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Should Age Difference Play a Key Role in Relationships?

Should Age Difference Play a Key Role in Relationships?

The question of what role age — more specifically age differences — plays in relationships can be a hotbed issue for some while being a source of indifference for others. Why is this so?To be honest, most of the long-held perceptions about age differences and relationships revolve around personal experience. Those people who claim that age has no role in love and attraction have probably had decent experiences involving other people who were significantly older or younger than them. The inverse would also be true — people who have had negative relationships involving someone of an age group other than their own would most likely not recommend them to anyone else.This makes most of what you have probably heard about age differences in relationships subjective rather than objective.

Fundamental Facts About Age and Relationships

When you ask the average person what they would qualify as being the average age difference in successful relationships, most studies demonstrate that over half of the respondents answer four to six years. While a four to six year age difference does represent close to one-quarter of successful relationships, it does not reflect the majority. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a majority — just a plurality. With just over one-third of what can be defined as successful relationships involving two people that are within one year of each other, that makes proximity in age appear to be a strong factor for a successful relationship.

That notion is reinforced further when you take into account studies conducted on marriage and relationships which have consistently demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between failed relationships and a widening age gap.

How much credence, how much weight, should you put on these figures?

What About Love Conquers All?

Some of you may be nodding your head in agreement as you read this. Others may be shaking your fists in the air in anger in disagreement. Both of those reactions would be understandable.

To be perfectly honest, using solely age as the factor that determines the potential of a relationship would be unfair and absurd. After all, there are many factors that go into creating a healthy and long-lasting relationship that are not factored into the studies that look exclusively at age. For example, how two people met is a huge factor. Couples that have met through friends and family have a higher success rate than those that hooked up on a free dating site.

This is is merely one of many factors that should be taken into consideration when conducting these polls.

The platitude, “love conquers all,” is often used as a way to avoid having to discuss or look profoundly at potential factors that could negatively impact the future of a relationship. A better way to amplify the calculus for determining the future success of a relationship is to look at a complete basket of influencing factors.

The platitude, “love conquers all,” is often used as a way to avoid having to discuss or look profoundly at potential factors that could negatively impact the future of a relationship. A better way to amplify the calculus for determining the future success of a relationship is to look at a complete basket of influencing factors.

This basket would, yes, include age. However, it would also include things such as lifestyle, plans for the future, core ideological beliefs, educational level, professional status, compatibility of personalities — just to name a few.

Should You Even Bother to Look at Age, Then? 

Based solely on statistics, yes, age does play a role in the potential success of a relationship. However, basing the potential for a successful relationship on a more abstract construct — such as life experience — the age of a person may not play that much of a role in the future of the relationship. In other words, other factors can counterbalance a wide age difference.

A better way to look at this would be through another platitude that is heard frequently when discussions about age and relationships are in the air — “age is but a number.”

While it is generally true that large age differences — especially those that surpass 10 or 15 years — will create gaps of understanding and communication cohesion within a couple. It is not a given that these gaps need to be difficult or impossible to bridge.

This is due to the fact that the saying, “age is but a number,” does have a lot of merit. We have all met 25-year olds who in maturity and conduct compose themselves as a person who is much older, wiser, and experienced. So too have we met people who are in their late 40s and whose entire demeanor is that of a middle-aged teenager — inconsistent, unreliable, and irresponsible.

While you should not be blind to the existence of age differences, you should not let them prejudice you from getting to know your potential partner more thoroughly. The process of knowing more about the other person will reveal more about how compatible you are as a couple.

You Should Look at Maturity not Chronological Age

What all of this tells us is that trying to incorporate chronological age into a formula that will help us to determine the potential for success of a relationship is completely misguided.

It is better and more reliable to gauge the level of maturity of a potential partner compared to your own. The more compatible two people are in that regard will dictate more accurately what the future holds for them as a couple.This is likely why in many of the studies that demonstrate a strong correlation between failed relationships and a large age disparity, those who make up the minority — in other words, those who have a successful relationship in spite of a large age gap — when asked to describe their relationship, the most commonly used adjectives on their part are “harmonious” and “converging.”

It is much easier for two individuals who share a similar level of maturity to converge on many of the other factors that impact a relationship. In so doing they will experience greater harmony.

So Age Is not a Factor?

Again, statistically, age is a factor. However, further analysis would indicate that it is a factor as far as it influences compatibility of levels of maturity.

That means that you should focus more and how you relate to the other person and not so much so on age. It also means that when age gaps do exist you also owe it to yourself and the other person to be truly objective from the beginning. Don’t let material interests, such as an older person’s financial stability or a younger person’s vigor or physical attractiveness sway you.

As long as you approach things from that angle — the objective angle — a May-December romance can be successful.


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