SBM always welcomes reader questions, comments, and feedback. Check out our SBM Mail series here for past submissions and you can submit your own questions using the Contact Us page. Today’s reader ask:
I’ve been an avid reader of your site for a while now. I have a question that has been discussed among my circle of friends lately and was interested in getting an opinion from the writers of the site. So, I’ve always been into older men, 6+ years my senior to be precise. I’ve just turned 27 and have been dating men well into their late 30s and the common consensus from people in my environment is if a man is 35-42 years of age, hasn’t been married nor has kids, and is single, it must equate to something being wrong with him or he’s seriously damaged emotionally. The question that I’d like to ask is if you all find this assumption to be true as well?
In my opinion, a single man 35 – 42 years of age who hasn’t been married nor has kids is no more likely to have something wrong with him or be seriously damaged than any other person of any other age. I’ve heard this theory before, from both men and women. The popular theory goes that if a man or woman reaches a certain age, let’s call this “age X,” and he or she hasn’t achieved some string of arbitrary goals established by society and/or their social circle, then something is automatically wrong with this person.
I’ll admit that age does have a way of increasing “the baggage” one collects; however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, the innocence (or ignorance) you may gain or benefit from by dating a younger man (or woman) might not make up for the maturity (or experience) you might gain or benefit from dating an older man (or woman). It’s not an inverse relationship, but there are sacrifices you’ll make either way when dating someone younger or older than yourself. Further, his history is more important than his age. For instance, is he a serial dater, commitment phobe, or has he simply not met “the one”? Is he even looking for someone? Has he prioritized career or other pursuits over relationships or children? Regardless of age, problems will arise within your relationship. What will really dictate the success or failure of a relationship is not how ignorant or damaged a person is when you meet them, it’s how willing you are (or are not) to grow and work through problems together.
There are a few additional flaws with strictly age-based assumptions I’d like to cover:
1. Everyone is marrying later and increasingly, not marrying at all. Recently, another SBM reader shared an opinion piece with me about The War on Men. While I know it does well, I try to avoid blaming one sex for the pitfalls of the opposite sex. In my observations, the ailments of men and women are usually a plight of both having shortcomings rather than one’s blatant fault, but when it comes to relationship issues involving a battle of the sexes admitting, “we both share blame” doesn’t do as well as “it’s all your fault.” Still, I bring up this piece because the author does share an interesting study:
According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.
Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.
I’ve written a similar piece on this subject, 7 Reasons Why Black Men Marry Later (not to assume or imply that you exclusively date black men). Nevertheless, an increasing number of men of all races are marrying later in life or choosing not to marry at all. This leads me to my next two points.
2. Not everyone progresses on the same timeline. Assuming having children and getting married is even on the man’s radar; most men (and women) are accomplishing these goals later in life. A chart showing when men and women of all races are marrying is located here.
What confuses me about the assumption of your friends – and the many people who share the same theory – is the fact that it punishes people for prioritizing the right accomplishments in their life. Let me get this straight, a person progresses through life without having children out of wedlock and who chooses to either prioritize finding love over getting married by a certain age or whom realizes that they do not want to marry at all, and people think there is something wrong with this person, because they reached a certain age that other people – who are not them mind you – feel they should be married with kids?
3. Not everyone has the same life goals. As we have often suggested here at SBM, the main take-a-way from many of these men versus women debates is not men versus women at all. Instead, people should date people whose life goals align. I see nothing wrong with a man or woman not achieving some list of arbitrary goals they never set for themselves by a certain age, because other people they don’t know and likely don’t care about believe they should. Assigning blame or finger pointing at people whose own life goals simply don’t align with your own seems fairly pointless. Regardless of the number of years they’ve lived on Earth, if getting married and having children are goals you prioritize, among others, then you should both clearly convey and make sure that the person you are dating has those same goals in mind.
Do you use age to determine if a man/woman you’re considering dating might have too much baggage? What age or age gap do you use? Are you more cautious about dating older men/women than yourself? Why do you think an increasing number of men are waiting later to marry or not marrying at all?