16 May 2012
Does age matter?
When you imagine your ideal partner how important is their age? It is a consideration for most people but does it really matter in our modern, liberal society?
Age is relative – someone may be 60 yet have the health, looks and vitality of a 40 year old while conversely some 40 year olds seem ready to collect their pensions. Age isn’t just about the time you have been on the planet it is often the attitude and approach to life which makes someone seem youthful or aged. With huge advances in technology creating all manner of age-defying treatments, better diet, dental care and life expectancy it is entirely possible to stay looking, and feeling, young well into middle age. So given all this, do traditional notions of appropriate age gaps still matter?
What is traditionally appropriate?
What is traditionally deemed acceptable changes with age, especially as people grow older . A 17 year old girl dating a 31 year old man may raise an eyebrow but a 31 year old woman dating a 45 year old man probably wouldn’t. According to some a way of deciding an age range to date in is once you are over 18 to only date someone where their age difference is within one fifth of your own age – one fifth of a 20 year olds age is 4 years so they could date someone between 16 and 24 (4 years younger or 4 years older) – someone who is 60 would have a 12 year margin so the age range would be 48 – 72. This seems quite restrictive but can be a useful way of deciding on an appropriate age range to search for matches in.
Older men dating much younger women seems to have always been acceptable in almost all cultures but older women with younger men is becoming much more accepted and commonplace.
If having a family is something you want in a relationship then obviously age differences become a bigger consideration in the dating process. Women’s fertility begins to diminish after the age of 35 and while men can physically father children until a much later age a man who doesn’t become a father until he is 50 will be 68 by the time that child reaches adulthood. Financial, health and economic factors also change as we grow older and these can sometimes make child rearing more difficult in later life.
If having a family isn’t part of your future plans then there are examples of many happy and healthy couples who have age gaps of 10 – 20 years. Anything over 25 years does begin to raise problems in terms of compatibility because you are effectively from different generations and therefore you life experiences, beliefs and values may be so vastly different if can become a cause of contention as you negotiate important decisions in your relationship.
It doesn’t matter now but will it matter later?
When someone of 30 is dating someone who is 50 the age difference may not seem particularly significant. It will probably start to become more difficult when issues around retirement or health problems arise. A 60 year old who is only just approaching retirement may be making plans for embarking on their life’s ambitions which they haven’t had a chance to fulfil while they were working – an 80 year old may well be coping with very different life challenges and the differences could become incompatible even if they weren’t earlier on in the relationship.
How old do you think you are?
Sometimes people get matched with people in the age bracket they specified only to realize that what 40 looks like on some people is very different to how they see themselves. A positive upbeat attitude generally makes you feel younger as does an enthusiastic and optimistic outlook. People who are jaded, bitter and cynical about the world and relationships come across as being much older than they actually are. If you are young at heart include something about that in your profile.
The biggest problem couples with a large age gap experience is jealousy and insecurity often with the older partner believing that their younger spouse will one day be attracted to someone their own age. When men date younger women, it can make them feel a lot younger but for women, being with somebody younger often makes them feel older and more conscious of their appearance.
Keep an open mind
As with all aspects of the dating process stay flexible and keep an open mind. Qualities developed through emotional maturity are the ones most likely to ensure the success of the relationship than anything to do with chronological age.
And finally, don’t ever lie about your age. Any relationship that is built on dishonesty will have insecure foundations which sooner or later will rock its stability