Understanding Why Age Gap Relationships Can Be Tough

Updated July 01, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Nicole Gaines, LPC

Being in a marriage or relationships of any kind can offer a number of different challenges, no matter the people involved. But when there is a big difference in age, it can present both advantages and disadvantages, the latter being particularly difficult to deal with.

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Age gaps, even when the couple is on the same page, can present real difficulties for the couple going forward in their relationship. Relationships are about the couple, but they can be impacted by outside factors as well.

Like it or not, there are still perceptions about people that engage in relationships where the age gap is sizable. And sure, there are opinions everywhere, like the “half-your-age-plus-seven” rule that seems to be a reasonably popular frame of reference.

But why do ages matter in a marriage or relationship? Why should an age gap keep someone from getting engaged? We first need to understand the societal views of age differences in weddings and how those issues can keep a marriage from having both parties on the same page.

Why Is Society Concerned With Age Gaps?

There are plenty of marriages that feature age gaps that don’t quite fit into the half-your-age-plus-seven rule of thumb that seemingly do fine, living the lives that average couples live. But why is there a stigma? Why can’t we all be on the same page, understanding that it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re teenage or middle-aged, that it is the relationship that matters?

A lot of relationships with an age gap face those questions about their marriage or relationship like average couples do, regardless of the ages of the people involved. They don’t worry about the half-your-age-plus-seven rule, they worry about how to improve their marriage or relationship, to make it the best that they can and don’t even really think about their ages or the gap between them.

The relationships that get the most flack seep to be the ones with the widest gap. A marriage between someone of young adult ages and someone middle-aged tends to get the most attention. It is because when the gap of the ages is so stark, we see that middle-aged people as more of a parent than a person that is in a marriage or relationship.

This takes extra effort for the people in the relationship to ignore that gap, ignore their ages, and work on being on the same page. Any average marriage can’t function without being on the same page, and there is no advantage to those ages being closer.

Societal concerns or views about what an average marriage should be – and on the appropriate ages and gap that there should be – can make it more challenging to be on the same page. More middle-aged people that are in a marriage with a person aged substantially lower than them tend to get much of the negative comments, putting more strain on them in the union.

If the age gap is a struggle in your marriage, talking to a professional can be beneficial. ReGain offers access to professional therapists and psychologists that can help you to understand the feelings you have about your marriage and how to manage those feelings.

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Making Age Differences Work

So, how can couples have an average relationship that works like everyone else, remains on the same page, and functions in a healthy manner despite a gap that focuses on age? That gap will present difficulties, though when you have aged to a certain point, those difficulties just don’t become as important.

Making Compromises. In a marriage where one person is aged to a greater degree, it can be difficult to feel like an average couple. And making compromises is something that the average marriage has to deal with regardless of age.

And that is one thing to remember: though the ages may differ, a successful, average marriage has many of the same problems. Instead of focusing on the age difference in your marriage, look at them for what they are: differences that any average couple deals with.

Just because your younger spouse likes different things doesn’t mean that it is a product of being a different age. It has to do with being a different person, and in any average marriage, both sides will be different in their own profound ways.

No matter the age of both parties in the marriage, understand that you are both different and that you have to accept one another for who you are. And in any marriage, those differences can be both small and large.

Find Time for Yourself. Just like any average marriage, being together all of the time can wear thin on both parties. That is why it is important to find time for yourself. It doesn’t mean that you don’t want to spend time with the other person, it just means giving the marriage a bit of breathing room so that you can maintain a sense of self and remove some of the tension and stress that an average marriage can have.

Having hobbies is excellent for a number of reasons, especially what it can do for the health of a marriage. Taking time to read, write, play video games, listen to music, or whatever else you enjoy isn’t damaging to the marriage, it is entirely reasonable.

If anything, that space will strengthen the marriage because it will allow time to decompress, think about things, and develop a little bit of a longing for that person that won’t be there if you spend all of your time together.

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Be There For Your Partner. Like it or not, age gaps in a marriage can make it feel anything but average. For the older person in the relationship, in particular, it can be quite difficult to deal with some of the negative opinions on the gap in ages and the marriage itself.

There is really nothing that can be done to change those feelings from other people; they will think what they will remember. But the part of any healthy marriage is there for your partner. Help them through any feelings of negativity that they may be experiencing and let them know that they are not alone.

Again, you can’t change what other people think, but you can have a positive impact on your partner and help mitigate the effect that those feelings have. It isn’t a perfect system, but just knowing that you are there for them can be enough to help them through even the toughest of times.

Try To Keep Things Exciting. No matter what the age difference may be in a relationship, there is always a need to keep things fresh and interesting. After all, when two people are together for long enough, it can feel like there is no surprise and nothing new about the relationship.

That age gap can make it feel exciting initially, but there will be a need to find new ways going forward. Try meeting up in fun places or going to new places or experiencing new activities. These changes of scenery, as it were, can help to make things feel a little fresh and exciting.

Not only that, but it can also help to eliminate some issues regarding the age gap. Keeping the relationship healthy, exciting, and fresh is a way to a healthy relationship regardless of what age difference there may be between you and your partner.

Focus on the Similarities. For people who do not agree with age differences in relationships, the biggest focus is on the difference in age. But for the people in the relationship, the focus should be on the similarities shared between each other.

Think about it: there was something that drew the two of you together that made you care about one another and want to enter into the relationship in the first place. Focus on those similarities and look to build on them as positives.

A focus on the negative in any relationship, even one with no substantial age gap, can do damage to that relationship. Focusing on the positives, on the similarities, can bring you closer together, give you more things to do, and more ways to enjoy one another’s company.

Age gaps in relationships are nothing new, and they likely are not going away – nor should they. People who share the love with one another that are of age need to be free to experience those relationships the way they choose.

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There is an old saying that “age is nothing but a number.” And when it comes to relationships with age gaps, that can be the case for those couples even if it isn’t for everyone else. Which is the beautiful thing about a relationship: it isn’t for everyone else.

Manage the looks or comments the best you can and try to live your life joyfully with the person you care about. That is what any normal relationship would focus on, and that is how those relationships with age gaps will continue to survive and thrive. Age is just a number, after all.


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