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Why Age Difference Matters in a Relationship

Updated on July 2, 2017

Is age just a number? The answer can vary to suit individual needs, but many studies have proved age to be a major contributing factor in the success of any romantic relationship. Regardless of what you might want to believe, age is crucial in regard to how any relationship will play out. Other factors contribute to a happy relationship, but the significance of age must never be over looked when discussing compatibility.

Age (the figure often expressed in years) itself shouldn’t be the issue, because indeed it simply is a number. And quite often people alter their age at will to suit the moment. There are people who say to others that they are too young to be in love. (This is particularly common for parents trying to protect their children from heart brakes associated with romance). In my opinion, this sentiment is false, because anyone at any age has the ability to fall in love. The real issue is the difference in age between the partners attempting to forge a relationship. It matters little about who is older than the other.

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How does age affect a relationship?

There are several ways in which age difference can affect the success of a relationship, but the most outstanding of all is the concept of needs and expectations each individual has out of the partnership.

Through out one's lifetime, expectations from friendships and ultimately romance change with age. A 30 year old person will have different expectations from those he/she had at 16, 19 and 25. But these expectations also vary with gender, because certain needs are unique to specific gender. A 16 year old female’s expectations out of life will considerably differ from those of a male of the same age, just like those of a 30 year old male would differ from those of a female of the same age.

This means that quite often, two strangers with completely different needs, expectations and ambitions will meet, fall in love and attempt to develop a relationship. They must attempt to harmonize their needs so as to nature a happy long-lasting love story. The challenge comes in when their needs are too many years of age apart. Take for example a 35 year old man falling in love with a 24 year old female, or a 33 year old woman in love with a 26 year old man. In both cases, all parties are old enough to be in love, but are in love with people of differing expectations. The big age gap causes contrast in needs, and it’s this contrast that will form the basis of endless misunderstandings, fights and unhappy, unfulfilling partnerships.

The bigger the age gap, the more challenges the relationship will face. Anything above six years is likely to be problematic. The younger partner will often fail to understand the needs of the older partner, while the older partner will sometimes take the needs of the younger partner for granted, because they seem childish in his/her point of view. A smaller age difference means that the age related expectations aren’t too far apart, so that all there is to work upon are those related to gender. About three years age difference is ideal, because it provides an easier platform to harmonize needs and to develop consensus on how to handle them.

A smaller age difference helps to deal with the challenge of authority distribution. A big age difference often is accompanied by unequal distribution of authority. The older partner feels the need to control the younger one because he/she believes they are more experienced and probably more established financially, and therefore should control the relationship. On the other hand, a two or three year difference brings together individuals that are almost equal by default. None should feel inferior to the other, as both are not far apart in terms of career development, or exposure in life.

Does age-Difference affect older couples?

The answer is a big yes. Although the overall approach to life changes as people grow older, difference in age still plays an important role. And it still has everything to do with needs. Take an example of a 50 year old man married to a 35 year old woman. Although this is a mature couple, the 15 year difference in their age can cause some strains on their happiness. This often manifest in form of generational differences. There will usually be a difference in life style and the general outlook on social trends. One partner may find the other’s opinion on a trending subject such as fashion to be ridiculous.

Age also comes with health issues which cause physical limitations. This can mean that one partner may no longer be physically able to participate in certain activities which are otherwise a source of recreation for the other. Sexual performance also diminishes with age. This leaves a lot of dissatisfaction and ultimately misunderstandings. Although we can’t control whom we fall for, it is important to carefully evaluate all factors before deciding to commit to someone.


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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 19 months ago

      The difference between expectations and wants in my opinion is an expectation is "a given" or an "assumption" in someone's mind.

      For example you "expect" to be paid on the 15th of the month after working two weeks. If you order a steak medium well you expect it served that way.

      A "want" can be a goal or a dream you (hope to accomplish). I want to own a beachfront home isn't the same as I "expect" to have a beachfront home.

      When it comes to relationships people have both expectations and wants. These vary from person to person regardless of their ages.

      A 25 year old woman may want to get married while her 25 year old boyfriend does not. Their age has nothing to do with their desire.

      As far as interest for weekend activities I also feel that varies from individual to individual. Maturity or lack of maturity can be spotted in people of all age groups. As I alluded to the most important aspect of any relationship is "compatibility" not age. (In my opinion)

    • ian 12am profile image

      Ian Batanda 19 months ago

      ... Because I believe one will want something out of a relationship, and will then expect their partner to provide it. So in my opinion expectations come from what they want.

    • ian 12am profile image

      Ian Batanda 19 months ago

      Thanks for the comment.

      I need you to explain more on some of the arguments you made:

      "Having said that I don't buy into supposed issues of someone 25 dating someone 35 or 40. Again it's not about expectations but rather what they (want). Generally speaking you have those discussions early on."

      What is the difference between 'expectations' and 'what they want'?

      Secondly, it's true people talk about current things such as how the day was and so on, but even such conversations can have elements of generational differences. What one of the partners may find exciting about their day may sound childish to the other. What one parter may want to do for the weekend may be too demanding for the other.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 19 months ago

      "Is age just a number? The answer can vary to suit individual needs, but fact is that many studies have proven age to be a major contributing factor in the {success} of any romantic relationship." That is a very true statement!

      The first thing one has to decide is how do they define "success" in a relationship. One that lasts "forever", a certain amount of years, or ends with a great friendship...etc? Truth be told when it comes to love and relationships most of us (fail our way) to success.

      Very few people hit a homerun their first, second, or third time at bat.

      If this were not true we'd all be married to our high school sweethearts!

      Our youth is spent finding out (who we are), what we want/need in a mate and having those wants/needs evolve as we become older and wiser. The traits that made for an "ideal mate" at age 16 aren't likely to be what we look for in a mate at age 26, 36, or beyond.

      If two people are simply dating for {fun and enjoyment) than age really is just a number. Assuming they are of legal age to consent.

      Not everyone is dating to find a spouse or settle down!

      The most important thing about dating is finding someone who wants what (you) want! People who naturally agree tend to be happier.

      The goal is to find someone who shares your same values, wants the same things for the relationship, naturally agrees with you on how to obtain those things and last but not least there is a mutual depth of love and desire for one another.

      Just because two people are in the same age group doesn't mean they want the same things. There are also gender differences regarding expectations. Many men don't start to consider marriage until age 30 or older.

      Having said that I don't buy into supposed issues of someone 25 dating someone 35 or 40. Again it's not about expectations but rather what they (want). Generally speaking you have those discussions early on.

      Secondly most conversations do not begin with: "Remember when". Most people talk about current events, weekend plans, how their day went at work, TV shows & movies, friend and family issues...etc

      The one factor that cannot however be ignored is (excellent health).

      A 50 year old dating a 70 year old is likely to face issues that they would not have faced when they were dating at ages 30 and 50.