If you look at film and television, you’ll see no shortage of age gaps in romantic relationships; from Monika and Richard’s 20-year difference in Friends to Aria and Ezra’s illegal teacher-student relationship in Pretty Little Liars to the crazy age difference between Elena and Damon in The Vampire Diaries (about 140 years!).
While films and TV shows often portray relationship age gaps as exciting, or almost normal, when it comes to real-life you need to consider quite a few things.
A significant age gap between you and your boyfriend will certainly change the dynamics of the relationship and may introduce new challenges.
Here is a comprehensive guide to keep in mind when dating someone older, including:
- Tips and rules
- What to expect
- Success stories
Let’s talk about consent
Before you take things further with an older man, you need to consider the fundamental role of consent.
This is especially true if you are under the legal age, which is different for every US state and for every country.
It can be quite a difficult territory to navigate, and people have strong opinions about it.
At the end of the day, what’s right and wrong and what’s appropriate and inappropriate varies from person to person, religion to religion, and culture to culture.
Make sure you know what you are getting into and that you really want to be with this person. There shouldn’t be pressure from him for you to be physical with him.
If you have any doubt, then it’s probably not fully consensual.
If your relationship has a major age difference, you need to follow these principles when it comes to your sexual health: honesty, shared values, consent, protection from STIs, non-exploitation, and last but not least, mutual pleasure.
Another issue when dating someone significantly older could be that they offer to support or help you financially. More murky territory!
Does an age gap actually matter?
Your age difference might be something you choose to ignore, rather than make a big deal out of.
A smaller age difference (2–5 years) can be quite easy to navigate, meaning:
- You are at similar stages in your life
- You want similar things
- You treat the relationship equally in terms of commitment and next steps
- You share similar interests, cultural references, and thinking
A larger age gap (10–15 years) could be quite hard to navigate, because:
- It likely means that you are quite different
- Your friends’ circles don’t quite match
- Your parents will be raising eyebrows
- He might be ready to settle down and have children, while you aren’t ready
- He might have already had a serious relationship, marriage or children, which means extra baggage
An age gap over 15 years is probably a no-go for most women, and it could be quite transactional, even exploitative.
This isn’t always the case, but keep in mind that the relationship needs to be based on mutual understanding, respect, and expectations.
Does an age gap matter? Yes. Usually, it determines the success of your relationship in the long run.
Once you are sure that your relationship is consensual, don’t forget to consider the public perception of age gaps in relationships.
Expect that people will talk.
That includes strangers on the street, family members, friends, and colleagues. There are just a lot of assumptions and stereotypes when it comes to older man/younger woman relationships.
Some of the assumptions include:
- That you are only with him because you are a gold digger
- That you have daddy issues
- That he might be taking advantage of you
On the plus side, however, as a whole, this dynamic is largely normalized in our society. It’s a whole different issue when it’s an older woman dating a younger man.
It’s a lot less flattering in society’s eyes, but you don’t have to be offended by public perceptions of your relationship.
However, you do need to be honest with yourself about what this relationship means to you or what it might say about you.
Aligning lifestyles and priorities
When you date someone older, you are bound to clash when it comes to goals and lifestyles. There will probably be misaligned priorities and you’ll just have to deal with it.
A huge difference in lifestyles means that both of you need to compromise…a lot.
This is bound to create disbalance, power struggles, and make the relationship more vulnerable.
No one wants to feel like they constantly have to compromise or settle for something or someone.
Then, there’s the whole challenge around marriage, childbearing, and parenting.
If you are in your twenties and dating a man that’s two decades older, you need to have some serious conversations when it comes to where you see each other in the future.
However, don’t forget that a lot of people make relationships and marriages work despite cultural differences, geographical distance, political clashes, huge income gaps, and yes, age differences.
So, your age difference doesn’t have to define your relationship, but it will certainly affect it in some ways.
The best way to align your priorities and lifestyles is to always maintain open and honest communication.
If you really want children in your future, but your older partner doesn’t (or can’t have them), then you might have to consider alternative options or break up.
What to expect when dating someone older
When dating someone older there are a few things you should expect from the relationship. Here’s a comprehensive list and what that means for you.
He may have a lot of time for you
Which could be great…but also, it might be a bit too much after a while. You want to have a life and your own things to get on with, not spend all your time with him.
Of course, for many women, this will be very refreshing – especially if you are used to dating men who don’t know what they want or won’t put the effort into the relationship.
He may have very little time for you
On the flip side, if he’s got a demanding job or kids from a previous marriage, he may barely have time to see you.
He likely has an established routine that he can’t change, or doesn’t want to change, so you will need to find a way to fit into his life…somehow.
You might not be mature enough for him
When you date someone older than you, you will come to realize things about yourself that may not be that pleasant or easy to swallow.
For example, because of his experience, he might be a lot more emotionally intelligent than you, and as a result, more mature when it comes to relationships.
Therefore, playing the back-and-forth games that usually work with younger guys just won’t cut it with him.
He will also be a lot more direct in his communication and when it comes to talking about feelings.
You have to consider the baggage
If you are lucky, you are dating someone older who has never really found the love of his life, and you have swept him off his feet.
But that’s more like the storyline of a cheap Hallmark movie, not reality. In reality, he’s probably got an ex-wife and children.
So, what then? How do you navigate all of that?
As much as you matter to him, you have to accept that his children will always come first, and he probably has to interact with his ex-wife on a regular basis.
It could easily make you feel like you are the other woman, even when you know he’s committed to you.
This isn’t only a negative of course.
If he’s been married before, he could approach this relationship (and potential second marriage with you) with a lot more wisdom, experience, and understanding of what you need.
Just because his first marriage failed doesn’t automatically mean that he won’t want to get married again.
If he has kids, you have to consider things, like how old they are, if they live with him, how involved he is with them, if you have to be in their lives, etc.
Your expectations of him
If you are smitten with an older man, you might not be thinking clearly. The life you can have with him might be really appealing, but you need to stay clear-headed.
That means managing your expectations and not forgetting that he’s got a say too.
Whatever you do, don’t act like you are the best thing that’s ever happened to him or that he is lucky, like he’s punching above his waist.
It will create a weird dynamic that you don’t want to have.
Last but not least, no matter what anyone else tells you, only you can ever know your relationship and how it feels for the two of you.
Dating someone older can be a great life experience, you will learn a lot about yourself and about men in general. Even if it doesn’t work out in the long run, it’s still a valuable experience.
Celebrity couples who make it work despite their age gaps
When in doubt, it’s always worth looking at real-life couples and learning from them. There are a ton of celebrity couples who have made it work despite quite considerable age gaps.
Here are a few:
- Pierce Brosnan and wife: With an age gap of 11 years, these two have built a life for over 26 years together, despite Pierce’s huge fame as a James Bond.
- Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender: The two A-list movie stars have been together for over 6 years and share an 11-year age difference. The key to their success is keeping things private.
- Beyonce and Jay-Z: They have a 12-year age gap and over 20 years together. These two have built an empire as a couple and seem to be unstoppable. They say don’t mix business and pleasure, but it clearly works for some!
- Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds: With an age difference of 11 years, these two have been going strong for over a decade. What keeps them together is their three children and their shared love for making fun of each other – including publicly. It’s literally their brand.
- Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa: With an age difference of 12 years, these two were originally set up by a mutual friend and have been together since 2005. Jason famously said that Lisa was his childhood crush. Talk about fan boy success!
- Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart: These two seem to have been together forever! With an astonishing age gap of 22 years, Calista has said that she often forgets about their age difference and isn’t too fazed by it. They’ve been together for 20 years.
- George Clooney and Amal Clooney: The famous bachelor finally settled down with the 17-year younger lawyer and have been together since 2013. The secret to their success? He accepts that his wife is a lot smarter than him!
- Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones: With an age gap of 25 years, this couple defied all odds. They met and started dating in 1998. Michael famously said, “God created this woman after everything I’ve dreamt for”.
- Warren Beaty and Annete Bening: Famous for being a womanizer, Warren met his 21-year younger match over two decades ago. These two are proof that the right woman can change a man.