It's certainly not uncommon for a woman to prefer dating older men, and vice versa. This is known as the age-differential effect, explains psychologist Vinita Mehta in the article "When It Comes To Dating, Do Age Differences Matter?" for Psychology Today. If your daughter is one of many women who are drawn to older men, there may be little you can do about it. The action you take depends on your daughter's individual circumstances.
Open Your Mind
Before you start nagging your daughter about dating older men, take a moment to consider why it bothers you so much. If your daughter is 18 or older, she is an adult and entitled to make her own decisions about who she dates. If your daughter only dates men who are significantly older than her, ask yourself why this may be the case. Perhaps you divorced her father and she is seeking a father figure in her life. Or perhaps she is simply more attracted to a more mature man, who can offer her more security than a man her own age. Remember, a person's psychological age may be much younger than his biological age, says couples therapist Dr. Seth Myers in his article "Dating Someone Older -- Criteria for a Successful Relationship," for eHarmony. Take a step back and try to see things from your daughter's perspective.
Work on Your Relationship
Encourage your daughter to confide in you about her life in general. The more understanding and approachable you are, the more likely she is to turn to you if she has a problem. However, if she feels that you are judging or criticizing her for her choice of men, she is unlikely to tell you anything about her private life. Your daughter's well-being should be your paramount concern, above any opinions you have about age difference in dating.
Focus on What's Important
Having similar relationship goals is more important than age difference, says Dr. Myers. If your daughter gets into a serious relationship with an older man, ask her what he wants from the relationship, and whether it is compatible with her relationship goals. For example, if he has children from a previous relationship, he may not want to have any more. If your daughter does want children of her own, making her aware of this potential problem is in her best interests. However, don't come across as interfering or supercilious. Reassure your daughter that you want her to be happy.
When to Take Action
If your daughter is below the legal age of consent for your state, she should not be engaging in sexual activity with any man, however old he is. Even if intercourse has not occurred, you may have concerns that an older man is trying to take advantage of your teenage daughter. In this case, it is your responsibility as her mother to try to put a stop to the relationship. Encourage your daughter to mix with her peers. Talk to her about dating, sex and relationships. Be honest with her about your own experiences and aim to have a two-way conversation, instead of lecturing her, advises the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Establish rules and curfews and explain to your daughter that these are in her best interests. Make her aware of the repercussions of breaking the rules. Enlist the help of your husband or partner in enforcing these rules.
C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."
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