Are you in a relationship or considering one with someone who is considerably older or younger and wondering how to deal with the age difference? Age is a serious concern for many (outside of Hollywood that is). Age matters, and not just for the happy couple — friends and family are sure to weigh in on the matter of your relationship as well.
Some of the issues to be dealt with include differences in maturity, a completely different set of life experiences, fertility challenges, and energy, health and vigor – which are often directly related to age. Other challenges are often more a matter of preference — who is older, and by how much, or what society deems as acceptable — how big an age difference is too great?
Is There a Formula to Figure an Acceptable Age Range?
In a nutshell? No.
But according to an “old-wives-tale” of sorts, you can take your current age, divide it by two and then add seven years to find the youngest age you should be dating. On the flip side, subtract seven years and multiply that number by two and you will — according to the formula — find the oldest age you should consider for a relationship. This puts the age range of the significant other for a 30 year old in the ballpark of 22 -to- 46 years. For a person who is 44, the age range to consider dating would be 29-to 74 years. And, we begin to see the potential flaw (if you want to call it that)… in that the older you are, the greater the range you will have to choose from. This is by no means a scientifically-proven formula — it’s just for fun, and it clearly doesn’t consider the legal age-limits for marriage or our society’s norms on what constitutes an appropriate age to be involved in a romantic relationship.
A good take-a-way might be that in your younger years, the age-range you should date is tighter than when older. Perhaps this could be justified by considering — in addition to laws and norms — the average, or ideal age for starting a family and being around to raise the children into adulthood. Following this loosely-drawn line of logic, one could surmise that as one approaches mid-life and beyond, age range matters less. A 15 year age difference when you are 34 doesn’t matter — as long as the person you are dating is 49 rather than 19. But that same 15 year difference is fine whether younger or older, if you are 49.
But, as we said, while there may be a bit of logic hidden in it, there is no science to this formula. It’s just for fun.
What about Gender?
There is, however, statistical data behind what men and women prefer when it comes to age differences.
In her August 19 Psychology Today article, “When It Comes To Dating, Do Age Differences Matter?” psychotherapist, journalist and media expert Vinita Mehta shared the findings of a 1993 study that analyzed more than 1,000 personal adds, which showed that women tend to seek older men while the opposite proved true for the men. In another study, she adds, single American women under the age of 35 were far more open to marrying a man five years older, while the men studied were more willing to accept the same age difference if the woman was the younger one.
A more recent study, however, according to Mehta, tested the age differential hypothesis by collecting all available ratings of blind dates that had been published in in two well-established and respected American newspapers who solicited singles willing to share the results of blind dates, using a numerical rating system – in return for dinner (one the house) at a restaurant.
The findings, Mehta reports, were that,
“…while age seems paramount in the abstract (all things being equal, men desire younger women, and women desire older men), in practice, when two people actually go on a date, the age difference might not have as much importance as other considerations, such as physical attraction and a compatible personality.”
According to Christianity Today article “He Said-She Said: An Acceptable Age Difference in Dating Relationships,” age alone should never be considered the determinant of whether or not a couple is compatible, as emotional, spiritual, and mental maturity play a far more significant role.