Stories have been told of men who marry women 40 or even 50 years younger than them. But society doesn’t bat an eyelid because that is perceived as ‘normal’. But when a 50-year-old woman marries a 20-year-old man, all hell breaks loose and society goes up in arms. Society has come to accept that a man can marry a girl fit to be their daughter but for a woman to do that is unacceptable.
Julian is a divorced woman who fell in love with a man 17 years her junior. This relationship, she believes, brought passion back to her lonely world. They have been together for two years now and everything seems to be going well, except for the occasional accusatory eyes that seem to judge her when they are together in public.
“I was single for some time but I finally found love, and even though I’m 17 years older than him, our relationship blossoms more and more every day. Sometimes I worry and feel ashamed about our age difference but he comforts me and tells me not to worry about what others think and that I should instead focus on how he feels about me. He says he wants to spend the rest of his life with me and I feel the same, though I’m scared of how society will react if we decide to get married,” Julian says.
Like Julian, many old women are defying society stereotypes and are dating much younger men. But despite the society perceptions, older women commonly known as 'cougars' are getting into relationships with much younger men.
So, why do older women go for men young enough to date their daughters? And do the men genuinely love these women or are there benefits that come with dating older women?
According to Joyce Kirabo who works with the Rwanda Education Board as a counselor and mentor, some young men are materialistic and financially strained, so they look out for older women who are already financially stable and can provide for them.
However, she warns that such relationships usually end in a bad way. She cautions old women to avoid going into relationships with young boys.
“Women should have some dignity and conduct themselves in a manner that will not compel society to judge them.”
Jackline Iribagiza a counselor based at Martyrs Secondary School, Remera also warns that many of such relationships are based on lust or materialistic needs. But she is quick to add that a few might be a result of true love.
“Sometimes young men prefer relationships with older women because they are caring, settled and trustworthy, things that come with maturity. A young man can see something unique in a woman twice his age and decide to be with her and there is nothing wrong with that,” Iribagiza says.
Iribagiza believes that if two people are in love and decide to get married regardless of their age difference,it shouldn’t be a problem. It could be true love because love has no boundaries,” Iribagiza adds.
But for 42-year-old Daisy (not real name) her experience is not something one would wish for. Her relationship came to an end when her 24-year-old boyfriend introduced her to his parents. Humiliation had never been so strong, she says.
“I heard his mum argue with him outside about throwing his life away to an old woman. She asked him what had possessed him into dating a woman just seconds away from menopause. She didn’t even care that I could hear them,” says Daisy.
At some point, she says, she stormed out and grabbed the next motorbike home. When her boyfriend came over to check on her, his endless struggle to reassure her that he didn’t care what his mum said fell on deaf ears.
“I just couldn’t go on with it. It was bad enough that all the time we’d been dating, his friends still hadn’t come to terms with our relationship. I wasn’t going to subject myself to torture from his family too. So even though it broke my heart, I had to end it,” Daisy recollects the bad memories.
What men say
Laban Bizimungu, a 26-year-old accountant says that people do what they do for a reason.
“Some women are lonely and if she meets someone, then all the best to her. Everyone needs affection, if a lonely woman finds affection and love with a man who is say 27 and she is 40, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he says.
Charles Shyaka a 24-year-old student at University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics says that a glaring age difference in relationships can only bring about bad consequences.
According to him, being in a relationship with a much older woman would only be a waste of time since such women always have their own targets, like sexual satisfaction. He warns that such a woman is not searching for a soul mate and guys in such relationships are also after selfish interests.
“Some of these women are even married, with a busy husband; the woman ends up looking for someone younger with fewer commitments. Other women are simply unfortunate that at their old age, they are not married so they have certain needs, and they end up seducing young boys who are desperate for cash or any promises they may offer,” Shyaka says.
Alex Kabera shares the same view, saying that dating older women is something that should be frowned upon by society. He calls it shameless because he wonders why a woman would be attracted to a boy fit to be her son in the first place.
“It is shameful to date a woman so much older than you; I wonder if men who go for these women don’t have eyes for girls their own age,” Kabera argues.
For 35-year-old Aline Iradukunda, dating a younger man is not in any way shameful. “First of all one cannot control how they feel, the heart wants what it wants. If it falls for a 21-year-old, so be it. I don’t see any problem with that. The sweetest thing about this is that a younger guy respects you more because he knows that you have more experience in life than he has,” she adds.
However, 24-year-old Maureen Katushabe is of the view that when a guy is younger, he might not be ready for a serious relationship, which means he might end up wasting your time.
‘His family may reject you which is embarrassing,” she says and advises women to have some pride and save themselves the humiliation.
I SAY: Would you date a man much younger than you?
I wouldn’t mind dating a guy much younger than me mainly because young men tend to have respect for women and don’t exaggerate their relationship experiences. Furthermore, young men do whatever it takes to keep the relationship going.
I wouldn’t even try it! The reason is ladies mature faster than guys and guys normally make the decision of who to date for the long run when they are old and financially secure, which takes time.
I wouldn’t date a person younger than me because they have not experienced life like one mature enough to date. Such a guy wouldn’t be ready for the serious relationship I want.
Significantly younger would definitely be noticeable and this makes him too immature for a serious relationship. I wouldn’t date a guy who is that young.
Young men are fun and adventurous; there is always something new to explore with them. I wouldn’t mind dating one even if he is ten years younger than me.
That would be strange. A person ten years older or so is way more mature and can handle a serious relationship; young boys are not built for this because they have not fully matured. If it did work out, that wouldn’t be love but manipulation.
Compiled by Dennis Agaba
Robbing the cradle: Pros and cons of dating a younger man
Dating a younger guy has been all the rage for quite some time. And if you’ve ever dated one, you know that there are many perks, but also lots of drawbacks, the most well-known of which is being a so-called cougar. Nonetheless, as women get older, many seem to be tempted to bite into the proverbial younger man pie. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you jump into cougarvile:
•He has less baggage than an older guy who has been with more women, and has done more things. A lot of times when you are dating, you are dating the guy and all of his baggage, i.e. his preconceived notions about women and relationships that he concluded from past experiences.
A younger guy will have less of these experiences and be more open to his relationship with you.
•Since he is probably still figuring himself out, you have the opportunity to mold him into what you want him to be. Guys tend to mature more slowly than women and at an older age. If you catch a guy during his formative years, you can influence the man he will become. This is great if you wind up marrying him and sometimes disappointing if you mold him into an amazing guy and some other girl winds up with him!
•He brings out your younger, spontaneous side. It’s a fact, when you hang out with younger people; your younger side comes out. After all, you don’t want to seem like an old fuddy-duddy.
•He respects you more because he knows that you have had more life experiences than he has. Since you are the older and wiser one, he is going to respect you all the more. The fact is, because you have more life experiences than he has, he is going to trust your opinions and suggestions. He knows that you know something about what you are talking about.
•He forces you to be “the grown-up” in the relationship since you are the older of the two of you. Often times in a relationship, the two partners take on different roles, like good cop, bad cop, or responsible one and irresponsible one. If you are older, he might expect for you to be the grown-up, as in be the one who cleans up, makes sure not to drink too much, always makes the reservations, etc.
•You might have different reference points on things if you grew up at different times, like watching different TV shows, using different expressions, etc. When you date someone who is substantially different in age to you, sometimes you will find that he won’t understand some cultural references you make, and vice versa. For example, if you were born in 1980, a guy who was born in 1990 is likely to miss any references you make to a Walkman, M.A.S.H., or ZZ Top.
•Even though you relate to him, you might not relate to his friends because they might seem too immature for you. When you are dating someone younger, a lot of times, his friends could get on your nerves because they seem like children to you. Perhaps your guy is more mature, but what about his friends? You will need to figure out a way to tolerate them if you are into him.
•Since he is younger, he might not be ready for a serious relationship which means he might waste your time and then end it because he decides that he still needs to go sow his wild oats for a while. A risk you always take dating a younger guy is whether he is ready to commit. Just be prepared for this and make sure you give him ample time to catch up to you in readiness. He needs to know that you will give him the time he needs to commit.