You are 20-Something and He is 40-Plus: 10 Tips to Make the Relationship Work

George Clooney is taken, but he still makes women swoon. Over 50, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and Patrick Dempsey still make women’s hearts flutter. The charisma of a silver fox is not just in his salt-and-pepper hair. Younger women also fall for their gravity, wisdom, and maturity–qualities that make older men seem more stable and reliable than their younger and wilder counterparts. After all, women yearn for a guy who is more into them than the let’s-just-hang-out types.

If you are 20-something and have your eyes on a dashing and suave 40-plus gentleman who you want to ask out or have started dating one, learn how to make the relationship work. The challenge for you is to understand a man who is at a different stage of life than you are.

1. Don’t hog his time.

If he is 40-plus, it is likely that he is well-settled in his career and holds a responsible position in office. He has meetings to attend and deadlines to meet. Don’t expect him to meet you every evening after work or chat with you till the wee hours. He probably has more work responsibilities than you have.

Also, your beau has been in this world for much longer than you have been. He might have kids from an earlier relationship. They may stay with him or he visits them. He needs time to interact with his kids without feeling guilty that he is neglecting you. So don’t nag him for a date. Instead, do your own thing. After all, you have chosen to date the whole man that also includes the other parts of his life.

2. Accept that he can’t be as footloose and fancy-free as you are.

Because the 40-plus man is saddled with more responsibilities than you have right now, he can’t be as spontaneous as you are. He can’t go off on impromptu trips because he has a job or has to make arrangements for his kids.

You are just starting off in your career; he has been working for years. He earns more than you do but don’t assume he has wads of money to spare. He may have a home or business loan to pay off. He may be saving to build a tidy nest egg. He may also be paying a hefty amount towards spousal or child support. So don’t expect him to splurge on stuff. Your date outings should not break his bank.

3. Help him carry his emotional baggage.

He has been in this world for quite some time. He has been with people and around them. He has been through jobs and relationships. He is more experienced than you are, but he also has a larger emotional baggage that you do. Try to understand where he is coming from before you react to his words. Be patient when he hesitates and encourage him when he lacks confidence or feels shy around a much-younger woman.

4. Be prepared to discuss marriage and kids.

The 40-plus man wants stability more than anything else in life. He is done flitting from one girl to the next and now wants to settle down. So don’t be surprised if he asks you what you think of marriage and kids just after a few months of dating. This is the time to be honest. Before you decide to marry and start a family, both of you need to be on the same page.

Many 20-somethings are not ready to settle down. They want to concentrate on their careers, backpack around the world, or have fun. If the idea of marrying now feels restrictive, be open. Ponder over when you would be ready to marry and let him know.

Your beau may or may not want to have kids. He might be eager to start a family right away either because he has no kids or feels he has to hurry because age is not on his side. Or he might not want to have children because he has kids from an earlier relationship or feels he is too old to be a father now. Whatever his views, let him know, honestly, what you want.

5. Empathize with his quieter pursuits.

The 40-plus man has left his wild days behind.

He no longer gulps down five vodkas at a party. He is more conscious of what’s healthy and what’s not.

He would rather pay more for a formal sit-down dinner at a quiet, upscale restaurant than jostle for space and shout orders at the top of his lungs in a crowded bar with loud music. He now appreciates classiness more than he did earlier.

He prefers to retire early than stay up for an all-night party. He has to be at work the next day or maybe he does not have the energy to dance away the night.

The 40-plus man is not boring; he just prefers quieter pursuits. Don’t drag him to places where he doesn’t want to be or make him do what he doesn’t like. Find activities that you can enjoy together.

6. Understand that he might now want to search for greater meaning in life.

There comes a stage in a person’s life, usually when he is done living life on a high, when he begins to look for meaning and purpose.

Why am I here? Am I doing what I was supposed to do? Am I really happy? These questions pop up and haunt many people, and they can’t rest till they have found out the answers. Your beau is right now at this stage of life where he often wonders if he is living meaningfully or if his life’s true purpose is waiting for him somewhere out there.

You are just starting out in life, and it may be difficult for you to wrap your wits around these philosophical and existential issues. If you can’t help him find the answers, don’t laugh at him either. He will eventually find out what is searching for. Till then be patient.

Be happy for him when he finds his purpose in life and support him in whatever he needs to do to live it.

7. Accept that he might have health issues or is not as energetic as you are.

Relax! Many 40-plus men are healthier, fitter, and more energetic than guys in your age bracket. But some niggling health problems do catch up with people in their 40s. He may have conditions like hypertension, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, or diabetes. Accept them, but ensure that he takes his medicines on time and leads a healthy life. Show him that you care.

Men tend to lose their sexual drive as they age while women are at their peak between 25 and 40 years of age. He may not be as energetic in the bedroom as the younger guys you may have dated, but he will make up for the lack of energy with his expertise and experience.

8. Don’t bring up the topic of age-gap.

The 40-plus man, who is dating someone in her 20s, is always conscious of the difference in age. He doesn’t need you to remind him or worse, joke about it. Don’t let your friends bring up the topic either.

You can prick this pain-point during your day-to-day interactions without realizing what you have done. As someone who doesn’t mingle with too many 20-year-olds, he might not be aware of the latest TV shows, teen celebs, dance moves, or chartbusting albums. Try not to bring up these generation-specific cultural topics during your conversations. Don’t vent your frustration on him when he shows his ignorance. Instead, patiently enlighten him on the subject, and who knows, you might soon get him hooked on your favorite sitcom.

9. Don’t be the clingy type.

Intelligent, sensible, and mature men do not fall for a younger woman because she is a kid. Stop acting needy or behaving like a kid.

He wants a strong and independent woman around him who is confident of her own worth. While he will be supportive, he does not want to carry around baggage. He wants a relationship between equals.

10. Don’t let him boss you around.

There are two sides to every coin. Relationships too have their dark sides. A person who is much older than you are will also be smarter and wiser. Your 40-plus man can advise and guide you in many matters, but on the flip side, he may also boss you around. Don’t let him dictate your life just because he is more mature. Retain your independence and don’t let him stop you from doing the things you love.

Talking things over will help him see your side of things, and he will probably admire you for standing up for your beliefs. But if he continues to be stubborn and insists on playing Daddy, you know you are not with the right man.

Every relationship comes with its unique set of challenges. It is up to you to work through the difficulties and figure out what works for both partners. The charms of being with an older man far outweigh the cons. After all, no guy your age can make a lady feel special in the way he does. Let your heart lead the way. Always remember what attracted you to him in the first place. Keep in mind the above tips to create a loving and nurturing relationship that fulfills you both. By Yashmin Ali