Can Relationships With Age Gaps Really Last?

Most times, the term “age-gap couple” conjures up images of Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Bunnies. When you change the narrative to imagine couples like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, you can see an age gap couple really can be a power couple. So can these types of relationships work out long-term? Here’s what to keep in mind.

  1. There could be a power struggle. That silver fox seems so dreamy to you because of their life experience and financial means. When you first start dating an older man (or woman), it might feel safe to be cared for. While it’s great to have someone to lean on emotionally, physically, and financially, be careful. Your partner might feel like they have power over you. Don’t let the relationship become controlling.
  2. Things could get interesting in the bedroom. For most people, sex is a major factor when choosing a relationship. Choosing an older partner may help spice things up in the bedroom. An older partner will likely bring more experience and have already learned their way around, so they could teach you new moves. At the very least, they should be better versed in how to give pleasure.
  3. You might not be on the same page, but it should be the same book. So what if one partner is retired and ready to play while the other still spends five days a week at the office? As long as you see eye to eye on the end goal, there’s no reason it won’t work unless you have some major, life-altering differences. For example, maybe one side wants to start a family. You may be 33 and ready for babies, but if your partner is 51 and over that hump, this might leave you unhappy. Take things slow and test the waters before diving in all the way.
  4. Older guys tend to be more mature than younger ones. It’s a well-known fact that women mature faster than men, and that can make dating an absolute nightmare. It’s exhausting dating someone too immature to have a conversation about feelings, needs, and intentions. We’ve been there! This is where dating an older guy can become much more attractive. He has more life experience, he probably has a bit more maturity and he might (finally) be on your level. You have needs that should be met and if it takes an older guy to do it, then so be it.
  5. You might not be into the same things. Pop culture references and life experiences are pretty different for age gap couples. While this might not make or break a relationship, it sure shows the space between you. Can you really live the rest of your life with nothing in common with your partner when it comes to the music you listen to, the TV shows you like and the cultural references you make?
  6. You’ll have the same issues as every other relationship. Regardless of your age difference, all relationships have ups and downs. When you’re dating with an age gap, these downs may appear earlier in the relationship. Of course, this isn’t always a bad thing! This allows you to learn to communicate right out of the gate. Navigating through a rough patch can really strengthen your relationship!
  7. You may have unresolved trauma to deal with. This might seem a little cliche, but it’s true. If you grew up having issues with your parents, you may be carrying those issues into your new relationship. Choosing an older partner could be a sign of unresolved trauma. Check yourself before you jump in with two feet. And maybe see your therapist. You don’t deserve to carry that pain!
  8. There are plenty of couples in relationships with age gaps that are very happy. Age-gap couples often face judgment from family, friends, and even strangers about their choices. Many people believe this type of relationship will never work out, and they are not shy with their disapproval! You will find many positive role models like Jay-Z and Beyonce, George and Amal Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi who will show you that love can conquer all.
  9. Your lifestyles may be completely different. Your interests change throughout the stages of your life. The things you appreciate in your ’20s, like staying out late and partying all night, are often much different than the things you appreciate in your ’30s or ’40s. It is important to consider whether or not you and your partner have the same values before deciding if your lifestyles will mesh.
  10. You may have limited time together. As you age, you begin to consider how much time you have left. When embarking on a relationship in your older years, one major consideration may be end-of-life. This is intensified if you are in an age-gap relationship with an older partner. Take a deep breath and remember anything can happen. We all only have today. It’s not a bad idea to have living wills in place, but enjoy the time you have without fear of tomorrow.

What the experts say about relationships with age gaps

  1. They’re less likely to go the distance. While relationships certainly aren’t one size fits all, it’s a sad truth that couples who are at different stages of life are less likely to make it, according to research. This is likely because you develop and experience things at different times, making it harder to relate and cope. While age gap relationships aren’t all doomed to fail, you should temper your expectations.
  2. Don’t be fooled by a strong start. The honeymoon stage of the relationship is real for all relationships, but it can be especially convincing when you’re dating someone older or younger than you. However, that tends to change pretty quickly. “In the initial 10 years of marriage, people report higher levels of marital satisfaction when their partner is younger than them,” says Grace Lordan, an associate professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, who is currently researching age-gap relationships and happiness. “However, over time, the marital satisfaction of different-aged couples declines more than similar-aged partners. The probability of similar-aged couples divorcing is also lower.”
  3. Women are more likely to be judged for dating a younger man. While it’s almost a given that older men would be drawn to younger women, especially when considering biology, the idea that older women — often dubbed “cougars” and their partners “toyboys” — could be happy with a younger man is still an idea many people judge harshly. “Us humans are judgemental, and if what our neighbor is doing is misaligned with what we expect, we put a spotlight on it,” says Lordan. “Women who match with younger men go most against the grain when it comes to our narrative of marriage, and so suffer the most judgment.”
  4. Hopefully, this will become less of a problem in the future. Will relationships with large age gaps ever be fully accepted? Hopefully, says Dr. Elena Touroni. “We are living in an era of more freedom and flexibility, so I would like to think that over time we will become significantly less judgemental about other people’s relationship choices, whether that’s age gaps or anything else,” she explains. However, there’s always a chance that things could go in the opposite direction. “Overall, I do hold out hope that we are becoming less judgemental of others, whatever their choices are,” Lordan says. “But the narratives of what a ‘good’ relationship looks like are so hard-wired in Western society, it is unlikely that we will reach a place where people stop judging the lifestyle choices of others that go against these norms, including age-gap couples.”
Logan is a freelance writer based in northern Canada. When she's not out on an adventure or hiking with her sons, you can find her drinking coffee, eating tacos and binging Netflix.