My Son Is Dating an Older Man

If your son is dating an older man, there’s a lot to unpack, both emotionally and mentally. It’s my hope that you’ve accepted his romantic inclinations in general at this point, and if not, it’s time to set your reservations aside and love your son for everything he is and ever will be.

Do not use this age gap as a way to devalue your son’s sexuality. This is not ammunition in a crusade, so please do not treat it as such. That said, in this article, we’ll discuss two scenarios and how to handle each one.

1. Your son is over the age of 18 and dating an older man. 

2. Your son is under the age of 18, dating an older man, and you’re highly concerned about him being taken advantage of by someone who might not have his best interest in mind. 

Over the Age of 18

You’ll notice that in the first scenario, I don’t elaborate on the specifics.

This is because at the age of 18, his love life is his own business, and unless you suspect abuse, there’s no reason for you to judge what is happening or try to intercede.

Love can take many forms, and if your son is happy and healthy, that is what matters. It can be hard to hear that, as you’ve spent many years helping him make decisions and giving advice when he comes to you with questions. However, at some point, you have to let go and accept that your son has grown up.

He needs to be allowed to make decisions and mistakes on his own. Either this relationship is going to work out, or it’s not. The best thing you can do is be there for your son either way.

If you shun him for choosing to date someone that you don’t approve of merely based on age, that’s a problem. You want to be part of your son’s life, and the quickest way to alienate him is to try to micromanage his choices or use them against him. 

It’s essential that you consider the age gap and the mental and emotional maturity of your son. Are we talking about five years? Ten years? 25 years?

If you step back for a moment and think about it, this type of dating is quite common in hetero-relationships. His relationship shouldn’t be treated differently because it doesn’t meet that distinction. 

It is crucial that you not disparage this relationship without all the facts. If you don’t allow your son to be open and honest with you, you cannot expect him to turn to you when he needs help.

Keep an open dialogue and a careful pulse on the situation and genuinely consider why you have concerns. Is it because society can be judgmental in these situations? If that’s the case, understand that your son is already aware of this and turning to you for support. 

Did he approach you with this information?

If your son is open with you about what is going on, take the chance to get to know his partner.

You might be surprised at how well they “click.” Think of it this way: amazingly, your son is comfortable enough to tell you about his love life.

This means he’s not only secure in the relationship, but he’s hoping you will accept it as well. He’s not trying to hide it from you, and that should tell you a lot. 

If this is information you have found out on your own and your son has yet to approach you with it, consider how you reacted in the past to his dating revelations.

If you have always been receptive and supportive, and he still hasn’t come forth, it might be time to invite him over and have a quick chat and make sure he’s okay. Listen carefully for any red flags.

As with all relationships, your concern should be focused solely on the emotional and physical safety of your son. If he expresses concerns and makes excuses for his partner’s behavior, make sure he knows that he always has a safe place to stay with you and that you’ll support whatever decision he makes. 

Under the Age of 18

The second scenario is rather alarming and requires your involvement.

This isn’t because your son is gay. That has zero bearing on how you should handle his relationship. What we are here to discuss is that even at the legal age of consent, which in some states is as low as 16, teenagers are not emotionally and mentally prepared to understand the intricacies of an adult relationship.

Even the most mature children don’t have the years of knowledge necessary to navigate an experience with someone many years older than them. 

The teenage brain is very impressionable. While it’s our hope, as parents, that our children will make sound decisions with critical thinking when it comes to relationships, this is very rarely the case.

They go at it from a purely emotional level. Let’s delve into the specifics for a moment to help you decide the best course of action. 

How old is your son, and how large is the age gap? 

Consider the age gap and how you would approach this if it were hetero-normative.

If your son is under the age of consent, his partner shouldn’t be approaching him at all. This is predatory behavior and should be treated as such.

It’s time to sit your son down and have a long conversation about your concerns. Be tactful, as simply forbidding it without a discussion will result in him hiding his relationships from you now and in the future.

You want to explain why it’s inappropriate for a man many years his senior to be courting him. You also need to fully understand why your son is receptive to this.

Is the older man meeting an emotional need your son is trying to fulfill? Once you have a better understanding, you’ll know how to navigate the conversation. 

If you’ve been open, respectful, and supportive of his sexuality since the beginning, he should trust you and listen to you.

If you haven’t, it might be time to sift through your emotional reactions and be sure your son is aware that you support him. He will not trust your opinion if he feels you don’t accept him for who he is, and this could be the deciding factor in him seeking an older man out for a relationship. 

Taking the steps to make sure everything is okay when your son is dating an older man is important

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If, however, your son is 16 or 17 and the age gap is minimal, this might not be an issue. There is no specific age to pinpoint, so go with your gut. I would find it acceptable for my 17-year-old son to date a 19-year-old man, but I would be very wary if the partner were over 21.

Again, keep a careful pulse on your son’s behavior. If you notice alarming changes, it can be time to step in and explain about toxic relationships and offer him an out. 

Related: Why is parenting so hard for me

The Bottom Line – Son Is Dating an Older Man

If you take nothing else away from this article, understand this: if you come at your son with anger or disgust, you will never succeed in having an honest and open dialogue.

You need to approach this with love and understanding, just as you would any other aspect of parenting.

As I previously mentioned, it’s crucial that you have all the facts before making any judgments and that you focus only on your son’s well-being.