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 could be considered one. I am four years older than Heidi, which may not seem significant but as we were both fairly young when we 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 more in the form of humorous teasing. From speaking to other couples in age-gap relationships, these are the two sorts of external judgement that are most common.
Society seems to be more forgiving towards age-gap relationships these days and we see plenty of exposure for celebrity couples with large age gaps. Even so, every example provides divisive opinions on whether such relationships are “right”. One example is that of celebrities 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 still enjoyed many happy years of marriage together.
Aside from my personal experience of age-gap relationships, I often hear from 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 presumably going to differ between the two people involved, so how could a relationship work?
There are two causes. 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 – she was 18 and I was 22 – 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 women the same age as Heidi prior to meeting her and on reflection Heidi’s overall maturity in comparison was far superior.
Dealing with outsiders:
The only opinion that should really matter is that of the two people involved in the relationship. However, the opinions of outsiders will inevitably affect the relationship, so helping 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 a nineteen-year-old girl and they promptly started dating. 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 eventually ended 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 the perception of others is if you present it to them as perfectly 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 need to reassure the people around you that it is genuine whilst not allowing other people to dictate your relationship. You also want to prevent the whole age difference discussion becoming a big issue in the first place.
Every relationship that deals with an age gap 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. Does your opinion 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?