Early into your high school career, the prospect of dating a person one or two years older fascinated, and sometimes confused, many of your classmates. Why would somebody older be interested in going out with somebody your age when there were so many great options in that person’s own class? By the time you reached college, a one or two-year age gap between the two people in a couple was no longer a big deal, and by the time you were in your later 20s, a three, four, or five-year age gap was not unacceptable, either. When you reach middle age and above, an age gap of ten or more years will seem like nothing.
Age is just a number, right? Does an age difference actually matter in a relationship?
This, of course, is a question best answered on a case-by-case basis. Yes, age is a number, but there are behavioral differences that age can bring about, some of which can lead to a relationship’s demise if the two people involved are not careful.
Firstly, people who belong in different age groups grew up at slightly different periods in time, which could lead to clashing values and behaviors. One of my relatives, who was born towards the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation, married a woman who was an early Generation Xer. There was a twenty year age gap between the two, and he was in his early 60s while she was in her early 40s when they jumped into marriage.
These two people were at two different stages of life: she wanted to have children while he already had young grandchildren. She wanted to go out and party with her friends while he believed in a quieter lifestyle. She wanted to spend a lot of money on nice things while he believed in saving money. They also had very different religious and moral views. Needless to say, this marriage was doomed from the start, and the couple divorced after less than one year of marriage.
Additionally, with age comes maturity. If the two people involved are not similar, maturity-wise, the results could be disastrous. One girl I knew in college was involved with a twenty-six-year-old man who lived a few states away. She was nineteen. Most of her friends were so enthralled by her boyfriend’s polite, gentlemanly behavior that they did not see the disaster in the making that this situation inevitably turned out to be.
This girl was in a sorority and enjoyed spending her Friday nights at bars or frat parties, while her boyfriend found that kind of behavior childish. In fact, they had a huge falling out when she invited him to her sorority formal, and he told her that attending a sorority formal was not an important enough reason to make a trip out to see her. She was crushed, since that formal meant so much to her.
They had other quarrels about more serious matters such as potentially getting engaged, since he was twenty-six years old, had a job, and was ready to move on with his life, while she still had her entire college career ahead of her. Eventually, the maturity difference became too much to handle, so they broke it off.
Although in my own life, I have only observed examples of large age gaps causing failed relationships, there are also examples of people who have found fulfilling relationships with a much older or younger partner. Entering into a relationship with a person who is not from the same age group can have its challenges, but, as with any relationship, if two people are aware of their relationship’s potential challenges ahead of time, they can try their best to find a way to make it work.
Do you believe that age is “just a number”? Why? What age range would you consider “acceptable” for you to date at this point in your life?