Dating Men Over 40: What’s the Big Difference?

I spend a good 45 minutes of my morning, five days a week, on an elliptical machine or stair-climber at my local gym. Usually, there’s a book of some sort blocking my view of how much time I have left because, as you know, watching the time on that clock run down on the “fat burner” cycle is like watching paint dry.

older business man

This past week, I ran across a chapter on dating men over 40 in Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others, by John T. Molloy (2003). Since I’m winking at my 40th birthday, I figured the info was worth checking out. I hadn’t considered that there would be much difference in dating men over 40 than dating men under 40, but Molloy’s findings proved my ignorance.

Molloy and his team of researchers polled over 2,500 women and their fiancés (of all ages), as well as more than 1,000 single folks to form the basis of their findings. They present information on things like the power of first impressions, online dating, and the stages of relationships.

Here’s what his team had to say about being in relationships with men over 40:

They value acts of kindness. Molloy states that 62 percent of men polled said they “were originally attracted to their fiancée because she was congenial, agreeable, relaxed and easy to get along with” (158). Men in this age bracket respond to your genuine care for the welfare of others – and especially notice the small ways you care for him, in particular. (Ladies, when the flu hits, I’ve learned that a home-delivered care package of homemade soup, a bottle of OJ, vitamin C, Kleenex and cough drops speaks volumes. I don’t have to breathe your air to show you I care.) They’re looking for you to show – as well as tell – how much they mean to you.

They are attracted to women who take good care of themselves. Um, duh? I know this is a sore spot with many on the blog but, according to the research, “One of the secrets of marrying when you are over forty is to be trim or athletic” (157). Christelyn’s posted over and over again about stats that show that fit women of all ages who pay attention to their appearance are more likely to attract men and marry. I know, I know – “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and there are guys out there who love big women, thick women, athletic women, curvy women, etc. Here’s the deal: being trim or athletic comes in all shapes and sizes. Before you get upset with how “ridiculous” this supposed standard of physical attractiveness seems, keep in mind that most of us would view managing your health, taking care of yourself and putting your best foot forward where your appearance is concerned as attractive.

They’ll want to know that you fit into the life they’ve already built. Men in this age group should be fairly established, so they’re not usually looking to rebuild their life. Instead, they’re trying to determine if the life you’ve built melds easily with theirs. This means he’ll want your social skills, values and priorities to match or exceed his.

Don’t hint at your feelings; tell him. Molloy states that it’s inevitable that most of these men have been through the relationship mill and don’t have time to waste on subtleties – especially if they’ve been married before. (If you’ve been through the mill a few times, you probably get that as well.) The subtle, flirty techniques employed during your 20s and 30s aren’t as effective with this crowd. As your relationship progresses, communication is key and honesty is the best policy.

They may want to talk through serious topics earlier in the relationship rather than later. Molloy posits that the process of getting to know the other person – really getting to know them – moves a bit faster with men in their 40s, 50s and up. Research states it’s because those in this age bracket tend to go on first, second, and third dates where they actually exchange information (168). So, don’t be surprised if topics of monogamy and commitment come up sooner than expected.

They want you to be candid about money matters. Although the topic can be very uncomfortable to talk about and make it seem like he’s more interested in your money than you, at the right time in the relationship, it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Men over 40 want to know what they’re getting into – what debts, assets, and other responsibilities (alimony, child support, etc.) you bring to the table. You should too.

With men over 40, monogamy does not necessarily equal commitment. Molloy reasons that men over 40 don’t usually have the same opportunity to meet available members of the opposite sex as they did in their 20s and 30s. They no longer feel comfortable in the singles scene (bars, parties, etc.), so they tend to slip into monogamy soon after a relationship starts and settle into a comfortable place. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a priority or that he’s committed to advancing the relationship towards marriage. If you’re marriage-minded, it’s important to verbalize what you want out of the relationship – a marriage proposal within a reasonable period of time – sooner, rather than later. If he has no intention of ever marrying or remarrying, you need to decide up front if you can live with that. It’s better to call it quits six months in than spend years wondering if he’ll ever pop the question.


So, BB&W community, what are your thoughts? What observations have you made in dating men over 40? Men in this age range, what’s important to you? Do share!

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