29 May 2012
Age gaps in relationships – do they matter?
by Fran Creffield
When you are considering the criteria for a new partner most people have an age bracket in mind – usually within a few years of their own age but can large age gaps work just as well?
More so now than ever before it is hard to tell how old someone is. There have been huge advances in technology in the world of cosmetic surgery and dentistry and every week there is some new age-defying product on the market. With a good diet, exercise and improved standards of living it is quite possible for someone to stay looking youthful well into middle age.
Age isn’t just about how many years you have lived, your attitude, outlook and perspective all contribute to how young or old you appear to others. Someone of 55 can still have the looks and vitality of someone of 40 and if they have a positive outlook and optimistic attitude that could be more compatible with someone in their early 40s rather than someone of their own age. Here we look at whether age gaps matter in our modern liberal society and whether it is still a useful criterion to use when searching for matches.
Older men have always dated much younger women and it rarely raises an eyebrow. Dating someone younger makes men feel younger themselves and is commonly regarded as a symbol of continuing vitality.
Recently there has been an increase in older women dating much younger men and in the celebrity world this kind of partnership will usually make the gossip headlines. Having a much younger partner can bring up insecurities in a woman and add pressure to preserve her looks for fear her partner might be more attracted to someone of his own age.
The majority of people tend to be with a partner who is within 10 years of their own age but there are examples of successful marriages where the age gap is as much as 30 years – these are rare and the age gap is likely to become more problematic the larger it is.
If you want to start a family then the age of your partner is going to be extremely important and not just for the woman. A woman’s chances of conceiving a child start to diminish after the age of 35 so clearly a man looking for a match to have children with would be looking for someone younger but age is also a factor for a man. Even though biologically a man can father children well into his 60s there are other things to be taken into consideration. If a man doesn’t become a father until he is 55 he will be 73 by the time the child reaches adulthood. Ill health, retirement and other issues that arise in later life can all affect how well someone can cope with the challenges of raising a family.
If you don’t want to have children then the other thing to consider is how much an age difference might affect someone’s values, beliefs and cultural interests and how this might impact on your relationship. If someone is 25 years older they are effectively from a different generation which could create potential conflict when it comes to negotiating important aspects of your relationship.
You need to decide for yourself what the acceptable age difference to you is. There are some people who are always attracted to younger or older people because they feel they fit in more with that age bracket and of course the things you need to take into consideration will be unique with every match you meet regardless of their age.
As time goes on
It is important to remember that an age difference in earlier life may not seem problematic but it may become so later on. A 35 year old with a 55 year old may be perfectly happy and compatible. As they age, and have to face all the challenges that brings, the age difference could potentially become a bigger problem. A 65 year old will probably be considering retirement and may be looking forward to some free time to pursue hobbies and ambitions – an 85 year old will have very different preoccupations.
An open mind
Just like every other aspect of the dating process it is important to be flexible and to keep an open mind when it comes to age. What 40 looks like on some people will be very different from how it looks on others. Emotional maturity brings with it the qualities needed for a healthy relationship and that often has no bearing on chronological age.
Don’t ever lie about your age. Any relationship that has a foundation of dishonesty will sooner or later lose its stability.