Beware The Cougar! Love, Dating, And How Old Is Too Old And How Young Is Too Young?


I will frequently mention the source and/or inspiration for the subject matters that I write. Often times it is some personal experience, special occasion, film or documentary I have viewed that serves as my impetus for writing on a particular matter.

Not this time.

Yesterday, one of my very faithful readers and blog followers from the beginning, Nikki, asked me if I take requests for blog subject matters.  So today’s topic comes courtesy of her request.

No likey? Blame darling Nikki.

She asked if I would blog my thoughts concerning age and dating; namely, how far apart or close together in age should two people be when considering a relationship?

And, imagine this, I actually have an opinion on this matter. It is quite a common topic that comes up frequently in my courses, particularly interpersonal communication.

I must confess that I have been influenced and quite intrigued with the message of the movie Benjamin Button, a story of man who ages in reverse, born an old man and as he ages, keeps getting younger and younger; eventually only to die an infant.  What fascinated me was both his love interest in the film, a woman who aged like the rest of us, and their crossing lives like an X intersection, as he continually grew younger, she continually grew older, only for a time to be at the center intersect of the X and enjoy a socially acceptable -age wise- relationship for a few years. Eventually, she was too old to date a child…yet the love was still present. The message? Love knows no age and true love finds each other regardless of demographics.

Hollywood romantic bullshit? Probably. Yet an intriguing notion to be sure, with a few drops of truth. It is also, quite disturbingly, a strong pedophile defense strategy.

Another film (one I would HIGHLY recommend) is Harold and Maude, a film about an older teen boy who falls in love with Maude, a seventy-something or so woman. It is a delightful story of two souls connecting, and, in the spirit of Benjamin Button (though filmed forty years before it) she was the young at heart while he was the old soul.


These are basically the fairy tales of those who say age is irrelevant, but a number. Perhaps these films are the inspiration for 53 year-old George Clooney never dating anyone over 25, or the 55 year-old Alec Baldwin marrying his 30 year-old Yoga instructor.

The general rule of thumb would be this -for both men and women: If you date someone older you are likely banking on much more stability, less drama, financial security and, probably, a bit more intellect. True you may have to put up with more sag in some bodily regions and may have to change their diaper one day, yet, still, the upside ain’t bad.

If you date younger you probably trade in much of that stable, drama free, secure existence for a far more adventurous and frenetic journey, filled with far more mystery, intrigue, and an openness for great change. And….no sag. Not bad.

The bottom line is this: What are you looking for? My advice is that if you are looking for a stable life partner, it is probably better to go with someone around your own age –and by “around” this changes for each decade of life. In your 20’s “around” would be about 0 to, say 3 1/2, 4 years in difference; in your 30’s it could mean 4-7 years; in your 40’s 7-10 years; in your 50’s all bets are off as “around” means anyone still breathing as fair game and a viable partner.

“But, Jimmy, age is just a number. Why does this even matter?”

So glad you asked curious, omniscient blog ghost.

The success of most relationships rest in one major principle –communication- which can be a very difficult and elusive skill to master, to say the least. How do we communicate effectively? Since that is another blog series for another day, I will say two people sharing the same basic demographics such as religious affiliation, zip code, income, ethnicity, and AGE, just to name a few, are vital in the ability to communicate effectively, hence relational success. Does a couple HAVE to share all these things? Of course not, yet the more similarities, the more effectively the two can share thoughts, ideas, and words in ways that are understood and comprehended by the other person. There is a strong comfort in shared familiarity.

Shared demographics is not a certainty for happiness, it is just hedging your relational gamble bet a bit more in your favor.

Jimmy’s basic axiom: Opposites definitely do attract, yet opposites generally do not last. Birds of a feather flock together, and have a far better chance of enjoying forever. Dating that exotic guy or gal can be super fun and intriguing for a time, yet “exotic and fun” usually eventually evolves into “neurotic and done.”

If you are just looking for some fun and intrigue?  Just want to live and enjoy in the moment? Every age and experience can bring something unique and different to the table. Go for it. Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, or 80, each season of life brings something special and unique. In spite of the fact I joke about turning 50 and being an old fart, I would not trade in my 5 decades for anything.  I love my season in life. To think of being that insecure 20 year-old again is frightening, yet at the time I was fine, as I still could ball with the best of them, dunk a tennis ball and never suffered a sore anything. Maybe every age group can benefit from all the other age groups in some way, shape or form.

Are there exceptions to every rule? Can the younger woman find true love with the older man or the cougar find happiness with the younger man? Of course. Problem is with employing the “exception theory” is that we usually think we are it, and, truth be told, we probably are not.

I think I answered the question, in 1,030 words no less. I hope Nikki likes the answer. Or at least puts her in tension. Or not. Cause everyone just does what they want to do anyway.

I know, right?




  1. Awesome I love this, a specific topic I ponder about often. Does this cougar effect apply for those 2-5 year differences? Of course this is situational and every relationship is different, but do you see many couples have the opposite occuring? Ex: A more stable younger counterpart with an older unstable counterpart.

    • As I mention in the blog, if you are looking for long-term stability, the old-young thing is a complete long shot, regardless of how stable or unstable either party may be. I have a relative that married someone nearly 25 years older…she is still in relatively very good shape and he is suffering from Alzheimer disease. She is miserable. I believe if the younger person is stable and the older person is unstable, that only makes for a recipe of even worse disaster. Exceptions? Of course!

  2. I am excited to see you have spoke your thoughts on this subject, I do agree with a lot you have said. I cant argue with you, I just cant! The way you write makes me think of the negatives and positives, and I agree with them both

    Those two movies were perfect examples to bring into play and “Love knows no age and true love finds each other regardless of demographics” is an amazing way to put it. I asked your opinion because I am tired of the whole crowd that stereo types relationships with age differences. I mean everyone is different, right? There are some people just too immature to date people of their own age and that’s why they lean towards much younger people. Then their are those, like myself, that just can’t seem to find someone their own age up to par with the same mentality, work ethics, and goals. Coming from my own experience my dad doesn’t agree with the age range that I have dated in the past 4 years, he has told me to be patient and someone my own age will come along. I don’t feel like males my age will start thinking like me; a single teen mom, that works three jobs, and goes to school full time, probably until they turn 30. Am I really supposed to wait till then? I don’t think so. I mean i don’t have a closed mind to dating someone my age. For example, if a 19 year old boy thinks he could handle more then just going to college (with what he thinks is a full load of two WHOLE classes) and trying to out drink his friends, then I wouldn’t be against dating him, but I haven’t found one out there yet even close to that. My opinion is that at the age of 19-28 it should be crazy hell and just because I have grown up so fast I don’t have to force someone my age to do the same.

    I do see the bad side though! Not all relationships are because of the reasons I previously mentioned but because a older man just wants a nice piece of ass, or a younger girl just wants a man with money. I could so see the line there and crossing it is very easy but all relationships aren’t like that. If you connect with someone then you connect with someone and age should be the last determining factor. Compare your life, your obstacles, your interests. Not your age.

    This just makes me think of the cheesy old advice everyone has heard… ” as long as you’re happy, then it really doesn’t matter” Or something like that.

    • Darling Nikki has commented!! First off, thanks for the idea of the blog. Ok, for the sake of discussion, let us consider this: Let us suppose it is as you say and you, at 19, need to find a 29 year-old dude to meet your maturity level. So you hook up, marry, and 10 years go by…he is now almost 40 and you are almost 30. Your maturity levels are matched evenly YET you were born in 1994 and he in 1984…thus you still have a huge gap of field of experience. When you both think of childhood icons you think of Backstreet Boys while he thinks of Menudo. No big deal? Not really though all these differences eventually add up. You were 7 when the Twin Towers went down, he was 17. You both are going to see history differently. So even if you date older cause it meets your maturity level it does not change the fact your fields of experience are vastly different. Again, short term…”exotic” and different can be fun as hell. Long term? There are going to be some issues.

      • Wow, someone has finally brought something up that I have not thought about. So it’s like dating someone from another country if you put it that way. I mean if I’m from America and I date some Australian same age and all, that moves here and I marry and doesn’t have the same experiences… There could be problems? Because we don’t have the same past in holidays like Fourth of July, or we didn’t share the same experience when war started with America on 9/11, won’t that just be a way of growing? A way of seeing other perspectives? It could be a positive just as well as negative.

        • But more positive unless you hate learning and listening. Which people like that all have fucked up relationships in the long run.

          • But learning and listening can get old and tedious in a relationship. You do not want to continually struggle to understand…a relationship is not a lab or classroom…you want to be free.

  3. I like the way you broke that down. Great points. My husband and partner, uncle just had a stroke. The 14 year difference between him and his younger wife is an example of the instability of the elder. Now she is care taking for him while he learns how to form complete sentences again. But she enjoyed years of his financial stability. I think if we are discussing hot sex the older younger dynamic can be a lot of fun for the older party usually, male or female. For partnership and longevity I would say 2-5 year age difference max.

    • Thanks for the contribution Shanagolden! Though shit likes strokes and bad health can happen to couples of every age, even those very close in age, the probabilities of it happening to couple a great distance in age, increases significantly. I know youth is known for not thinking ahead….though wisdom needs to keep rooted in reality and think of the possibilities. I do not completely agree with you on the hot sex part…a lot of things get better with age and experience!

      • Hahaha. Point taken. This is very true andyou only learn this after many years with a partner. I’ve tried to explain this to my friends who jump around. Without going into detail I will say I whole heartedly agree and that is why I’m still married after nearly 20 years with the same man;-) college boys like us older women for some reason. I’ve been asked out more on Craftons campus then any other place. I guess they have tuned in on the experience factor. Kind of funny and very unexpected.

        • I believe we have a similar experience in this regard. Sex is not unlike a dance and a lot of choreography is involved. It takes a lot of time to accurately learn each others moves and turn love-making into a graceful ballet. Perhaps this why they call me Baryshnikov! 🙂

          • That is a fantastic response! This is where our experience and longevity with a partner can not be touched by youth. Understanding another being in such an intimate way is the greatest expression of love. We are very lucky to have such passion in our lives. Renee is amazing by the way. Such a great spirit and you guys are well matched. That kind of connection is rare and beautiful. I agree with your comments to Nikki. It’s hard to explain how gaps in perspectives can effect a relationship in the long term. Communication and humor are so important, but more than that you have to have passion.

  4. Coming from someone fairly “young” still, dating or trying to date someone regardless of age will always be difficult. I resently tries and failed to be in a relationship with a guy 5 years older than I am. You would think that because of the gag, and the guy being much older that it could have been an actually relationship. But at his ripe age at 25, he was in no “mood” to want to try and make a relationship. Of course it could have been something on my end, but I’d have to say that know quite a few 25 year olds it’s just not that time did them. I’d say that because of his age it is making completely selfish.
    To be in a relationship with anyone regardless of age both people have to be at the same level or at least close or equal level of selflessness.

    • I agree with being at the same level or level of selflessness . There is so much give and take in a long term relationship. Some people are never ready at any age…..

    • Kiianna…I think you told me you were 19. Please do not even think about a serious relationship for another 10 years!!

  5. Sorry to butt in. I’m 34 and my past two girlfriends were 23. I feel the reason for me even dating this young is because I’m a returning college student and I look really young for my age (black don’t crack). So I’m only around younger women and I attract them, plus I prefer a nice looking fit girl with no kids and no ex husband. You see a lot of that in your 30’s. BUT, it really hits a speed bump when they forget I’m not like the rest of their peers. They forget I am full of life knowledge and treat me like I’m 23 too. I find myself constantly reminding them that I’ve been through EVERYTHING their going through and more. But unfortunately, like myself at that age, they think they know everything. So after enough fighting over who knows what and them not knowing who Bruce Lee is, I hit my breaking point and walk away. Jimmy is spot on when it comes to decade gaps. People literally think completely different by decades. Health issues are a completely separate bag of grief I want no part in, but I can see that being devastating too.

    • So what are saying Jason…are you going to start dating only your age again? Is the maturity worth the extra baggage?

  6. You make some good points. I don’t really have any beef with what you have said, though I think its interesting that you mostly paint this as a “rules and exceptions” scenario. I guess maybe that is where I semi-disagree. Generally speaking, I think you are right in the terms of the trade-offs you have mentioned in dating older or younger. What I am getting at is that I think this is much more of a “spectrum” scenario.

    I’ll start with the idea of friends, because I assume most people want their life partner to also be their friend. Basically, Is there a general age range in which ones friends should be? Or is that not the same? I never tend to think I am any exception to any rules, but if this such a scenario, then I might be.
    I am absolutely the youngest in a group of friends whose median range is early 30’s. In fact, the youngest close friend I have is still 5 years older than me, and the oldest person I consider a friend is 48. I will divulge that my best friend is 33 with 2 children and I am closer in age to her 13 year old son than to her. We have a whole 12 years difference us.
    Is she my friend because she is still clinging to days of her youth (I happen to think 33 is still extremely youthful)? Or am I her friend because I desperately wanna be seen as mature? No. It’s because we have gotten to know each other.
    Our relationship, and (I think) every solid relationship, is not based on factors such as stability, drama, financial security, or intellectual capacity. This is because both of us understand that life will not always be stable, drama happens, money comes and goes (currently going), and we both have intellectual limits. Many times these are things to consider, but its hard for me to believe any real relationship can be built on such a foundation.
    I think why my best friend and I get along is because we understand each other, are open to communicating, trying to understand when we don’t, and realizing that sometimes its okay if one person doesn’t get it. We are in the same spectrum when it comes to communicating. This goes for all of my friends, even the ones I am otherwise drastically different from.
    With all my friends being older than me, does this mean that I am on a different spectrum than peers around my age? Maybe. Thats not to say I am not open to talking to people my age. I just haven’t found those people I connect with. Yet.

    You said yourself that the success of most relationships is based in communication. So does age matter in that sense if two people have a complementary communication system? For example, if two people are on the shallow spectrum and only discuss shallow things, can they not have a great shallow relationship?

    This is not to say other considerations are invalid in a relationship. I definitely do not want to be in a relationship where I have to care for someone in diapers and pity myself all day. Nor do I want my partner to feel obligated to get me a happy meal every time he goes to a Mickey D’s (which he wouldn’t go to if we were serious).
    However, this isn’t to say that my hypothetical partner and I can’t have a great relationship before we get to that point.
    And who is to say a relationship of any kind didn’t work because it ended? Sometimes they run their course and it’s no one fault.
    Relationships do not have to be forever for them to be worthwhile.
    What is great is when you meet someone on your spectrum and who is coincidentally moving in the same direction.
    For the people whose older partners have alzheimers etc. -actually, for anyone with a partner- maybe they should have taken into consideration that one day they might temporarily be in a different mental place than their partner or that they might not ever meet up again. Is that something they can handle?
    Basically, I am sure if you looked at the foundations of your own relationships, you will see that it probably isn’t based on such shallow things. Instead, maybe you have gotten along with people on that same mental spectrum as yourself. Of course, there are always considerations with any relationship. However, it seems to me that in a relationship of any kind, there are no rules or exceptions, just a colorful spectrum.

    And that concludes my short novel. Opinions? Was this too off topic?

  7. I think I speak for everyone when I say, I want to see proof of that ability to dunk a tennis ball. what’s your vert? 25″?

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