They say age is just a number when it comes to love, and it’s more evident then ever these days that people don’t focus on age gaps in relationships as much as they used to. Even those negative stigmas associated with an older man dating a younger girl, or an older woman and a younger man, have dissipated. But can a relationship where partners vary by 10 or more years really work?
If you find yourself in an age-gap relationship, or thinking about getting into one, here are a few things that are good to know:
1. It ultimately boils down to compatibility, lifestyle, goals, and interests
“You really have to be crystal clear about your hopes, dreams, and desires from the start,” says marriage and family therapist Dr. Sheri Meyers. “A big issue for couples with a big age gap is mismatched life experiences and goals around marriage, children, lifestyle and freedom.”
For example, the younger woman in the relationship may desire children in the future. But if the significantly older man has ‘been there, done that’ he may not be interested in having more kids.
2. Aging will eventually be an issue.
What’s going to happen in 15 or 20 years? Or when you’re both much older and one partner is in a significantly different stage of the aging process then the other?
“The bigger the age gap, the more you need to consider what natural aging brings. You may be at the height of your career, while your partner is nearing retirement,” says Meyers. Or maybe you’re both retired but one of you is still in peak physical shape while the other is winding down and just can’t do all the things you used to. The best thing you can do is plan for this and talk about it.
3. Navigating friends, family and social circles can be challenging.
“Friends and family may not take your relationship seriously, or even express that the relationship is just a passing folly,” says professional matchmaker, Barbie Adler.
The best thing you can do is to prepare those closest to you for the introduction. Rather than catch them off guard with your more senior sweetie, show them pictures, talk to those you’re close to about who he/she is, how you met, etc. This will help soften the potential awkwardness at that first introduction, and let them know how much you care about this person and how serious you are about the relationship.
4. Heads will turn.
If the age gap in your relationship is large, people will notice. Heading out together in public will likely cause heads to turn. Or people may make comments about how the younger person is only with the older for financial gain. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with matters like this is to just not care. As long as you’re both happy and satisfied, who cares what people say.
5. It’s not so much about the age, but maturity.
In pretty much any adult relationship, you want someone who is kind, polite, and mature. And sometimes a 25-year-old can be more mature than a 55-year-old.
“When you’re living the life you love, you want someone who can contribute to the relationship in a way that encourages support and growth. This stems from maturity, not age,” says Adler.
6. Natural sexual issues can arise.
For many, age can bring changes to one’s sexual drive and function. It might be an awkward discussion, but if you or your partner finds yourself having trouble performing or getting the appetite for sex, you must talk about it. Couples can see therapists and there are plenty of prescription solutions that can help. Don’t just ignore it.
In the end, if you’re in a caring, loving relationship the difference in age will mean you have to deal with things others may not, but it man be part of what makes you relationship work as well.