People have a lot of opinions about relationships when the two partners aren’t in the same peer group. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and at some point in your life, you might find yourself with a partner who is significantly older or younger than you. Don’t listen to what anyone says about the age difference between you and your partner (as long as it’s legal, obviously). But there are definitely certain things that happen when you’re dating someone younger that you might want to take into consideration.
Nothing is guaranteed obviously, and a relationship is more about compatibility than a birthday. The problems that arise when dating someone much younger than you will depend on exactly what the age difference is and all the life experience that they (and you) bring to the table — just like if you dating someone you’re age.
You could just as easily be dating someone the exact same age as you and still run into “age gap obstacles.” There is, unfortunately, no secret formula to dating anyone, younger or not. But as long as you can be open about your issues with the relationship, it should all end happily ever after (maybe).
Some things to remember about seriously dating someone younger than you.
Haters gonna hate.
It’s human nature to think that the way you do things and view the world is the ~right~ way. So let’s forgive everyone in your life who has a strong opinion about your new partner who’s a few years behind you. But depending on your own social habits, hearing people say (or worse, hearing that they told someone else) something negative about your relationship can wear a person down.
You don’t have to defend yourself to anyone, but you do need to find a way — preferably with your partner — to shut people up. Madonna recently said that she knows people judge her for sleeping with men three decades younger than her, and she brushed it off. Find your inner Madonna and come up with a good comeback to use on the fly with rude people and ways to stay secure in your new fling.
It’s possible that you met someone younger than you, began dating, and never thought it would get as serious. If you’re dating someone much younger who is unsettled in their career and life, you might find yourself wanting to play house way before they’ve even considered it. You need to be really clear about your goals — both professional and personal — and hash it out with them. And remember: what you were doing when you were their age? If someone is still figuring things out, it might not be time to sign a lease together, or even be totally exclusive, just yet.
It could be too much, too fast.
Remember when you were weighing your options after high school or college, and it seemed like every decision was going to be a make-or-break moment? Most 24-year-olds don’t know what most 30-somethings know: All of your big life plans are going to fall apart and come back together and fall apart again, over and over and over. You might find that a younger partner does want to get serious right away or that every fight seems like the end of the world. A younger partner might be harder to break up with because of this. If it’s their first real heartbreak or big life upheaval, you probably know what it’s like. Try to be as diplomatic as possible.
Keep your mouth shut sometimes.
Understand where your younger partner’s coming from, but don’t try to give them advice or “when I was your age” lectures. If this is the first time they lost a job, been dumped, had to move to a new city on their own — that’s a big deal. Even if you have sage life advice to impart, know when to just STFU. You’ll start to sound patronizing and open up a whole new can of worms. Know when you can offer help and when they just want you to listen to them.
You might not like their friends.
Every partnership is unique, but it’s possible that although you get along great with your new mate and are perfectly matched, their friends might not be there yet. If they’re all 3-5 years younger than you are, there’s a good chance you might not fit in with them. Instead of fighting it, or worse, judging your new SO for their squad, soak up the fact that you both get some alone time with your respective crews.
Sex will be great. Or terrible.
We know we sound like a broken record, but this, too, depends on the situation. Maybe your younger mate has more sexual experience than you do. Or maybe you’re going to their “first” for a lot of things. Sexual chemistry is a big deal for a lot of people, so try to take it as slow (or as fast) as you want. And remember to use your words in the bedroom to make sure that everyone is getting what they need.
You realize you’re kinda old.
Just because you’re older doesn’t mean that you’re boring. But your idea of a fun date night might be totally different from theirs.
Relationships take a lot of work by default and an age gap doesn’t make it much easier sometimes. But with a little self awareness and a lot of communication, anything can be figured out.