DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Thanks for all the hard work and great articles, lots of great advice which has helped in the past – your book New Game+ has been a huge benefit to me. My question is a quick one, around how sexual desire changes when you get older.
I’ll hold my hands up and say from the get-go that I myself am very young, only 26! However, I’ve have usually been in relationships with older women (10+ years older than me). Recently, I have been in a wonderful, loving relationship with an older women over the past year or so. However, in my day to day life, I come across lots of other interesting and attractive women, many of whom are young (18-26, I work at a college). Understandably, I find many of them sexually attractive – but I struggle on a somewhat daily basis with feelings of guilt and lust, as I am noticing the age-related differences between the younger girls and my partner more frequently.
Concurrently, I was listening to podcast by Russell Brand recently, and he mentioned how he has gotten to the point of having such a rich spiritual and emotional connection with his wife that he doesn’t feel the need to put another person in between that space anymore. This got me thinking – as you age (50+, 60+, 70+), your lusts for nubile flesh and younger women (or men) must be increasingly harder to fulfill. Instead, you will need to prioritize experiencing the whole emotional and spiritual connection with another person in its entirety (rather than just wanting them for their hot ass!). I am also aware of your other blog post about how society fetishizes younger women of a certain demographic, and we are living in an Instagram and porn-addicted world where our standards of sex are enormously warped.
So, tell me Doc, can you successfully lust after young, nubile partners as you age – will it make you happy, and sexually satisfied? Or should we instead prioritize only valuing the spiritual connection with another person during sex? Or can you have both?
DEAR BENJAMIN BUTTON: Most of the time when someone writes to me with questions about something that’s years – or decades – down the line, the problem is that they’re borrowing unhappiness from the future. A future that, in fact, may never come to pass.
You, on the other hand BB, aren’t borrowing trouble so much as just making crap up to get worried about. Worrying about whether you’re going to be able to be a dirty old man – or, y’know, the male lead in most Hollywood movies – in 40 years isn’t just missing the point, it’s managing to miss the entire planet the point resided on and sending things out past the Van Allen Belt.
So let’s break this down a little, shall we?
First, you’re assuming a whole lot of facts not in evidence – starting with the question of whether you’re even going to be into the same type of women as you get older. As easy as it is to think that you’re gonna want nothing but jailbait and women in their early 20s, you may find that your tastes have changed drastically as you get older. There’re plenty of folks who hit their 30s and 40s and realize that while that young flesh may be hot to look at… a lot of times, that’s all there is. They’re great eye-candy but you can’t have a conversation with them, nor are they nearly as good in bed as women who’re more age-appropriate.
(Seriously: the reason why we used to say that women hit their sexual peak at 35 is because by 35, women tend to have run out of f
ks to give and are shucking off the sex-shame-y bulls
t society has thrown on them. A woman with no f
ks, who’s come into her own sexuality is a glorious and terrifying thing to behold.)
Second, let’s be real here: this is less about whether or not it’s generally possible for an older man to get with a younger woman – clearly it is. This is about whether or not you’ll be the kind of man who can hook up with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. In other words: this isn’t about whether your desire gets harder to fulfill and far more about your ego and a desire for validation. After all, young women are seen as having a certain value and cachet, so clearly someone who can manage to date or sleep with one (or two or three) is clearly of high status.
Except for the part where that’s not how this works. Yeah, Hef had his rotating stable of girlfriends… but he was Hugh Hefner. Basing your assumptions on how dating will work in your later years on Hef is like basing your career trajectory on Mark Zuckerberg’s.
Plus, beyond the allegations of mistreatment and sexual misconduct, do you honestly think that those were a relationship of mutual respect and interest? Dude wanted arm candy to show off and to put on shows for him while his girlfriends liked the advantages that being Hef’s girlfriend gave them. There may have been affection, but this was a one-sided relationship at best and – going by many of the books and stories that’ve come out since – kinda horrific.
Women, as a general rule, don’t date someone for value or status, they date someone who they have a legitimate attraction and connection with. Much of that connection is built on mutual respect, shared experiences and commonalities. The wider the gap you have between two people – especially in age – the harder it is to have those commonalities. Try talking to someone who’s 18 years old. You two will have fewer points of commonality or cultural touchstones than someone who’s 24-28 – never mind the differences in where the two of you are in your life.
So being an old guy with a young girlfriend… it’ll be theoretically possible, but unlikely, and the odds of it lasting is even more unlikely.
Third: I’m glad that Russell Brand has a close and passionate relationship with his wife, but I think you tried to put 2 and 2 together and got “moops” instead. Nothing that he said has anything to do with whether or not you’ll want young chicks as you got older.
Now if you’re asking whether you’ll want other people despite being in love with your partner… yes. Yes you will. So will your partner. We’re a species designed to seek out novelty, including sexual novelty. As I’m so often saying, a monogamous commitment says that you choose to not sleep with anyone else, not that you won’t want to. Similarly, passion fades over time with a partner. The newness and novelty inevitably goes away as you get to know somebody. That’s just part of being in a long-term relationship – that closeness and intimacy means that you know them in ways that you didn’t at first. The way that you keep the spark alive and vibrant is by recognizing that you can’t re-experience the novelty of getting to know your partner, but you can inject novelty and excitement into your lives… which will also bleed into your sexual connection. So part of keeping that spark alive is to not let your lives – sexual or otherwise – fall into a rut.
So yeah: you’re asking the wrong questions and inventing problems to get worried about that have absolutely nothing to do with your life now. Instead of worrying about whether you’re going to be the old guy in the club instead of the Most Interesting Man in the World, try focusing on the relationships you have now. You’re better off learning how to build, maintain and nurture what you have now – a practice that will serve you over your entire life time – rather than worrying about whether your future self will be able to score with young women.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I recently reconnected with two friends over spring break, after having not seen them for years. We talked and had a lot of fun, but we were at a diner and my one friend, J (f, currently 20), was revealed that she’d had a problem. She told me about a crush that she had on an underclassman at her school, K (f, currently 19), and how they were best friends but never in a relationship. J asked K out to prom one night, and K couldn’t say no. But once they got to prom, J spent most of the time dancing and flirting with other guys instead of spending time with K. K felt incredibly betrayed, even though they were never really “dating”. Smaller moments, such as ditching a group cosplay at a convention and J dating other people that both she and K knew – people that H didn’t like – further splintered the relationship. K eventually went so far as to ask whether J saw her as a friend or girlfriend, and J wanted nothing but more but to stay best friends. Currently, the two of them rarely talk.
While she told me about this, I tried my best to comfort her. I asked her questions about how she felt, what she was and wasn’t okay with in the relationship, gave suggestions on what I would’ve done, and gave timid “I’m sorry J”s during the hard parts of her story. But after that discussion I could still feel that she was gloomy and unsatisfied. I thought her talking about it would make her feel a little better, but that didn’t seem to be the case. It made me feel that somewhere in the conversation I may have said something wrong or may have not said something right.
My question is how should I have a conversation like this again? How do I comfort a friend who is going through a rough break up or still stuck on something that never was? When someone comes to me with something like this again, I want to know how to go about it so that they feel like they have a better grasp on their own emotions.
DEAR FRIEND INDEED: Not gonna lie, FI… I’m not exactly sure what your friend was expecting. J seems to have gone out of her way to be awful to someone that she supposedly had a crush on and who clearly had feelings for her. There’s only so many times you can dropkick someone’s heart before they say “f
k this noise” and bail.
(Frankly, I’m amazed it took as long as it did for K to decide to peace out of the entire relationship.)
As a general rule, when somebody’s hurting, most of the time, what they want is comfort. Sometimes that means somebody to listen and let them unload all of the pent-up emotions they’ve been feeling. They may want a neutral party to listen – someone who won’t cast judgement or who wasn’t involved – so they can open up and get an answer to “am I the asshole?” Sometimes it means someone who can be there physically for them – a warm body to cling to and cry on so that they don’t feel alone or abandoned or lost. Other times, they want somebody who will tell them that it’ll all be ok and that as bad as this is, it’ll all fade in time and they’ll feel normal again. Still other times, they want somebody who can divert and distract them, to take their mind off their pain, if only for a little bit.
What they usually don’t want is someone to solve their problem for them or to suggest solutions. This is a problem a lot of guys have; we’re socialized to believe our value is in doing things and solving problems, so we try to throw out solutions when what most people want is to be heard. This is why it can be good to ask whether someone wants action and solutions or tea and sympathy; it makes it easier to know what emotional protocols to engage.
Now not being there, I can’t tell you exactly what J was needing. The cynical side of me suggests that she was hoping that you’d reassure her that she wasn’t a bad person and didn’t blow up a relationship out of… I dunno, undergad drama, I guess. If – and that’s a mighty big if – that was the case, I’m not surprised that she went away unsatisfied.
But the thing you need to keep in mind is that you’re not magic. You can do all the right things and offer somebody the kind of comfort they want or need and not fix them or make them feel better. A lot of times, people will still go away sad and that’s ok. That’s not a failure on your part to comfort properly, it’s just that they still have to feel the hell out of their feels. But while you may not have cured them, you did offer them comfort and solace for a little while, when they needed it.
And most of the time, that’s exactly what they need.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)