A large age gap between a romantic couple always sparks controversy in modern society, no matter how happy the couple in question seem together. Although my personal experience with age-gap relationships is far from an extreme example, my current relationship would probably be considered one by some people. I am four years older than Heidi, which may not seem significant but due to the fact we were both fairly young when we first started dating, we did have to deal with a mild amount of external judgement at the time. This mainly came from two sources, each with slightly different sentiments: first was Heidi’s family whose feelings were that of concern and secondly were some of my friends whose opinions were portrayed more in the form of humorous teasing. In my experience of speaking to other couples in relationships with differing ages, these are the two sorts of external judgement that are most common in this situation.
Modern culture does seem to be more forgiving these days towards age-gap relationships and we see evermore exposure of relationships with large age gaps in the celebrity world, yet it is still often delivered with a prejudice undertone. One particular example that springs to mind is that of actress and actor Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, with Demi being sixteen years Ashton’s senior. When their relationship was first revealed it was splashed all across the media world as ‘wrongful’ and a ‘publicity stunt’, yet they are still together now, happily married after six years.
Aside from my personal experience of an age-gap relationship, I hear from a lot of older men who are anxious about openly dating a woman far younger than they are. In the remainder of this article I will give some of my own opinions and experiences in dealing with these concerns before passing over to you, the reader, as I am extremely interested to hear your opinions on where you think the line should be drawn regarding age-gap relationships… 🙂
Why would someone want to date someone significantly younger than them?
The main factor that confuses people when a large age difference is apparent in a relationship is how the couple communicate on the same level. Interests, experiences and maturity are all assumedly going to be different between the two people, so how could it work?
There are two types of cause here: the first is the people who psychologically desire to be maturely superior to their partner and to have someone depend on them in some way. The second type is simply that the couple ARE on the same wavelength and do relate just as any other healthy couple would. It is generally the first category that people disagree with, especially when one of the two people concerned is of a very young age and consequently vulnerable to things such as grooming.
When I first started dating Heidi, I hadn’t set out to date someone younger than me; I simply knew exactly what I was looking for in a relationship and the kind of person I wanted to be with and age simply wasn’t a factor if all the other qualities were met. I had actually dated a number of other girls the same age as Heidi prior to meeting her and on reflection Heidi’s overall maturity in comparison was paramount.
Dealing with outsiders:
The only opinion that should really matter is that of the two people actually involved in the relationship. However, the opinions of outsiders will inevitably play a part in the relationship, so making everyone accept your relationship regardless of the setup is important.
I had a thirty-year old male student last year who shortly after working with me became besotted by and started dating a nineteen year old girl. The relationship was mutual but both of them were extremely apprehensive about how everyone around them would react if they were to become an official couple. They actually ended up ending their relationship due to these concerns and to me that’s a sad outcome to what could have been a perfectly fulfilling relationship.
The only way you are going to change people’s perception of age-gap relationships is if you present it to them as normal. The old saying “something is only a problem if you make it a problem” fits perfectly here. As long as the relationship is portrayed as caring and genuine then it doesn’t take people long to overcome any of their initial disapproval. If you are starting out in a relationship with someone of a vastly different age to you then you probably will need to reassure the people around you that it is genuine whilst not allowing other people to dictate your relationship. You will also want to prevent the whole age difference discussion becoming a big issue in the first place.
Every relationship that deals with an age difference has a unique set of circumstances so it is hard to distinguish a set of rules that all relationships should abide by beyond the age of legal consent.
I am very interested in what you think is acceptable and what is not though. Does it change if an older man is dating a younger woman than if an older woman is dating a younger man? What age gap do you consider to be too much? Do age gaps in relationships become less important the older two people are?