging fast & furious into romantic relationships. I wouldn't say they shouldn't ever do it, but they should be cautious. Younger women are often attracted to power and wealth & this is not a good basis for a relationship. Older men are, well, attracted to young, nubile hotties. Actual compatibility is often overlooked by both parties...

My guess is that older man/younger woman relationships have higher rates of divorce and abuse then relationships between men and women who are roughly the same age. Most of my married friends in stable, loving relationships have partners who are within a year or two of their own age either way.

Older woman/younger man relationships are probably a bit safer then their converse. That's just a hunch, however.

Anyway, Helen, I apologize again for being so flippant in my previous comment. I'm not taking back my criticism exactly, but you did deserve something more than a flippant riposte to your PJM post.



7:26 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Olig, Dog:

I think you may be arguing the same point. No big deal. I do that all the time. I get into heated arguments with my mother all the time. Usually, at some point, I'll just back up and ask something like, "Hey, just to be clear, are we arguing the same point against each other?"

Frequently, the answer is "Yes."


I really am sort of a hypocrite on this subject. Do as I say, not as I do...that sort of thing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm frequently not comfortable with women close to my own age or slightly younger. It's true that women and men tend to mature at different rates. What is widely overlooked is that there are some areas where men develop faster (usually) and some areas where women develop faster (usually).

The one age bracket I tend wary of women in the mid 20s to early/mid 30s--I'm 34, btw.

I find women in this range attractive, to be sure, but my experience is that women in this range often have unrealistic and unfair expectations of their men, physically, sexually, emotionally...financially.

I'd rather date a woman who is in her mid 30s to early 40s or, with a lot of deliberation, a woman in her late teens to early 20s.

I find that older women are usually a little more worldly & willing to except a few flaws in their mates. It's riskier with young women, of course. But women in their late teens and early 20s still have the fire of youth, for good and for bad. They have a passion and an honesty & they still believe in things. I find that combination very difficult to resist.

Basically, my experience with younger and older women has been that if they decide they like me, they'll stick it out, for better or worse. I can't say the same of women in their mid 20s to early 30s. There are plenty of exceptions. I've had a couple of relationships with single mothers in their 20s who were delighted when they discovered that I don't OPCs (Other People's Children) & that I am no more or less attracted to Mom just because she has kids in tow. I love being around kids & I kind of empathize with some of the frustrations single mothers experience in relationships.

I've had women who seemed quite interested in me suddenly discover an urgent need to be elsewhere when they realized I was poor. A lot of single mothers get the same stiff-off from men once they discover that they're hitting on some kid's mom. Most men are like lions. They've got that kill-the-cubs mentality.

I don't approve.

Anyway, the best part about OPCs (once they hit age 3 or so) is that they're already broken in. No diaper-duty. They want to play & rough house & having an adult around who enjoys telling stories & making up games & swinging them in circles until they're dizzy is pure bliss as far as most kids are concerned.


7:55 PM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

18 is definitely "old enough" - just not very interesting.

27 - now there's an age. I may be biased as my last disastrous emotional...thing was with a 27 year old. Made a complete fool of myself, but she was almost worth it.

9:45 PM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you may be arguing the same point. No big deal. I do that all the time.

Uh, yeah, now ya just took all the fun out of it. Thanks.

11:12 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I agree with dog.

And, there was no heat at all on my part. Even when I'm baiting a troll like reality there's no emotion involved (well, other than bemusement). I appreciate dogwood's contributions here, just misunderstood a connection in his post.

7:10 AM, September 06, 2007  
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