Loving Older Men—and Learning to Accept It




On the verge of my 37th birthday I celebrate a little over a year of partnership with a man 26 years my senior.

This is not a new phenomenon for me—coupling with older men. It is a preference that kept me in the closet until I felt I was safe enough to express it at 23. I had never been with another man sexually before then. In fact, I had only ever been with women my age. That’s what was expected of me, if not the celibate single or religious life, in the conservative, working-class Catholic household in which I was raised.

It was in this environment that I was taught to hold the body in suspicion and to avoid sex. Masturbation, I was told, is a mortal sin. “Impure thoughts” were grounds for confession. By fifteen, in the throes of pubescent sexual urgency, I broke down and committed the ultimate transgression for a Catholic boy that age: Not only did I masturbate for the first time, I did so to a picture of another man. I was terrified. My sexual fantasies were all about pro-wrestlers and movie stars with chiseled jaws and hirsute bodies. I went to confession sometimes multiple times per week at that stage of my life, living in constant fear of this layered secret and its consequences for my soul. At one point I confided in my high school’s campus minister that I thought I might be gay. Only I couldn’t get the words out.

“Are you attracted to other men?” he asked candidly one afternoon when I cornered him in his office about doubts I was having around my sexuality.

The question rang in my ears like an episode of tinnitus.

“No … no … nothing like that,” I lied, knowing I couldn’t answer the question without disclosing a secret within a secret: I liked older men.

I denied the truth because my sexual attractions were not within the range of what I considered acceptable homosexual behavior, even then, when “homosexual behavior” was anathema to the “moral life.” It felt like a perversion within a perversion.

Nevertheless, in the work I’ve done to explore my story in a psychotherapeutic setting and in writing about it, I have come to realize that, while there may be aspects of a still-resolving “daddy complex” at play in my sexual preference, it is something that I’ve come to embrace as unique to my gay male identity. In a way, I am proud of my non-normative leanings, as they challenge the status quo of our collective ideal, which brainwashes us into believing that you have to be young, svelte, hairless, and chiseled—and white, and well-educated, for that matter—in order be loved. For me, my attraction to older men is an invitation to love more deeply—both myself and the other man.

At least that is what I’m finding in my third long-term relationship, which is based upon a shared value system oriented toward social justice. We laugh, we cry, we spend time in nature, we read books, we exercise, we have sex, we eat, we sleep, and we work together. While there are physical limitations—the sexual dysfunction that comes with age being one of them—the rewards of mutual affection and friendship far exceed the seeming deficits of cross-generational love. In addition, there are stage-of-life issues dealing with career, health, vocation, and retirement that challenge cross-generational lovers to creatively engage the age gap with empathy and excitement. But then these are issues not isolated to intergenerational commitment.

As history will tell us, intergenerational gay relationships are not unusual; nor should they be. They bring out the wise fool in each person, and they provide a basis for experiencing wholeness within ourselves. They also teach us a lot about gay cultural history and politics. In the context of my own “May-December” couplings, I have become more familiar with the horrors of living through the AIDS epidemic from people who saw many of their friends and family die as a result. I have also learned more about gay culture: books, film, music, and visual art. As a millennial, I reap the benefits previous generations of gay men have accomplished. Publicly professing my love for older men is just one of them.


Rob Peach is community outreach and engagement coordinator for a homeless service agency in Humboldt County called Arcata House. For more of his story and to contact him, visit: https://robertkpeach.wixsite.com/brotherpreach


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Discussion17 Comments

  1. Wow man. First reading. I’m deeply moved. Well said. A good overview of the reality we are both living. You are a gift. I’m grateful.

  2. This is a very thoughtful and well-expressed piece. Cross-generational commitments have always been the stuff of erotic fantasy for me, and they were part of all the serious relationships I entered into. I’ve been pleased to find how relatively common it is, even if not always obvious in American gay life.

      • Robert, I’m 84 and today is my lover’s 31st birthday. I think 53 years difference may be stretching it; I came out to family at age 73. I struggled for over a year with the age difference, but it didn’t seem to bother him. I finally reached the point where I simply accepted the good fortune of having someone truly love me for who I am, and for loving him for who he is. After numerous discussions, we’ve finally put that issue away.
        We don’t live together for several reasons, love not being one of them, but we’ve loved each other for about 3 years and counting. Our first and second dates were at a restaurant talking photography, nothing else.
        Before anyone suggests I’m a sugar-daddy, neither one of us has lots of money. We share our love of photography and cooking (and pleasing each other in bed). I’ve had a few tough times, but he’s always there for me as I am there for him.
        We’ve accepted the reality that I’ll probably pass on far earlier than he will, but an unexpected illness or accident could very well prove that wrong. For us, it works, and I’ll enjoy whatever time I have left with this beautiful person.

        • Bill, wow! Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful witness to and testimony of what’s possible when we stop internalizing shame and start living our loves, excuse me, lives! And loves, too!

          • I am searching for answers found your article very helpful. I am 57, was in 2 long heterosexual relationships, and have 3 children age 13 to 29. I met an attractive young man Thanksgiving day. He approached me and started a conversation. Typically I would have stopped the encounter within minutes but for some reason I was totally infatuated by him. He said he was 22 and my first response was “what do you want with an old guy like me?” We have been inseparable ever since. He approached me and it took him 3 trys to get me to talk with him and once I did we have never run out of conversation. He later admitted that he is 20 years old, but neither of us thinks of age when we are togegher. When he interacts with my kids it is strange because he interacts like a sibling. As far as sensuality I do not have a preference for one gender over another so I identify myself as bi. He said he has known he was gay since age 10. I have had many gay and lesbian friends, and when my oldest daughter came kut at age 18 she worried what I would think. I said I loved her for who she was, not who she was with. I do not judge anybody but I am experiencing the effects of others judging me. You can’t help who you love, and that is what I have always believed. I guess I am not really looking for answers, I just needed to tell my story. Thank you for sharing yours.

  3. I am 53 and my partner for Th e past six years is 30. We met in a dating app and have been together ever since. He has an old soul and I suppose mine hasn’t quite grown up. ✌️

      • Michael Anderson

        Hi Rob,
        My partner and myself have been together, living together for 31 years now. He is 81 this july and i am 56 this year, all of our friends and i mean really my work friends love us truly. But my family thinks it is all disgusting , and i recieve from my mother awful comments insulting, abusive remarks daily about our lifestyle. I am so happy for you that you have found also someone to love and for someone to love you back.
        God Bless you both
        Michael Anderson

    • 🤫 Rod I’am someone that’s in he’s early 70’s & widower 2 years ago too a beautiful woman. However I had these underlying fantasies for men & tried too subdue them. Now I’am trying too find my true self but scared. Family – friends? I say that I want too look 👀 into the mirror & look into my eyes & say I did the best I could no matter what anyone my say around me. Tough though 🤔

  4. I love this article because I could relate so much to it because I am a sixty year old bisexual male who is attracted to older white men 70 to 80 I slept with five men only. The reason for this was because I was more attracted to women more then men so I thought that the attraction to men was just a phase.I still admire women but I had my fun with them I realized that I am also attracted to older men who I would like to start dating .I realized that life is too short I should not worry about who I start dating I am going to start dating as much men as I want possibly I could find a s soulmate for life thank you for this article it is something I could relate to keep up the good work robert

  5. One super writ: I find myself entered into a cross generation situation. It is brand new, wish me well.He is mid 50s, Myself, 91.

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