If you have ever fallen in love, you know that you don’t choose who you fall in love with – the heart wants what the heart wants. You can choose who you want to be with, but not who you truly love. You may fall in love with someone your own age or you may fall in love with someone older or younger than yourself. Age differences in relationships can cause scrutiny, strife, uneasiness and discrimination. Why? Well, society believes that age-related variances (i.e. goals, interests, expectations, beliefs and experiences) prevent these types of relationships from flourishing. Moreover, if one of the individuals is an adult and the other one is a minor (under the age of 18); the adult in the relationship may be charged with statutory rape or a similar offense. Although many relationships with an age difference survive and even thrive, it is important to recognize the disadvantages associated with dating someone older or younger than yourself. If you are wondering what drawbacks are associated with dating someone that is a different age – you have come to the right place. Listed below are some hardships associated with age-gap relationships.
One of the disadvantages of dating someone older or younger is that you may have different goals. For instance, if you are young woman, your goals may be to get married, purchase your first home and start a family, while your much older boyfriend’s goals may be to advance in his career, take care of his aging parents and/or retire in a few years. Or, you may be a college student who is looking forward to graduating and getting your first professional job, while your older girlfriend is at the point in her life where she wants to settle down, get married and have children. Research suggests that those who are closer in age are more likely to have similar goals, which a key element in successful relationships.
If there is a significant age gap in your relationship, you may find out that you really don’t have much in common after all. In other words, you may not share many of the same interests. For instance, you may be a “social butterfly” that likes to go out and have a good time, but your older boyfriend may be a “homebody” that prefers to stay at home and spend quality time with loved ones. Or, you may like to watch childhood movies from the 70s, while your younger girlfriend prefers to watch reality TV (i.e. Teen Moms, Dance Moms, Dancing with the Stars, etc.). Research suggests that relationships that consist of individuals that share similar interests are more likely to succeed.
Stigmatization is another drawback associated with dating someone of a different age. Significant age differences in a relationship are more likely to provoke stares, disapproval and criticism. According Ruth Purple (2014), relationship expert, there is a significant chance that your family and friends will not “take” to your partner, if he/she is older or younger than you. Purple also reports that society, in general, is more likely to accept relationships that consist of two people close in age, then relationships, in which there is a significant age gap between partners.
One of the biggest disadvantages of dating someone older or younger is a difference in expectations. For instance, if you are a young woman, you may expect your much older boyfriend to share household and parenting responsibilities with you, but your partner may have been raised in a time, in which women were responsible for the home and children and men financially provided for the family. Or, your older, divorced girlfriend may be looking for a causal relationship or “quick fling,” while you may be looking for a long-term relationship (i.e. marriage and children). In order for this type of relationship to work, it is imperative that you and your partner discuss your expectations and intentions, in advance. If you are not on the “same page” the relationship will not survive.
One of the most important cons of dating someone older or younger is the legal ramifications. In other words, the age that couples can engage in sexual activities and marry vary from state-to-state. Although most states require that both individuals be an adult to have sex, many teenagers have sex with older men and women all of the time. If an adult is caught having sex with a minor, he/she faces fines, labeling and jail time. Moreover, in most states, both individuals have to be at least 16 or 17 years old to legally wed. Adults who engage in sexual activities with minors are frowned upon in society. Furthermore, research suggests that those who are closer in age have a better of chance of making romantic relationships work.
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Kershaw, S. (2009). Rethinking the older woman-younger man relationship. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/fashion/15women.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
McGuire, J. (2009). Dating downside of the age gap. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/04/02/tf.downside.age.gap/index.html?_s=P M:LIV ING
Purple, R. (2014). Age difference in dating. Self-growth. Retrieved from http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/age_difference_dating.html