Many relationships take place between partners who are different ages. No, we’re not talking about a few months or a couple of years’ difference—we’re talking about a decade or more. While this used to be the norm at many points in history, today it is less common and often debated. If you are dating, or considering dating, a significantly older man, you may have received mixed reactions from friends. Some may be jealous of you, others confused as to why you want to, and others even concerned for you.
The question “can age gap relationships work?” is often asked. Plenty of successful, happy, and healthy relationships occur between partners of different ages (provided both are adults, of course). However, these relationships can pose challenges and obstacles that are not faced by partners of the same age. In this article, we will look at some of the potential pitfalls of an age gap relationship, and how you can avoid them and make it work.
Compromise on lifestyle and hobbies
Depending on both of your ages, you may well have significantly different hobbies and interests. For example, you may be in your mid-twenties and enjoy traveling, nights out, and generally having wild adventures in life. If this is the case and you are dating an older man who has “been there, done that” and now just wants to stay in on a Friday night with his slippers and a good book, this may pose a problem.
Of course, you don’t have to enjoy all of the same things, and it may work for you to each do your own things separately. If this is the case, that’s great. However, if you want to date somebody who shares your hobbies and interests and you can take along with you without worrying if they are enjoying themselves, dating an older man may not be the ideal choice.
It is not fair for either partner to always get their way and prevent the other from enjoying the pursuits that they love. If you and your partner have very different tastes, lifestyles, and hobbies, you should come to a compromise that you are both happy with.
Accept his past baggage
Everybody has a past, and we all have at least some emotional baggage by the time we reach adulthood. Although an older person is likely to be more mature and level-headed (although not in all cases!) than somebody your own age or younger, they are also likely to have things in their past that cannot be completely left in the past.
An older man may well be divorced. Even though he is separated now, he may well have connections to his past marriage that are impossible to remove. He may be going through the process of a long and complicated divorce, or he may even have shared custody of children. Things like this cannot be consigned to history in the same way you can past relationships in your teens and early twenties!
If you have a genuine connection with him, you may need to accept that there may be things like this in his life that he just cannot change.
Use caution if he is a figure of authority to you
Many of the older men you may meet in life are likely to be in some form of authority over you. They may be your boss or superior at work, a potential employer in your field of work, or anybody else that may hold some kind of power over aspects of your life.
For example, a friend of mine from college once went on a few dates with one of her lecturers while she was still on the course. She was twenty-one years old and he was twice her age. While she was initially attracted to him and they enjoyed each other’s company at first, it led to problems later. After she decided to stop dating him, she always felt awkward in his classes and ended up skipping class, which affected her grades. She felt uncomfortable that the man she had rejected personally had a potential impact on her grades—and there have been instances of authority figures abusing this power. For this reason, most academic institutions, and many companies, prohibit personal romantic relationships of this kind.
A relationship with an older person is much more likely to work and much less likely to result in these kinds of problems if your relationship is purely personal. If you really feel you may have a promising relationship with a man who is your boss or teacher, it is probably best to wait until you have finished that job or course to pursue it.
Make sure you are respected and treated as an equal
The most important thing in a healthy relationship is for both partners to be equal. Of course, there will be plenty of differences between partners, which can include age as well as race, gender, income, upbringing, mental health, whether they like pineapple on pizza, etc. However, each partner should have as much of a say as each other on important aspects of the relationship. One partner should never be “in charge” of the other, however much older they may be.
It is not the age specifically that causes relationship dysfunction, but the abuse of power. An older man does not necessarily have to have a title (e.g. employer, teacher, client, etc) over you to have power over you. He may simply use his increased life experience and the societal prestige of being an older male to take an authoritative, dominant, or controlling position over you in the relationship. Some men specifically seek younger and less experienced women in order to do this, and these men should be avoided!
You should make sure that your partner truly respects you and sees you as an equal in all matters. If you are in doubt, ask yourself “is our age gap an unavoidable presence in our relationship?” A healthy relationship with an age gap should feel the same as any other healthy relationship—with both partners truly equal.
The issues in this article are not just limited to relationships where there is an age gap. The ways to make a relationship work are usually the same regardless of factors like age. If you can address these potential issues, there is no reason that you cannot make your age gap relationship work!
About the author
Andy is a storyteller who loves good books and good jokes. In the rare moments he isn’t writing, you can find him jogging in the park or perfecting bbq ribs. He is a contributing author at GoDates, and several other online magazines.