How Much Age Gap Is Okay in a Relationship?

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How Much Age Gap Is Okay in a Relationship?

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


Attracted to someone younger (or older) and wondering whether a relationship would work? While researchers have studied the age gap question, there’s no definitive answer that applies to all couples. The truth is, there are many factors that could help your relationship overcome an age difference – or maybe even benefit from it. Below are some questions that can offer guidance in thinking about what’s best for you:

How well do you connect? The larger the age gap, the more likely that you will feel the cultural differences that exist between generations. The movies, music, and popular cultural references may differ, weakening your connection. But, if you have a strong foundation based on other factors, the age difference might actually stimulate more interest, curiosity, and engagement with each other.

Do you assume particular roles based on the age difference? It’s important to be conscious of any preconceptions you have about each other based on your ages. An older partner might not really be wiser. A younger partner might not really be more open to adventure. Or, if you do fit each other’s expectations based on age, are you open to the changes that might come with time? For instance, the younger partner might not want or need a mentor as time passes; and the older partner might grow bored of not being challenged.

Do your life goals match up? Some goals, such as the desire to travel or have children, might differ based on age. Or, while you both have the same mindset now, your future stages of life might not line up. So, it can help to know (or at least consider together) your current and future goals.

Are you willing to adapt to the physical changes that aging is likely to bring? Aging brings physical as well as emotional changes. And depending on the age difference, this might leave a much younger partner handling age-related issues – such as less physical stamina or more physical health problems – long before they need to face those issues for themselves. It can be easy not to think about them when they feel so far in the future, but you would benefit from thinking about whether you are willing to take them on.

After considering all of the above questions, the next question is: Should you pursue the relationship or move on? Like everything else in relationships, the best decision of how to cope with an age gap is a very personal one. Remember that the difference in your ages as just one factor to be considered in your relationship. So weigh it along with all the other aspects of your relationship, and then decide what’s best for you.


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