Ageism, Dating and More Ageism, Vol. 2

My ageism isn't just about me being a dick. I want marriages to succeed.

My ageism isn’t just about me being a dick. I want marriages to succeed.

I’ve never been particularly controversial. I’m that way on purpose. I like to get along with everyone.

But I brushed as close to controversy as I ever have this week when I published my first post on the topic of ageism and dating.

And by “ageism and dating,” I really just mean I question the long-term romantic compatibility of people too far apart in age.

There are people with two decades separating them and everyone involved seems content and satisfied with the relationship. Great! Happiness (long-term contentment and inner peace, actually) should be the thing we strive to achieve most in this human life.

I would never ask two people in love to sacrifice their happiness. But for the purposes of this discussion, I’d equate it to winning the lottery. Some people do it! But it’s a shitty save-for-retirement strategy. Most of the time, lotto-ticket purchases are the equivalent of burning money.

I wanted to get into this a little more because my previous post was written off by at least one person whose opinion I very much respect as “an immature view of adult relationships.”

And maybe it is. I’m not the brightest. But I’m happy to explain how I arrive at my conclusions.

The Dating Math and its Impact on Marriage

In the previous post, I wrote:

“In the Department of Overgeneralizations, you’ll discover a few laws of human nature (that I’m totally making up on the fly because I believe them to be generally true and the furthest thing from actual law.)

Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted. Which is often several.

Girls and young women are constantly hoping to find someone who will fall in love with and marry them, frequently misinterpreting sexual interest as potential love interest and ultimately spawning the “Boys are Mean™” and “Men are Pigs™” movements.”

I want to clarify my position, and reinforce that I believe (quite strongly) that all of this is generally true. Perhaps 85-percent of the time if I had to attach a number to it. There have always been, and will always be, exceptions to every rule. And I think my observations on life are a far cry from being “rules.”

On “Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted.”:

Aside from being grammatically incorrect (‘life’ should have been ‘lives’), I stand by this statement.

And it does NOT mean I think all young men are trolling to con some unsuspecting girl or young women into having sex under false pretenses and then ditching them afterward.

There are millions—billions, hopefully—of good men out there. But they all want to have sex with the people they’re attracted to. Every one of them. It’s a mammal thing. And I think boys and young men are motivated romantically by their desire to have sex.

I also believe love is a choice.

I believe it as much as I’ve ever believed anything. Boys—and men—while motivated by sex are absolutely capable of love. And when they figure that out, and choose it, they put all of their energy into the person they want to be with forever. That happens when they find the partner they want to stay with.

And I think girls and young women are different. GENERALLY. Generally, I think girls are interested in the love part upfront. I think women often want to recreate the safety and security they felt living with their fathers growing up. And I think women want to experience the romantic love they see on television. Prince Charming. The knight in shining armor. The passionate kiss during the cliché ending of another romantic comedy. Because that stuff makes people feel good.

Because males and females are different (and because people are impossibly shitty at communicating with one another—myself included) the wires are always getting crossed in our youth.

The boys are thinking about sex all the time, and because they know no different, assume the girls are, too. (And some are!)

The girls are thinking about love all the time, and because they know no different, assume the boys showing all this interest in them has romantic, Prince Charming-like intentions at its core. But really, the boys are most interested in exploring their sexuality with them.

I think this general misunderstanding causes a lot of hurt feelings for young people not mature enough to understand the psychological and spiritual ramifications of acting like adults, sexually.

We live. We learn.

I went on to write about the 20-30 age range, because I think this is the window of our lives (please keep in mind I’m a heterosexual American male, and don’t have a sense of how much this applies elsewhere or to people dissimilar from me) when the majority of people get married.

I think many girls (Not all! Just most!) dream of their wedding day throughout much of their teenage years.

I think falling in love and getting married, at least during my lifetime, has been the No. 1 goal of the majority of females.

And I’m not sure I believe that’s true of men. I think most men want to. But boys tend to dream of being a pro football player, or an astronaut, or the front man for a rock band, or whatever. The dream tends to be career-oriented.

I think most boys assume they will grow up to get married and have kids because that must be “the way” since that’s what their grandparents and parents did.

It’s not so much a goal as it is an inevitable eventuality.

So, we’re in our 20s.

And the girls our age are generally much more emotionally mature than we are. I estimate about five years’ worth.

They want a husband. Crave stability and security. Their friends are getting engaged. Some even have kids and they’re sooooooo happy!!! We’re not getting any younger! And commitment and feeling safe is so important to them. So, either very directly, or more subtly, they begin to hint at and apply marriage pressure to their boyfriends.

But their boyfriends aren’t ready.

They’re only 22! Just got out of school! Just started their career! What’s the rush!?

He probably even thinks about all the women he can’t date or hook up with now because of his girlfriend. It’s worth it, he’ll tell you, because she’s a keeper. And it might even be true. But he still feels the call of the wild, so to speak. He’s a boy. Boys feel that.

If said boy doesn’t want to lose this girl, he has to make assurances. She’s in a hurry!!!

She doesn’t know he’s a child. She doesn’t know he has so much more growing to do on the inside. She thinks he’s just a little undisciplined because he’s still bro-ing it up once in a while like he did in college.

He’ll settle down! He’ll grow up!

And he will.

He will settle down. He will grow up.

It’s just that it’s going to take longer than she thinks. Not in all circumstances. Just in most.

I think very few men under 30 are ready to marry.

To give what it takes to stay married. To understand that that’s part of the formula for making it successful.

To give, give, give.

Because if you’re not giving more than you take in a marriage, it’s DOOMED. If it doesn’t end, it will be unhappy.

There are no cheats. No hacks. No workarounds.

Two people give themselves to one another without reservation. Both give more to one another than they take from one another.

Anything less, and it’s either shitty, or it ends.

Probably both.

Marriage is important to me. It affects 95 percent of us. That’s damn near everybody.

And I think the dynamics of dating that occur during our prime marriage years (20-30) are a HUGE factor in why so many of us divorce 5-10 years later.

It’s a tragedy.

And I know we can do better.

And I think being just a bit more discriminatory and whole lot better at communicating can be an important part of the solution.

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34 thoughts on “Ageism, Dating and More Ageism, Vol. 2

  1. nykeypad says:

    Love is a feeling. Love isn’t sex. Love is when you feel lousy, look crummy, and generally feel unlovable, and someone – friend, partner, family member – puts arms around you. Love is unconditional and comes from inside. Appearances can be deceiving.

    • Matt says:

      I think if we treat love like a feeling, then our relationships are doomed to fail. There’s no marriage in recorded history where the spouses didn’t feel a lot of anger toward one another. Maybe over a little argument. Maybe over something huge.

      If you follow your feelings, it’s over. Right there.

      No married person has never not been attracted to someone they weren’t married to. If you follow your feelings, you have an affair.

      Love is a choice, because you have to wake up every single day and decide, no matter how angry, sad, frustrated, whatever, you feel and CHOOSE to love your spouse.

      For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us part.

      People say it. But they don’t mean it.

      And then it breaks.

  2. Matt Matt. The way I see it, is that you have the courage and convictions to actually say what a lot of us think, but don’t say. The trophy wife, the cougar, the boy toy, the older more experienced woman etc etc. Do people marry for security, sex, love, money, or maybe because society says we must. Being a gay man, relationships on my side of the fence are very much the same. Younger men getting into serious relationships with older, and I mean older dudes still confuse me. When the dusk has settled, what do you talk about, do you share the same interest in music, and let be frank your energy levels are very different. At 20 I had this need for loud, smoke filled party clubs, bars, and the sun would be up when I had partied out. Now in my 30’s, rather give me a decent night sleep.

    So as controversial as you post may be, it’s actually damn close to the truth, but not for all.

    I see the world very clinically, it’s all about instant, and the latest. The latest iPhone, the latest model car, and it must all be instant, a drive-thru for life, no waiting and few people want to endure the highs and lows. We all want a GPS to navigate us, we actually have one it’s called a brain. Great read. Ivan

    • Matt says:

      Appreciate that, Ivan.

      I’m really surprised at the people who act like this isn’t true. Stereotypes are stereotypes because they’re true MOST of the time.

      Not all the time. Just most.

      I trust the exceptions to understand that it doesn’t apply to them.

  3. Errr, I disagree with your statement that boys want sex and girls want love. It’s a common misconception, but this is 2014. We should be past these generalizations based on (biological) sex and gender by this point.

    Most people want to be loved. Most people want to have sex. Saying that men consent to love to get sex, and women consent to sex to get love, is oversimplifying matters, and REALLY not giving proper credit to either men OR women.

    There are as many ways of loving people and as many ways of expressing ones sexuality as there are people in the world.

    It doesn’t do to cram women into the box of NOT being highly sexual beings, or to cram men into the box of being MOSTLY sexually motivated beings. Stereotypes are no bueno for anyone. . .and that also goes for stereotypes about age.

  4. And what? Men dream of being pro-athletes and astronauts and women dream of putting on a white dress and getting married? Yikes.

    When I was a kid I wanted to be Nelson Mandela.

    • Matt says:

      I think you’re the exception to the rule, miss.

      I’m sorry that you consider it demeaning to people in 2014. I think you think more deeply about this sort of thing than most people. And I think the people who marry too young and fall apart can benefit from thinking about that dynamic.

      Of course girls want to have sex.

      Of course boys want to love and be loved.

      I know you’ve read stuff I’ve written before, so I have no doubt you know I believe that.

    • sindel17 says:

      I agree badlittlegoodgirl. I didn’t dream of marriage, I dreamt of what I could be when I grew up. That was a full range of things from farmer to singer to psychologist. That never changed – it just got more realistic (I can’t carry a tune). It’s also true of over 1/2 the women I know.

    • beautifulmess7 says:

      I dreamt of being a lawyer. I never, ever wanted a big wedding. My now ex-husband did. He was the one that dreamed of a big party with all of his family and his bride dressed all in white. I also wanted sex far more than he did.

      • Matt says:

        And I think that’s awesome. Because I like people who are a little different.

        I think that makes you unique and exceptional. If you were the norm, we’d have wonderful television shows about young women in law school, rather than Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress, and the 14 million other wedding-related programming on TLC and channels like it.

    • If men and women thought about sex in the same way, there wouldn’t be millions of female prostitutes catering for men, and barely any male prostitutes catering for women.

      • You don’t think that’s maybe more to do with social conditioning, and less to do with what males and females inherently want?

        Women are sexualized far more than men, and boys are raised told that they are SUPPOSED to think and feel this way about sex, while women are slut shamed and told that women do not want sex in the same way that men do.

        In the 50s, far more women stayed home and raised kids while their husbands worked and supported them. Now most families are headed by two working parents. I wouldn’t say that women have changed–I would say that society has changed and the choices now available to women reflect that. When society changes–and it is–to allow women to behave sexually in the same manner as men do, while also allowing men to NOT feel like they have to be obsessed with sex and constantly ready to go, then the actions of men and women will change as well.

        That won’t happen if we continue to label women and men according to what we think they want, as opposed to what they actually want.

        I am very against gender stereotyping in any form, as well as ANY kind of stereotyping. We should not be telling people who they are and how they ought to behave and think, based on pre-determined factors. Instead, we should just be quiet and accept people for who and how they are as individuals. It is harmful to attempt to dictate to people what they should think, how they should feel, and how they should behave.

      • Matt says:

        I think studying gender differences in an effort to help husbands and wives (and boyfriends and girlfriends) better communicate and understand one another is a far cry from what you’re describing.

        Drs. John Gray, Patricia Love and Steve Stosny have spent decades talking to couples and identifying important differences between men and women (stemming from our earliest ancestors in hunting-and-gathering communities) in an effort to help couples have successful marriages.

        Discounting that work–that HELPFUL work which has fundamentally changed me as a potential boyfriend and husband–as stereotyping is, I think, a smidge stubborn and irresponsible, and something of an insult to their mission of trying to help people. One I share in on an infinitely smaller, non-PhD level.

        I respect you defending women and societal changes and not wanting to be labeled. NO ONE gets to tell you who you are. Ever.

        But. I think it’s a dangerous game ignoring male-female differences in a relationship. When men treat their wives like their guy friends, and women get pissed at their husbands because they don’t understand then like their female friends do, it perpetuates the “He/She is crazy!” mentality.

        When in reality. Neither side is crazy. They’re just speaking two different languages to one another. That goes on long enough? Splitsville.

        And I think that’s a shitty ending to the story. And I’m fighting, one word at a time, to encourage people that it doesn’t have to end that way.

        Because it’s the truth. Everything doesn’t have to be hopeless, broken and shitty.

        There’s more to life than that.

      • But…you can’t apply a blanket “men are like this, women are like this” mentality to something in order to make a marriage work. Trust me, you just can’t.

        “Well, women are supposed to care about the home, so why isn’t dinner ready and the house cleaned up when I get home?”

        “Well, men are supposed to want sex all the time, why don’t we ever have sex?”

        “Men are supposed to bring home the bacon, why don’t you make more money?”

        “Women are supposed to raise the kids, why do you need to go back to work?”

        It’s not helpful. Trust me, I also work in the counselling field, and it’s just…not. What IS helpful is two people talking out their needs, communication with complete openness and honesty, and deciding whether or not a relationship between the two of them can meet both of their needs.

        What is MORE helpful than Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, is something like The 5 Love Languages, or the Meyers-Briggs personality tests–things–things that help people figure out who THEY are, and how to communicate that to a potential partner, is better than “Okay, well, you’re man, so I know you’ll want sex, and I’ll do that, and now that I’ve totally oversimplified you we’ll live happily ever after.”

        I don’t think you are trying to cause harm, but as someone who works at a centre for people with gender/sexuality differences, trust me–these generalizations do cause harm.

      • Would you pay for sex with a man?

      • I woudn’t pay for sex with a man or a woman. And I know a LOT of men who feel exactly the same way. . .In fact, I would hazard a guess that most men feel that way.

      • Apparently there are approximately 42 million prostitutes in the world, so there are a LOT of men out there looking for entirely emotionless, pre and post conversationless sex. I know quite a few men who haven’t had sex for a few years – they’d rather go without for now than have to go through the social crap that comes with it due to stressful shit they’re going through right now. I don’t know any women who would go that long without it just to avoid the social side of dating or whatever, that a lot of men seem to dislike more than a lot of women. My point is, there are obvious, observable differences between the sexes. There’s no point in pretending not to see it just for the sake of advocating equality between the sexes or whatever.

  5. DailyMusings says:

    I agree with you in the generalization that boys want sex and equate that with love, and girls want love. And sex, but mostly love, or they are having sex because they are in love. Or in love with the idea that they are in love. But the boys are for sure are in it for the sex, and then maybe later the love will come. I think it is just how men and women, boys and girls are wired, are raised, especially if the traditional stereotypes are being reinforced. Maybe today that thinking is less common. The person who commented about wanting to be Nelson Mandela I believe is the exception.
    I married a man 12 years older than me. He was married the first time at age 23, and by 40 wanted out. We married when he was 45. (My first marriage) I always dated older men as I appreciated their maturity. The only time the playing field was level was during teenage years, with hormones raging- everyone was in it for the sex, love be damned! :-)

  6. prettytrippy says:

    I kinda hate that some people may have given you crap and you felt like you had to justify you position even further because 1. I totally agree with your first post and 2. It’s your opinion and everyone has different thoughts on the matter. GAH. Internet trolls.

    Interesting thought though… I agree with your point of 20 something women being so focused on getting engaged/married/pregnant ASAP, but I feel like the tide may be turning on this one. Maybe it’s just me and some of my friends that are all “I wanna live my own life before I’m tied down forever” but I feel like marriage may be becoming less important for this age range… Just a thought.

    Maybe for further “controversy” you should delve into your thoughts on girls/women with daddy issues and their relationships with (older) men. If you need a case study *raises hand*… (ha)

    Gillian

  7. dazzles012 says:

    Thanks for sharing this! Though I had missed your original post, I can”t help but agree that much of the time, your generalizations are true. As you said, stereotypes exist for a reason. Not everyone falls into the mold, but many, or most, even, do. Between you and Ivan, I agree virtually completely. As for Gillian, your suggested case study popped into my head when I read the section about girls looking for relationships to replicate the security of their fathers. I’d be curious!

    • beautifulmess7 says:

      Sometimes stereotypes exist because people feel better forcing others into boxes. Some, if not all stereotypes I’m aware is, are overly simplistic or even completely wrong. Check out this website and tell me.how many of those.stereotypes you think are true: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/stereotype-examples.html. I bet you’d agree that most of them are untrue. Or maybe you believe all blondes are dumb, all Muslims are terrorists, all blacks can play sports (and have big dicks, while we’re at it), women aren’t as smart as men, and men who read and use computers are geeks.

      • Matt says:

        It kind of seems like maybe you read this one post by me and decided I automatically must have a bunch of prehistoric philosophies and unreasonable biases.

        Two things:
        1. I don’t think people change one another’s mind about anything in the comments section, nor would I encourage anyone to try. I’m perfectly okay with two adults disagreeing, and believe it to be normal.
        2. I think there are fundamental differences between men and women. Gender differences. I think females have naturally occurring feelings and responses to the world around them that are different than some of the feelings men experience. One is NOT better than the other. I’m not placing value judgments. And I think that when men and women don’t understand each other, I think it’s OFTEN because they don’t realize those fundamental, chemical, internal differences that we all have. I think people in opposite-sex relationships ignore these differences at their peril. And I think our 50-plus-percent divorce rate backs me up. These are my life experiences. Just 35 years’ worth. I’m not the smartest and have never claimed to be. But I think I’m right about this.

        I really appreciate you reading and commenting. And I hope I’m wrong that you didn’t just read this one post and jump to conclusions. And if that’s true, I hope maybe you’ll read more, or ask me questions before you decide who I am. Because I’m not afraid to tell you.

      • beautifulmess7 says:

        I’ve read many of your posts, and I generally find them to be insightful and well thought out. I agree that there are fundamental differences in men and women in regards to how we are raised and expectations that are placed on us by society. I simply thing that lumping everyone of a certain gender into stereotypes to back up your own admitted personal biases is beneath your usual level of quality. It disregards all of the progress we’ve made as a society and characterizes women as marriage crazy. Going so far as to assume that most women don’t have goals related to their careers and are instead just waiting to snag a man and coerce him into marriage is offensive and completely off base. Maybe that is more prevalent in your generation than mine, but most women I know are career oriented and want to wait for marriage as much or more than men. Certainly as you go down economic classes there may be differences. But most intelligent, educated women are just as focused on careers as men.

      • Matt says:

        Well. I don’t think women are practicing coercion. I just think many REALLY want to get married and naively are in a hurry to do so.

        And I absolutely agree that the tide seems to be turning there, from a generation standpoint.

        I think my generation is the first where the majority of married couples are both working full time, even with children. I’d have to sift through Census data to be sure.

        Thank you for reading. You said a lot of nice things, and I appreciate it.

        I’m not trying to push buttons. And I’m never trying to offend people. I apologize that this rubbed you the wrong way. Truly.

  8. lovelygirl says:

    I totally understand what you mean by girls and guys at the same age are at different levels of maturity. would you say though that the older you get the closer one gets towards settling down?

  9. lost33years says:

    When boys are raised to respect themselves and to understand females of ALL ages deserve respect it helps to know the only safe sex is with yourself . It helps to know that NOT having sex will NOT kill you it teaches restraint,and respect and your child builds character by knowing sexual actions do NOT equal love or loving someone. God gave males two heads but only enough blood to run one or the other not at the same time and if you go around using a one holed brainless penis to guide you through life you wind up being a dickhead, it is hard teaching children everything and as parents it’s our #1 JOB and when we fail everyone pays the price. Love is way more than sex and sex is not LOVE unless you put your everything in to it. Your writing has grown and matured as your journey has matured you keep up the hard work.

  10. lost33years says:

    Just wanted to add I have raised my 5 boys and 3 girls with the same beliefs. Just saying my mother remarried at 45 her 2nd marriage his 2nd marriage . in there first marriages they were both cheated on and cheated out of a loving marriage by immature childish partners. My mother was 10 years older than my daddy she died 2 years ago she died a loved happily married woman. My husband is 4 years older than I am yet his level of maturity has declined with his age (he chose to become an immature serial cheater rather than be a loving mature partner) which has left me feeling robbed of my partner for life he would rather lie and play games I have been the grown up and I’m tired of games children and childish greedy immature selfish selfcentered people play at being grown up. You seem to be growing up and out of the immature (dickhead ) stage great progress!

  11. AndiMirandi says:

    “The boys are thinking about sex all the time, and because they know no different, assume the girls are, too. (And some are!)” <– YES.

  12. I think how men and women think about sex is social conditioning Matt. In our teens, hormones rage, in boys and girls. That girls don’t chase the O is purely an issue of how they would be viewed by their peers. The dreams of men and women are not dissimilar because of gender, they are dissimilar because they are raised in cultures that teach them they are not equal in opportunity or value. This is true in nearly every nation of the world, some more so than others.

    Yes, women mature earlier. This is to accommodate a very specific function, we bear children and thus must also have the ability to care for them. Our brains mature, usually at a similar rate with our bodies, something men do not do. Both boys and girls though have the same thinking, believe me it is the drive to explore.

  13. I am not so sure females mature earlier, in fact I am sure it is something we are conditioned to believe by society simply because female behavior is different, different does not mean mature. I actually think this notion propels a lot of females into relationships that are doomed to fail because they think they have it all figured out, I was one of those females. Likewise females think they should go with an older man because that would be a good maturity match. So NOT true. Some people never seem to mature. I didn’t put my hand under my armpit and make farting sounds like the boys but I was extremely immature in my understanding of love and had a lot to learn and my choice in mates and my belief I needed a man and had to get married reflected my immaturity.

  14. stvrsnbrgr says:

    Matt, this advice is fraught with double-entendre, but I’ll share it anyway: When you’re in a hole, stop digging!

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