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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  1. 41

    So, the OP is a sugar momma who cut the cord??? LOL!

  2. 42

    @ Karl R:
    “You believe me when I say that I don’t want kids. Trust that you can equally believe younger men who firmly feel the same way. They’ve had plenty of time to consider the idea.”
    Good point. I have to agree. I admit that my experience is limited. One man that comes to mind is a much younger guy who said he liked me and cared for me, but then, in a casual conversation, he’d say things like “when I have kids of my own”… Which, in my opinion, left no room for me in his future. So I never even bothered to develop an interest. He’s a great guy, but not for me. I guess if a man told me upfront that he did not want kids, that’d be different and I’d give this man a chance.

  3. 43

    Shelly wrote, “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.”
    If one person has has fallen that deeply in love with someone who doesn’t share those feelings, then that is the bottom line. Unless Shelly decides that she’s letting external factors influence her decision (his age, lack of resources, whatever), then they both need to move on.

  4. 44
    Some other guy

    Not every man who hangs onto a woman who sees no future is secretly hoping for a future. Many are in fact just spending enjoyable time together, a lovely friends-with-benefits arrangement (in which case, nobody is using anybody else), even if there might be tugs that wish of more. I’m sorry if I gave the impression that FWB is inherently taking advantage.
    But once you’ve spent a lot of time with a person, you can often tell what’s going on inside, to read their vibe that they’re still totally in love with you, and that even if they say they’re OK with just passing the time, you *know* that you’re taking advantage of them by stringing them along.
    You can’t be expected to read everybody’s mind all the time, but to say that you should always be able to take the other person’s word at face value, even if they’re hopelessly ensorcelled, seems like willful ignorance to me.

  5. 45

    Karl 39  
    Compelling argument
    Right on! I love the questions for all women If an older man told me what was best for me Id laugh in his face. In fact I think I remember doing that when I was as young as 14!
    Girl in the midwest 38   
    Your point that as women and men become more equal, women will have similar options to men is a good one. Helen Fisher PHD Anthropolgist says that relationship pairing of younger men older women will continue increase because of this.  

  6. 46

    @ Karl R #12, #25, & #39
    Clear, insightful, rational, and well said!   
    I loved the questions!!!   If someone thought they knew what was best for me based on what they thought I wanted, needed, felt, and what I should do I would not tolerate that.   If I ASK for advice that is different.
    @ Locutus #41
    LOL!!!    Right to the point in less then a dozen words!

  7. 47

    Although Evan’s advice is good, and speaks to what her letter specified, I can’t see  many middle aged man ever writing  for advice  asking if he did the right thing by breaking up with a girl 13 yrs. younger because she loved him more than he loved her?    Most men would love this situation and not get out of it, especially just to be alone again, with the uncertainty of replacing the relationship.  There is no stigma for a man dating a younger woman who makes less money, it is usually respected.  That’s why the ‘flip the genders” rationale  in this story doesn’t really apply?  It’s great that she is so confident that she will find  ‘the one’ again  in her forties- when  the majority of people are married  EVERY  WHERE  you go. I’m not sure she has a realistic  grasp (like Evan does from his client base) on dating at  her age.    This young man  already loves her, knows her, is comfortable living with her, committed, wants a future with her, and is her companion and lover. All of these are difficult to replace. From where most women of a certain age stand in similar dating scenarios, it was risky throwing  him back into the pond.   

  8. 48

    Lurking 47
    Thoughtful post and I agree with you that. I can’t imagine a middle aged man writing for advice in this situation.
    As Ive said part of the issue is that woman has been married half her life and doesn’t really know what her options are at this time. Luckily she’s said she’s attractive and sexy but in the online world of men her age a high percent are looking for younger and many of the never been married men her age may have an avoidant attachment style.

  9. 49

    I’m evidently a societal misfit.   While sex is indeed fun, I am not like get involved with someone merely for casual sex.   I just think for me, I can find many other things to do that are more fulfilling.

  10. 50

    Lurking #47
    OTOH, I’ve known middle-aged men who’ve gotten involved with younger women, and the younger women didn’t hesitate to dump them,usually because they wanted children and the man did not.
    Actually, there are many older singles these days, but it’s true that the men in that age range often want younger women, or as Kathleen (#48) said, they have developed an avoidant attachment style of relating that makes them poor prospects.

  11. 51

    @ Lurking #47, Ruby #50 – And I also know older men who do NOT want to get involved with much younger women, because they don’t believe they will get the level of companionship that they’re looking for, with someone from a much younger generation. Also, just because older men want to date much younger women, doesn’t mean the much younger women are going to reciprocate. I personally wasn’t thrilled to have men 22-23 year older than I, coming after me, especially when it happened in real life vs. online — that one really creeped me out. Come on. The OP is 46, not dead. It’s probably easier for a 25-year-old on the dating market than it is for a 46-year-old, but it doesn’t mean that a 46yo woman will never be able to find a man, or, if she managed to find one, she needs to hold on to him for dear life, whether she likes him or not. It’s not that bad out there. I was 44 last time I dated and I had to beat guys off with a stick. Towards the end of it, I spent a few uncomfortable weeks trying to decide between two men that both liked me and were both a great match. And I don’t even live in a major city or wherever the quality eligible men are — I live in the Rust Belt, where the pickings are supposed to be slim.
    However, I have to admit, there were two things in the OP’s letter that set off red flags with me – “I thought I would be happily married by now” and “selfishly, I don’t want to be alone”. IMO this is the perfect recipe for ending up with the wrong person. 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.

    1. 51.1

      it’s actually not true at all that a 25 yr old woman has it easier than a 46 yr old..if you’re talking, getting men to want to date you. I’m 49 and have had no problem throughout my 40s, getting dates or having younger men fall in love with me and want a relationship. Too often, though, I ended up having to teach them HOW to be in relationships, and I got tired and frustrated with that.

      I have a lot of friends in their 40s as well who are vibrant, attractive, sexy women still and have no trouble whatsoever getting dates. Any one of us could be dating every night if we wanted.

      The times..they are a changing.

  12. 52
    Karmic Equation

    @Kathleen & Ruby
    What is an avoidant attachment style and how is that exhibited in behavior? TIA for any clarification.

  13. 53

    Good description on Wiki link.
    Those with anxiety about intimacy/ closeness , reluctance to commit or share with partner, belief partner is clingy, invest little emotion in romantic relationships, unwilling to share thoughts and feeling with others.

  14. 54
    Karl R

    Lurking,  (#47) and Kathleen, (#48)
    I was going to give a number of examples (from my own life) explaining why you’re wrong, but Goldie (#51) made the exact same points I would have.
    some other guy said: (#44)
    “You can’t be expected to read everybody’s mind all the time, but to say that you should always be able to take the other person’s word at face value, even if they’re hopelessly ensorcelled, seems like willful ignorance to me.”
    I don’t live in Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia, Azeroth or Oz. People don’t become “hopelessly ensorcelled.” On the other hand, people use lame excuses like that in order to dodge the blame for their own poor choices.
    I don’t know whether you have (or intend to have) your own kids, but I doubt you’d accept a crappy explanation like, “I was hopelessly ensorcelled,” if your own teenager was trying to excuse his/her own poor decisions … much less from an adult in his 30s.
    This isn’t an adult preying on a teenager (who might not know better). We’re talking about two adults.

  15. 55

    Agree with goldie. I met someone when I was 47.   I love to hear of older women meeting someone. I don,t assume that the man they meet is undesirable.   that would say more about me than the woman in question, or her beau. We should feel encouraged when women meet someone, not defeated.
    If you want to throw around comments about older men or younger men or divorced men or whatever kind of men being unfit for relationships, then we can,t cry foul when they say similar stuff about us.   That all men want younger is not true. Some men say they can,t bear the drama of dating young women.   I don,t agree with them actually, but there ARE different viewpoints out there. There are many more men out there that you haven,t met than you have. if you haven,t met one right for you, don,t write them all off  or start vetching about women who have met one (even if those women are not as high quallity as you). That attitude will keep you from getting what you want from life a lot more than men,s supposed faults.  
    Still, I did think somewhat like that myself when I was younger. I don,t anymore. i,ve become more open, more compassionate,   more optimistic with age.   I,m not some dried up desperado.

  16. 56

    @ Goldie #51
    Thank you!   My feelings exactly!

  17. 57

    You disagree that a middle aged man would have a conundrum about the same situation reversed?
    I agree with Goldies post 51   The second paragraph is especially wise advice. The OP hasn’t had an opportunity to be own her own for more than 20 years and it was a good observation that she had said she was afraid of being alone.
    At least from my own experience in the 4 last years post divorce Ive become happier than any other time in my life, while not being in a relationship and being on my own. I think having some alone transition time is important.   

  18. 58

    Goldie; where were you meeting all these men that you had to beat off with w stick at age 44? Out there in real life or And, were they suitable companions or mostly 1st dates and then never see each other again? I don’t think your experience is typical.

    1. 58.1

      I’m 49 and beat off men with a stick LOL

      I meet them out in the real world..on Facebook..on OKCupid..other websites..I have no shortage of men interested in me.

      I’ve always taken good care of myself..exercised, not partied too hard..etc. People always think I am younger than I am.   So yeah..totally possible to be in your 40s or 50s and still beating men off with a stick 🙂

  19. 59
    Karl R

    Kathleen asked: (#57)
    “You disagree that a middle aged man would have a conundrum about the same situation reversed?”
    I broke up with a woman who was 11 years younger than me because I didn’t see her as a potential wife. (That’s where my experience is similar to Shelly’s.)
    On the other hand, I didn’t start questioning my decision later on. (That’s where my experience is different from Shelly’s.)
    If a (rational) man thinks his current girlfriend isn’t a good long-term partner, he’s going to be willing to dump her for that reason. If he believes that his relationship with her (even if it’s just casual sex) is getting in the way of having a better long-term relationship, he’s going to follow through and dump her very soon.
    Irrelevant details:
    1. The man’s age.
    2. The girlfriend’s age.
    3. Social stigma.
    4. The girlfriend’s feelings toward the man.
    Relevant details:
    1. “I don’t love him/her.”
    2. “I don’t want to marry him/her.”
    3. “This relationship is preventing me from finding someone else.”
    I can’t tell you whether a middle-aged man will feel Shelly’s level of angst of the decision. (That will vary from one man to another.) I can tell you that they will break up, regardless of whether they’re a thoughtful guy or an insensitive prick.

  20. 60

    Karl 59   Thanks for helping me understand that.   That makes sense.
    Mary mary I agree a 46 year old woman has an optimistic outlook for finding a partner especially if she’s attractive.   I mentioned the high % of guys looking for younger on match because that may be her fear and regret of letting the roommate go when she doesn’t know what her options are.  

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