Age Difference in Relationships

Mike is talking about relationships with significant age differences.

Here is what I think. The idea that a relationship is exploitative or somehow impacts agency because of an age difference is ridiculous and I don’t want to waste any time discussing it.

But a problem that actually exists is the following. Say, people meet and fall in love when one of them is 20 and another is 35. It’s all good for the moment. But in the next 10 years, the person who is 20 is going to grow a lot. And the one who is 35 is not. Yes, you can still grow at 35 or 45, blah blah. But it doesn’t happen nearly at the pace or with the intensity of what a 20-year-old experiences.

So if the goal of such couples is just to have sex and have fun, it’s going to work out fine. Probably deathly boring for the guy if he’s the one who’s 35 in the relationship (unless he’s insecure or inexperienced). But it’s not a big deal. If the woman is the one who’s 35, they will at least have the same degree of. . . erm, eagerness.

But if they start something serious, then the change of the dynamic from one between a wide-eyed silly little innocent and an experienced, knowing adult to one between two adults is going to be very harsh. The younger one will either self-infantilize or rebel.

Again, I’m talking about significant age differences only. And the difference needs to grow as the people become older. So when a 30-year-old meets a 40-year-old, that’s not a difference worth discussing because they are both adults and have stopped massively growing.

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10 thoughts on “Age Difference in Relationships”

  1. My parents have an age gap of 20 years and of course what you describe is exactly what happened. A typical thing my mom says to me (at almost 70) is that my father was “mean to her” as if she was his 7 year old daughter instead of an adult who should be able to walk out or laugh about him if he is saying dumb stuff (which he’s constantly doing, as a pretty difficult person who has not become less difficult at close to 90). Us children and other relatives tend to see her as a in need of protection and guidance and there is something about her that makes me feel that she is younger than me. For sure such a big age gap can be fun and sexy short-term but as a long term relationship it is really not a great idea and I agree it really stunts the growth of the younger person in the couple. I feel like the responsibility is on the older part of the couple to see this and stop the relationship before it becomes too serious (the younger one will usually probably not be able to anticipate how much one learns & changes over the decades).

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  2. To me, I find this generalization difficult for a couple of reasons: (1) I’ve never experienced it, and (2) I know of relationships with large age differences that have been wildly successful, and those with little or no age difference that have failed. I just don’t see a clear pattern in the data.

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  3. I’ll have dinner with someone older but will only get involved on purpose with someone younger. Maybe a lot younger, like 15 years. Reason: I do not want to take care of an old man. I was involved with someone 8 years younger and he ALREADY was having old-person type problems, needed help, etc., at 40; I realized I am just NOT a caretaking type, it kills romance and sex for me.

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  4. Yes, you can still grow at 35 or 45, blah blah. But it doesn’t happen nearly at the pace or with the intensity of what a 20-year-old experiences.

    So at what age do people stop massively growing, usually?

    It’s the darned-est thing but the faces of most people under 25 don’t look fully formed to me. It’s not like they look like children, it’s something in the eyes and the bone structure.

    . Reason: I do not want to take care of an old man.
    Yup. Last dude I dated had neck problems. I had…problems with that.

    Also I’m not here to be a nurse because I already have a front seat to “Whoops, my sugars!” when I see my dad. That’s what I think when these old men message me.

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  5. My parents are 13 years apart (and mama was pretty young to start with; early 20s I think.) They were lucky enough to grow in the same direction, got married when she was 25, and have one of the healthiest marriages I’ve seen.

    Mama says that she started noticing the issues with the age difference more as they got older. As she was at the height of her career, he was winding down. Being at different life stages can be awkward. Now that she’s in her 50s I think that’s less of an issue though.

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