Part 1: Age Gap Definition and Prevalence of Age Gap Relationships
If you’ve found this article I’m guessing you’re either thinking about, or started dating someone that you see as ‘significantly’ older or younger than you, and are maybe having a few thoughts and worries about it. What would my family or friends say? Is it weird? What will it be like in 10 years?! … And the killer … is our age gap too big?
Having looked at the benefits (and the challenges) of age gap relationships, common stereotypes (and the real truth), and many other age gap topics, this is where we’re looking in depth at all things numbers and age related. What is the average age gap in a relationship, the impact of age on us individually, how age affects a relationship, and more. Because there's a lot to get through, in part one we'll look at:
Is there a definitive rule on acceptable age gaps?
What counts as an age gap relationship?
The average age difference between partners
How many people are in an age gap relationship?
Is there an Official Rule for Age Difference Relationships?
Getting the ‘obvious but only when you think about it’ part out the way first, unfortunately there is no magical Goldilocks rule of too big/too small/just right when it comes to age gaps. You might have heard of the 'half your age plus seven' rule. However not only is this only used for older men dating younger women, but has no basis of rationale. As such we can throw that out immediately.
Without research or any proof to suggest a change of law around consent any number - 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 15 years - would be arbitrary and plucked out of thin air as a hard rule to hold as a right or wrong standard. It’s all about individual situations, personal connections, and your own judgement as to what feels right for you and your older or younger partner.
However in understanding age in more depth, we’ll help you make as informed a decision as possible
Side Note: Don’t judge yourself
Before we get further into it, just take a second to breathe. Many that have asked us this big question are worried about their attraction or relationship they're in. As you’ll see there are plenty of people in age gap relationships, and liking someone older or younger is not ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’. There’s a lot of stigma and stereotypes that may have made you think negatively of yourself. So for now, if you’re able to, let’s just park those worries and give yourself the freedom of non-judgmental thought as we explore age gaps.
One more deep breath. There….All good? Right, let’s get into it then!!
Age Gap Relationship Definition: What Counts as an Age Gap Relationship - How Many Years Apart?
It’s generally viewed that approximately 10 years difference constitutes an age gap relationship. However there’s no technical definition as to what defines a May-December couple.
Personally I think a lack of hard definition is a good thing. While there are terms for those that is attracted to those older or younger than them (gerontophile), an age gap attraction is not a medical illness. Therefore it doesn’t warrant being treated with a Greys Anatomy definition. This allows people flexibility on how their attraction and relationship impacts their sense of identity. Whatever works for you.
Most in an age gap relationship see themselves first and foremost as simply in a relationship…that happens to have an age gap. It might seem a small difference, but it puts everyone together, not creating divides. If we started to segment people into age, race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc it starts to get quite niche and unhelpful. Yes all these aspects absolutely colour relationships and make each one different and unique, but it’s simply a facet of a partnership, not what defines it.
Are Age Gap Relationships Illegal?
As far as we are aware, no country has any laws over the maximum size of gap between partners. There are laws surrounding age of consent, and indeed the grooming and coercion of people into relationships.
The younger we are, the less life experience we have. Through our childhood and into our teens, we have adults as parents, teachers, coaches etc, in positions as guides and role models, and we place trust in them. As such, even after the legal age of consent arrives, care needs to be taken on entering age gap relationships due to still being at an impressionable age, with people maturing differently. What’s legal and what’s ethical can sometimes blur and whilst after the age of consent people are free to act as they wish, the younger the partner the more caution should be had to make sure they aren't being influenced into a relationship with an older man or woman.
Age Gap Difference by Country Regions:
AVERAGE AGE GAP (YEARS)
South Eastern Asia
source: United Nations 2017
What’s the Average Age Difference In a Relationship?
The next question to ask is what’s the average age between people in a relationship? Are age gaps the norm or unusual?
Looking at data from the United Nations (2017), we can see that your average gap varies depending on the country you’re in. Notably, Africa has the highest gap between marrying partners than anywhere else. Interestingly, the average there is not miles off the 10 years we’re casually calling an ‘age gap relationship.’ There are numerous potential anthropological explanations to explain this, but we suggest that it is because of more traditionalist, patriarchal societal structures that can be more prevalent in African cultures than in some Western societies. In these locations we see an age gap of around 2-3 years is the most common in a relationship.
Here we can see that your average age gap differs depending on where you live in the world. These are also just averages, so we can see that the size of an age gap can be wide. No country We'd also suggest that because major cities tend to be more liberal and progressive with their views, within this trend they are likely to be more common in these areas as well!
How Many People Are In Age Gap Relationships?
There’s not extensive global data specifically around age gap relationships, so what data there is requires some interpretation.
In America it appears that approximately 9% of relationships are of a 10+ year age gap between partners. More than you thought right? The vast majority of these are around the 10 year mark, with volumes diminishing as the age gap widens. Some sources have even suggested that up to 1% of relationships have a 28+ year gap!! We’re sitting at 31.5 years apart so stand as teeny tiny proof that these relationships do indeed exist and aren’t made up!!
In the UK, looking at 2018 Census data we can see that the highest number of women vs men marry in their 20s. Every decade afterwards however, more men marry than women. With the gender population split approximately 50/50, this indicates that there is at least some level of gap between your average man and woman marrying in the UK, with men more likely the older partner than women.
For less common relationships such as LGBTQ+ couples, age gap relationships rise in prevalence. In lesbian couples, the BBC have stated age gaps can make up as much as 15% of relationships, and for gay men it rises to around 25%!! From the thousands of you we've spoken to online and in person, and followed us on social media, this has some anecdotal sense to it for us. We realise our world is quite skewed here, but it's still great to see so many like us out there!!
Whilst fewer and further between than close in age couples, you can see that age differences do exist! They’re often just harder to spot. Add onto the lower frequency that we may assume people aren’t together (we get mistaken for father and son most of the time), as well as people minimising their affections in public for safety reasons, it’s like Where’s Wally/Waldo. Add those wanting to find a partner to those in a relationship, and there’s even more of us!
Is Our Age Gap Too Big - Part 1 Conclusion
There's much more to go into in Part 2 (coming soon), but hopefully already you can see that whatever their size, there are more age gap relationships in the world than you might think. Whilst the average gap between partners can depend a lot on your location, we exist!! It's just because many of us in age gap relationships don't show affection as outwardly in public, and that we're not trained to spot these relationships, that we don't realise they're around as much as they are.
As we dig into age gap numbers in more depth, in the next chapter we'll look at:
- the impact of age on us emotionally
- the impact of age on us physically,
- How each aspect affects us individually and in a relationship.
x The Age Gap guys x
@AgeGapGays - TikTok
@TheAgeGapGuys - Insta