Is it Wrong to Use a Younger Man for Companionship?

Is it Wrong to Use a Younger Man for Companionship?

I am a 46-year-old, young-at-heart, beautiful, sexy woman. I was married for 22 years and divorced 5 years ago. I love being married but realized I wasn’t with a man that made me happy. I have 2 beautiful kids, a son who is 24 and a daughter who is 21. I thought I would be happily married by now! I keep wondering what I am doing wrong. I’ve read your books, e-mails…

A year ago I met a man who is 13 yrs younger, with no job, new from NY, no money but was very persistent in becoming friends. At the time I was starting my new business and needed a roommate, so he was perfect! So I thought!

It quickly became romantic and he fell deeply in love with me and worshiped the ground I walked on. I, on the other hand, had feelings for him but nothing like that. Selfishly, I don’t want to be alone. I asked him to move out a month ago so I can get my feelings straight. I miss his companionship so severely that I catch myself crying. I know he’s not my future husband but I feel safe with him in all areas. Evan can you PLEASE help me? Thank You. –Shelly

Everybody listen up.

If you flip the genders and re-title this “Is It Wrong to Use a Younger Woman for Companionship”, this could be an email from a lonely man in his mid-40’s, post-divorce.

Objective reality is messy and grey and fraught with danger.

I am confident that if a man wrote the above email, most women would find it abhorrent that he would think of having his younger girlfriend invest her time in him, even though he knew that they were doomed in the long-run. And yet I would think that most readers are somewhat sympathetic to Shelly and can imagine how they’d feel in her situation.

This is why it’s dangerous to tar men as “players” or “users” or “liars” when they’re dating you without long-term intentions. Sometimes, even the nicest people, like Shelly, do something selfish that will have a negative impact on a romantic partner.

While it sounds nice that everyone should state his/her intentions at the beginning to avoid wasting anybody’s time, that’s far easier said than done, folks.

Which is to say that I’m not a moralist. I’m a pragmatist.

And whether I’m telling women that men look for sex and find love, so don’t sleep with him unless you can handle the consequences, or telling men that they’d better pay for the first date or they won’t get a second date, I try very hard to deal in objective reality.

Objective reality is messy and grey and fraught with danger.

What’s right for you is not necessarily what’s right for him.

What’s right for him is not necessarily what’s right for you.

All relationships are about navigating that space between those two realms with a measure of integrity.

So, Shelly, I don’t know how long you were together. A week? A month? Three months? One year? But you claim that he was “deeply in love” with you when you broke up. Fair enough.

If that’s the case, you did the right thing by kicking him out.

What’s right for you is not necessarily what’s right for him.

What’s right for him is not necessarily what’s right for you.

You sacrificed some measure of short-term personal pleasure in order to avoid creating a world of hurt for your younger boyfriend.

This was the most ethical thing you could do – and is very consistent with the kind of thing that I routinely did when I was single. (That’s why I never had a girlfriend for longer than 8 months; the second I knew that I wasn’t going to marry her was the second I got out.)

However, I don’t want you to beat yourself up over the fact that you are lonely and still have feelings for this young man.

Pretty much EVERYONE who EVER breaks up with a romantic partner – presuming the relationship wasn’t disastrous – suffers considerable regrets in ensuing weeks and months. Factor in that you were living together, and, well, it’s almost as if you suffered another mini-divorce.

So what are you to do, given that you’re both sad and lonely and miss each other?

I would say that you should stick to your guns and cut him out of your life entirely. No contact, no hope, no texts, no nothing. Only then can you both ably move on from your unrealistic entanglements.

Yet if you were to reinitiate contact with him, you would have to do so with the knowledge that it’s a long-term mistake for both of you – that the pleasure you’ll gain from sex and companionship is going to ultimately pale compared to the pain you’ll experience when one of you eventually pulls away from the other.

In other words, you can call him up and “use” him again to fulfill your temporary emptiness. Men and women do this every day by staying in flawed romantic partnerships, presuming it beats being alone.

Just don’t kid yourself about the consequences.

You’re going to temporarily soothe your own discomfort, but you’re going to destroy this guy who thinks he has another chance with you.

I don’t judge you either way, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ethical path out of your situation.

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Comments:

  1. 61
    marymary

    Lurking 
    Butting in here, but in my forties men have approached me at parties, at church, at the local shop, at networking events, in the lift at work.  
    can,t say how many could progress but I posit that one or two would be sufficient. in fact, the one that I went for is still progressing.
    it may not be typical but it,s not so atypical that it,s impossible to meet someone once you,re over 40. the OP met someone, Goldie met someone, I met someone.  a friend of mine in her fifties got married a few years ago to someone she met in her late forties. Another met her husband in her fifties.   How many examples do you need? Does it matter if it takes two years rather than six months in the grand scheme of things? Especially at this advanced age, two years just flies by!
    if it,s so difficult to meet someone in your forties then surely it,s best to be more choosy, not less? Better ditch the no future guy now so the OP can start looking for those few remaining eligible men before someone else finds them. Does anyone really have the time and stamina for a relationship that they know isn.t going anywhere, regardless of their age?  
    And there,s always option two. Single is better than an unfulfilling relationship.
     

  2. 62
    Magdalena

    Ohhh Evan! You seem like a nice Jewish boy – but you’re making me meshuge! Why do you always miss the point? Is this intentional, or is it because you’re a man?
    Firstly, a man who would use a younger woman would, indeed, get and deserve all of my (and hopefully all of the smart women’s) derision. Because HE would be using her for her young, wet panties. Now, that’s just a fact and you know it. He needs to get the younger poontang so that he can feel virile again. He is a USER.
    This younger man is USING this older woman who obviously likes having him around because she has a hard time letting go and reminding herself that it’s okay to be mature and beautiful. I would (for example) die to look . like Julie Christie when I am 70. But I digress. we have the MALE WORLD to thank for that notion as well…that a woman is only as good as the age 39 and after she’s nothing. The reason the younger man is a user (yes, Evan, he is) is because he is shacking up with a woman and has NO JOB IN NEW YORK CITY!?!? You don’t see a problem with that? He’s not a USER? Really? Do you honestly believe that he’s not going to want some kids some day and knows this woman isn’t good for his “need to breed” which will inevitably show? (refer to Ashton Kutcher). Of course he will! And he KNOWS it!! He is a USER!

  3. 63
    Anita

    I’m with the people who say she should consider marrying him or staying with him long-term. I say that because the only thing she has against the relationship (it seems) is that he is younger. I know women married to men who are that much younger than they are and it’s worked out. The job thing seemed incidental–not like it was a big problem for the OP. I don’t know why she says she’s using him, if they feel so strongly about each other. Love is love. It doesn’t always look the way we expect it to look or arrive when we expect it to arrive. If you could Amazon would be all over it.

  4. 64
    XJyoyo

    I agree with Evan’s opinion that Shelly has done the right thing which was ethical, and will be good for her ex-bf in long run. I just ended a 2-year relationship with my ex-bf 2 months ago, he is 10 year older than me (not that big age gap). I was upset and angry when we split, because he never told me that he actually didn’t want to live with me in future although he knew I wanted a family with him. He said that I and my daughter could move to another city to live with him in future, that was when our relationship was into 3 months. Of course it wasn’t a right time to make decision back then. He had never lived with any of his GFs before although he is already 44. I expressed to him that I wanted a normal family a few times last year, but he didn’t respond. In late November, my friend and her BF warned me that the guy seemed to have problem of thinking about having future with me from what I said. I asked him (a bit aggressively this time): “Just give me an answer “Do you want  our relationship to remain like this forever?, he didn’t want to talk about it with me at first. But I was a bit angy and said: “Please just tell me if you want to have a family with me or not, it’s ok that you say ‘No’. He still refused to answer and said it won’t be a constructive conversation. Finally, he admitted that he can’t live with anyone , he just wanted to remain dating me.
     
    I felt that I had been completely used by him in the past 2 years; he had been dishonest to me.  The worse thing is that he wasted my precious time. 2 years is not short for a 33 year old woman. Now I am almost 35. I also got hurt for what he had done to me. He even said when I wanted to break up:” Why bother? You have already got J..a(My daughter’s name). I think he was a jerk, he didn’t even apologize to me for what he did, and still wanted to stay over night at my place after I said we have to break up. What a bustard.

  5. 65
    Nicole

    @Lurking, while men and women may get to indulge in unrealistic expectations online, in real life, people usually approach people who are likely to be good fits and who will take them seriously.
    I’ve known many perfectly average middle aged women who managed to find 2nd husbands.  And honestly, I’ve seen pretty women who didn’t find a first husband.
    The poster might be pretty but the truth of the matter is, most people are average, which is why that category exists, and lots of average men and women meet, date, and get married.  
    Everyone is cute to someone else, so it’s likely anyone complaining about getting ignored is actually doing some ignoring themselves.  I know that I do that a lot.  (Ignore people or assume they aren’t being serious).

  6. 66
    Helen

    Evan, I’m not sure why you think women would find the OP’s letter “abhorrent” if the genders were reversed.  I certainly wouldn’t.  The OP has done nothing wrong in this case; it wouldn’t make any difference if it were a man or woman.  The point is that it’s not just her feelings that should be judged - we all have irrational feelings (and I’m not convinced her feelings are irrational).  What matters is whether we act upon them, or act with integrity no matter what. In this case, it seems that she acted with integrity despite her lonely feelings.
     
    Lurking 47: I would add one more thing (since it seems that others here have already covered the age issue): you shouldn’t just marry someone because THEY have strong feelings for you, if you don’t have strong feelings for them, out of loneliness or desperation.  You don’t do this at any age, whether you’re in your 20s, 40s, or 60s. 
     
    I get the sense that you’re valuing the status of being married or otherwise coupled above anything else – at least for the OP’s sake.  Doesn’t matter whether the two are actually compatible, just as long as they’re not single.  This is a potentially disastrous way to think.

  7. 67
    Gina

    @ Goldie:
     ”My personal strategy when coming out of my marriage was that, as awesome as it would be to meet someone who’s right for me, that wasn’t why I ended the marriage. I ended it because I felt I was better off being single than staying in that marriage. That, as I was told, is the only valid reason to end a marriage at all, because the man who’s right for you may never materialize. You’ve got to learn to be happy being on your own. That is almost a prerequisite for being happy with someone else. If you feel pressured to find someone and get married, you’ll rush through dating and make bad choices. If you feel that your time is running out, you’re too old, and you’ve got to snatch a guy, any guy, before those pesky 25-year-olds get their claws into him, you will again rush through dating and make bad choices. You’ve got to learn to take it one day at a time, and whatever happens, happens.”
    My sentiments exactly!!!

  8. 68
    Goldie

    @ Lurking – aww thanks for asking. I’d say it was a mix of everything. Real-life friends, Match, OkCupid, Meetup, social groups that I belong to… Everyone but coworkers. My age group, 5-7 years younger, and 5-7 years older. I admit that I had several things going for me: I relate pretty easily to men; I have sort of won the genetic lottery (wasn’t the prettiest girl in high school or college, but now all of a sudden, I ended up with really good looks for my age group); I like dating geeks, which is probably not every woman’s favorite dating group. I’m really not into the alpha types, and that’s just as well, because they’re probably not into me, either. I’m still friends with quite a few of these guys. I mean, it’s not like we hang out and do things together — with my bf living 70 miles from me, I don’t have any kind of free time for that — but we message each other, catch up for drinks on occasion, and know we can count on each other when in need of advice or help. So hopefully this answers your question of whether they were one-date hits or not. I’ve had a few of those, but hasn’t everyone? and I got played exactly once. I’d say it could’ve been worse. I didn’t do too hot when I first started out, because like Shelley (the OP), I didn’t have any dating experience, and was too concentrated on partnering up and getting out of the dating game as soon as possible. When I stopped evaluating each date as potential long-term partner, and started approaching dating as the process of meeting new people and learning about them, with no expectations of having a family, an LTR, or even another date with that person (because that’s not really completely up to me to decide, they have a say in it too, and can say no for a variety of reasons and I have to respect that), things got easier and more fun. I like to tell people that it felt like being back in college! I ended up meeting someone on OKC. We have a ton of common interests, and are having a great time together so far (16 months if memory serves me?) If things end, I’ll probably take some time for myself, and then do it all over again, probably with more emphasis on meeting people IRL, especially if I’ve turned 50 by then, since I heard that people on dating sites react negatively to that number. Not sure if I’m an exception or not, because I’ve only had a handful of single girlfriends my age. They all seem to be doing very well for themselves, though.

  9. 69
    Joe

    @ Magdalena #62:
     
    Read the letter again.  It says he was new from NY, which indicates to me (and I suspect the majority of readers) that he came from NY.  It doesn’t even specify New York City…

  10. 70
    Kathleen

    Magdalens 62
    You are a character! Your post had me laughing. Yes the guys is no victim LOL  

  11. 71
    Karl R

    Helen asked: (#66)
    “Evan, I’m not sure why you think women would find the OP’s letter ‘abhorrent’ if the genders were reversed.”
     
    You are a very open-minded and objective person. Not all people are like you. Take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum…
     
    Magdalena said (referring to an older man): (#62)
    “HE would be using her for her young, wet panties. Now, that’s just a fact and you know it. He needs to get the younger poontang so that he can feel virile again. He is a USER.”
    Magdalena said (referring to the younger man): (#62)
    “This younger man is USING this older woman who obviously likes having him around because she has a hard time letting go and reminding herself that it’s okay to be mature and beautiful.”
     
    In Magdalena’s world, the man is always the user. She’s willing to ignore Shelly’s description of the younger man (“he fell deeply in love with me and worshiped the ground I walked on”) because it doesn’t fit with what she “knows” about this younger man.
     
    Most women fall somewhere between you and Magdalena. They find it easier to see a woman’s viewpoint than a man’s, but they don’t blind themselves to the parallels between the situations.

  12. 72
    Anita

    About the Lurking thread and stuff about age. My mom is in a retirement community and there is all sorts of romantic intrigue going on there. Sexual behavior continues until our bodies just give out. You don’t hear or see much about this in the media, so unless you’re around older people you won’t know about it.
    Also half of adults in the US are single, I’ve read. Seems to be big news these days. Doubt they’re all sitting around by their lonesomes doing nothing. And white alpha males running the world is really becoming a thing of the past. So these two things are changing the dating dynamics in the US, I’d say. (In the May-December scenario it was always an old white alpha guy with a young fetishable girly girl. Now you see different types of May-December pairings and different reasons for pairing up.)  

  13. 73
    Goldie

    @ Anita, this is so true! My parents are 75, and have lived in several subsidized-rent houses for seniors by now. They tell me it’s the same thing everywhere they’ve lived, people are pairing up left and right. My friends’ widowed mothers, same thing. They’re in their 70s, and just about every one of them has a  boyfriend that they enjoy spending time and doing things with. Life goes on :)

  14. 74
    Locutus

    Magdalena #62,
    Your post has got to be a joke.  You appear to view men much the same way a Ku Klux Klan member would view a black person.  Do you really have complete contempt for men?  Another post about women being helpless victims even when they even admit to using someone, as the OP even STATED herself!!!! 

  15. 75
    Karl R

    Locutus said: (#74)
    “Another post about women being helpless victims even when they even admit to using someone, as the OP even STATED herself!!!!”
     
    As much as I disagree with Magdalena (on practically everything), you got one important detail wrong.
     
    Shelly did not say she used her boyfriend. Evan chooses the titles for the blog posts.
     
    Based on Shelly’s letter to Evan, we don’t have enough information to tell whether she was using him or not. We have, however, seen evidence that Shelly believe her boyfriend didn’t use her.

  16. 76
    Nicole

    @Goldie, actually I’ve been reading for years about issues with STDs and HIV with older adults.  It’s a hard segment to treat b/c they don’t necessarily like to fess up about having multiple partners or sometimes even being sexually active at all.  
    Essentially you have people who think they don’t need to worry about anything b/c they can no longer get pregnant, assume their peers aren’t a risk for anything, people who didn’t get to put a lot of miles on the speedometer before they got married b/c it wasn’t socially/morally acceptable and are not living it up, and the bad gender imbalances so from what I’ve heard, some retirement communities are very much rooster in the hen house scenarios where you’ll have some of those old guys with a lot of “birds” to spend time with.
    Plus I’d read that the ones that are shared room living have conjugal visit rooms.
    I also saw a show on TLC called “Extreme Cougars” and there is really nothing I could describe that that title doesn’t already explain.

  17. 77
    Locutus

    Hi Karl,
    I stand corrected.  You are correct.

  18. 78
    Anita

    Nicole & Goldie: Interesting. I always had the idea that you hit middle age and nobody wants anybody anymore, the body’s all used up, and that no one falls in love any more. But a lot of people seem to be saying that this isn’t the case. Makes me happy. Not sure why I had that idea or why that idea being wrong makes me happy.

  19. 79
    Karmic Equation

    As long as the guy doesn’t want children by natural means (childbirth, as opposed to adoption or surrogacy or in vitro) – I think if OP loves the guy and he her, then it could work.
     
    But if he wants children and she’s beyond her childbearing years, then it would be unfair for her to continue the relationship, even if they love each other dearly.

  20. 80
    janie

    first I want to say to those who say they’d never date someone so much younger…I didn’t think I ever would either.   I had been divorced abt 5yrs also in my early 40′s, and very sceptical to dating. I started working with a friend I’d known for about 4 yrs and he was 17yrs younger. If someone had told me that I was going to date him prior it happening, I’d have laughed.  While I loved him as a friend, he was not even close to the type of guy I had ever been attracted to.  anyway I started hanging out with him almost like I would’ve one of my girlfriends, but somewhere along the way I became very attracted to him. ..I think for the first time in my life I fell in love. I fell in love because of the person he really was inside.  while I knew the relationship had an expiration date…  he needed to have the marriage and have children. … experience that part of life that I had already lived. … I’m not done living, I’m just on a different chapter.   I only wish I could’ve been that person to share all of that with him.  we were together for about a year and now two years later I’m still very much in love with him.   It was the best relationship I ever had , and the only reason it ended is because I loved him enough to let him go.  He is such a good man, he needed to have a family. … and be that great husband and great father. ..I believe if he had stayed with me and never had that , that years later  that may have built resentment. I rarely share but felt the need to for some reason. ..mostly for myself I guess. …so if you have any comments please be kind

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