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Dating a cougar? 9 things you should know

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Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson. Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles. Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. If Hollywood is any indication, cougars have never been hotter — no offense to Demi Moore, of course.

If you're interested in dating an older woman, whether you’re just looking to hookup or you want to seriously date, here's what you need to know:

1. There’s a reason you want to date her. 

“A cougar is a selective, empowered woman who does not feel the need to conform to society’s expectations for how older women should behave,” says Dr. Sarah Hill, evolutionary psychologist and author of the book “This is Your Brain on Birth Control.” 

They’re typically women in their late 40s who date men at least 10 years younger, according to Urban Dictionary. This Reddit thread also confirms cougars are at least 40, with women in their 30s qualifying as “pumas:” 

“It is believed these preferences have deep evolutionary roots, having been inherited by contemporary women because it promoted the survival and reproductive success of our female ancestors and their children,” Hill says. 

Because older men are generally more established, earn higher salaries, and have higher social status than younger men, it makes sense women would often desire older partners. 

Those qualities are what make them so appealing to younger men, Hills says.

In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, women ages 30 to 60 who had dated younger men revealed these sexual benefits of dating a younger man:

  1. Increased sexual stamina
  2. Relationship allowed them to embrace their sexual assertiveness
  3. Women could place greater importance on their own sexual pleasure

Suzanna Mathews, author of “Revising Mrs. Robinson: Navigating Cougar-Cub Dating and Relationships” and founder/head dating coach and matchmaker at The Date Maven, a matchmaking service, says there is also a novelty factor that comes with dating an older woman.

“‘Cougar’ and ‘MILF’ are some of the top-searched terms on Pornhub,” Mathews says. “That indicates to me that there is a curiosity and a male fantasy there that's probably pretty common in the male brain.”

The Today Show recently did a report on the trend of older women dating younger men:

What real cubs have to say: 

“I like the idea of her having older kids and not wanting to deal with younger women wanting kids (I have a 5 year old daughter).”

“Dating women in their 20s leads to a lot of unnecessary drama. When I spent time with older women, it was easy. The sex was amazing, and I enjoyed their company.”

“They are simply more wise to the world, the ‘games’ guys play and sex (usually). They want the same thing any woman does….love, admiration, respect, to feel comfortable in her man's arms.”

2. There’s a reason she wants to date you, too. 

For a lot of older women — especially those who went through a divorce — the desire to date a younger man is about hitting the reset button, Mathews says. 

Dating a younger man tells the world, “I'm sexy, I'm vibrant, I am appealing and attractive,” she says. “It's about getting that swagger back for a lot of women.”

But some women might be hesitant to date a younger man. Mathews says she’s had to convince a few of her clients to be open to an age-gap relationship. 

“One client I'm working with right now, she's in her late 30s and wants children. So she would have a good case to make for being open to dating a younger man. But she's had a lot of biases about how he's going to want to party, or he's going to want to play around, or he's not going to be able to be serious, or he's not going to be as emotionally available.” 

Dating a cougar is all about helping her see you for the partner you can be — make her laugh, support her, and be willing to follow her lead. 

What real cougars have to say: 

“I find the younger ones tend to be more open to letting you in their life and less rigid in their ways.” 

“My husband is 7.5 years younger than I am. I found men who were older could often have some…less evolved ideas about relationships and were often VERY angry and bitter about dating and had some gross ideas and behaviors. It was a refreshing change to have someone hopeful and new to the dating world (he really hadn't dated as an adult).”

“This guy was handsome with sexual stamina. He craved adventure, freedom and fun.  He could create anything if he put his mind to it.  He didn’t have children, ex-wives or property.  He didn’t have attachments. He could have easily planted himself into my space and let that become our space without complications. That’s what we enjoyed for a time. I could be myself with him, only better and more good looking, with a good looking guy in tow.” – CamilleOnTheCoast

What real cubs have to say: 

“I’m a guy dating a slightly older woman who is 53. She told me all the guys her age are either ready to retire to a rocking chair or they only want to date women in their 30s. She's very active and runs marathons, stays in shape, etc. It's been a nice match for us.”

3. Your priorities might be different.

Dating someone older poses unique challenges that come with an age-gap relationship, Mathews says. 

For example, a woman in her 30s may be looking for someone to start a family, while a woman at 40 or 50 might already have kids and not want more (or never want kids). She might also be co-parenting with an ex.

“Men in their 20s are still very much figuring out ‘Who am I? How do I want to be in this world? What's my purpose? What's my passion?’” Mathews says. “They're still exploring what their life is going to look like.”

Of course, if the woman is in a reinvention stage, which often happens post-divorce, she might feel comfortable with that and be able to support it. 

“And If she's not in that stage, she may feel sort of like, ‘I don't want to have to twiddle my fingers while he figures out his identity and what he wants to do for a living,’” Mathews says. 

If there are kids in the relationship, Mathews suggests following your partner’s lead on when and if she wants you to meet them. 

“If the kids are kids or teenagers, they're going to perceive it differently and have different reactions to it than if they are little,” Mathews says.

8 rules for dating a single mom

What real cougars have to say: 

“I asked him about kids one year into the relationship. He said he was too young. THEN, he got baby fever. So I ended up having my first child at an advanced maternal age. It wasn’t easy or cheap. I had to do IVF.”

“I’ve found that I’m better with men in their 20s who have been working for a few years rather than the ones who are still in college because at least working adults tend to be more mature and stable but still have the energy and fun of a younger man.”

4. There’s no need to pretend to be something you’re not.

She knows you are young and may still be growing as a lover and partner. You don’t need to pretend otherwise — she will see through it. 

Great love involves romance, touch, time, and emotional reciprocity. She can likely navigate this with more authority than you, and that is OK. 

Approach dating an older woman like you would any other relationship. Older women may have decades of relationship experience under their belts, but that doesn’t mean they’re done figuring things out. 

Mathews suggests asking your partner what she’s looking for in a relationship and also sharing your expectations. 

“The more we try to meet someone else's emotional needs — whether we're 20 or 60 — the better chance we have of making a connection and becoming indispensable in their life,” she says.

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What real cougars have to say: 

“Please don’t try and emulate a ‘cool dude.’ We are over that garbage. Be yourself. Show us you have a brain, that you have a heart. Most of us have had enough narcissistic immature men in our lives, and now we’re looking for genuine and enthusiastic lovers. And for the love of God, please don’t assume we are satisfied just because you are. You will rise above all others if you are attentive to our needs. And if you’re not sure, ask.”

What real cubs have to say: 

“One thing that surprised me was their understanding. They didn't impose on you with their age or claim to always be right due to them supposedly being more ‘mature’ or ‘superior.’ A major misconception about dating older women is that you're being told what to do or you're a boy toy. That is really not true. You can have beautiful memories together.” — Span Chen, founder of Thekarateblog

5. You might face judgments.

While age-gap relationships are a lot less taboo than they used to be, that doesn't mean your relationship will be without criticism from friends, family, and random strangers. The key is to stay resilient, Mathews says. 

Couples can do that simply by letting the relationship speak for itself — having good communication skills, having each other’s backs, and just striving for a happy and healthy partnership. 

If that fails, talk with each other about what to say when people give you a hard time.

What real cougars have to say: 

“Overall, as a 45-year-old female, I find that I get along better with men that are easily up to 10 years younger than me. The first bias you need to overcome is your own. Make sure you shed any issues about how you may be perceived. As a couple, make sure you're both on the same page and talk this through with him. If the two of you as grown adults connect and it has the makings of a good relationship, stop overthinking.”

“Don’t listen to your friends, listen to your heart. Do what makes you happy. Who cares what others think?” – CamilleOnTheCoast

What real cubs have to say: 

6. She will not want to play games.

An older woman is more likely to be upfront about what she wants in a partner. She probably doesn't have the time or the energy to play hard to get. 

“I need transparency and openness from my suitors,” says Maxine F., 63, from Las Vegas, Nev. “I've reached the age where I'm transparent and open to new experiences, so I expect to receive the same.”

A cougar has heard every excuse and lie in the book. She doesn't want to waste time with someone who has ulterior motives. That includes men looking for a “sugar mama” — unless that’s what you both want. 

“She will be very cognizant of whether she's constantly whipping out her credit card as the relationship progresses,” Mathews says.

What real cougars have to say: 

“I've said it before and I'll say it again. Show us who you are, not what is in your pants. Don't think that we are sex starved older women and will be receptive to anything and everything sexual when you message us. Remember we do look for attraction and personality like everyone else. And when I say attraction, it's not to your ding dong. It's to your personality and face. Be sincere and honest with what you are looking for.”

“Just be yourself, honest and respectful. We are no different than girls your age. Just be upfront about your intentions — really not very complicated at all.”

7. She probably doesn’t like the term “cougar.”

“It just kind of has this predatory tone to it,” Mathews says. 

If you want to date an older woman, remember that she’s a real person — not a male fantasy or fetish. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re better off trying to find an older woman who just wants a hookup

What real (older women who date younger men) have to say: 

“I have grown weary of it. For me, men don’t see me as a human but rather the label. So I'm not a fan of it.”

“Call them what they are. First and foremost, they're women. As such, they do deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I've seen plenty of people put a label on someone and in turn didn't give them the respect they deserve as a person. Just a reaction to the title given to them.

“It’s sexist crap and implies the older woman-younger man relationship is predatory.”

8. Don’t focus on her age.

Remember that every woman is different, regardless of her age and dating history. Focusing on your age difference can put strain on the relationship and make her more aware of your differences.

“Most women I've ever met have a pretty fierce inner critic that communicates what we can and can't do, or should or shouldn't do, what's appropriate or inappropriate, what other people are thinking,” Mathews says. 

She recommends focusing on your compatibility. Ask yourself:  

“Can you play together? Can you have fun together? Can you have good conversations together?” 

What real cougars have to say: 

“Don't fixate on or fetishize the age gap — even if it's hot for you — when getting to know us. Don't state the obvious: Yes, I'm older. Yes, you're younger. We know. Clearly, that's why we're here. What else ya got?”

“We are not a kink. Please don’t ask for pictures of me over and over and over and over hoping that you will eventually get a nude. Ain’t happening! The only one worthy of the nude is the Cub that is dating me. So don’t ask. I don’t give anything more than just from the shoulders on up. If you get a full body shot, you’re definitely on my hot list. That’s it until you’re dating.”

Dating a cougar? FAQs for cubs

If you want to date an older woman, here are some things you should know: 

What apps do cougars use?

There are many different dating apps and websites to find cougars. Cougar Life is the largest online dating site with over 7 million members who are looking for long-term and casual cougar-cub relationships. 

Cougarlife is free for women to use and message other users. Men, however, have to buy credits. The following credit packages are available:

  • Basic – $29.99 ($.30 per credit) for 100 credits
  • Classic – $99.99 ($0.20 per credit) for 500 credits (100 conversations)
  • Elite – $149.99 ($0.15 per credit) for 1,000 credits (200 conversations)

Men can also pay to be a Cougarlife Priority Man for $29.99/month, which makes their profile stand out on the site (also included in the Elite credit package).

There is also Seeking.com (formerly Seeking Arrangement). While the dating website primarily caters to sugar daddies/sugar babies, cubs can also sign up to meet cougars. Check out our Seeking review

For cubs, Seeking is free, but there are also premium subscriptions starting at $19.99 per month. For sugar mamas, there are two packages to choose from: a premium subscription starting at $94.99 a month for a 90-day subscription or the diamond package starting at $274.00 a month.

If you’re strictly looking for a casual hookup, check out Adult Friend Finder, the largest hookup site for casual sex with over 100 million users. Read our full Adult Friend Finder review here. 

Adult Friend Finder is free for anyone to sign up and browse, but if you want to use the features (and get an ad-free experience), you can pay a premium membership starting at $14.95 per month.

Check out our reviews of other popular dating sites:

SingleParentMeetZooskPlenty of Fish
Plenty of FisheharmonyMatch.com
BumbleOKCupid13 international
dating apps

You might also have luck meeting cougars in person. Guyana Z., 62, from New York, met her first younger boyfriend on a Badfish Booze Cruise and her second boyfriend on an Impractical Jokers cruise. 

You can try to meet older women at bars, coffee shops, or at work. That's where Leah K., 45, of Cranford, N.J., met her now-husband, who is 11 years younger than her. 

“We worked at the same resort on Miami Beach,” Leah says. “I was teaching meditation and yoga. He was working in the fitness center.”

What is a cougar looking for?

“Cougars are looking for a genuine connection with someone who will allow them to have fun and live in the moment,” Hill says. 

In fact, a small Ipsos and Cougar Life poll surveyed over 1,000 adults on cougar and cub relationships. According to the poll, these were the main benefits women cited for dating younger: 

  • 38% cited their partner’s open-mindness 
  • 33% cited their partner’s physical attractiveness
  • 30% cited their partner’s free spirit

“We want to feel sexy, supported, comforted, and loved,” Maxine says. “That's the most important part of a relationship.”  

How do you know if a cougar wants you?

Older women probably won’t play hard to get. It will be obvious that they want you because they will let you know, Guyana says.

Other times, older women show that they're interested by listening attentively and initiating flirty cues. 

“I believe it's all in the eyes,” Maxine says. “When I make flirty eyes at a man, I'm interested and waiting to see if that interest is genuinely mutual.”

What do you call someone dating a cougar?

The term for someone dating a cougar, or older woman, is a cub. 

Can a cougar relationship work?

“Absolutely,” Hill says. “[Cougar relationships] are usually based on an organic connection and mutually beneficial.”

Maxine says that as long as there is chemistry and neither partner focuses too heavily on the age gap, you can have a successful relationship. She says her current boyfriend is her biggest supporter.

“I believe that different things work for different people, and this is what works for us,” Maxine says.

What apps do cougars use?

There are many different dating apps and websites to find cougars. Cougar Life is the largest online dating site with over 7 million members who are looking for long-term and casual cougar-cub relationships.

What is a cougar looking for?

“Cougars are looking for a genuine connection with someone who will allow them to have fun and live in the moment,” Dr. Sarah Hill, evolutionary psychologist and author, says. 

How do you know if a cougar wants you?

Older women probably won’t play hard to get. It will be obvious that they want you because they will let you know.

What do you call someone dating a cougar?

The term for someone dating a cougar, or older woman, is a cub.

Bianca Mendez is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Health, Bustle, Latina, Refinery29, and many other publications. She also served as a sex and dating editor at Elite Daily and a freelance lifestyle editor for Bauer Publishing’s Teen Department, where she helped the team launch three new magazines.

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