Frivolous Dating-after-divorce question...what Age Range to Target?

Updated on January 10, 2019
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
16 answers

Hi mamas - I'll preface this with the fact that this is a totally hypothetical question, I'm probably over-thinking things (ya think?) and that it would be a good problem to have...the TL;DR version is "how big of an age gap is too much?"

My divorce was final on 12/24 (Merry Christmas to me LOL). I'm not ready to jump on dating sites quite yet as I feel I have a little more work to do on myself before I'll be ready to get out there and date, but I'm at least contemplating the thought of being open to dating.

A friend recently asked if I'd be interested in dating a guy we know who is also divorced and whose younger kids are the same age as my older kids. I'm happen to not be interested in him, but the discussion came around to whether or not the age difference is too much (I'm 43 and he's 57). My concern with that kind of an age gap isn't physical (this particular guy is in better shape than I've ever been) but that if you fast-forward a few years, I wouldn't want to be in my early 50's and in a relationship with someone who is ready to retire while I'll have 10+ years more to work. We'd be at totally different life phases. I can't imagine a scenario where I would depend on someone else financially so it's likely that I will work to retirement regardless of how old a significant other is, if I'm lucky enough to be paired up with someone when I'm at that age.

On the other hand, I had kids really young (I was 22 with my oldest and 30 with my youngest) and guys my age tend to have much younger kids, some in early elementary school or younger. With my youngest finishing high school 5.5 years from now, I'm looking forward to be DONE with raising kids and don't relish the thought of another 5-10 years of someone else's kids. Again, likely to be at different life phases at least short-term.

I think if I were meeting someone in real life, I probably wouldn't think that much about age and would instead focus on being in similar life phases (looking for the unicorn who is my age but doesn't have kids or also had kids young) but on dating sites, you can specify a pretty narrow (or wide) age range so I'm thinking about what I would put myself as open to.

Does anyone have a spouse or significant other who is much older or younger than you, or who has kids who are at very different ages from yours? How did things work out?

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answers from Chicago on

I have a cousin who married a man 14 years her senior. It works great for them. He retired a long time ago, and she is thinking of retiring sometime soon, but they are a very happy couple.

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answers from Boston on

First of all, congratulations on your divorce! You’ve been “in process” for so long, caring for kids and a stepdaughter and the ex-inlaws (“outlaws”???) and moving and working and…

Your questions are all excellent. These are all important matters. But not now! You aren’t moving in with someone. Maybe you’re interested in a physical relationship after all this time, maybe not. What you should be doing is dating. If your husband had just moved out, I’d say to take time for YOU. But he didn’t, and you’ve been on your own for a while.

I think you don’t have to worry about kids and retirement and long term care and religion and..and.. I think you have to learn how to date. You haven’t done it for 20+ years and you aren’t the person you were then.

I wouldn’t accept or reject people now based on their “situation.” I’d just date. Someone you might not be a long-term match for might be great company for you, and you for him. Go do the things you like, but also do some things you have never done. Maybe you’ll like them, maybe not. Maybe you’ll like the person but not the activity. When my dad died at 69, my mother started going to things he never did – she traveled, she joined Elder Hostel trips, she did Global Volunteer work, she became a Red Cross Disaster volunteer, she went to the Paul Newman Hole In The Wall Gang camp. Some stuff she liked and did again, some she didn’t. She had a fling with someone but he wasn’t long term material. Other suitors wanted someone “to sew on their buttons” as she phrased it, and she wasn’t interested. But she still played golf and went to dinner and went to concerts.

So, you have to learn how to date. Go to the movies and dinner, try a foreign film festival or Afghan food, try a weird museum you never thought you’d try, go zip lining or glass blowing or ax-throwing or beachcombing. Don’t pursue conversations about kids and so on. Every person you go out with doesn’t have to be a potential mate, but can be someone who helps you explore your own wants and needs. Someone to laugh with. Someone to push you into new experiences. Someone to help you feel confident and alive again, someone who’s more than a mom and a professional. You may meet someone who isn’t mate-material, but who introduces you to a social circle totally different from parents of your kids’ friends. Through this, you’ll learn what you like and don’t, what you want and don’t. Someone who’s wrong for you long term may respect the hell out of you and introduce you to someone who’s perfect.

So, just “go to the party” without worrying about the rest of it. Later on, you can meet people’s families or kids or religious community or whatever, and see another side of them. But I would avoid conversations with someone about all that. If they force it and they seem desperate to find a stepmother for their kids or whatever, steer the conversation elsewhere. If they don’t give you that freedom, you have your answer on this person. But don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes and to allow the other person to make some missteps too! Sometimes people have to grow on you.

You’re young, you’re independent, you’re smart. Share that with others, and take some time here. Just go out!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Take a breath and remember this: dating is just that, DATING. It doesn't hurt to get out and meet men, of all ages and life stages.
I was also divorced in my forties, after over 20 years of marriage, and pondered these same questions. The reality is that most of the good men in our age range are taken (sorry but it's true!) so your pool will be very, very small. Like you I was not (and still am not) interested in being a stepmother to young kids, nor a caretaker to an older man. However I wouldn't say no to a date to either of these types of men if there was an attraction there. Because why not? Nothing wrong with trying different things on the menu :-)
I have dated a few guys since my divorce, and did the online thing for a bit, which wasn't for me. But go for it! It really works for some people, I think I just don't know how to "sell" myself, ya know? As far as age range goes I went with the ten years either way rule, so at 47 I put a 37 to 57 age range. Be prepared for some guys in their 50's whose profile says "wants kids, some day" LOL really dude!?

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answers from New York on

Very smart to consider things like what retirement might look like with an age gap, and, even more important, what is the level of care a person might need much earlier than you might be willing to do if there is a big age difference. It is a real concern for sure!

My mom and dad (step, not bio) were 10 years apart in age and my dad just passed last month. My mom spent nearly 10 years taking care of him. Between the age difference and my mom being an overall healthier person than him, led to years of her being his care giver. It aged her terribly and, because of the cost of his care, left her with basically nothing. My best friend's mom - same thing. He is 12 yrs older than her, she has had to take care of him for the last 5 years (dementia). My husband is 6 yrs older than myself and it is likely that I will end up caring for his needs at some point. He already has cancer and other health issues.

Personally, if I had to start dating tomorrow (and we are close to the same age, and I am in the same boat other than my youngest is now 18) I'd be looking for a guy about 3 - 5 years younger than myself with nearly grown kids and figure that we would date until his kids were out of the home/graduated and then consider getting serious after everyone's kids were adults (assuming that I wouldn't find a guy that didn't have kids still in school). I'd also be doing a risk assessment based on health - no smokers, no heavy drinkers, at least moderate exercise, etc.

Sounds cold for sure, but for me, I've been a caregiver for high needs kids for years. Plus, hubby now is sick. There is NO way, I'd set myself up again to be a primary caregiver again. Sure, it could happen to anyone without warning, but you can bet I'd be minimizing every risk I could.

As far as waiting to date? I wouldn't. Think of dating like interviewing - better to get a few under your belt before you go for the real thing :) Get on a dating website and click the box that means you are just dating for fun, and not looking for a relationship and get out there a bit! Alternatively, you could join one of those singles groups where they just do things together as a group - I've heard that those can be really fun!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Mr. Fuzzy is ten years older than I am. The age difference for me is irrelevant. I was attracted to him when we met, I fell in love with him, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
Don't look for someone to fit a checklist. If you are attracted, pursue it. If you aren't, don't.

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answers from Washington DC on


You need to find out what's comfortable for you.

I know a couple who has a 12 year difference - she's the younger - and they are fine. They have been married since she was 24 - she's now 52. They had children together. He has stayed "young" and fit - he's getting ready to retire in a few years - and they have discussed this - he will be holding down the fort, she will be working on a part time job and they will be good. He's retired military - so health care isn't an issue for them.

My SIL married a guy 25 years older - it was a HUGE mess. They are divorced and have been for years.

Don't let 'age' stop you. It's a NUMBER - keep your eyes and heart open. Don't just date ONE person - but first of all - before you start dating again - KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!

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answers from Dallas on

My late husband who died in 2015 was 6 yrs older than me. We were a great match and had a great marriage 26 yrs before he died.

I have VERY SLOWLY recently started getting my feet wet in the social arena. It appears that I attract guys about 10 years younger than me ( I'm 57) . Now at the country club where I spend a lot of time, the only single men are usually 70's plus which is NOT my thing

My club is "my" spot and I tend to keep "my" personal favorites from anyone I meet because I want to keep them that way. I am open to learn and love new spots with new friends.

I get discouraged because 99% of men I've met want to go out a couple times and then be in my bed and I am not one for that and I am not looking for a hookup or husband. They don't get that.

I try not to have a checklist and be open minded but I am not interested in someone with young children. If they have children, I prefer they are grown, like mine.

Good luck!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

I have been single a long time. I got divorced in 1981 and have not married since. I have dated men up to 15 years older than I and about 7 years younger. I have dated men of many races. What I realized through it all is it's not the age or race or how many kids he has or the kids ages; it's about the kind of man he is. I grew up in an abusive home and my dad was an alcoholic for many years I dated abusive alcoholic men ... I was repeating the patterns learned in childhood.
I found out that a lot of the men on dating sites are psycho - or stalkers - or drunks - or unwilling to work - or just want a sex buddy. So be aware .. date that's it date. Don't include them in your life with your kids or friends until you know them a while 3-4 months is usually enough to figure out if you are dating the psycho stalker type. I don't give out any personal info, except maybe my cell number. I don't tell them where I work, I don't give out my email address or address of my house. I meet them at a restaurant or wherever we decide to meet up that day. I usually have a friend call my cell about an hour into the date to see if I need an escape excuse.
I don't want to scare you into becoming a hermit but I want you to be safe out there. I know a lot of people who met great men or women on dating sites and lived happily ever after. I just keep finding the crazy ones.

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answers from Miami on

Don’t have an answer to your question, but I just want to rejoice with you about your divorce. Can’t stand your ex, and am thrilled to say it, lol!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

In 5.5 years you will receive the "gift" of being able to be a bit more selfish than now, as an empty-nester. So it's great to keep your eyes and your heart open, but maybe just enjoy your kids and yourself for the next 5.5 years and then decide what you want as a "free woman".

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

ETA: Congratulations by the way on your divorce!!!

I have siblings who are married to older people. The retirement thing is an issue. When one retired (sometimes early) then they pressured my siblings to retire. My siblings haven't wanted to for a) social reasons b) they enjoy their work c) they work part time and d) financial.

It's like really being in two different places at once.

There's also the difference in where you are in terms of other life experiences. Someone much older will be dealing with other life events - ailing parents, etc. There's a lot of things to consider. You might not get along with his friends, etc. Even if you relate/get along with him, sometimes you might not 'fit in' with his peers, etc. That's happened to a friend of mine. She really meshed with a guy, but not the rest of his life. That can be true of anyone of course.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My cousin married a man 16 years older and it’s one of the best marriages I know. They did have their kids together which helps. I’m sure she worries about being a caregiver but same time, who knows what will happen and I don’t think she’d trade her husband for a younger guy. I know plenty of bad marriages with little or no age difference etc. However, biggest thing may be what the men want. I hate to say it but most men want a younger woman. So you can put your age and younger but I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get a lot of takers. I could be wrong. It’s just what I’ve heard many places. So if I were you, I’d put a wide range and then keep an open mind. Likely you’d only get remarried if the guy was just too good to pass up no matter what his age. So if that happens, it’ll be a win. If not, age is irrelevant so you might as well just aim to have fun.

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answers from Norfolk on

A friend of mine has been married 3 times.
First 2 were 20 years older than herself.
She was widowed the first time (cancer), divorced the amicably the 2nd time.
The 3rd time she married someone closer to her own age - marriage lasts 15 years - he ended up having an affair with someone half his age - and that divorce was final just last year.

I think she's done at this point and just not interested in marrying anyone anymore.

Perhaps the thing to do would be to enjoy being single for awhile.
When your youngest goes off to college you will have an empty nest and can redefine yourself and then decide what you want in a relationship.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

my husband's only a few years younger than i so doesn't really count.

i agree that it's a unicorn hunt to find someone in the *right* demographic and without all the baggage.

an old bestie of mine married a man a little over 20 years her senior. like the fellow you posit he was in terrific physical shape, handsome and fun. they had a bunch of adorable babies and a great marriage. he ended up developing alzheimers, probably from his service in 'Nam (and got zero help from the VA, a huge other topic) and she spent his last few years in a ghastly place. this brilliant, sweet man turned into a nightmare, screaming terrible epithets at his family, eliminating in corners if not watched, destroying things. they couldn't get any help- the family had to take turns being on watch 24/7. and yet every single one of them was sad when he died and only speak of the wonderful times with him. i'd like to think i could be so generous, but i doubt i could.

my own vanity (which has dissipated with age but is still there) would preclude me being with a man more than 10 years my junior. i'm mostly okay with the ravages of age but i doubt i'd be cavalier about putting 'em all on display to a young stud.

but there are exceptions to everything.

i'd probably throw caution to the wind and turn tom hiddleston inside out given the chance.

ETA love diane's advice!
and yes, congrats on your divorce! yippee!!

:) khairete

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answers from Miami on

Congrats!!! Feels like you just lost a big load off your shoulders, huh?? I agree wholeheartedly with mamazita. You're going to have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, so don't take every guy you meet seriously, to the point that you're going to write him off as being too old or too young right off the bat, because the odds of immediately finding your partner so quickly are rather low. It's going to take time, that's just life. In the meantime, go out, make friends, have fun. Join some social clubs, volunteer, etc. You may not find the right guy just yet, but you will have fun and make friends in the meantime, and who knows, the older guy you just met might have a younger cousin that he can introduce you to, or a co-worker.

Let your friends or co-workers know that you're wanting to get out, maybe they can set you up with some friends or family members that are a safe bet. Don't feel pressured to become intimate or romantic, maybe they know of a guy who is also recently divorced and looking for someone to talk to, so you can build on a friendship, or at least have that companionship, if there's no physical attraction. Maturity, etc. is not measured by age anyway, and someone who is young may have more health issues than someone who is older, or the young guy could die tomorrow in a car wreck, so age is no guarantee of anything.

I would take some time getting to know them and dating them before introducing one of them to your kids, so by the time you find the right guy and feel it's time for him to meet the kids, the kids might already be grown and in college, so you'll be an empty nester and it won't be a concern any longer. Remember, opposites attract, and never say never. I have seen people dating someone who was much older after they swore off dating someone with a large age gap, and they're completely happy. When it comes to dating a man who may have younger kids, you don't have to become their new mother, unless their mother is dead or out of the picture completely. Most parents of kids want their significant other to get along with the kid, but not discipline them or act like they are the child's parents because the child already has a parent, so I would not overlook an otherwise great catch just because he has kids younger than your own.

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answers from San Diego on

Just check out the scene, you never know who will win your heart. Don’t get wrapped around age. Older men are the best!

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