Couples in a relationship who have a large age gap between them often raise eyebrows. This is especially true of partners who have more than a ten-year gap between their ages. When it comes to romantic relationships, most of us prefer someone our own age but are willing to date someone 5-10 years our senior or junior. However, a gap more than that often gets social disapproval.
While the acceptable age difference in dating couples varies across cultures, most cultures promote relationships between people of similar age. Romantic relationships or marriage between couples with a large age gap is more prevalent in Eastern countries. So, the question is, does age matter when it comes to relationships? Do couples with bigger age gaps fare worse than others?
Only a small percentage of the population is involved in a relationship with a much older partner. This tells us is that most people partner up with someone of similar age as them. This is because people of similar age hang out in the same social circles. They are also attracted to others who have similar likes and hobbies. They generally have similar life goals as well as interests and values. However, there are some people who are attracted to those who are more mature than them.
Why Doesn’t Age Matter To Some?
People believe that the root of age-gap couples is based on evolutionary advantage. From this perspective, it is assumed that men’s preferences for much younger women and women’s attraction towards older men are related to reproductive fitness. They are seen as a “good investment” as older men are more “settled” and younger women are more likely to produce healthy offspring. However, can love really be that clinical?
Although both men and women place importance on qualities like kindness and trustworthiness when it comes to seeking partners, women evolutionarily have placed more importance on the resources and status of their partner. This is mostly because women are the child-bearers, and they need to invest a lot of themselves in the relationship. They need someone who can support them and the children. So, they want to seek out a partner who would invest his resources into the family. Similarly, men would like to have healthy children and, biologically, younger women have a better chance of having children without complications.
It is more likely in couples with a large age gap that the woman is younger. Very rarely do we see women in a relationship with a much younger guy. This could be because the building of wealth and resources takes time, and we tend to achieve those things later in life. That is why we are probably older by the time we acquire enough to provide for our partners. So, it could be a plausible theory that a woman would automatically be attracted to an older man.
Similarly, men are wired to value vitality and attractiveness more than women do. This is because, from an evolutionary point, youth is considered to be an indicator of fertility. As men cannot bear babies, they are attuned to younger fertile women to enhance their chances of partnering with a woman who can give them healthy children.
However, the evolutionary explanation is faulty as it can’t explain why the reverse occurs as well or why some same-gender couples have large age gaps. To explain this, we need to look into socio-cultural explanations.
As more and more women are getting independent and working in higher positions, they are getting paid more. This means they are no longer dependent on men for wealth and resources. So, it is not required for these women to prioritize resources when looking for a partner. As for same-gender couples, there’s still very little research available. Some state that a lack of, or a reduced number of, suitable partners that are similar in age may bring about couples with big age differences.
Do Age-Gap Relationships Work?
It’s a common assumption that age-gap couples do poorly when it comes to having a happy relationship. However, studies have found that age-gap couples report higher relationship satisfaction. They also report greater commitment and trust and lesser jealousy issues than similar-aged couples. More than three-quarters of partners where younger women were in a relationship with older men reported happy and satisfying intimate relationships.
One factor that seems to impact the relationship outcomes of large age-gap couples is their fear of social disapproval. That is, if those in age-gap relationships believe that their family members, friends, loved ones, or society disapprove of their relationship, then their commitment towards their union decreases and the chance of break-up increases. These outcomes seem to apply to both heterosexual and same-gender couples. So, the possibility of negative outcomes for such couples resides not in issues within the partners but in judgments and peer pressures from outside the union.
Another factor that may be at play here has to do with the stage of life each partner is at. For example, a twelve-year gap between a 20-year-old and a 32-year-old may cause different issues and challenges than for a twelve-year gap where one of the partners is 55 and the other is 67. This is because we live our lives in different stages, and each stage comprises certain tasks we need to complete. We tend to give priority to these tasks during these different stages of our lives. So, when our partner is in a different life stage, it may be intensely difficult to find common ground and work towards each other’s different goals and needs.
Does Age Matter?
The secret of a happy relationship is having common ground. Your relationship’s success depends on the extent to which couples share similar beliefs, values, and goals about the relationship. Both need to support the other in achieving their personal goals, show commitment, build intimacy and trust, and resolve their issues in constructive ways. But, fulfilling these needs depend on their personalities – it has got nothing to do with age.
So, the truth is, while an age gap between two partners may bring about certain challenges for them, as long as they work at their relationship and love each other, their age will not pose a barrier.