When you find someone who captures your heart you may discover yourself in a relationship that is very different from what you were expecting, and perhaps even with someone you could never have imagined. It’s also very possible that person won’t be your age.
An age gap between partners in relationships is nothing new. In fact, it’s rather common. Most often we think of older men and younger women, but it can go the other direction too. For most couples a few years don’t make matter much. Studies show that couples within five years of each other don’t encounter any more relationship problems than those of couples the same age.But more than 5 years and it becomes more likely for couples to run into issues.
The biggest challenge for relationships with a large age-gap is the understanding and perspective on life that comes with age. It’s unlikely a 20-year-old understands the same nuances of life that a 40-year-old does. That difference in perspective can lead problems in a relationship that wouldn’t be experienced by a couple closer in age. Some of the most common problems are listed below.
1. Family planning. If you are about the same age and getting serious, then deciding if, when, and how to have a family can be fairly straightforward. But in a relationship where one partner is several years older than the other that decision becomes a great deal more complicated. Whether it’s a desire, or lack of desire, for children, or a physical and health concerns, a large difference in age can make it more likely that you’re not on the same page.
2. Finances. Although it’s not always the case, people who are older and more established are generally more financially secure. This can create tension between partners if financial goals and expectations are not compatable. This can be especially true when it comes to saving for retirement.
3. Expectations for the relationship. People who are more mature are more likely to be looking for a long-term and stable relationship. They may move more quickly to determine compatibility and work harder to make the relationship a serious one. Someone on the younger side may not be on board with that. The younger you are the more likely you are to be in a “just having fun” mode and not ready to settle down. These competing expectations can make it very challenging to sustain a relationship.
4. Friends and hobbies. With different ages come different aged friends and hobbies. This in particular can shine a light on the age-gap and make things feel very uncomfortable for some couples. It is far less likely that a 50-something will want to close a club down on a Thursday night than it is for a 20-something. There can also be problems integrating into each other’s social circles. Even if the two people in the relationship have found common ground, there is no certainty that the same will be said for each one’s friends.
5. You may be judged. While many couples who are truly in love can ignore the raised eyebrows and assumptions about one partner being the parent of the other, it can certainly cause stress for others. What can be even more difficult to handle is the scrutiny and criticism from family.
Although the challenges above are rather common, that certainly doesn’t mean that a relationship with a significant age gap can’t be a happy and healthy one. Maturity, experiences, desires, and perspectives can vary by individual regardless of age. If you are considering a relationship with someone whose age is more than five years different than your own, however, it may be a good idea to proceed slowly until all potential pitfalls have been assessed and overcome.