Helen Kirkby
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Age Gaps in Relationships

Age is only important if you're a wine or a cheese... Or is it?

Let's get right down to it: how important is an age gap in a relationship? The answer can either be simple or quite complicated and like all matters of the heart, it will ultimately depend on the individual.

As for me, I am a twenty-four year old woman with varied experience in dating men and women of different ages, ethnicity, and religion. I am currently (very happily) married to a man sixteen years my senior. Did we listen to what was “socially acceptable”? Of course. We just didn't act according to it.

We both decided that the benefits of being in a relationship with one another would outweigh the nuances of societal judgment.

So what is the “acceptable” minimum and maximum age for your dating partners? We've all been told the equation of taking half your age and adding seven for the minimum age and subtracting seven and doubling it for the maximum age. According to this rule, I should be dating men ranging from age nineteen to thirty-four and my husband should be dating women ranging from age twenty-seven to sixty-six. According to one article , this rule most often “appears too lenient, condoning age pairings with which most people are not comfortable.”

Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.”

Even though it's nice rhetoric, the fact remains that other people, including your family members and closest friends, will mind even if you don't. When times get tough, it will undoubtedly influence your peace of mind. Let's explore this and the potential consequences in your social life.

Here are some personal questions to ask yourself and your partner:

How strongly do I care what other people think?

How strongly do I care about what my family and friends think?

Will this negatively affect my career and/or professional capacity?

If both individuals have relatively similar answers, there is a way to proceed even if the answers show concerns about their relationship. If, however, both individuals show similar answers and aren't worried about their social and/or professional image, things may be easier. Regardless of how well you and your partner communicate and plan to avoid issues, there will likely be unexpected problems that arise.

My husband and I were upfront about the possible issues we'd face early on in our relationship. Relationships, in general, are going to be tough, so if there's a chance to simplify things, it's smart to do so. We were both aware of the disapproval from family and friends along with the difficulty in relating to each other's peer groups. What I personally didn't expect was the differing attitudes that friends showed: some were proud of him for “scoring a young trophy wife,” while others thought it “perverse or predatory.” The opinions about me also varied: “Oh, she's naïve,” or “she's taking advantage of him for his money.”

Ideally, I'd like to live in a society where people minded their own business. But although I hope that, I'm not naïve enough to believe it can ever be that way. And in all honesty, it probably has something to do with jealousy from other people.

Generally, men seek physical attraction while women seek maturity. This is due to societal gender roles, but it's all slowly being overturned. In the past, women were shamed for exploring their sexuality. This led to a very real phenomenon of men needing to seek sex elsewhere (through pornography, etc). In addition to that, men were (are?) shamed for comforting each other. Women, on the other hand, had to suppress their sexuality, ambition for the workplace, and be a housewife even if they had the potential to be anything they wanted. And so on.

What this means is that we now live in an age where both genders get to explore these things without shame. And in that spirit, I do believe the stigma surrounding age gaps in relationships will eventually fall away with new generations to come. As long as you keep an open mind while exploring options and aren't naive about how your community will react (to both you and him), then an age gap should be the last thing you worry about in a relationship.

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