Why Do Men in Their 40s Think I'm Old?

Need relationship help? Rachel Greewald's here to advise

brown haired woman smiling image
Rachel Greenwald, Dating Coach and NY Times bestselling author
Photograph: Helen H. Richardson

Rachel Greenwald, dating coach and author of Why He Didn’t Call You Back: 1,000 Guys Reveal What They Really Thought About You After Your Date,  has helped 712 couples find love. Now, she’s ready to take on the MORE community.  Have a dating question for Rachel? Submit it here.

Dear Rachel,

I’m single at 44 years old, and men who are near my age seem only to be interested in younger women. I’m active and feel very young, and everyone says I look much younger than my age, but when men in their forties can (and do) date women in their thirties, and when they don’t even respond to my emails through online dating, it makes me feel ancient! How can I overcome this problem?

Ancient in Atlanta

Dear Ancient,

This is a real issue, and I see it everywhere. Men in their 40’s often date women in their 30’s (even 20’s!); men in their 50’s often date women in their 40’s (even 30’s!). This leaves a gaping hole in the singles arena of fabulous women looking for men near their age. The U.S. Census (2008) echoes this problem: there are 30 million single women and only 20 million single men over 40. Yikes! It reminds me of the lost-sock-in-the-dryer phenomenon: you put two socks in the clothes dryer, but only one sock comes out. Where did the other sock go? And where did all the single men your age go? The answer is that men date younger, and men die younger too.

Okay, so we know the reality and it’s unfair, but it’s not hopeless. It requires a shift in your thinking to view this problem differently. Instead of asking yourself, “Why do men in their 40’s think I’m too old?”, you should be asking, “Who thinks I’m young? And who thinks I’m hot?” Now, with these questions, there seem to be two answers: much older men and much younger men. Fifty to 60-year old men think a 44-year old is young, and some men in their late 20’s and 30’s think a 44-year old is hot.

Now, before you start screaming that you don’t want to marry an old man or a baby, consider this core principle from the business world: “You have to sell what people want to buy.” If you’re trying to sell the most delicious candy bar in the world, but all your customers want to buy ice cream, you should sell ice cream. Sure, there are not many women whose first choice is to marry someone 10+ years older or younger, but if that’s the reality of whom you attract, and you really want to find a loving partner, it’s better to face it now rather than spend years alone trying to “sell” something few people want to “buy.”

This doesn’t mean you are going to “settle”: of course not! I want you to find someone wonderful, but “wonderful” isn’t defined by a number. And it doesn’t mean you have to give up on the men closer to your age, but it DOES mean that you need to cast a wider net. Change your online profile to search for men ages 29 to 59, and tell your friends you’re open to fix-ups in this wider age range. Be open to the possibility that Mr. Right may come wrapped in a totally different package (much older or much younger) than you’ve always envisioned. Remember that your real goal is to find happiness, which is age-less.

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Share Your Thoughts!


Jessy 06.02.2015

My life seems to illustrate your point. My husband was 15 years older than I. Best man & best marriage ever. He past away (worst day of my life) and I went to visit my son. He took me to a concert where I was hit on by a 17 year old boy. Did not take him up on it, but it made me smile. It would have made my husband laugh. Age is a strange thing. I do have one question: Why do men become "distinguished" when they get older & women are referred to as old? It's just silly. I'm sure older men will always love 20 year old women, but unless they are rich or she has Daddy issues all they can do is dream. So think about that & cheer up.

Friend 01.24.2015

I am 54 and have been told that I look like I am in my early 40's. I am also told that I am physically attractive and a fun person by men in their 20's, 30's, 40's etc. but the men who are asking me out are in their late 60's and 70's, unattractive, have nothing in common with intellectually or lifestyle. Why do I attract men I am not interested in?

Michelle Estep06.19.2013

I have been divorced (and dating)for the past 3 years, and this is absolutely true of men in their 40's. I am 47 and look to be in my early 30's (so I'm told). The 40 something (or late 30's) men would show a lot of interest at first...until I would tell them my age. My sweet bf is 32...15 year age difference. Our families accepted our relationship with no problem. I've had a friend say we look about same age, that no one would ever know. I have also heard plenty of the insulting "cougar" remarks. He and I started out as friends about 3 years ago, and I was always incredibly attracted to him. A few months ago, I quit pushing him away, and decided to give him a chance. I'm glad I did. He treats me the way I have always wanted a man to treat me. I don't know where this will go, but he has told me he can never imagine not having me in his life, and I feel the same. Thing is, the age thing just doesn't matter. If you find a younger man that wants a chance with you...don't rule it out :)

Bill 03.10.2012

I just found this string. I have the opposite issue. I am 58 and am looking for a great relationship. The issue is that I am 58 with the energy level of a 45 year old. Unfortunately, the women I meet my age are not as active and they don't think as young as I do.
Ancient is correct that once a person sees your age, they automatically count you out without seeing what you are all about. The genes in my family are very good and my parents are still alive with one in the 90's and one almost there. My great grandmother lived to 100 and grandmother live to 103. In high school the other kids used to say I had a baby face but I see them now and they look elderly. I am not at all elderly in appearance or in the way which I live.
Rachel wrote: "there are not many women whose first choice is to marry someone 10+ years older or younger, but if that’s the reality of whom you attract, and you really want to find a loving partner, it’s better to face it now rather than spend years alone trying to “sell” something few people want to “buy.”
I would hope that age could be viewed as only a number. It is more about the person and the happiness which they can share, not necessarily the age.
Over the past couple of years I have navigated the dating sites with little lasting luck. Met a fe


This is for Ancient in Atlanta.
Married at 19, to a 19, at 25 to a 39, 43 to a 59, almost married at 77, to a 78. Now, 2 months from 80, I'm living (for 2 years) with a partner whom I don't expect to marry. I divorced the first two, the 3rd was the love of my life; he died at 81, the 4th guy died 5 days before the wedding day, and the last one is 57. As Rachel says (not verbatim) don't automatically say no to someone based on age. Common interests and a feeling of connection make a good match.
By the way, sex doesn't have to go by the wayside in the older guys--discovering ways to make things work is fun!

Tina Klein11.08.2011

Hi, I found the article when searching do men in their 30's like women in their 40's? I did that search because I am still in disbelief my man is 201/2 years younger than me. I am 49...Yikes and I have been seeing a curently 29 year old man for 3 years. Thanks for reminding me that age is only a number, he loves me a lot and I love him so much too. After being with him, although there are some maturity differences, it will be very hard for me to date someone my own age if they feel I am old!! He is beautiful inside and out. We are sincerely attracted to each others brains and hearts and that maintains our physical attraction easily. I feel scared at times, and feel jealous if he turns his head to someone who is even 1 day younger than me, he on the other hand feels scared sometimes of being alone for a lot of years should I die before him. Still these things don't stop us from coming back for more over 3 years. I can't imaging loving anyone else. Thanks for the article, it was an eye opener for sure. Now I know not to worry so much.

Cathy Bitikofer11.06.2011

It depends totally on the men, and sometimes where you go looking for them. I've been married for 21 years to a man 6 years my junior, and age is totally irrelevant to him. I met him through a church group, when I was nearly 30. I have at least half a dozen friends whose husbands are at least 4-5 years younger than they. Try to look for groups and activities you think you'd like, where there might be available men. Sometimes enjoying a shared activity can spark a relationship. Usually the men who like you in spite of your "age" are the keepers anyway, since they take time to get to know you and look past the surface. It may be that some men desire their own offspring, so a younger woman may be their goal, and unfortunately there are those who only want a "trophy" wife. But I think a worthwhile man is out there, it may take patience!

Metal Maven11.06.2011

I found this to be absolutely true. I dated men who were 2-3 years younger and they said I was too old for them! I had to laugh! Men in their 40s, especially ones who are recently divorced, see opportunity in a younger women. Have a younger woman on their arm makes them feel younger and like they have a new lease on life. In fact, they might even want to start a new family. My fiance is 8.5 years younger than me. He thinks I am hot and I think he is wonderful. He is not interested in children and I like the fact that there's a good possibility that we will both share many healthy years together and may die at nearly the same time.

tracy kaluba03.06.2011

I have been a divorced, single mom for over 14 years. I have recently started dating a 58 year old, I am 41. I love it! I don't have "daddy issues"... he is not rich, but works hard. He is very gentle and kind and in no way nauseating. I have caught myself concerned with being a caretaker if our relationship continues, but if it does, then that would mean I truly love him and I would love taking care of him. However; life has no promises and there is always a chance that if we do stay together, something could happen to me.
I agree Rachel that if there are single women out there that want to find love again, they might have to take a chance and change their perspective. Instead of being angry at men our age wanting younger women... be the younger woman in an older man's life. I love the confidence I see in him, when he is with me and he has told me that I make him feel young. He makes me feel young and beautiful too.
Try it... you might like it!

Kate Leiner02.08.2011

Rachel, I diagree. No women should expect to find lasting happiness with a younger man. Men are visual and shallow and dating younger men is setting yourself up for heartbreak. You can date older men but you'll end up as a caretaker because men die younger and they are usually sick before they croak. And even 50 year old men don't want women in their forties - you have to go older which is just nauseating. All men think they deserve to have someone young and hot until the day they die - regardless of the fact that younger women only date older men if they are looking for money or have daddy issues. If women want to be happy they need to buy a vibrator and a cat and get comfortable with the idea of being alone. In the long run, it'll save them a lot of time, energy and heartbreak. For anyone, who disagrees go out to Match.com and start searching profiles. It is astonishing how many men don't check the boxes specifying requirements for the type of job you need to have, your education, marital status, number of kids but body type is ALWAYS checked. Men have become truly pathetic...why bother?

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