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Why do older men date younger women? Because they can!

It’s funny how, as chil­dren, we’re told that it’s what’s inside that counts; to treat oth­ers the way we want to be treated; not to judge oth­ers; and that it’s impor­tant to have role mod­els. It’s also inter­est­ing how these refrains go out the win­dow when we encounter some­one who doesn’t quite see the world the same way we do.

What’s wrong with older men dat­ing younger women? Nothing!

A lot of famous, inspi­ra­tional men who we’ve looked up to have dated and/or mar­ried women much younger than them. U.S. Pres­i­dent Grover Cleve­land, South African anti-apartheid activist Nel­son Man­dela, writer J.D. Salinger, artist Pablo Picasso, astro­naut Buzz Aldrin, and sil­ver screen roy­alty such as Humphrey Bog­art, Lau­rence Olivier, Fred Astaire, Robert Red­ford, and Jerry Sein­feld are all exam­ples of older men dat­ing younger women.

But you don’t have to be rich or famous to date or marry much younger women.

Sure, there are a num­ber of stereo­types about older men dat­ing younger women, but that doesn’t mean they’re true. Older men who date much younger women are not all cads who left their wives in a des­per­ate attempt to relive their check­ered uni­ver­sity years. Like­wise, the much younger girl­friends are not all brain­less won­ders con­tent with being eye candy.

On the other hand, if you’re an older man mar­ried to or want­ing to date a younger woman just because she’s younger, then per­haps the stereo­types apply—in which case, you prob­a­bly don’t care.

For the most part, older men dat­ing younger women are look­ing for the same thing every­one is—to find an intel­li­gent, nice, and beau­ti­ful per­son they can con­nect with. As a result, a rela­tion­ship between an older man and younger woman can be just as healthy as a rela­tion­ship between two peo­ple the same age.

After all, rela­tion­ships are more com­pli­cated just than one issue. If age was the lit­mus test for mar­i­tal suc­cess, the divorce rate would be sig­nif­i­cantly lower.

Half your age-plus-seven rule: To avoid being embar­rassed in public—and to stop peo­ple star­ing and snickering—it’s been sug­gested that our cul­tural dat­ing rule of thumb says older men are not sup­posed to date women younger than half-their-age-plus-seven. For exam­ple, using this equa­tion, a 45-year-old man shouldn’t date any­one younger than 29-and-a-half; though he can round up or down at his leisure—probably down.

Not sur­pris­ingly, some have sug­gested a sim­i­lar equa­tion that opens up the dat­ing door for older men even more. Instead of half-their-age-plus-seven, the other equa­tion is to take seven years right off the top and divide by two. This sim­ple adjust­ment means a 45-year-old man could sup­pos­edly date a woman as young as 19 and still avoid being a cul­tural cast-off.

Though really, when you think about it, any older man that looks at a younger woman and con­sid­ers whether or not she fits into this rule is basi­cally admit­ting that it’s more impor­tant to bend to those who are intol­er­ant ageists than to be happy.

For rela­tion­ships to suc­ceed, cou­ples need to: con­nect emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally, and spir­i­tu­ally; feel free to be them­selves, be vul­ner­a­ble, and know they can make mis­takes and be accepted uncon­di­tion­ally. Cou­ples also need to have fun, grow, and evolve together.

The last part is espe­cially impor­tant for older men dat­ing younger women. Why? Because you’re vio­lat­ing everyone’s con­cept of what an accept­able rela­tion­ship is. Con­nect­ing and hav­ing fun means suc­ceed­ing where oth­ers thought you’d fail.

Sadly, every­one seems to be pre­oc­cu­pied with the idea of age when it comes to older men dat­ing younger women. A weird thing to obsess over when there are more men con­cerned about find­ing women based on their hair color, height, weight, eye color, and cup size; or being turned off because her toes are too long (or any other triv­ial phys­i­cal trait).

Age is just a num­ber. Older men date younger women. Some find their soul mates while oth­ers do not. But it’s worth the risk.