Age is just a number but love is eternal. No matter the difference in color, language, region or religion, two people can live together as long as they have a selfless love for each other. But what if the difference is in their age?
Can two people with a substantial age gap live together ever after? Will their relationship stand the test of time? In this post, MomJunction throws some light on the age gap in relationships, its merits and problems, and ways to make it work.
Does age really matter in relationships?
Generally, it doesn’t. A relationship depends on the understanding and connection between two individuals, regardless of their age. A couple can have a strong relationship as long as they love, respect and care for each other. Having a partner, who is a few years older than you, is considered normal but when the age gap is too wide then it may look unconventional.
What is the ideal age gap between a couple?
Most couples prefer an age gap of three to five years, with the male partner being older. But there are also cases where the difference in the age is more than 15 to 20 years, or where the female partner is older than the male.
A study suggests that both men and women prefer a gap of approximately three years, with the man being older than the woman (1). It also says that older men are willing to consider a relationship with women far younger than them while women’s maximum acceptable age gap is 10 years above their age.
Yet another study (2) reveals that the age gap is not the only defining factor for the success or failure of a relationship. Most people prefer their partners to be a couple of years older or younger than them. Men prefer to date and marry women who are younger than them while women are more open in their approach. They are likely to accept younger or older men.
Some couples also consider an age gap relationship rule, which dates back to more than 100 years. The rule suggests, “do not date anyone whose age is lesser than half of yours plus seven.”
Factors that influence the age gap
Certain factors have a conscious or sub-conscious effect on individuals while choosing a partner:
- Cultural aspects: The practices followed in the region or culture could have an influence on the individuals. In European and Asian countries, an older male partner is preferred and an age gap is usually around two to three years. In some cultures, wider age gaps of up to 15 years are also acceptable.
- Family background: If a person belongs to a family where their parents or close relatives have a huge gap in the relationship or the woman is older than the man, they could be more willing to explore such relationships than a person from a conservative family. But this need not be true in all the cases.
- Family planning: If an individual wants to delay having children after marriage and start the family only after some years, in such case, they might want the woman to be much younger than the man.
An age gap in the relationship has both some merits and drawbacks.
Merits of having an age gap in a relationship
Here are some of the merits of having an age gap in the relationship.
- Maturity: The older one in the relationship can help make mature decisions, emotionally and also financially. They may also bring in their maturity in times of discord in the relationship, due to past experiences.
- Interesting views: A couple with an age gap can have different views and outlook towards life. It brings in some freshness into the relationship and helps each other understand and accept the other’s ideas.
- Financial stability: An older partner is likely to be settled better as they start it early in life. This provides an added advantage of a stable financial position for the couple.
- A healthy balance: In the long run as the couple ages, the younger partner can support the older one physically, financially and emotionally. This also helps in keeping the family and the children stable.
While a decent age gap might bring in advantages, a wide gap might have more drawbacks than merits.
Possible drawbacks in age-gap relationships
Here are some of the problems that couples of a big age gap are likely to face:
- Might turn sour as time passes: Research has found that age gap relationships might work initially but as time passes, the satisfaction comes down. “The people who are married to a much older or younger spouse tend to have larger declines in marital satisfaction over time as compared with those who are married to spouses who are similar in age,” says the study done by the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) (3).
- Higher chances of divorce: Disappointment and decreased levels of satisfaction could increase the chances of having a divorce. Randy Olson, senior data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, says (4), “The larger the age gap between you and your partner, the more likely your marriage will end in divorce. Only being one to five years away from your partner is nothing to worry about, but if you’re old enough to be your partner’s parent, then your marriage might be in trouble.”
- Marital instability: In a marriage of broad age gap, there could be issues such as decreased value consensus, potential caregiving and financial issues, and a power struggle, especially if the wife is older than the husband (5).
- Social disapproval: The couple might attract unnecessary attention and the families may not be cooperative. This might put unnecessary pressure on the couple.
- Priorities in life: People of different ages have different priorities in life. The priorities of one partner might look frivolous to the other, thus bringing a psychological gap between them.
- Having children: Couples with a larger age gap might face health issues when they wish to start a family, especially when they delay it. The fertility rate is deeply connected with the age of the couple.
- Unsatisfactory romance: The intimate moments between the couple may not be as satisfactory as they want it to be. The younger partner might want it to be more active and frequent while the older one may not see it that way.
- Socializing: Couples with large age gaps may or may not have a common social group. They may end up attending different social gatherings, hanging out with people of different ages. The friends of one partner may not like the presence of a much older/younger person.
It is not necessary that all the age-gap relationships have these drawbacks because it all depends on how well you understand the relationship and take it forward.
Ways to make an age gap relationship work
If you are entering into such a relationship, these tips would be of use to you:
- Give space: Do not cling on to your partner. Understand the importance of giving space. In any relationship, giving space to each other is extremely important and when the age gap is high, it becomes even more important.
- Have patience: Dealing with odd situations requires patience. Being calm and composed helps you win half the battle, as you can view the things in the right perspective.
- Be flexible: Do not be too rigid with your partner. Being flexible and empathetic towards each other is important to build a strong connection with your spouse.
- Have an open minded: Life will throw many challenges at different points in life. Having an open mind and staying confident about your decision and the relationship will give you clarity in life.
- Enjoy silence: Sometimes less is more, so just take a break and do nothing. Enjoy the calm and stillness rather than cribbing about petty issues in life.
- Have an active sex life: If you are happy and content with physical intimacy, then you would love your partner better. This keeps each other hooked on to each other and most issues are taken care of.
- Communicate well: Most problems can be solved with proper communication. Your partner is someone with whom you can share anything and everything under the sun. Therefore, have honest communication with your partner.
- Love unconditionally: Love your partner without any boundaries or limitations. Even the worst situations can be easily handled when the partners are loving, kind and affectionate towards each other.
Love, trust, care, and affection are the elements that matter in a relationship to work. You can make a broad age gap relationship work if these basic elements are intact. Whether or not to have a far older or younger partner is purely a personal decision. But once a decision has been made, you need to give your everything to make the relationship work
What is your opinion on age-gap relationships? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Andrew Francis-Tan and Hugo M. Mialon;A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration; (2014)
3. Cheryl Bond-Nelms; Do May–December Romances Work?; American Association of Retired Persons (2017)
4. Randy Olson; What makes for a stable marriage?
5. Brandan E. Wheeler; Age Differences in Marriage: Exploring Predictors of Marital Quality in Husband-Older, Wife-Older, and Same-Age Marriages; Brigham Young University, BYU Scholars Archive(2010)
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