How To Handle a Significant Age Difference While Dating

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The age gap between a man and a woman has always proven to be somewhat problematic in the dating world. If a man dates a significantly younger woman, he may be accused of robbing the cradle or taking advantage of a young girl's inexperience. If the woman is older, he could be seen as a "kept man" or someone seeking out a mother figure. Dating someone noticeably younger or older than yourself can be very challenging, but it can also lead to a strong relationship based on more than just similar interests or life experiences. An older woman could provide a sense of maturity and emotional stability, while a younger woman could provide a sense of wonder or a renewed zeal for new experiences. Here are some tips for handling a significant age gap while dating.

  1. Remember that age is truly just a number. Keep in mind that you'll be dating a person, not a birthdate. The sooner you get that number out of your mind, the easier it should be to concentrate on the things that truly attracted you to this woman. As long as you see yourself as dating a "19-year-old filmmaker" or a "45-year-old businesswoman", the age gap will continue to be a problem for the relationship. While it might be satisfying to brag to your male friends about dating a 20-year-old college student, you certainly wouldn't want her to refer to you as the 38-year-old man she's dating. When dating women significantly younger or older than yourself, it pays to get out of the numbers game as quickly as possible. If neither one of you looks your age, at least you won't be confirming other people's suspicions about an inappropriate age gap.
  2. Be aware of your partner's concerns about an age gap. Dating someone much older or younger is rarely without a few bumps. If you think you're feeling self-conscious about the relationship, consider how it must be from your partner's perspective. A number of women have self-esteem issues which may be intensified during an uncommon dating relationship. An older woman, for example, may feel threatened by the number of younger and seemingly more attractive women in your life. She may honestly believe you might be happier dating a woman closer to your age. A younger woman may also feel intimidated when surrounded by your older female friends. She may think you'd be happier with someone with more maturity or life experience than she has. If you are pursuing a serious relationship with someone much older or younger, you must remain sensitive to her concerns and address them head-on.
  1. Concentrate on similar interests not affected by a generational gap. You may have grown up listening to the Doobie Brothers while your partner remembers the Gin Blossoms, but that does not have to be a deal breaker when it comes to a romantic relationship. Some couples find these generational gap situations to be enlightening, not divisive. Each can contribute his or her knowledge and experiences towards a common goal. Participating in mutually satisfying activities on a level playing field can often take away some of the anxiety and awkwardness of a generational gap. A younger partner shouldn't have to feel inadequate for not remembering the Beatles, and an older partner shouldn't have to feel out-of-touch by preferring Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones. When it comes to a relationship with a significant age gap, there are inevitably going to be some differences in taste when it comes to movies, music or television. It is important not to let these generational differences overrule the common ground of your relationship.
  2. Make sure your motivations are healthy. When entering into a relationship with a significant age gap, make sure you are pursuing it for the right reasons. It's not unusual for an older divorced or widowed man to seek out a much younger woman to date. Conversely, a younger single man may seek out a relationship with a much older woman for reasons of his own. The older man may be seeking assurance that he has not lost his sexual appeal, while the younger man may be seeking security or stability. Neither approach is especially healthy, especially for potential romantic partners. Remember that you are dating real people with real emotions, not just an idea in your mind. If you find yourself attracted to someone who is significantly older or younger, it's best to move very slowly. A younger woman may appear to be mature for her age, but she is still her age. It may be best to pursue a relationship of this nature when both partners are emotionally ready for dating and the interest is clearly mutual.

Relationships with significant age gaps can and do work, but they often require a greater level of commitment from both partners. Some friends and family members may openly object to the relationship, while others may question why you haven't pursued a more age-appropriate relationship. You may find yourself having difficulty relating to your younger girlfriend's friends, or your older partner may not feel comfortable around your overly curious co-workers. There is no doubt an age gap can created unforeseen challenges in a relationship, but it's ultimately compatibility that matters, not just a number.


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