sex & relationships

Are age gaps a problem for relationships?

Going to university revolutionises the way we see and experience relationships. No longer are we forced to choose from the restricted, shallow dating puddle of our small, parochial hometowns, as we’re dropped into an veritable ocean of potential partners from different cities, backgrounds, and of course, a wide spectrum of ages. We are spoiled, overwhelmed by the choice available to us.

While our old school romances had been with people in our classes, where romance peaked at splitting a McFlurry after a group cinema trip with your pals, the prospect of dating outside our comfortable age range is new, exciting and adult – there’s an element of adventure about it.

Dating older

Dating someone out of your age group adds an extra degree of romance, almost scandal to your courtship – when you tell your friends they respond with knowing smirks and raised eyebrows. It’s romantic, like a film, and you find yourself visualising you and your new bae as the new Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, or Harrison Ford & Calista Flockhart. However, pushing aside the excitement and glamour, is there a point at which an age gap could potentially pose a problem for relationships, or is age, to quote that old cliché, merely just a number?

The problems

It’s less a question of a distance in age, and more a question of a difference in life stages. For example, as a twenty-year-old, perpetually disorganised university student, I could, potentially, successfully date a fellow student five, six, even seven years my superior; we would be on common footing, with similar lifestyles, compatible weekly schedules, and the same laid-back, spontaneous attitude that comes with having comparatively fewer responsibilities to the typical working adult, besides making sure you’ve remembered to buy toilet roll, and strategically planning how best to execute an all-nighter to finish that assignment you’ve left to the last minute.

However, contrast this partnership against one with a workaholic divorcee in his late-twenties, and there in lies the issue. Would our lives be as in harmony? Would we have similar interests and hobbies? Hell, would we even want the same things from a relationship? With one person juggling a full-time job, and bi-weekly visits to his kids from his past marriage, and the other living off takeaways and staggering out of bed in the early afternoon each day, maintaining a stable, mutually beneficial relationship would be hard work; a lot of effort for little reward. While your personalities might click, your lifestyles must also be compatible; something a notable age gap may could be deciding factor in.

The problems that arise from dating someone who’s significantly further on (or behind) in life than you, could take a while to surface. It may take months for the novelty of dating someone especially younger or older to ware off- for the initial excitement of a new relationship to dampen as the cracks begin to form under the strain.  Could you be understanding if they had to forgo “date night” to look after their sickly toddler? Would you be able to maintain the typical “student lifestyle”, of stumbling home from spontaneous nights out in the early hours of the morning, whilst they needed to be up before daybreak to commute into the office? No matter how well suited your characters may be, it’s these day-to-day, seemingly mundane matters that test the staying power of your relationship, more so than the rather inconsequential matter of birth dates.

Love is relative

Of course, my premise is purely theoretical; there are no guidelines or equations to what makes a “good” relationship. Love isn’t something that can simply be reduced to numbers, it’s ultimately down the couple in question; what works and doesn’t work for them, and them alone.  I know of couples born within months of each other, who’s relationships have crashed and burned before their six month anniversary, while I have friends in who’s partners have decades on them, yet manage to muddle along quite happily, regardless of the years between them.

If a relationship is “meant to be”, and has the capacity to work, the chances are that it will- whatever odds the world throws at them. An age gap isn’t a problem unless you make it one, but for me, personally, unless I match with Hugh Grant on Tinder (it could happen), I’ll be fishing in a dating pool much closer to my own age group. 

Do you think age gaps are problematic in relationships? Let us know in the comments below!