Why Are Younger Men Drawn To “Cougar” Women?

Updated August 16, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

When you hear the term "cougar," do you view it in a positive or negative light? The word cougar is commonly used but may not be the most appropriate, respectful, or flattering word. “A woman who’s older than a man she’s dating” or "a woman dating a younger guy" may be a better way to define the situation.

Why are some younger men dating older women? The answers are probably as unique as the relationships themselves, but there may be some common threads, many of which we'll speak to below. 

(The focus of this article is on relationships between younger men and older women. However, it is important to note that in all relationships, regardless of age difference or gender, partners have personal reasons for engaging in the relationship. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. Research shows that there was not much difference in life satisfaction or relationship satisfaction between couples of the same age and couples with a larger age gap.)

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Online dating has expanded the scope of available men and women who are interested in dating. It has also offered the option for people to filter their search for someone to date by their age. There are new dating sites that even specifically focus on “age-gap relationships.” If age isn’t a factor for those looking to date, these dating sites may give people more dating opportunities, such as dating a cougar, or a woman older than the person they're dating. The popularity of such sites seems to indicate that people don’t mind the age difference.

There is a trend of older single women dating younger single men. According to a survey by the AARP in 2003, of 2,094 older single women ranging in age from 40 to 69, about 20% were dating or had recently dated a man who was at least five years younger than they were. Similarly, there is currently a large percentage of older men dating younger women.

The stereotypical fairytale relationship may speak of two young adults who fall in love, get married, buy a home (or inherit a castle), and raise a family in the suburbs (or in their kingdom). It may be perfect for a couple who wants to live that dream. Other people may say, "That's just not for me." Still others may have gone for the fairytale wedding and family, and then found out that the fairytale ending never really came true. Those people may be looking for something different in later relationships. Many of them may find that dating someone who is not their age suits them just fine.

Who Is The Older Woman Who Dates Younger Men?

Why do older women like younger men? While everyone is unique and has reasons for who they choose to date, some women who want a casual relationship or nothing more than a sexual connection may date younger men who want the same type of relationship. Some older women may be interested in a committed relationship with someone who’s younger than they are. There is no “one size fits all” definition for a woman who dates younger men.

What About Marriage And Age Differences? 

According to the U.S. Census, in 2016, in just under 8% of marriages, women were older than their husbands by four years or more. In 1.7% of marriages, women were older than their husbands by more than ten years. By way of comparison, men were four years or older than their wives in just under 32% of marriages, and men were ten years older than their wives in 7.4% of marriages. So, it’s much more common for a woman to marry an older man than for a woman to marry a younger man.

Women tend to live longer than men, so older women may appreciate that their younger partners may be with them to support them physically and emotionally in their later years. No one can tell the future, but there's a better-than-average chance that their younger partners will outlive them, which means they'll likely always have companionship if they continue their relationship.

What's The Draw For Younger Men In Seeking A Relationship With An Older Woman?

Years of life experiences shape us and change us. Maturity, intelligence, financial security, and quality of sex are just a few of the things that may draw younger men to relationships with older women.

Younger men and older women don't necessarily seek out relationships with someone in a specific age group. In some cases, they may become attracted to each other without knowing their age difference. Having previously experienced a relationship with older women, some men may prefer dating people who aren’t their age. Some young men may appreciate a woman who has had more time to become financially independent or established in a career. Some people may not want to feel pressure to support their partner financially. Some younger men are happy to be financially supported by their partner, as may many people of other ages.

The maturity level of older women can be a big draw for younger men. Most relationships must be built on trust and mutual respect before feelings of love come into play. Having lived longer and had more experiences, older women may have come to know themselves well and are skilled at building trust and respect.

Experience may have taught older women to communicate effectively. They have developed interests of their own and learned how to manage their emotions. Time may have taught them to be clear and focused on their goals—and on what they want out of life. They may know the fun of being playful and the importance of a good sense of humor.

An older person may exude a level of confidence that their younger selves lacked. They may be more grounded and realistic than they were when they were younger. They may have a more relaxed attitude about life, and a younger man may find that refreshing. Older women may have learned not to “sweat the small stuff” and may have a calmer demeanor. They may know that there is value in living in comfort and serenity. 

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An older woman who has a wealth of life experience may give their younger partner the benefit of a more mature perspective. Having a strong relationship with an older woman may give a younger man the confidence and assurance that he can make his partner truly happy, and there can be plenty of personal reward in that.

This study showed that society still doesn’t tend to approve of older women dating younger men. While flippant comments about the age difference may bother younger men, older women may have learned with age that others judging them is not worth worrying about. 

The issue of sex may come into play in a relationship between people who are different ages. The New York Times published an article that details the personal experience of an older woman named Cindy Gallop. A successful advertising executive, Gallop publicly shared insight from her sexual experiences with younger men on her website and through a TED talk.

According to Gallop, a problem with many men may be that they tend to learn about sex from watching internet porn, which is nothing like having sex with a woman to whom you're committed. From a sexual perspective, younger men may benefit from an older woman's varied sexual experiences. Older women may also have more experience knowing how to communicate their sexual desires to men. Research shows that for many women, sex gets better with age.

Conflict in a relationship between a younger man and an older woman may arise if they’re not on the same page about the issue of having children. Older women may already have grown or near-grown children. They may be past a point in their lives where they want more children. If they’ve gone through menopause, they might not be able to have children biologically. However, some couples may decide to use donor eggs for in-vitro fertilization or explore other reproductive options.

Why Some Younger Men Might Not Want To Date Younger Women

If a younger woman is envisioning a future that includes marriage and family, she might prefer to date guys who will make good husbands and fathers. Some younger men might not be looking for that level of commitment. Or, while many younger men have many of the same dreams and aspirations, they might prefer the life experiences that older women may bring to relationships. Older women may know from experience that not being straightforward in relationships can backfire.

While many couples who have a large age difference are happy in their relationships, the fact is that anything that falls outside of societal norms can be challenging. Couples can get help to overcome those challenges by going to relationship therapy.

A licensed counselor has the right tools to guide couples through dealing with relationship challenges like the impact of an age gap. If you have relationship concerns or need help to build a healthy relationship, please reach out for help. Licensed mental health professionals are available to connect with you at Regain. Regain is an online therapy platform that can offer affordable, convenient support to individuals and those in a relationship. You can be matched with a compatible therapist, then meet from the comfort of home at a time that fits your schedule.

Many people have turned to online therapy to work on their relationships. Online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy when it comes to many types of issues, including those where a relationship is proving challenging, but the people involved want to make it work.

If you are involved in a relationship with an age difference, consider getting support from an online therapist. You may be facing challenges, but if you're committed to the relationship, you can make it work and find satisfaction and peace.

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