Does age matter in a relationship? Whether you’d never date a younger man or are considering dating an older women – or vice versa – everyone is sure to have an opinion. eharmony looks at this age-old debate
Age is relative – someone may be 60 yet have the health, looks and vitality of a 40 year old, while some people in their forties seem ready to collect their pensions! Age isn’t just about the time you’ve been on the planet, it’s about your attitude and approach to life. With huge advances in technology creating all manner of age-defying treatments; better diets; dental care; and life expectancy, it’s entirely possible to stay looking, and feeling, young well into middle age. So given all this, do traditional notions of appropriate age gaps in relationships still matter?
What is traditionally appropriate?
What is traditionally deemed acceptable changes with age, especially as people grow older . A 17 year old girl dating a 31 year old man may raise an eyebrow but a 31 year old woman dating a 45 year old man probably wouldn’t. According to some, you can determine your appropriate dating age range by only dating someone who is within a fifth of your own age. A fifth of a 20 year old’s age would be four years, for example, so they could date someone between 16 and 24 (four years older or younger). Based on this system, someone who’s 60 would have a 12 year margin, so the age range would be 48 to 72. This can seem quite restrictive but is a good way of judging whether the age range that you’re dating in will widely be deemed appropriate.
It isn’t fair but older men dating younger women seems to have always been acceptable in almost all cultures but, happily, older women having relationships with younger men is becoming much more accepted and commonplace.
If having a family is something you want from a relationship then obviously age differences become a bigger consideration. Women’s fertility naturally begins to diminish after the age of 35 and, while men can physically father children until much later, it’s worth bearing in mind that a man who doesn’t become a father until he is 50 will be 68 by the time that child reaches adulthood. Financial, health and economic factors also change as we grow older and these can sometimes make child rearing more difficult in later life.
If having a family isn’t part of your future plans then there are examples of many happy and healthy couples who have age gaps of 10 – 20 years. Anything over 25 years does begin to raise problems in terms of compatibility because you are effectively from different generations and therefore your life experiences, beliefs and values may be so vastly different that it can cause difficulties when you negotiate important decisions in your relationship.
It doesn’t matter now but will it matter later?
When someone of 30 is dating someone who is 50 the age difference may not seem particularly significant. It will, however, likely start to become more difficult when issues around retirement or health problems arise. A 60 year old who is only just approaching retirement may be making plans for tackling all those ambitions that they haven’t had a chance to fulfil while working. An 80 year old will be coping with very different life challenges and the differences could lead to a range of issues that weren’t apparent earlier on in the relationship.
How old do you think you are?
Sometimes people get matched with people in the age bracket they specified only to realise that what 40 looks like on some people is very different to how they see themselves. A positive upbeat attitude generally makes you feel younger, as does an enthusiastic and optimistic outlook. People who are jaded, bitter and cynical about the world and their relationships can come across as being much older than they actually are. If you are young at heart include something about that in your profile.
The biggest problem couples with a large age gap experience is jealousy and insecurity, often with the older partner believing that their younger partner will one day be attracted to someone their own age. It can make you feel younger to date someone younger but it can also make you feel older and more conscious of your appearance.
Keep an open mind
As with all aspects of the dating process, stay flexible and keep an open mind. Qualities developed through emotional maturity are the ones most likely to ensure the success of the relationship rather than anything to do with chronological age.
And finally, don’t ever lie about your age. Any relationship that is built on dishonesty will have insecure foundations which, sooner or later, will rock its stability.