Love works in mysterious ways, they say and there is no exact recipe for a successful relationship. Age is one of the many factors that is said to affect a partnership, with couples having a large age difference often experiencing societal disapproval and cynicism.
This is especially true for partners with a gap of more than 10 years, according to studies.
But why? Why does age difference worry us even in a consensual and loving relationship? Why do outside observers frown upon a May-December romance? And how can therapy help? Learn in this post!
H1: Speculations and stereotyping
A feeling of exploitation, according to a research from Oakland University, is said to be the main issue with age-gap relationships. Many outsiders believe that there is a conditional reason why such relationships exist. They assume that the partnership is more of an exchange-based one (sex, money, or lifestyle) instead of it being based on love or affection.
Younger people are more critical of these, as they are more preoccupied with reputation. They feel like they have more to lose when the relationship is seen as exploitative.
Women, meanwhile, are often the victims of shaming or societal judgment. They are sometimes called a “gold digger” when they’re with an older, financially stable man or a “cougar” when they date younger guys.
H2: What age gap is too big?
People mostly consider a gap of more than 10 years too big. As previously mentioned, couples with this age difference often raise eyebrows and experience social disapproval. It is even more controversial or suspicious if the gap is 15, 20 years more. Many oppose such relationships from a moral standpoint, while others primarily believe that they won’t last long.
It is a bit hypocritical though that we scrutinize other people in age-gap relationships, but are more understanding when we’re the ones involved. One study suggested that both men and women are open to dating someone 10 to 15 years their junior or senior, but are less accepting when it comes to other people’s relationships.
H3: What are the challenges in age-gap relationships?
Age difference alone is not a deterrent to a healthy, loving, and respectful relationship. It is, however, not uncommon for couples in age-gap relationships to face challenges that are foreign to partners with the same age or smaller gaps.
A 2018 study regarding age gaps and marital satisfaction suggested that the bigger the age gap, the more dissatisfaction reported. It found that those with younger partners connect in the beginning, but statistics showed that it may not be as satisfying as time goes on. A similar US study also found out that a larger age gap translates to a higher likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce.
Some studies, however, find that satisfaction is higher in age-gap couples. It is also worth noting that these couples report lower jealousy and greater trust than same-age partners.
Another study also suggested that age-gap couples can have higher marital satisfaction when both parties work through their age difference issues.
So, why are there relationship problems because of the age gap? Why do these challenges exist?
H4: Power gap or imbalance
In couples with a substantial age gap, one party typically has more money or financial stability and life experience. This imbalance can cause a major power gap, with the older person exercising more control over the relationship or vice versa.
Initially, the receiving party may feel really loved or cared for, but this can sometimes become controlling or suffocating.
H5: Societal pressures and disapproval
Both strangers and loved ones may have strong opinions about a big age difference in relationships. This can sometimes lead to the couples being disowned or isolated, lacking a support system. If there is wide disapproval among loved ones and if the couples are swayed by their opinions, the risk of breaking up increases.
H6: Different stages of life
A 10-year gap between a 23- and a 33-year-old, for example, may face different issues than the same gap where one is 50 and the other is 60. This is because of differences in the stage of life each one is at or experiencing.
When each other has differing priorities, needs, and goals, it may sometimes be difficult to find harmony or be in agreement. This may also lead to irreconcilable differences in the future.
H7: How to make age differences in relationships work
Relationship crises do occur, but these won’t be much of an issue when partners are willing to put in the work to nurture their relationship. Those who face more scrutiny may need to work harder and not let the opinion of others drive a wedge between the two of them.
The ability to compromise is even more important when you and your partner are in a different stage of life. It helps not to view your differences solely because of the age gap. It can be a byproduct of each of you being a different individual, just like those involved in same-age relationships.
The most important thing is that you accept one another for who you are and find ways to work on your differences.
H:2 .Make time for yourself
This applies to every type of relationship, whether or not there is a substantial age gap. Having alone time helps you maintain your individuality and allows yourself to decompress and practice self-care.
A little bit of space can actually help the relationship thrive in a sense of developing a longing after being away.
H:3 .Be there for one another
Negative opinions can sometimes be difficult to deal with, especially for the older partner in the relationship. You can’t change what other people say or think, so it is important to be there for your significant other.
You can reduce the impact of those negative feelings by simply being there or telling them that you’re going to get through things together.
H:4 .Dwell on your similarities and the positives
There may be relationship problems because of the age gap, so it is best to remember what made you fall in love or care about each other.
What is it that made you decide to marry or have a relationship in the first place? Focus on those reasons and your shared similarities.
Giving more attention to the positives can bring the two of you closer. It can also provide you with more opportunities to enjoy each other’s company and keep your relationship strong. It is normal to have some disagreements and differences, but make sure to respect them and not dwell on the negatives.
H:5 .Keep things fresh and exciting
While the age difference in relationships can bring some sort of excitement in the beginning, it can wane off in the future. Trying new things can help keep the spark alive, as well as bring you closer together.
There is also the benefit of reducing certain issues related to the age gap. Here are a few things that can help:
- Schedule regular date nights
- Spend time with other couples
- Surprise each other
- Send cute/romantic messages
- Improve your sex life by scheduling time for sex or seeing a sex therapist.
H:6 .So, does age really matter?
Age gap in relationships may bring challenges, but it is not necessarily a barrier. This is because its success depends on a number of factors that go beyond age. Focusing on your shared similarities, values, and beliefs matters.
The same is also true for supporting one another and working continuously to improve your communication to resolve problems constructively.
It is also important to keep in mind that as the couples get older, the age gap in relationships will matter less or become less of a big deal. It is likely for a 23-year-old woman with a partner of 43 to get some looks or negative opinions. This gap, however, will not seem so big when they become 43 and 63.
If the age difference is a bit of a challenge in your relationship, talk to a licensed therapist or counselor. This can help you learn more about the emotions you have regarding your relationship, as well as how to navigate or manage your feelings.
Relationships therapy on Calmerry can also help you work through your issues and merging life expectations due to an age gap. Find more useful information on improving your mental health here!Does Age Gap Matter in a Relationship?