24 November 2008

The dating "cut off" age

By: Jessica B.
When I posted last week about my matchmaker FAIL, someone asked if I would really have dated the 38 year old man that I was being set up with. Honestly, I don’t know, but at this point, I look at it with a “why not” attitude. But that comment did get me to think about a “cut off” age for dating.
Age may be just a number, but in dating, everyone has some cut off age or magic number they prefer not to go above. A man’s maturity definitely makes a difference, but I don’t know if I see myself dating a guy over the age of 36, at least right off the bat. Or I don’t know if I could date a guy who is more than two or three years younger than me too. Pride and the rise in “cougars” has something to do with my feelings about dating a younger man, but I’m not opposed to it.
Ironically, when I tried online dating, my personal ad generated a lot of responses from younger guys, actually guys between the ages of 19-21. That definitely didn’t help the “cougar” feeling.
Most of the guys I’ve dated have actually been about one to two years younger than me and the only issue I had with them was maturity. This can be a big dealbreaker. I don’t want a guy that is 29 but acts like he’s 20. No thank you. But I don’t want to date a mature guy who is rounding 40 either. It’s a tough situation. And I’m sure my celeb crushes on some older male celebrities doesn’t help either. 
The cut off age isn’t a make or break rule with guys but it’s moreso something I use for…screening purposes. That and I get tired of older guys asking me how old I was in the early 70s, because the answer is always the same, “I wasn’t born yet.”
So has anyone else dated a much older or younger man? Which do you prefer? How old is too old when dating guys? Or am I the only person who has a cut off dating age?


  1. EP says:

    I have dating cutoff ages, too.

    I absolutely refuse to think about someone in a date-ish way if they are younger than my sister who is 2.5 years younger than me. That’s probably a bad cutoff, but it makes me feel really weird. *shrugs*

  2. Summershoegal says:

    OMG I just read your post and the timing is incredible! Yesterday I met a guy with whom I have a date next week and he is 3 years younger than me!
    I know that three years are like nothing, but me bein 24 and him 21? I think at this age 3 years are a huge time span!

    Oh and I also don’t think I would date someone who is 38 couse thats like 14 years my major!
    but I also think you shouldn’t say never because next thing you know you all in love with someone in their 40s!

    Lots of Love

  3. High-heel gal says:

    Girl, this is something I struggle with daily! I’m 28 and my “cut off” age is 25 or 31, although I tend to get hit on by men younger than 25 (the fact that I look 25 prob. doesn’t help!) I don’t think I’m picky, but selective, yes. Uh yeah, and the online dating stuff…I usually get a variety of men my age, but then a few stragglers who are like 40 from Texas or something. Don’t they read the age limitations I put down?! btw, love your blog :)

  4. Jay says:

    I’m sure you have enough storied to answer your question by now; however, I will say that every woman I’ve dated say they have cutoff age (younger and older), and they have all moved off of those quite easily.

    I always find the justifications fascinating.

  5. Shelly says:

    I’m pretty open with dating older guys. Since high school I have been going higher and higher in age of the guys I am dating. I started with a real age gap at age 20, where the guy I was seeing was 26. After him, I dated a guy at 22 who was 33. That was my ex. We had a great relationship but ended things when we realized we wanted different things from life. Like I want kids, he doesn’t. Pretty major I must say. Now I am seeing a guy who is 28, I’m 23 and he has two kids!! Nothing like chasing a little adventure!

  6. liz says:

    I’ve dated someone 2 years older and someone 2 years younger. Both didn’t end well. It always seems to be more successful when I am with someone closer in age.

    I am only 20 though, so age difference seems to be more important.

    One of my co-workers is 23 and married to a 44 year old man. I don’t really understand that….

  7. the Dude says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your perspective (and of all the comments) on dating age limits. You’ve inspired me to write a similar post from the perspective of a 43 year old guy (me).

    Check it out:


  8. Jamie says:

    My boy will be 22 in December and I’ll be 25 in March. I wouldn’t be able to go more than 5 years older than myself though.

  9. Princess Pointful says:

    My guy is 4 months younger than me, and you’d think that it was 4 years by how much fun people make of me. My last boyfriend was 4 years older– that’s the largest gap I have.

    I generally think that people focus too much on age… but… I find older men who only date younger women a little ridiculous. When my sister was 22, she dated a 38 year old and it drove me a little nuts, honestly, but probably, again, because he usually only dated younger women, and had never even had a serious boyfriend before. Lame.

  10. dolcechic says:

    I’ve only dated younger guys. I prefer that. I don’t feel 27, I’m not ready to settle down, I still have “single” stuff I want to accomplish before I get married. I’ve dated guys who were a few years younger than me and were very mature…so I think it just comes down to the person.

    Good question!

  11. Lily says:

    Oooh! I have two stories/answers. One – I dated an “older” guy when I was 21. He was 26 and at that time, it felt like we were in two totally different worlds. I was entering my senior year of college, working in a cosmetics shop. He was in a “real” job, with a super nice car and friends who were married w/ babies. Now that I’m 25, someone 5 years older doesn’t seem old at all, and I’d definitely go out with a 30-year old, no questions. But back then it seemed like such a big lifestyle difference.

    Younger… I wouldn’t necessarily call it dating, but I had this short term fling w/ a guy who was 17 when I was 21 (I don’t remember if he was before or after the older guy… pretty sure the younger guy came after… ha). We fooled around, went out on date-like things, sent really sweet and flirty emails and just kind of ran it out until we both found something that suited us more. We’re still friends – he’ll be 21 in January :)

  12. Katelin says:

    the oldest i dated a guy was 5 years older and the youngest has been matt, who’s 10 days younger, haha. so i don’t really have much to add except that i don’t think the age thing always matters, it moreso matters where you stand and what you value and what things you do have in common or what you never will. it’s tricky, but you’ll figure it out. woo.

  13. Fabulously Broke says:

    My BF is rounding 40 actually… but he looks like he’s in his late 20s and kind of acts like it :)

    I never would’ve guessed 40, had he not told me!!!

  14. Megkathleen says:

    My cutoff was 35…I just never wanted to date anybody that was more than 10 years older than me. Also, I’m pretty sure you have to be 50 to be a cougar. I have a friend that loves him a cougar and he is in no way interested in twenty somethings.

  15. Maxie says:

    When I was 19 I had the biggest crush on a 34 year old and I totally would have dated him if he asked…so I guess it all depends on the person.

    Right now? I’d like to stick in the 20’s but I could do up to 35 I think.

  16. Daisy says:

    Hmmm. I don’t know, I definitely prefer a Silver Fox to a young cougar (is that what the kids are calling them thesedays?!) and experience has proved me right – although I think more than anything I would feel sad to be with someone really a lot older than me, because the chances are you’re going to outlive them by a long time. Althouh anything up to 40 really should be ok?

  17. Ally says:

    I really think it depends on the people involved and that hard and fast rules are kind of silly. Still, I probably wouldn’t jump at a relationship with someone more than 10 years older than me. But I’d never say never.

    I’ve been in a relationship for five years with someone who is eight years older than me. When we started dating I was almost 22 and he was almost 30. We have always gotten along smashingly.

  18. Bobbie says:

    Maybe I’m a snob, but I refuse to date any guy who is younger than me, unless it’s a matter of months younger.

    It’s definitely the maturity thing. I don’t want someone who is still into that whole “college partying” mantra. Yes, please like to go out and have some drinks, maybe even do a shot or two, but don’t get plastered EVERY NIGHT. Also, commitment is a big thing, too. The younger they are, the more likely they’re afraid of commitment, and that’s something I’m working toward.

    I have a friend who is 30 and she is dating a 22 year old. They’re happy, though, and that’s all that matters. Some people, I think, are emotionally younger than their physical age might suggest.

    (I already have a great guy and a commitment — we live together, we’re discussing the possibility of marriage sometime down the road, and he is 8 months older than me.)

    My first boyfriend out of high school was 27 when I was 18. Not a good idea. I was a mature 18 year old who lived on her own in her own studio apartment, but we were at totally different places in our lives.

    I think if you’re under 25, not more than 5 years older is a good rule of thumb. If you’re over 25, not more than 10 years older, but anywhere between 5-10 could be a good cutoff, depending on how you feel about the situation.

  19. Coconut says:

    I don’t think I could date someone over 32. My BF is almost 30 and even that is weird to say.

  20. LBluca77 says:

    I don’t really have a cut off age. It mostly depends on the person and their life situation. Usually I get the younger boys though.

  21. JD says:

    I’m 29 and I personally could not date anyone who is older than my brother (he’s 33). I don’t know why, but I just would find it weird if I brought home a guy who is older than him. Younger? I can do younger. But they are always so much more immature… so sigh. Perhaps this is why I’m still single!!!

  22. S. says:

    I usually stick to older guys, 7 or 8 years my senior is just about the cuttoff but I try and stay flexible, if the chemistry is there than why not?

    I once dated a guy that was about a year younger than I am, I’m still not even sure he knows what “maturity” is today, let alone when we dated. He was hott, though.

  23. Preston says:

    Ugh. Just date a guy because you like him and he attracts you.(however…) If someone is way older than you, the age difference starts showing as you get older. 25 to 40 is not so bad, really, but 65 to 80 sure is. My mom is 71 and stepdad is 91. He’s frail and ill and my mom is still very lively. The only good thing is that she still has the energy to care for him.

  24. Kimberly says:

    In my 20s, I only dated guys my age or a few years older. But obviously when you’re in your 20s, that lower threshold can’t be too low.

    Now I’m 36 and my boyfriend of 2 years is 29. We are at the same level of maturity, so to speak. The age difference really only comes to the surface when I talk about pop culture when I was younger. He’s fine with the age difference – we have enough in common that we don’t have to had listened to the same music at the same time.

    The cougar title bugs me a bit, because I’m tired of hearing it. :)

  25. The Maiden Metallurgist says:

    I dated old dudes for years. I don’t know why. But now I’m with a man who is 3 years younger than me, and he has his shit together more than any of the old dudes I ever went ouit with. I’d say take them on a case-by-case basis.

  26. Nilsa says:

    There was a time in my life when my friends would make fun of me. Each time I was going out on a date with a guy, they’d have to make sure he was at least 25 … because I had a habit of dating younger men. As I got older and older, we laughed that the 25 bottom stayed the same.

    I finally married someone closer to my own age … though he’s still 2 years my junior!

  27. Ray says:

    I would have to say I couldn’t date anyone much younger than me (although my husband is younger by a few months…)

    But I am strangely attracted to older celebrities. Enter Dr. Drew Pinskey. YUM-O

  28. Rachel says:

    I couldn’t date much younger than me. Maybe a year or two….
    Older men may have a possibility depending on WHY they are single…

  29. laurwilk says:

    Oh yes, cut off for sure! I probably wouldn’t date anyone younger than 21 (I’m 23) but that’s mostly because of the drinking age and the college vs. real world thing. I really don’t think I could see myself dating anyone over the age of 26, either. I don’t really think that older men are ever that much more mature.

    I spent 9 months of my life living in Cambodia without a single person in their early 20’s. It was hard. I found that pop culture was something I couldn’t talk about at all. And until then, I never realized how frequently pop culture is talked about in friend groups.

    I dunno, I guess I’m okay sticking with people around my own age. But I suppose their are always exceptions to the rule.

  30. laura marie says:

    My current bf is 6 years older and my last one was 5 years. I find the only downside to the age gap is their FRIENDS making fun of my age. Of course the guy your dating gets over it because he likes you but it seems everyone else can’t get over referencing a movie/song/show and following it up by pointing at me and saying “oh whatever, you weren’t even BORN yet.” …even if it was something that came out a few years ago!

  31. Kyla Bea says:

    I usually dated guys who were a year younger or older than I am, but Mister is 4 years older than I am and it’s the same difference.

    I think that if I was still dating I wouldn’t have a problem with dating someone who was 7 years older than me, but I would only want to go 2 years younger max. I’m 23 and a lot of the 23 year old guys I know might as well be 17 so it would really take someone exceptional for me to examine that.

    And I would also have to get a divorce lol

  32. Craig@work says:

    To allow for a bit of male perspective… I am 40, didn’t marry until I was 36. The bulk of my dating years I typically stayed within the +/- 5 year age difference, mostly because it is easier to find someone with the same interests. I ventured out of that range a few times, in both directions, but those were short-lived relationships. I certainly wasn’t in a hurry, and finally found someone who is extremely compatible with my life, and she is 4 years older. Overall, it came down to the compatibility issue over age. There is also quite a difference in people looking for a relationship and people looking to add one more notch to a bedpost when it comes to how they try to make a relationship work and evolve. Best advice I can give to you women, is to make the guy wait a little while before sexing it up, becasue if he isn’t interested in long term, he’ll bail. Ihad a hard time taking a woman seriously if she gave up the goods inside of a month. Just wasn’t sure who she was, and interest waned after the sex glow wore off becasue we would find other incompatibilities.

    Enjoy the journey!!!

  33. Deutlich says:

    I haven’t dated anyone too much older than me..but my cut off is 10 years older.

    I won’t go younger.

  34. L.C.T. says:

    In theory I actually prefer older guys for the maturity reason. But my bf is a year younger than me and actually very mature so I don’t notice the age at all. I’d probably stop at about 13 years my senior as that is the gap between my parents!

  35. Heidi Renée says:

    The oldest I have gone is 8 years older than me, and the youngest I have gone is 1 year younger. My husband is the same high school graduating year as me, but one year (well, about ten months) older. That slight difference has worked well for us. Being the same graduating year helps. That way there’s no confusion of when YOU were in high school or when I was in high school. My mom’s fiance, on the other hand, is 11 years older than her–and that works for them. So I guess it’s more about the person than their age.

  36. pinkjellybaby says:

    I have done two years younger, and five years older. The older was by far better, more mature and not so much going out a partying involved!

  37. emmaelizabeth says:

    I’m 24 and I would say my cut off age is 30/31. Even then I’m not so sure it would work. I’m still not settled in life and I think at that age, they would be- which may or may not be a good thing.

  38. Angela says:

    Really? There are 19-year-olds on dating sites?

    I don’t know what my cutoff age would be, honestly. I made out with a 32-year-old over the summer (that’s 11 years older than me….), and I’ve got a major crush on the Cute Cook, who’s 33. Harrison Ford is DEFINITELY my oldest celebrity crush…. But if I were talking having a serious relationship, I’d have to go with someone four years older than me AT MAX. I’m still in college, and I’ve still got that frame of mind. I don’t think it would work out if I were dating a guy too far out from college with a set career and all that stuff. As for younger? I don’t think I could date anyone more than one year younger than me. Since my brother is only two years younger than I am, if I dated anyone his age, it would just be weird for me.

    Good post!

  39. Little Miss Obsessive says:

    Well I’m 23 and they at least need to be 21 and able to consume alcohol legally heh. As for how much older… it’s not set in stone but my cut off age is around 30 at the moment.. well, maybe 32.. But older than that and I feel like I would really be able to feel the age difference.. but you never know!

  40. Anonymous says:

    i’ve been dating a guy for 9 months who is…ready for this? 13 years older than me. big shocker for me as well. i was set on dating guys 1 year younger to 5 years older. i’m completely satisfied with our relationship, and only see it going up and onwards. we are madly, deeply in love and i wouldn’t have it any other way. i can talk to him about anything and he understands it without having to pretend he’s even interested. he’s been through most of what i have, and our family dynamics are oddly similar, as are our lifestyles. when i found out his age, i must admit, i was taken so aback that i had to take space for myself and evaluate the situation for a few days, but in the end, it’s not his age that matters, it’s who he is and that he let’s me be myself without any barriers.

  41. Rebecka says:

    I have dated both. I like the younger ones.. but my boyfriend is five months older. I have a cutoff age. I would never date someone who was 5+ years older than me. no one younger than 2 years. but it’s up to you. the closer in age the more interests you will share and understand each other..

    but it’s up to you.

  42. erin says:

    I guess I have one but I don't actively think about it. I dated a guy who was 6 years older than me (30 & 24) but that is the biggest gap.

    Also, I often get hit on by teenage boys. I do not know what to think.

  43. SA says:

    Well, I’m 23 and while it’s been a while since I’ve been on a date (sigh!) my cutoff for younger men is 20. To be honest, I don’t really want to date younger men. Even just a year. I fully want a guy who is older than me. As for older men I guess 35 would be a cutoff. But I’m open. I seriously thought about dating a guy who was 39 when I was 21.

    But yeah, the maturity thing rules above all else.

    And am I the only one who wants to be a cougar?

  44. Mandy says:

    I prefer older guys. I dont know why but I always tend to fall for them (and by older, I mean at least 10 years older). They are more stable, more mature, I just feel like I have a better connection with them. My brother is three years younger than I am and I cannot even imagine dating one of his friends. I think thats why I have an issue with younger ones, that and the maturity level.

  45. howitstarts says:

    I’m 25 and I’d say somewhere around 30 would be a cut off for me. I tend not to go younger but I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Really, at this point, anyone who knocks my socks off is fair game.

  46. Miss Adventurous says:

    There’s definitely a cut off age for me… I’m 22 and my range is 21-28 I think. Obviously I’d want them to be bar-legal so I wouldn’t feel like I was robbing the cradle, but going past 28 wouldn’t feel right for me.

    But then again, it just depends on the person I guess. I have some great friends who are 30 and we’re at similar places in life, so who knows…. Good question though!

  47. Maki says:

    Hmmm, I used to like dating older guys between 3 – 6 years even when I was in teenager. I felt safe being with older men. I’ve dated a few guys who are younger, but I used to feel like mothering them which I hated.

    Now I’m 35, I tend to be more open to younger guys. Wait, I am married now! LOL.

    I think my cut off would be 5 years for younger guys and 9 for older.. I married to my hubby who is 8 years older than me. He looks and acts a lot younger than 43. He gets carded everywhere he goes which is funny.

  48. Jenn says:

    The ex was ten years older than me. At first, I was a bit apprehensive. We were at two different points in our lives. At times I felt like he was trying to be my father. Others I felt like he was 12 years old.

    I found that after him, I can’t imagine myself dating anyone my own age. I prefer someone a bit older…established. I like my manfriend to be all grown up, but still have time to have fun. I don’t want to feel like I’m dating a little boy. I definitely don’t think I’d go older than 10 years my senior though.

  49. LJ says:

    I guess it all comes down to how they act for there age. A 50 year old may act and seem like they are 30 or vice verse. So I say it comes down to the person.

    The only worry about dating someone 10+ years older than you is like when they are 70 and you may only be like 55. I would say that is a difference. It may not be a big deal between the ages of 30-50 but after that all bets are off. Still comes down to if their a young 70 I guess :)

  50. GatorGirlintheCity says:

    Hello! I once went out with a man 9 years older than me. I was 23 at the time. He was definitely more “grown-up” than the men I had dated before and it was an enjoyable experience. It didn’t work about between us but I don’t think it had anything to do with age.

    My husband is actually younger than me though–by 2 years. He said it’s like being a HS sophomore who gets to date the hot senior. LMAO

    That being said–age really is just a number but you need to have the common interests to make up for the age gap.

    Also, isn’t there some “rule” that you should only date someone who falls within the half your age + 7 years range?

  51. Alexa says:

    for whatever reason i either fall for someone who is my exact age (lots in common) or who is up to three years younger.

    i’m diggin the cougar title. ha.

    i don’t think i could date someone in their 40’s. but 38? technically that’s only 10 years older than me so i feel like i could handle it if the chemistry was there.

  52. Arielle says:

    I totally have dating cutoff ages! I’m 25 and can’t see myself dating anyone over maybe 31 or 32, but even that is a stretch. To be safe I should say 29. As far as younger, maybe one year younger tops, but because of the maturity thing as you mentioned, I don’t even know if that would work out. Maybe I’m too picky.