Age gaps in Relationships: Weird or Workable?
So, one night you’re chillin’ in 51 Degrees (or wherever you lime), and you bounce up your homeboy or homegirl real wining up with some geriatric, and he or she introduces them as their “other half”. Pause. You have a few options here.
You could ask what ever happened to the last person he (or she) was seeing and say, “She were sooo, young”. You could pretend you didn’t hear anything, and continue with the conversation as normal. Or you can pull them aside, and ask your friend if he (or she) knows what he’s getting into.
Before you decide what your reaction should be, let’s consider why you might have this type of negative reaction. They say love is blind and all that jazz, but dating someone’s granny does not strike the right chord with people, most times. Some of my friends say that the acceptable age gap in a relationship is about three or four years – when we are in our twenties, and a slightly larger gap of about seven or eight years, with the male being the elder – when we are in our thirties (Isn’t if funny how this age gap increases with age?). So if a 20 year old goes out with a 30 year old, it’s less acceptable than a 30 year old dating a 40 year old, and worse yet if the woman is the older party. Not to mention the stares a 23 year old, holding hands with a 50 year old, may get.
Recently, a 24-year-old dude started talking to friend of mine who is 32. She says they are both attracted to each other, but it’s weird because in the back of her head she keeps thinking, “he’s the same age as my lil brother”. So, in her case, society’s conventional views make her feel that something is kinda wrong with it.
There are other circumstantial issues influencing her thought process. I think if she was just looking to have a little fun, maybe, it might be ok, but to get serious with him? People may not be as open minded. Cougar jokes aside, I do think that if the ages were reversed, the woman might get a lil talk from a few people, but it wouldn’t be that big a deal.
So why do some people get their knickers in a twist about this age gap thing? I think there are two sides to the coin, and people don’t really consider the pros and cons as they would for a relationship that’s more in line with mainstream thinking. People are uncomfortable because it is different, and there is a difference between seeing something on TV, and having to deal with it in our personal life. So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this situation.
Conventional thinking implies that the smaller the age gap, the more likely it is that people can relate to what the person is dealing with at that life stage. Whether you’re at university, in your first job, or divorced in your 40s, it’s supposedly easier if you are both in the same place.
The flip side to this though, is that the older party has already been through some of the life stages their younger partner is yet to experience, and could probably give better advice than someone your age (unless you’re with a real geriatric who was your age in a different era and can’t relate to some of your problems). This might actually be part of the attraction for some people. The younger person gets guidance, and this would probably appeal to the nurturing side of the older person. However, this could also end up being a double-edged sword, if the person starts to feel like a mother or father figure, and resents the fact that you can’t be their ‘rock’ as often as they end up being yours.
Similarly, either person’s ability to socialise and relate to their significant other’s friends and family can affect the relationship, and whether they can assimilate into each other’s circles.
Now some people say that once the relationship is based on love and mutual respect and the person makes you happy, then age really shouldn’t matter. Plus, you have the advantage that an older man or woman would be more patient, understanding and willing to compromise when disagreements arise. This sounds sweet, doesn’t it? But, for some people, that nurturing can sometimes become overbearing.
For example, a friend of mine who has been seeing an older woman for a couple years recently broke up with his girlfriend because he was starting to feel as though he was dating his mother… which obviously had serious repercussions when she tried to make her usual sexual advances. He said he started feeling that way because of her overly concerned approach to getting him to eat and live healthier, after a recent health scare he’d had. So this initial positive can change to a negative for either party for various reasons.
Thinking about it, however, the age difference can work in a couple’s favour. The older person has probably been disillusioned about whatever fantasy relationship they wanted when they were younger, so the expectations are considerably different. Additionally, the thing that breaks the back of most relationships is communication of those expectations or intentions, and for the most part, the older party usually gets their feelings across pretty well.
Now, ideally that’s how it should work, but that’s assuming that being older means being wiser. Sometimes the younger party may have to bring balance to the relationship.
If, you decide to spend your life with this person, however, there are things to consider. What if you have kids with that person? The younger person then has to consider what happens when this kid is a teenager. Will this person be able to cope? Will they be even around? For example, my mom thought it was a good idea to have me when she was 40. While I’m glad she decided to, as well, it wasn’t exactly easy having an ‘old’ woman for a mother when I was 11. I’m not trying to sound bad, but she just could not keep up (sorry mom). Then when you think about the fact that my dad is nearly ten years her senior, their ability to relate to me when I was fifteen was difficult to say the least.
As you can see, some of these issues make you wonder, is this one of those times when going against the grain makes sense? When you think about it, a couple with an age gap may look good on paper, but it could also be complicated.
So, considering some of these pros and cons of getting into a serious relationship with someone who’s outside of your age group, which option would you choose? Would you tell your friend to run away, or would you tell them once they’re happy, age ain’t nothing but a number?