Of course age doesn’t matter. Age discrimination is an appalling fact of life in all walks of life, and many young people feel marginalized as much as their seniors.
Older people are judged as “expired,” “invalid,” “out of touch,” and the young as “naïve,” “ignorant” and “clueless.” But equality issues aside—what about age and dating? In that case, age might matter.
For the purposes of this blog, I will be talking about May/December romance, as it is called. These relationships, between someone in the “winter” of life and someone still in the “spring,” have no specific age gap associated with them, but let’s ballpark it at about a 20 year age difference. What is that all about? How does it affect a relationship? Why does it happen?
Clearly age preferences in romance are personal. But with a gap of 20 years or more, taking a look at why you chose, or were drawn into, a May/December romance is important.
Use the questions below to guide you as you examine, as objectively as you can, what factors may be at work in your relationship.
- Why are you dating? Some singles date casually for fun and socialization, without future expectations. Others seek a serious committed relationship. It is so important to know where both parties are coming from before becoming involved with someone who is considerably younger or older than you.
- Why are you attracted to someone 20+ years older/younger? If early stages of love and romance often flow out of infatuation, what created that ineffable spark for you? Are you drawn to someone younger because you wish to turn back the clock? Maybe you feel young inside and are drawn to those young on the outside. Perhaps it is the high energy of youth that appeals to you. Or if you are attracted to an older person, do you seek a more experienced partner, or one who is more established in the world, professionally, socially? Is there a chance that this older person fulfills something within you relating to parental relationships that left a hole in you? Do you seek approval or nurturing from a parent-figure?
- Does the opinion of others matter to you? Dating someone old enough to be your parent or young enough to be your son or daughter will often bring disapproval from family members. Friends may raise an eyebrow or give you a wink and a nudge, thinking they “get” your motives. If being judged or ostracized will cause you undue stress, recognize that and go easy on yourself if you don’t think you can jeopardize other relationships for the love of a much older or younger partner. However, if you don’t care what people think, and your relationship is a fulfilling one that meets your relationship wants and needs, you don’t have to let others’ opinions derail you.
- Do you share life goals? When you become involved with someone far younger or older than you, it is wise to consider some of the issues that matter to you, regarding future plans. Do you want to settle down or have children? Or have you had your children, are now retired, or close to it, and want a playmate to spend the rest of your years with? If the two of you can’t see eye to eye about the short term, middle term and long term future, there will be trouble in paradise, no matter how much love there is.
- Do you socialize the same way? Your idea of a pleasant night out might not be the same as someone significantly younger or older. You may enjoy fine dining and the theatre, or even quiet evenings at home with a DVD or game of Scrabble. Or you may love going out to clubs, dancing and throwing parties. If there is a major difference in how you have fun, you may be able to find a balance that appeals to both, or it may be a difficult difference to resolve.
- What about friends? People are people. We can have friends from all walks of life, cultural backgrounds and ages. But think carefully about your friends and those of the person you are seeing. If the age gap between you is significant enough, those differences in social circles might make things awkward. If your friends are mature professionals with established careers, close to retirement age, or with grown children, and your partner’s friends are still figuring things out, have young children, or lack financial stability—there may be so little common ground that tensions might arise.
- How will you deal with being at different life stages? Professional disparities can come into play if you are about to retire and want to travel the world and you are dating someone younger who is at the beginning of an all-consuming career. If you have raised your children and you date someone with two elementary aged children at home—are you willing to get involved with child-rearing at that level again? Or if you are the parent with young children, are you okay with dating someone who is very much done with that stage of life and not necessarily interested in re-entering the fray?
- What about failing health? Health does not necessarily rear its head at first in a relationship with a 20 year age difference. If you are 25 and your partner is a vibrant person in mid-40s, failing health seems a distant concept. However, the time may come when you have to provide for his or her care. Is that something your love will rise above? On the other hand, if you are dating someone much younger, can you be sure that love will keep him or her by your side should the worst happen? Don’t be hard on yourself if the prospect of failing health makes you question a relationship. Even people who deeply love are not always able to make the huge lifetime commitment that is needed to spend their remaining youth caring for someone elderly.
They say age is just a number. They say love is blind. They say a lot of things.
Is age just a number when it comes to love? And as for love being blind—it should have good enough vision to be able to foresee issues that may arise due to extreme age differences.