When you start dating someone new, you probably explore a variety of factors to determine compatibility, including values, attraction, personality, and hobbies. However, there is one factor you may not have considered that is worth considering: your age difference. While it’s true that a 10-year or greater age difference in a relationship can raise your chances of having marital troubles, is there an ideal age gap for setting yourself up for relationship success? According to science, there is an ideal age gap in a relationship that can enhance your chances of everlasting love, and it’s much lower than you might think.
Whether you’re still looking or have met “the one,” you know there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a happy marriage. The people in a relationship determine how happy and healthy it is, and there are numerous aspects that contribute to its long-term success. We all know that the best things in life are earned via hard labor, and love is no exception.
In any relationship, you’ll share some characteristics with your spouse, while others will be less so. Some couples may find that having a large age gap has a substantial impact on their relationship over time. Others may believe that their compatibility is more essential than their age difference. Even if you’re happy in your relationship, a wide age gap can pose some difficulties. Confronting and resolving these issues — which typically stem from outside criticism — could lead to even more satisfaction in your relationship.
While the amount of the difference among age-gap couples varies by culture, the age-gap couple phenomenon is present in all civilizations. The average age gap in some non-Western countries is substantially bigger than in Western countries. In some African countries, for example, roughly 30% of unions indicate a significant age gap. So, does it matter how old you are? And, as compared to couples of similar ages, do couples with big age gaps have worse (or better) relationship outcomes?
Continue reading to learn about the perfect age gap for long-term happiness, as well as why you shouldn’t be afraid of it.
Reasons Why Dating With Age Gap Works
# The Ideal Difference
According to a study published in the Journal of Population Economics, couples with a bigger age gap have worse marital satisfaction than couples of similar ages. Couples with an age difference of zero to three years were happier than those with a four- to six-year gap. Couples with a four- to six-year age gap were also happier than those with a seven-year or longer separation. In general, as the age gap widened, marriage satisfaction declined. One argument backed by the study’s data is that couples of different ages are less resilient to negative shocks in their relationship, such as financial difficulties and illness. Other life cycle-related issues like children and retirement were discussed, but not specifically tested for.
It’s also worth mentioning that, regardless of the age disparity, both men and women reported higher levels of marital happiness when married to younger partners than when married to older spouses. However, after six to ten years of marriage, the higher level of satisfaction tended to fade.
# Au contraire
Keep in mind that the purpose of these statistics is to find and evaluate relationship patterns rather than to generate them. In addition, the sample size was modest, with just 3,374 couples being analyzed. There will always be exceptions to the rule in everything in life.
Rather, studies like these bolster the premise that major disparities in interests, lifestyle, and long-term aspirations between partners might be attributed to age differences in partnerships. Happiness among couples of varying ages has been the topic of countless studies over the years, and the results vary dramatically depending on external factors that are difficult to account for.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t swipe left on someone you believe you’d get along with just because they’re four, seven, or ten years older than you. However, if you’re having trouble connecting on shared interests in your relationship and there’s a significant age gap between you, you should consider whether this will have an impact on your long-term prospects.
Let’s now get down to the reasons why dating with an age gap works.
# Emotional maturity
When there is a significant emotional maturity gap in a relationship, the more mature spouse may wind up carrying a higher emotional load, leading to tiredness and maybe a breakup. Being the older partner does not always imply emotional maturity, just as being the younger spouse does not always imply immaturity.
People frequently equate age with emotional maturity since more years can mean more time for nuanced opinions to evolve as a result of exposure to a variety of situations. The fact that women mature faster than men is the first reason why an older guy and a younger lady might date each other. They mature faster than their male counterparts in the same age bracket, whether psychodynamically, emotionally, or psychologically. As a result, women bond better with males who are older than them on a mental and emotional level. Is it possible for an older man to love a younger woman?
Yes, he connects with her better since they are on the same wavelength. If you’ve ever wondered what attracts a younger woman to an older man or why older men like younger women, the explanation is that the age gap brings them closer together. Despite their age difference, they exhibit equal levels of emotional and intellectual maturity.
The greater the age gap between spouses, the more probable the partnership will face phase-of-life issues. Among the difficulties that may arise are discrepancies in energy levels, health, priorities in life, wishes to begin a family, and so on and so forth. But you get the idea.
Relationships with big age gaps aren’t the only ones that have diverse priorities. If you’re searching for a long-term relationship, it’s critical to discuss each other’s priorities and hopes for the future as part of assessing your compatibility.
There should also be plenty of room for learning and development. Both parties engaged should be equally self-sufficient, but they must also enable each other’s strengths to compensate for their unique flaws. You should be together because you want to. It helps if you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to ideas about marriage, family, and so on so that you don’t have to worry about needless expectations coming into your space. And, in our opinion, that is the only way any partnership can succeed.
# Professional Stability
What makes a younger woman want to date an older man? An older man, on the other hand, is more likely to be established in his work and to have achieved some level of life success. A woman’s sense of security is enhanced by her career steadiness. It’s not that women can’t or won’t work or care for their husbands. The age-old standards of a patriarchal culture tend to condition our thoughts on a subconscious level, and women continue to equate professional success with romantic security, according to our older man younger woman relationship advice. Furthermore, having reached the pinnacle of their careers, older men are less concerned with their professional aspirations and can devote more time to their wives.
# Sexual compatibility
Additionally, good compatibility between an older guy and a younger lady date is the former’s sexually matured demeanor. Older males have a better understanding of what women desire and need in bed. This can lead to more physical intimacy, which can make the age-gap relationship more satisfying for both partners. Men in their later years frequently discover tremendous sexual compatibility with younger women, which leads to greater emotional connection in their relationships. One of the reasons why older men prefer younger women and vice versa is because of their sexual and emotional compatibility.
# The Return Of Oedipus/Electra Complex
This probably sounds cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason, aren’t they? However, some clichés gain notoriety for good reason. It’s fairly uncommon for someone who hasn’t resolved their issues with their mother or father to unconsciously want to recreate that dynamic in a love relationship. The unconscious is oblivious to the distinctions between past, present, and future, and is always attempting to heal all wounds in the present. Having a partner who one looks up to as a father/mother figure might be a way of trying to mend the wounds from a previous relationship.
Let’s also talk about the other aspects of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman with a considerable age gap, which might not be something to look forward to.
The most important issue with a large age gap is that one of the partners often has significantly more life experience and, in many cases, financial means. This disparity produces a significant power imbalance. An older individual with a substantially younger partner is more likely to want to be in charge. And while it may seem good for that younger person at first — to be cared for emotionally, financially, and elsewhere — it usually becomes oppressive after a while.
The danger of imbalanced power dynamics arises when there are large age gaps. Even in a stable relationship, an older partner may adopt an authoritative approach.
If this occurs, it is beneficial to talk about it honestly.
A power imbalance can also occur when one partner takes advantage of the other’s financial dependence to exercise control over them. This behavior is an indication that your relationship may be causing you harm, whether you and your partner have been together for a few months or many years.
# Social Stigma
Age disparities between partners can lead to feelings of self-consciousness about one’s relationship, fears that it won’t work out, and hypersensitivity to other people’s opinions on whether or not a relationship is appropriate. Age differences are visible in some examples. A 15-year period, and a 25-year period.
Because he’s 17 years older, George Clooney said to Howard Stern that he didn’t think his now-wife Amal would be interested in him. People’s objections to unfair, inequitable relationships may be reflected in the negative public attitude to age gap relationships. According to evidence, bias associated with age-gap partnerships is explained by the notion that one person (the older person) benefits more from the connection than the other.
Observers may react badly to these partnerships because they believe the elder person is exploiting the younger one. Because of the age disparity between them and their partner, a few age gap couples have had family members disown them. Friends, relatives, coworkers, acquaintances, and society all have strong feelings about couples that are decades apart in age. As a result, the couple may feel lonely and without a support structure.
Many people believe that age-difference couples have bad relationship outcomes. However, some research shows that age-gap couples report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. These couples also appear to have more trust and commitment, as well as less jealousy, than couples of similar ages. Over three-quarters of couples with younger women and older men say their love relationships are fulfilling.
The feelings of social disapproval have an impact on the relationship results of age-gap couples. When people in age-gap relationships believe that their family, friends, and wider community disapprove of their union, relationship commitment drops, and the chance of break-up rises. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples appear to be affected by these impacts. As a result, the unfavorable outcomes for age-gap couples appear to be caused by external pressures and judgements, rather than problems inside the relationship.
However, as women’s economic power has grown, the appeal of a much-older husband has waned, making age-gap marriages less prevalent — and often controversial. Even as most communities accept increasingly progressive ideas on love, relationships, and the great diversity of ways they might show themselves, couples in which one person is significantly older than the other nevertheless encounter discrimination. Rather than presuming that people are happy together, there is a tendency to be concerned about potential power imbalances and to consider the relationship as transactional, assuming that one party is looking to improve their social standing or wealth. There’s even slang for it: an older man must be a ‘sugar daddy,’ a younger woman must be a ‘gold-digger,’ or a victim of ‘daddy issues.’
# Frame of reference
When the age gap is large enough, your frame of reference shifts dramatically. A question that unites one generation can be perplexing to another. Small details like these might reveal significant differences in persons. Pop cultural references, life experiences, and historical events are all frequently diverse, making it difficult to identify common ground and connect.
You and your partner will disagree on a lot of topics, from your tastes in movies and music to how much screen time is allowed. This can lead to a lot of arguing and bickering. Any obstacle a couple may confront demands the ability to have open and honest discussions about the issue. Making time for each spouse to express their feelings is a wonderful idea because it always works.
Because ‘being elderly’ is typically perceived as an insufficiency, insecurity can be a major issue in such partnerships. When an older man dates a younger lady, he may acquire a complex, believing that he is “lesser” than men his age.
A younger lady in a man’s life may make him feel more possessive. This possessiveness is frequently motivated by a fear of losing her. In turn, the woman may find her partner’s possessiveness oppressive and limiting. This behavior might obstruct personal autonomy, leaving the woman with the impression that he wields too much power and control over her.
This is one of the most important difficulties that might affect both partners in an older man- younger woman relationship. For instance, the younger partner may wish to get married and start a family at some point. Given his advanced age, the man may be unwilling to go that path again. As the elder partner’s mortality becomes more evident, the question of how long they have together might loom big on the relationship if the age gap is significant.
Words like ‘cougars’ and ‘toyboys’ show the growth in this type of interaction in recent years. In 1963, only 15% of UK brides were older than their grooms, according to statistics. By 1998, the percentage had climbed to 26%, and a 2011 survey found that the number of women married or cohabiting with a guy five years or younger had nearly tripled since the 1970s.
Women who date younger men appear to be subjected to a disproportionate amount of criticism. The human race is judgmental, and if our neighbor’s behavior differs from what we expect, we call attention to it. When it comes to our marital narrative, women who marry younger men go against the grain the most, and as a result, they get the harshest criticism. The frenzied coverage of 41-year-old Kim Kardashian’s relationship with 28-year-old Pete Davidson, or the media attention around French President Emmanuel Macron’s marriage to a woman 24 years his senior, only emphasizes this. However, older men/younger women pairings are now judged even more harshly than older women/younger men relationships.
Find your middle ground.
It’s reasonable that if you’ve discovered someone with whom you genuinely connect, you’d be unwilling to end things merely because of your age gap. After all, maturity is a subjective concept that can be measured in terms other than years.
It all comes down to having enough in common to bond, enough differences to learn from one other, and similar perspectives on partnerships to make it work. But, before you make any major decisions, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page in as many areas as possible by answering these questions.
# What are your life’s objectives? Consider your long-term objectives and vision for your life. Careers, children, finances, and other big life events are all worthy of an open and honest discussion.
# What interests do you have in common? As you age older together, these will become even more vital. Develop your shared hobbies and interests, as they can help to build your bond when there is an age gap.
# Are your principles and values aligned? This may appear to be self-evident, but there’s more to it than just being nice. Take on sensitive topics like politics and religion, which could lead to future conflict.
# Are you willing to be flexible? Compromise is a vital component of any healthy relationship, but it’s more important when your partner is at a different stage of life than you.
# Is this going to be a long-term or short-term relationship? The thrill of a one-night stand may outweigh the difficulties of managing long-term compatibility. Younger spouses can benefit from the prestige, money, and knowledge of older partners, while older partners might appreciate the vigor and physical appeal of a younger partner.
# Do you have similar long-term objectives? Long-term partnerships of any kind are more successful when the partners share similar goals. Because many life goals are age-related, the subject of shared goals can be particularly urgent for couples who are separated by a significant age gap. Is one of you employed while the other wishes to retire? Do you want to do the same thing on weekends?
# Do either of you desire to start a family? An open talk about whether you want to have children (biological, adopted, or fostered) can be extremely crucial if you’re in a long-term relationship and one partner is older. This is a conversation that all partners in long-term relationships should have, but age-gap partnerships may encounter different challenges. Older women with younger men are less likely to be able to have biological children and/or may be uninterested in parenting young children in their 40s or 50s; older men may also be hesitant to have a child because they will be older when their children are teenagers. When a relationship is expected to last a long time, these are vital topics to discuss.
# Do you have the support of your loved ones? Regardless of how much one could want to, one can’t keep their friends and family out of their love life. Friends who approve of our relationships tend to help us maintain them, but those who disapprove may engage in actions that make it difficult for us to feel invested in our relationships. Relationships between people of different ages are typically stigmatized, but if friends and family approve, the relationship will be simpler to maintain.
It’s a good idea to think about how your age difference can play out or affect your relationship, but obsessing on it overly might turn it into a negative when it doesn’t have to be. Because it’s human nature to look for the most visible difference between you and the other person to blame for a problem, and that can often be the person’s age, even if that isn’t the issue.
And communication is critical when problems arise (or even to prevent them from occurring). Communication and problem-solving skills, just like in any other relationship, can help you succeed.
Feeling confident with your partner is crucial in any relationship, especially one with a wide age gap. You are aware of who you are and of what your relationship means to you.
If you notice that outside opinions are bothering you, it may be time to become curious and ask yourself why. Consider whether there is anything you haven’t reconciled about your relationship or if there is anything you want to discuss with your partner.
You can’t always choose who you fall in love with, and the person you love may be significantly older — or younger — than you. Some may think it won’t work out; however, couples who have been in such relationships say there are methods to make it work. While you may face criticism or stigma as a result of your relationship, there are numerous elements that can influence its effectiveness — and age is only one of them.
Finally, as with any healthy relationship, the best approach to prepare for potential discord is to be open and honest with each other. Concentrate on strategies to keep the gap in your ages from becoming a barrier between you, and accept that you may be in various stages of life at any given time. Mutual respect and honest communication will go a long way toward bridging any gap that may exist.
Kiara is a trained Clinical Psychologist who spent most of her childhood in the United States and moved to India after marriage. She enjoys exploring complex and dynamic human relationships and what happens after we’ve supposedly achieved our happy ever after.