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Relationship Age Gaps: How Much is Too Much?

Updated on September 11, 2017
GreenEyes1607 profile image

Sabrina loves to write about love, life, and everything in-between in a candid yet humorous approach.

Josh (26) and Liza (40) from TV show Younger
Josh (26) and Liza (40) from TV show Younger

Large age differences between partners, also known as May-December romances are common occurrences in our society. It is very common to see an older man with a much younger woman. Though less frequent, there is also the appearance of a younger man and an older woman, known as a cougar. Not as popular, but it does happen once in awhile. There is a sort of taboo around big age differences in relationships due to the fact that many of these pairings start to happen in less than appropriate settings like student/teacher, boss/secretary, among many others. The issue here is that one person, usually the older male, is in a superior power position, while the female is subordinate to them in some way. From the beginning, there is no question about who has the upper hand and who doesn't. This can upset the balance that every relationship should have where both partners are equal to each other. There is also the so called "rule" of acceptable age gaps in society. Basically, to find out if it's appropriate to date someone you divide your age by two and then add seven. The resulting number is the age of the person you can age and still be deemed classy to the general public. But some rules are just meant to be broken..

Actress Megan Fox (30) and husband Brian Austin Green (43)
Actress Megan Fox (30) and husband Brian Austin Green (43)

Student/teacher relationships are probably the most taboo of any large age gap pairings because they happen at such a time when the teacher could be accused of being a pedophile. Even if the student is 18 and legally an adult, it's still frowned upon to have a relationship with your teacher or coach because there's way too much that's still uncertain in that stage of life and such a mature relationship just doesn't make a lot of sense to parents or other students. The line becomes a little blurred when a student is 18 and a teacher is 22 just fresh out of college because the age difference is so minimal. In other circumstances, an 18 year old and 22 year old could date and no one would care, but in high school, it's just not a good idea. Crushes on teachers might be a fun things to giggle about with friends, but in reality it could ruin lives and cause way more damage than necessary at such a young age. We've all seen the lifetime movie about that student who dates her high school teacher. FYI: there's no happy ending. But if there really is that strong of a connection, then perhaps the student and teacher could stay in touch, just be friends, and actually wait until the student graduates to pursue a relationship. That would be the mature and legal thing to do. Hey, it worked on that show Pretty Little Liars, without the whole waiting thing though so bad example never mind.

Jennifer Lawrence (26) and Darren Aronofsky (47)
Jennifer Lawrence (26) and Darren Aronofsky (47)

What about college professors and students? Everyone is over the age of 18 and no longer in high school and under the control of parents. A lot of colleges and universities have rules against professors dating students, even if they're not directly their professors. I don't think it's that big of a deal if it doesn't get in the way of the education you're receiving. Obviously dating someone just so they'll give you a good grade is not appropriate, but genuinely connecting with a professor on a friends level that eventually leads to more is not breaking any rules. The stereotype is of the older male professor and the young female co-ed getting together even though he is married with children pushing 50 and she's under 25. That could be a recipe for disaster, although it does make for an entertaining movie. This could happen anywhere though, not particularly a college setting, although it does make it much easier. Regardless, it's best to tread carefully when pursing a relationship in an educational setting no matter what your age is.

Serena van der Woodsen and professor Colin Forrestor on Gossip Girl
Serena van der Woodsen and professor Colin Forrestor on Gossip Girl

Boss/secretary relationships happen everyday so no one really gives them a second look. Work is one of the most common places to meet someone because you're there five days a week, eight hours a day and that's a lot of time to spend with the same people. Proximity is a large factor in who we date. If we see someone so often, and there's even a glimmer of a connection then something is definitely going to happen. There's usually at least a ten year age difference when it comes to boss/secretary pairings, although it is common for there to be 20 or more. When I think about these types of relationships, I always think of the older male lawyer nearing 50 and his just out of college paralegal. That image just always comes to mind. Since both people are of the legal age and consent it's really not a big issue. Two adults who choose to pursue a relationship in the workplace know the circumstances going in so it's up to them to figure out if they're worth it or not.

There is the other age gap relationship where there is no superior/subordinate roles and that's the one where two people simply meet in real life and fall for each other. It is the most common because the majority of people tend to avoid student/teacher and professor/college student relationships because they are simply too taboo. Just meeting someone in a regular social setting makes things much easier for both parties involved because there's much less pressure. In general, an age gap between two people that is deemed significant is 10 years. This is the one that happens most often. It might seem like a big deal to be an 18 year old dating a 28 year old, but it seems less so when you're 28 dating a 38 year old. As you get older, 10 years just doesn't seem to be much of a generational gap. You still have plenty in common and can relate on many levels.

A 15 to 20 year age difference is a little more significant and noticeable. It really depends on what stage of life you're in though. If you're 15 dating a 30 year old, then it's kinda creepy and illegal to be honest, but a 27 year old dating a 44 year old is not a huge age gap to consider. You're both in similar stages of life. You're old enough where you're out of college and working an adult job, but young enough where you still have time left to do all those things you always wanted to do. The stereotype of this relationship is a 27 year old female and an older 44 year old male partner. To the outsider, the age difference is present, yet not that obvious. Yes, the male possibly looks older, depending on how he aged, but the female could also look much older than her 27 years. There's a lot of potential in this pairing because the man is young enough that he may still start a second family if he is coming off a divorce and the female is old enough to be mature and educated, yet young enough to be a mother.

Hugh Hefner (90) and wife Crystal Harris (30)
Hugh Hefner (90) and wife Crystal Harris (30)

Any significant age difference, like 30 years or more, gets a side eye from society. Like what is that old guy doing with that woman who looks young enough to be his daughter? In all honesty, if your partner looks old enough to be your dad, that's kind of weird to the outsider. Personally, I could never date someone old enough to be my father seeing as I'm only 27 and my father is 61. A 34 year age difference is too much for me to even consider. I hold no judgement for these couples though because I have no idea what they're story is. It does appear that most often she is with the much older man for financial reasons. He is usually well of and she is not, so she figures she would be safe and "taken care" if she marries him. It is a mutually beneficial relationship because he thinks he's won at life because he has a beautiful and young wife, eye candy in every sense of the word. A mutually beneficial relationship sounds more like a business transaction though because both parties are getting what they want but it begs to be asked where's the romance in all that?

Many people choose to avoid partners who differ in age significantly from them because they are afraid of what society will think. A young woman who falls for an older man might genuinely be in love but at the same time wonders if people will just think she's just with him for his money and a "gold digger". A male nearing middle age might think it's inappropriate for him to date a woman in her late twenties because of what his family or friends might think. He might also have grown children who are only a few years younger than her so he has to consider what kind of impact it could have on them if she becomes their stepmother. The younger female also has to think of what her friends and family would think. It might be complicated to explain to an outsider what you really see in each other and how you can make it work. The positive side to all of this? It doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks as long as you are happy.

When it comes down to it, you really shouldn't care what anyone else thinks of the age difference in your relationship. If you're happy, then they should be happy for you if they really are your friends or loving family members. You're the one who has to spend everyday with your partner and if they make you laugh or intrigue you in a way that no one else has before, then it really doesn't matter what society thinks. A real connection with another human being is rare and it should be acknowledged. In the end, people will judge you no matter what you choose to do so you might as well do what makes you really happy and disregard their opinions completely. Life's too short and we've come too far in our position in society as men and women to let someone else determine how we live our lives. If it's really love, then it should really conquer all.

What's the age difference in your relationship?

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© 2016 GreenEyes1607


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    • GreenEyes1607 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the kind words Kenneth Avery! I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. Age ain't nothing but a number after all.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      GreenEyes/Sabrina . . .

      Fan-tastic hub. Great advice for people seeking relationships with older/younger people.

      Me? I see no problem with a woman, say in her late 30's, having an intense relationship with a guy in his mid-20's.

      "The heart wants what the heart wants."

      You are a fantastic writer, Sabrina. Keep up the great work.


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