So does age matter in relationships or is it just a number? This is an interesting question that might help us answer another pressing question: Are age gaps really that wrong in a relationship? These questions imply that the age gap can make or break a relationship. So let us dive right into it, to get to the bottom of this matter.
Do age gaps matter in a relationship?
Though this might sound like a cliché, “The heart wants what it wants.” Love doesn’t care about those it falls for; whether older or younger, but we certainly do. This is might the reason why only 8% of couples have a large age gap. There are numerous other reasons why the majority of people prefer to marry people close to their age.
Having similarities or being attracted to similar things is what makes close-age peers form relationships easily. These similarities include interests and values, personality, stage of life, life goals, and physical traits; keeping in mind that age is usually a marker of physical appearance.
These are the same aspects that make it hard for people with extensive age differences to form relationships. Moreover, we usually spend most of our time in social circles made of peers of close ages e.g., the school set up.
Though we don’t like to admit it, age is not just a number when it comes to relationships. This means that age gaps do matter in a relationship. According to Seth Meyers, Ph.D., a psychologist, couples with an age difference of more than 10 years often face a unique set of challenges either now or later, that add to the usual challenges that normal relationships face.
Being on conflicting stages of life is one of the challenges that couples in a large age gap relationship face. For instance, when a 46-year-old is dating someone who is in their 20’s, their lifestyles are bound to be different. Their career, emotional and financial situations are also likely to be far apart, an aspect that can kill their synergy.
While the 46-year-old is fighting voices in his head that are screaming that it is getting late to be a dad, the 20-year-old on the other hand may feel rushed. It is possible that the younger person would want marriage and kids eventually but not now. As the concerns of the age difference grow, they tend to overshadow their passion and hence the relationship dies.
Another great challenge that large age gap relationships face is the negative stigma from society. This includes disapproval from family, friends, and society at large. This factor makes people obsess over it which prevents rational decision making about the matter. Thus, people tend to assume that loving someone outside their age bracket is wrong.
Women face this stigma the most because women who marry much older men are thought to be in the relationship for other things other than love i.e. to get financial security in exchange for sex. The truth is, women are usually happier to have older male partners, unlike men.
Moreover, when looking at it from an evolutionally perspective, men are valued for their resources that increase with their age, while women are valued for their looks that decrease with age. This might also explain why more men marry younger women than older women marry younger men.
What is a good age difference in a relationship?
You might have come across this unproven yet popular formula to determine the right age difference that should be allowed when it comes to dating and relationships in comparison to your own age. Just “divide their age by two and then add seven” It usually calculates the youngest or the oldest person you can have a relationship with.
So if you’re 23 years old and you would like to date a 38-year-old guy, the formula says that you need to wait until you are 26, to date such a guy.
The ideal age difference in a relationship is actually tighter than most people imagine. Professionals recommend a maximum of 10 years. Research indicates that, the larger the age gap, the higher the chances of separation or divorce.
However, there are exceptions where couples with an age difference of over 10 years have managed to have thriving relationships. This means that they are not just tolerating each other but they are enjoying being with each other.
Moreover, the information and data available on the effect of age gaps on quality of relationships are very limited. This means that more research is needed because it is likely that age is not necessarily the cause of separation between couples with extensive age gaps.
Maybe We Should Focus on Maturity and Not Age.
So don’t put up walls and flee for the hills when you find out that the person you are attracted to is much older or younger than you are. You might be missing out on a great opportunity to have a fruitful loving relationship because there is so much at play besides age.
When we talk of age, we cannot also avoid talking of maturity. It is also clear that age is not synonymous with maturity. Maturity comes about through the experiences we face in life. Our society has an uncanny way of assuming that maturity sets in by the time one hits your 25th birthday yet we’ve had different life experiences.
This is the reason why the term “Act your age,” is used loosely because people have put a number to maturity which should not be the case. As a result, people tend to peg their future plans in terms of relationships and investments based on age, which is often not the reality of the situation on the ground. This way we continue living wrong, dating and marrying the wrong people and then blame it on age.
We all people in their late 50’s and yet they act like the 21-year-olds. Maturity is all about mindset. For relationships to thrive, you need to have the same mindset. You can meet someone who is a decade or so years older or younger than you only to find out that they are still figuring out life and experiencing the same things in life just as you are.
Moreover, you meet a younger person whom you might not be compatible with due to their level of maturity. However, with time, maturity can set in to enable you to have a successful relationship once more.
What about a 20-year age gap in a relationship?
We have established that a romantic relationship between people of ages more than 10 years comes with unique challenges. So a relationship with an age gap of more than 20 years is expected to have greater challenges.
The greatest enemy to such unions comes from external pressure in terms of disapproval by society. Unfortunately, most people give in to this pressure especially when it comes from family, friends and other people close to them.
Stages of life mainly entail specific things individuals need to achieve, do or master at a particular point in life. With a 20 years’ age gap, there are higher chances that each partner is experiencing a different stage in life bringing about unique challenges in their relationship.
There is some good news though; it gets better with time. Research indicates that a relationship between a 20 and 40-year-old can have more challenges than that of people say 40 and 60 years old. This is because, beyond a certain age, the stages of life become more even thus reducing the challenges that relationships with huge age gaps face.
How to make a 20-year age difference in a relationship work?
It has been assumed that a huge age difference often results in bad relationship outcomes. However, when such kind of relationship is forged by to committed individuals, it can bring about high levels of trust, and satisfaction. However, before one gets to enjoy this, there is some work that needs to be done first.
Learn how to handle social stigma
As much as you would like to ignore the social stigma, it usually gets to you and your partner. Understand that you are the minority, thus heads will turn when you head out together in public and some people may also make unkind remarks. It is possible to lockout stigma from strangers, however, it is more challenging to deal with it when it comes from family and close friends.
As such, you have to work together with your partner so as to overcome this challenge. The best thing you can do is to prepare your family and friends for the introduction instead of catching them off guard. This will help them take you new relationship more seriously.
As such, show them pictures, talk about him or her, who she is, how you guys met, and let them know that you care about them. This will help reduce the awkwardness when you introduce her and will enable them to take your relationship seriously. You can also use humor to deflect any negative energy that comes your way.
Learn to deal with personal issues?
Personal issues will always arise especially given that you are in different life stages. The best way to deal with these is by having partly separate lives as it is recommended for any other relationship. Each partner should understand the other goals and also help them achieve them.
You should as well have common interests or goals that bring you together. Most importantly, you should anticipate possible challenges and expectations in your life, such as sex, children, freedom lifestyle and iron them out beforehand.
Parting words – Age Gap Relationship Advice
Though age is an important factor when it comes to relationship, it does not necessarily mean someone fits in a certain status quo. Maturity is more important. Age has nothing on a relationship with shared values and beliefs, healthy conflict resolution and communication, intimacy, trust, and the ability to support one another’s goals.