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But this kind of thinking conflates practical responsibility with emotional maturity — which isn't really accurate.
We might think that certain concrete markers of adulthood — a prestigious job; a working knowledge of personal finance; properly assembled Ikea furniture —signify a related degree of emotional maturity.
Although the idea of a "cougar" who dates much younger men has a certain cultural cachet, being a woman in your twenties who simply chooses a partner who's a bit younger is often viewed as weird, desperate, or deluded — basically, anything besides what it is, which is totally normal.
People have a much easier time, it seems, getting on board with the idea of a woman taking a younger partner for purely sexual reasons than they do with the idea of a woman in a serious relationship with a younger partner.
In an interview in Shape, psychotherapist Robi Ludwig claimed that, “In some cases, a younger guy is developmentally in a different place...he’s not ready for all of the pressures and responsibilities that go along with a committed relationship because his emotional maturity is not fully developed yet.”Again, this is generalizing that conflates age with a specific set of romantic values — plenty of people of all ages aren't interested in serious relationships, and plenty of people of all ages are interested in serious relationships, too.
Ludwig isn't necessarily describing a younger guy; instead, she's describing a guy who isn't interested in a serious relationship, a kind of dude who comes in all ages.
At 28, I was only just beginning to explore my true desires for my career and life — which made me have a lot more in common with a recent college grad than someone who'd had almost a decade since graduation to figure out what they wanted.
I'd just gotten out of a long-ish relationship with a guy who was fixated on achieving "appropriate life milestones" — marriage, kids, stable jobs — and the experience made me realize that I wasn't on the same page about that kind of thing as a lot of people my own age.
To act like youth is an eternal state — that a person who is currently 23 and not totally sure about how to pick a good bottle of wine or operate their dishwasher, will exist in that state forever — is actively denying the facts of our own lives.
As noted relationship therapist Stevie Nicks put it, "Times makes you bolder/ Even children get older/ And I'm getting older, too".
Which makes sense — in the course of 24 months, I transformed from a college senior who'd never lived on my own and subsisted primarily on bagels stolen from the school cafeteria to a financially independent adult who worked a serious job and subsisted primarily on bagels stolen from work.
I felt like I was racking up new life milestones every day, and couldn't imagine relating to anyone younger than me — and so I became fixated on dating older guys, because I thought it was the only way I could find someone who would be mature enough to make me happy.
In our culture, dating an older partner is often seen as a status symbol for younger women — we're often told that older partners will be more financially and emotionally stable, which is why being courted by an older partner is often seen as a compliment, a confirmation that you, indeed, have your act together and are desirable.