Why Men Are No Longer The Only One's Pursuing Younger Partners

During a more traditional gender norm adhering generation, social roles pushed a specific agenda, limiting women’s access and opportunity.  With minimal resources or choice, making survival a primary goal, our primitive brain kicks in and our biological and evolutionary drives go to work, narrowing down mate selection based on who will increase likeliness of survival and reproductive success. 

Social norms, fed to a society through various forms of media and represented in language through praise, permittance and idealization, has reinforced the evolutionary drive that influences mate selection. 

An older male partner, due to what he historically represents and is able to provide (financial stability, status, safety and in turn an increased likeliness of the survival of ones offspring) would appear as an ideal mate selection to a woman of any age. This of course greatly widened the dating age gap and pool selection for heterosexual males and limited that of heterosexual females. 

In today’s more modern norm adhering society, women now have access to education and the profession of their choosing. Despite barriers still existing, many strides have been made for women’s rights that directly influence their independence, freedom of choice and in turn, what they seek in a partner and when/if they seek a relationship altogether. This is a clear demonstration of how social structures greatly influence human behavior, including mate selection that may otherwise be attributed to biology. 

Social perceptions pertaining to the traditional image of a female as a homemaker continue to be challenged and redefined.

This however does not mean we as a culture have fully rid our expectations or ‘old brain’ perception of what is acceptable or ideal. You can observe this social ambiguity in the negative comments and gossip surrounding a couple such as Kate Beckinsale and Pete Davidson. A society who uses media as a platform to empower women and encourage a progressive society and at the same time expresses discomfort and uncertainty with a 45 year old woman’s intentions when choosing a 25 year old partner. 

We as people are uncomfortable with change or the unfamiliar. Today is an age of change, and as we encourage the empowerment of women (and also men) it is reasonable to expect some resistance. As referenced in several theories of psychology, the ‘system’ will readjust to changes eventually and that will become the new normal until the next inevitable change occurs. 

Why Maintaining Your Autonomy May Actually Benefit Your Relationships

During the early phase of relationships individuals may find that they are willing, even eager to, go out of their way to present heir best version of self, which for some is not being themselves at all. Instead, they suddenly take on the attitudes and belief system of the person of interest. They like hiking so, after a lifetime of disinterest in physical activity, you are enthusiastic about hiking; they enjoy spicy food so you are willing to give it a go despite knowing the stomach pains that await you later.

Let’s consider Julia Roberts role in the movie Runaway Bride. Richard Gere helps to point out this behavior in that the fleeing bride tends to adjust her likes and dislikes (what type of eggs she likes and ‘her’ hobbies) depending on her most recent fiancé. Although this movie attempts to utilize humor to highlight the barrier preventing her from walking down the aisle, a Psychologist named Murray Bowen coined this Differentiation of Self: the ability to separate thoughts and feelings.

·      Poorly Differentiated Individuals: Tend to fuse with others; struggle to formulate ‘I’ thinking due to their emotionally dependency on others; emotionally reactive; dependent, avoidant or distant in relationships; concerned about what others think.

·      Highly Differentiated Individuals: Feel, think and act for themselves; autonomous; in relationships they do not fear risk of losing identity in their partner rather they enjoy closeness and can bear small arguments.

Lack of differentiation in relationships can lead to enmeshment. This sort of attachment hinders individual growth and autonomy, which is a vital contributor to experienced wellness. This infatuation of sorts is not necessarily equally maintained and experienced by each partner. Although you may want to spend all your time together initially, a partner may grow comfortable and begin to desire to bring focus on additional life priorities (hobbies, friends, family, etc.). When only one partner transitions out of the enmeshed phase this often leads to confusion, feelings of loss, overbearing behavior; distance, resentment, stonewall and so forth.

It is valuable to highlight the importance of differentiation prior to even entering a relationship. In gaining an understanding of the benefits of such, when entering a partnership one will be better prepared to compromise on a balanced state of interdependence.

Working with a relationship counselor can help to work through unresolved conflict in our lives that contributed to poor differentiation. In learning how experiences of relationships from the past (including caregiver) play a significant role on how we experience others and ourselves will help to promote consciousness and prepare for positive change.