Age is merely a number when it comes to dating these days. An older man with younger women is nothing new, but we have also witnessed an increase of older women with younger men. This can be a case of “Extreme Cougar” a la Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s now once-upon-a-time marriage, but young professional women in their early thirties are also dating guys at least 5-10 years their junior. Age difference has the potential to place a burden on your relationship, but then again what doesn’t place a burden these days?
Tips for Dealing with Age Difference:
Forget the Age, Consider Life Stage
Instead of the number, focus on the stage. “Biological age and mental age can be very different. There are many 30-year-olds who live the life of a 25-year-old and emotionally may be ready for only what a 25-year-old is ready for,” said Toronto therapist, relationship expert and fellow young professional Nicole McCance. Younger people may still love the late nights on the town, nightclubs, bars and spending time with their young unattached friends. Their older SO, however, may find those things less attractive and a thing of the past. The older SO may opt for civilized dinners with their married friends or drag the younger to baby showers, engagement parties and kid-filled cottage weekends that they may not be prepared for.
We have witnessed situations where the male was considerably older, and - with the relationship revolving around his lifestyle - his younger girlfriend felt as she may miss out on a phase of necessary life experiences and always regret it. On the flip side, if the relationship centres on what the younger wants to do, the older is being dragged through the same experiences twice when they are perhaps looking forward to their next stage of marriage and babies instead of late nights and shot glasses. On the other hand, the 35-year-old party boy may love the enthusiastic and care-free lifestyle offered by a 22-year-old.
The Right Reasons
When deciding on a relationship with a significant age gap, make sure you are pursuing it for all the right reasons. We all know the type - the pretty and typically unskilled female who actively seeks wealthy, older men who will assume more of a caregiver role so that she won’t have to work. At the same time, that wealthy older man may be searching for a young piece of arm candy by his side and assurance that he has not lost his sexual appeal. When the aforementioned female glances over at a swanky hotel bar, the union seems to make perfect sense. Conversely, a younger single man may seek out a relationship with a much older woman for bragging rights (it does happen) or to take a cue from the gold-digging females and become a “kept man.”
Don’t assume certain personality traits or lifestyles of potential significant others based on their age. Older does not always mean wiser, worldly or more experienced. On the other hand, don’t speak down to your SO if he or she is younger than you because you assume they lack experience and intellect.
Be Prepared for Criticism
Brace yourself for the awkward glances when meeting your SO’s group of friends. Criticism may also come in the form of jokes as in “oh, you brought your kid’s babysitter to the party?” If you are a female dating a much older guy, prepare yourself for instant scrutiny and less-than-welcoming looks from their older girlfriends or coworkers. If a man dates a significantly younger woman, he may be accused of robbing the cradle or taking advantage of her youth and inexperience. The younger party may be accused of seeking a financial safety net or someone to take care of them. It’s life and it’s inevitable.
Stay Strong and Secure
A younger SO may feel inadequate or inexperienced enough to be on the same level as their older partner and constantly wonder if the other person would be better suited with someone closer to their age. They may also feel intimidated among the older person’s friends. On the other hand, the older SO may grow jealous of their partner’s younger friends, flirty strangers and more care-free lifestyle.
Consider the Future
It is important to remember that as people grow older, age differences become less important as life stages begin to align. There is much more of a lifestyle difference between a 20 and a 30-year-old than a 30 and a 40-year-old. At the same time, thinking way down the line, a 70-year-old may not have the energy or health to keep up with a still physically active 50-year-old.
The biggest thing to consider in a relationship with someone much older or younger is to remain sensitive to their life goals, pursuits and stages, and that they are real people with real emotions, not to be defined by their age. Again, it comes down to compatibility and similar life goals. “Life goals and personal values are more important in a relationship than age. You can have a 25-year-old and a 35-year-old and if their readiness and intentions match, they may be a great long-lasting relationship. You can also have two people who are the same age but are at very different places in their life. They may not be a good match,” said McCance. Don't try to pretend that the age gap doesn't exist; rather, embrace it and what it offers the relationship because it could provide the perfect balance.