How does the age gap contribute to the relationship and does it make things more difficult? Let us examine the dynamics of such relationships in an attempt to figure out how they work and whether the chances of a “happily ever after” are diminished.
Does the Age Difference Really Matter?
Numerous examples of healthy and happy age gap couples exist. People that have as many as 10 to 20 years between them love each other, raise children and experience relationship harmony. Researchers, however, believe that these people are the exception rather than the rule. When it comes to finding true love, the age gap seems to matter a lot.
Emory University researchers carried out an interesting relationship age gap study. They polled 3,000 married couples to figure out whether an age gap had any effect on the divorce likelihood.
The researchers examined various factors contributing to relationship success and the age was just one of the metrics. They found out that couples having an age difference of just one year were three percent likely to get a divorce. The likelihood increased to 15 percent for couples having an age difference of five years and to 39 percent in the case of 10 years. The odds of divorce became even bigger in the case of drastic differences between 20 and 30 years.
Researchers concluded that the age difference contributed to specific interests, lifestyle choices and goals, making it difficult for the partners to discover relationship harmony. This doesn’t mean that being happy with a partner who’s significantly younger or older is impossible. It simply means that the challenges people in such relationships have to overcome are bigger.
Who’s Your Ideal Partner?
When it comes to dating and finding your soul mate, should you look at age? Is there an ideal partner for you and how many years of age difference will contribute to the happiness and the love that you’re looking for?
For a start, there are certain socially acceptable age differences. Though significant progress has been made, many people still have a conservative outlook when it comes to relationships featuring a serious age gap. If you don’t want to face societal pressures and disapproval, you’re supposed to follow the half your age plus seven rule.
When it comes to what people prefer, however, the rule doesn’t always hold true.
Men and women were asked about the ideal age of a partner for marriage, a serious relationship and for casual sex. Men followed the rule when it came to picking a partner for marriage or a serious relationship. When it came to casual sex, however, they wanted a younger partner (not much of a surprise!).
Women, on the other hand preferred an older partner for marriage or a serious relationship. Older men are usually considered to be more accomplished and knowledgeable of just what they want in a relationship. This is one of the main reasons why the age preferences of men and women seem to differ.
Making a Relationship with a Big Age Difference Work
All of the information presented so far doesn’t mean that you can’t make an age gap relationship work. Being aware of certain specifics and knowing how to interact with your partner to solve problems will be of uttermost importance, just like in any other relationship:
- Figure out why you’re in this relationship: the motivation counts. Are you consistently dating older people because you’re missing a parental figure in your life? Are you superficially attracted to the vigor and energy of youth? These reasons are far from healthy. It’s true that love has no age but you have to be brutally honest about your motivation.
- Tolerance is essential: understand the fact that you and your partner are probably at different places in life. One of you still has a lot of learning and personal development to do. Being tolerant and guiding the younger partner through the process (without being dominant) is probably the most important prerequisite for a successful age gap relationship.
- Deal with societal pressures: people are likely to get involved in your age gap relationship… a lot! Getting prepared to handle the criticism is far from easy but it can contribute to happiness. Set the boundaries and make it clear that external interferences aren’t wanted. Being confident in your relationship and happy with your partner selection will be one of the prerequisites for handling external pressures in the best possible way.
- Don’t focus on the age difference: focus on overcoming other differences and problems. All couples could deal with misunderstandings, lifestyle differences and very specific outlooks on life right from the start. If you feel particularly concerned and worried about being much younger or older than your partner, chances are that you’re not going to be capable of overcoming the issue.
By Couples Clinic