Many thinking about or early into an age gap relationship have this and similar questions - Does an age gap matter? How big is too big an age gap? Trust me, you're not alone (I had similar thoughts for years!). To help you understand and be able to make up your own mind, here we'll start by examining how age gap dating views start and progress, and then look into what makes an age gap ok or not.
Age Gap Dating at School
Just taking a little note of the fact that as we grow up, our and others' parents ages start to form ideas of what a relationship should look like, let's start by examining some of our early experiences with age gaps. From secondary/high-school age, without knowing it, many experience a microcosm of their adult lives.
As we start dating, most of the time people date others within their year group at school. Occasionally you find some that date someone a year above or below them. As you get older, you sometimes (but rarely) find a romance of a few years or more, between someone at high-school/college, at work, or at university.
While close in age, the difference of a year or two can be significant with regards to emotional, physical and sexual maturity during your teen years. Those outside the same year group often suffer judgement and criticism from their peers and families for their partnership.
However separately to this, most teens find themselves having attractions to older people as they become sexually mature. It's almost exclusively celebrities that are the target of these feelings. However the romanticising and fanaticising about someone 5, 10, 15, 20 or even 30+years older than them is accepted as fine, and put in the box of a 'teenage crush'.
Adult Age Gaps in Dating
As we enter our adulthood, the same principles broadly apply, though start to get stretched out a little.
As we enter the adult, working world, we're given more freedom. We're more autonomous, and start to be exposed to more and different types of people. Our conversations of 'what year are you in' from school vanish as we start to make our own choices on who we date.
Whilst people still tend to stick to dating others within about 3 years of their age in western cultures, age gap relationships (which we're generally defining as around 10+ years apart) have ben suggested to be as high as 9% in America. In parts of Africa, relationships can have an average of 6 years difference between partners, so age gaps are far more common than you perhaps thought!
Are Large Age Gap Relationships Wrong?
Is there anything wrong with these relationships? As long as they're legal, and no-one is taking advantage of the other person, then absolutely not. There is nothing to say that you can't connect intellectually, emotionally, physically, or sexually with someone older or younger than you.
As you can see, through our childhood and into adulthood we are trained to see smaller age gaps as 'normal'. Unfortunately, just as with most things in life, the more unusual it is, the more attention it attracts. The further outside the norm, the more people tend to think negatively about it, regardless of reality.
There are various reasons behind this. Notably people's perceptions about one party taking advantage of the other, using power to influence and dominate a partner. This is arguably only as true with age gap relationships as with any type of relationship. It's just the stereotypes that have built up around age gap relationships that create our negative perceptions towards them
Attraction is a curious thing and has so many different shades to it. What makes you click with another person, or find a particular type of person attractive may not work for someone else. However whether it's race, religion, gender, sexuality, weight, height, etc etc, if they're not hurting anyone, there's no need to judge someone for their lifestyle.
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Does Age Gaps Matter?
It's true that an age gap can have some impact on your relationship. You may be in slightly different life stages - career, home ownership, salary, having children, etc - and have unique aspects like different music tastes, different references, levels of fitness.
Not only can many of these be true for for any relationship, regardless of age (it's just more likely in age gap relationships), but most in an age gap relationship says it's all a big part of the fun. Having different things to talk about and learn from each other can make for endless nights of entertainment and expand your horizons hugely. If you want more of the fun bits, here's our blog on the big benefits of dating an older man
Being honest with you though, sometimes you'll find others may buy into the stereotypes that surround age gap relationships. We've had comments about each of us and our relationship, and always get sly looks when holding hands or kissing in public. However whilst it can sometimes be a bit tricky, you learn to ignore others and their ignorant opinions, as its your and your partners' happiness that really matters. Not some random person's on the train you'll never see again.
The only other consideration, is when the younger partner is particularly youthful - perhaps when only just of legal age or still in their teens. While we all mature differently and you're totally entitled to date who you want, there is perhaps more of a watch-out in these situations for an older partner seeking to take advantage of someone's immaturity, ignorance or inexperience. That's not at all to say that these relationships are wrong or can't work, but there is a higher threshold of care that's needed to ensure both parties are acting with honesty and integrity.
All this considered, how much an age gap matters, really is up to you and your approach. Some that have come to us for advice have just found the social pressure too much to handle, others have learned to deal with it it and enjoy the age gap. For some an age gap of 5 years can be more apparent than one of 15 or 25 years. It's how you engage with it that has the greatest impact on whether it matters or not.
So What Age Gaps Are OK?
Hopefully from all this you can see that as long as it's legal and you're not hurting anyone ... ALL age gaps are OK!! There's no right age gap - it would be such an arbitrary number. 5 is fine, but 6 is unacceptable? On what basis?! You do what works for you. Yes, an age difference might sometimes be a factor, but as we've found, age is either pretty irrelevant, or it can make your relationship much more interesting.
Follow your heart and let yourself find happiness and become obsessed with a person, not their age.
x Love from The Age Gap Guys x