Relationships and age differences

I got this question on my Ask Me page, and it was such a good one that it made me get all rambly, so I figured I would turn it into a blog post.

What’s the biggest age gap you could accept in a relationship?

Ha! I love a succinct and difficult personal question!! Well done, you!

The answer is complicated.

My previous relationships have mostly been with men who were within 5-6 years of my age, and mostly younger. But that doesn’t answer your question.

I just checked my CM profile and my default search criteria is set to 30-45, so in a generic way, I guess that puts the acceptable age gap (on the younger side) at 17 years, and the older age at -2 (??!), so that’s an answer, but in real life, it doesn’t work like that.

I am ageist in some ways, even though I want to pretend I’m not. By that I mean that I have prejudices when it comes to age that are not necessarily baseless, but they ARE unfair generalisations, even though I accept that there will be exceptions.

The pretty thing (at 22 years younger than me) argued with me over my ageism intelligently and with passion. I liked him enough to invite him to come out here and meet me. Had he been local, I would have met him (this is rather a big deal, I only meet if I think there is some real potential). All going well from there, he probably *could* have convinced me to enter into a relationship with him *despite* his age because he had so many wonderful qualities, but I do think that in the back of my mind, I’d have been thinking of the relationship as having a short shelf-life because I think he would ‘outgrow me’. He could not have convinced me otherwise with protests of his (genuine) sincerity.

The doubt about such an age difference is not about sincerity, it’s ‘stage of life’ stuff that encompasses things like career development, desire for travel, self knowledge, emotional maturity, all of that ‘spreading your wings’ stuff that I think happens at a different age for everyone (and sometimes never), but I tend to think of it as ever-changing for most people until about 30.

I am not quite sure if that’s ageism or not, really. I know he would agree with me about some of those, as an introspective individual still sorting himself out in some ways, but I guess it really is because I am putting assumptions about his age above what I know of him as a person.

On the other hand, bambi is 14 years younger than me and I’m not concerned about the age difference. He just doesn’t *feel* that much younger to me. He’s mature, he has life/career/relationship experience that he brings to the table, but having made that case, his age is probably partly responsible for that wide-eyed enthusiasm that the young have and that I love. He actually worries about the age gap more than I do, particularly from a ‘popular culture references’ perspective (a recent mention of Sophia Loren had him insisting it was an age thing that I knew her and he didn’t, but a quick twitter-check confirmed that he is just ignorant… heh). Frankly, we are from different countries and have very different ways of operating in the world, so I consider age to be the least of our potential problems.

There is a ‘formula’ that says ‘halve your age, then add 7’ to figure out how young you can/should go *laugh*. I kind of like it (co-incidentally, it also fits with my search range up there…).

I am an equal opportunity ageist, though, because I am ageist with men older than me also. The reason I don’t tend to look for men older than myself is because in my experience, too many of them have ‘given up’. I know that’s harsh and I know there are exceptions, but often when I talk to men my age or older, they have lost their joy for life. Often a divorce, difficult kids, disillusionment, bitterness, lack of self-care, career disappointment, years of sadness, the weight of responsibilities, or just age itself has sucked the vitality and optimism right out of them. They are ‘old men’ to me. They *look* like old men, they *act* like old men, they *talk* like old men. I find it depressing.

And of course there are exceptions. If you remember e, he is a few years older than me and he is not any of those things. So while I do have assumptions about men older than me, I am not about to let a good one slip through my fingers because of them.

So the short answer is that I don’t have a firm rule about age, and I think I give every individual a fair chance, but I do start with certain age-related assumptions that have to be dispelled for me to consider them serious relationship potential.

And I do believe that I have just managed to insult men of all ages with this post. So there’s that!

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57 Comments

    1. *chuckle* There are always exceptions, and who wouldn’t want an adorable, smart, introspective 20-something boy who totally has his head together, hmmmm?

      Ferns

  1. Such a thoughtful and honest answer. I like it and I can actually relate in reverse. We were just discussing this on fetlife the other day.

    “outgrow me’ Every woman I have dated has had this worry, every one I proved wrong and it was them that seemed to outgrow or got tired of me one or the other.

    The oldest I have dated was 14 years older than I am, we just clicked with everything. I tried dating younger than me and it was disastrous to say the least.

    Part of me absolutely hates the age stereotypes. The very first was a woman who decided to call me “just a pup”. That hurt, ouchy! haha

    But then I realized I kind of am an ageist as well in some ways. I try to not make it a firm thing either but I do have my concerns with different ages as well.

    I love this one!!

    Respectfully,
    brattyboi

    1. Thanks for sharing, brattyboi.

      I think there *are* practical concerns, and they generally get bigger as the age gap increases.

      I do think there are some couples for whom a large age gap is surmountable: the ones who are just crazily well matched in so many ways that they probably can’t believe it themselves.

      I think what is considered ‘large’ with regard to age gaps is really subjective too. Conveniently for me (heh), I don’t think of 14 years as that big a gap.

      For me, that gap puts someone in their early-mid 30s. I tend to think that by then, people pretty much have their shit together. I mean, they may not, but if they don’t, it’s not likely to be due to their age.

      Ferns

  2. crap added my P.S in the wrong spot just now..we need an edit or delete button Ferns please haha

    “but P.S Older Dominants are so freaking HOT!!! haha
    I had to go back and add that.”

    Respectfully,
    brattyboi

  3. A well-reasoned, well-thought out response, Ferns.

    But as we all know, logic flies out the window when someone really yanks your heart-strings!

    Do you ever let that happen? Allow your heart to override your rationale? And how did it work out? Were you glad you did it or did it make you even more determined to stick with logic?

    Perhaps I should’ve put this question in the ‘Ask Me’ box.

    1. “logic flies out the window when someone really yanks your heart-strings!”

      *smile* I think this is true, yes. Best intentions and all that!

      “Do you ever let that happen? Allow your heart to override your rationale? And how did it work out? Were you glad you did it or did it make you even more determined to stick with logic?”

      Oooh… good questions. I entered into a relationship with my (ex) boy knowing that it wasn’t viable for very long. How did it end… in pain and heartbreak. Totally worth it!

      I told the pretty thing that he could come and visit me, that was not at all logical either.

      So yes, I make decisions based on things other than logic all the time, but I still like to have all the information BEFORE I decide to wilfully ignore it all… heh.

      Ferns

  4. Age as always been an issue for me. Not older, but younger. I would never give a man younger than me a chance. Even if it was just a year. I have gotten a lot better with that since turning 40 though. A is nearly 17 years younger than me, and does not even fall into the half my age and add seven rule. It took a lot for him to convince me to even meet him initially, three months of talking before I agreed to meet him. I have always leaned towards older men. For me I found them much more interesting and knowledgeable. My longest relationships were with men 12 and 14 years my senior.

    1. Ahhh… interesting. You are obviously ageist against men your own age… Heh.

      Congratulations on giving A a chance (I assume it is working out from the way you spoke about him!). I hope it continues to go well!

      Ferns

  5. I’ve never dated anyone older than me, and my girlfriend has never dated anyone younger than her. Incidentally, we’re each the closest the other has come to breaking those tendencies, as I’m only 10 months older than her. At least for me (I haven’t asked her), it isn’t an intentional or conscious thing. I’ve been on dates with older women before, but it seems like many of them have it in their heads that they just *can’t* be in a relationship with a younger man.

    I would have a tough time dating someone who hasn’t ever lived on her own beyond being a college student. I want to know someone can cope with “real life” without having her enthusiasm for life sapped away. So that means the indistinct age boundary for me to date someone is in the early 20s on the young end.

    At the older end, it depends so much from person to person. I don’t really *look* for partners 40 or older. I’m 28, and a 12-year age difference is practically a different generation. It isn’t that the age difference itself is a problem, but it tends to mean a much smaller number of shared experiences. But the upper limit for me is much more flexible. If a woman takes good care of herself and is interesting and fun, that goes a long ways. For example, based on the limited amount I know about you, Ferns, I would be interested in giving things a chance (you know, if you weren’t way the hell on the other side of the world).

    1. Thanks for talking a bit about your experience.

      “I’ve been on dates with older women before, but it seems like many of them have it in their heads that they just *can’t* be in a relationship with a younger man.”

      AGEIST!! Heh.

      “the indistinct age boundary for me to date someone is in the early 20s on the young end.”

      I think *what age you are* impacts how you see and experience an age difference a lot. Ten years younger at 28 is a lot different from ten years at 38.

      “I’m 28, and a 12-year age difference is practically a different generation. It isn’t that the age difference itself is a problem, but it tends to mean a much smaller number of shared experiences.”

      Ahhh… but doesn’t that means the age difference IS the problem because if that’s the reason, it applies to *anyone of that age* (vs an individual just not having shared experiences with you because, well, they don’t)?

      “But the upper limit for me is much more flexible.”

      Because older women are AWESOME! *laugh*

      “For example, based on the limited amount I know about you, Ferns, I would be interested in giving things a chance (you know, if you weren’t way the hell on the other side of the world).”

      Awww… so sweet, thank you! *does the math* Eep! You fall outside of the formula, but I AM ALL ABOUT THE EXCEPTIONS!!

      Ferns

  6. Once again, you write what is in my head. Almost exactly. How do you DO that? Seriously, your answer is spot-on, and says what I do when asked this question, but says it better.

  7. This is a difficult one and there is no simple answer. My contribution to the debate is purely anecdotal and therefore subject to the usual caveats.

    I’m 72 and have a recently-established long-range online relationship with a wonderful Mistress who is 25 years younger than me.

    We clicked almost immediately when we met because we share huge cultural, intellectual, and emotional commonalities.

    In addition, we’re both married, and she has other play partners. I could do likewise in theory, but choose not to for reasons of time and practicality.

    With online relationships, looks and the effects of ageing probably matter less. That said, she does have photos of me, and she also knows what my voice sounds like, so it’s not as if she’s buying a pig in a poke.

    Caveat. I’ve always been a keen sportsman, and currently do 200km weekly on my roadbike, with additional hill training on my mountain bike. I’m the same weight and body shape now that I was in my thirties.

    There is a considerable difference between years on the clock and actual physical fitness, so I’m spared the embarrassment of being self-conscious about my age.

    Indeed, if I hadn’t set the age range for potential play partners too conservatively, we’d have met many years before we eventually did.

    That is my only regret.

    I know someone (vanilla) who married a charismatic man of action fifteen years her senior when she was in her late thirties, but who has been trapped miserably as a full-time carer for the last ten years as his health declined.

    Who knows what life will bring us? It’s probably better in the long term, in RL at least, to find someone not too distant in age, if you are seeking a LTR.

    But there are no guarantees, only an improved probability that you will grow old gracefully together.

    And finally…the post-war settlement was kind to my generation. We had educational and employment opportunities that are being increasingly denied to the young people of today. My grumpiness is purely down to my concern for them.

    1. Thank you for that (and anecdotal stories are always much more interesting than actual research!).

      “With online relationships, looks and the effects of ageing probably matter less.”

      True. And I’d broaden that to say that if you (general ‘you’) aren’t after a long term romantic relationship, a large age gap with the associated issues will largely be irrelevant.

      “It’s probably better in the long term, in RL at least, to find someone not too distant in age, if you are seeking a LTR.”

      I certainly think it can make things *easier*, yes. But we like who we like and sometimes easier isn’t actually better.

      “My grumpiness is purely down to my concern for them.”

      I’m sure they appreciate your concern, though you need to work on being more grumpy. You are letting the side down. I recommend healthy doses of ‘Get off my lawn!!’ and ‘Bloody kids today…’

      Ferns

    2. “currently do 200km weekly on my roadbike, with additional hill training on my mountain bike.”

      Also… Oh. My. God!! That is some serious work! Kudos!

      Ferns

  8. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days now, actually, ever since I read this “article” from Jezebel: “Reasons to Date a Man Exactly 52 Months Older Than You.”

    Not that I give much of what’s in there any credence (some of it is tongue-in-cheek), but it has sparked my thinking.

    In the past ten years or so, I’ve dated men four to ten years older than I — not on purpose, it just sort of always happened that way. But, as my tastes change, my goals change, and my beliefs about what a relationship “should be” (fuck those beliefs!), I can see that changing.

    What you mentioned about bambi, “He’s mature, he has life/career/relationship experience that he brings to the table, but having made that case, his age is probably partly responsible for that wide-eyed enthusiasm that the young have and that I love.” is what does it for me — life and career experience coupled with energy and enthusiasm. My guess is (my hope is) that sort of combination can be found at any age.

    1. That article was hilarious:

      “Only one out of 100 sad, pathetic excuses for a woman said they’d date a guy — get this — younger than them.” from a study conducted by ‘confused.com’…

      *laugh* Oh wait… ARE THEY SAYING I’M DOIN’ IT WRONG?!!

      “…life and career experience coupled with energy and enthusiasm. My guess is (my hope is) that sort of combination can be found at any age.”

      It can, absolutely.

      I think this is where I blur the ‘ageism’ lines. I believe it can (I do, for real!), but I *start* with a set of assumptions (prejudices) based on age that then have to be disproved (i.e. I’m ageist!). IF they are disproved, then I’m good to go.

      Having said that, I never considered 14 years to be an issue, so I guess the point at which my ageism towards those younger starts is pretty broad. Huh.

      Ferns

      1. “Only one out of 100 sad, pathetic excuses for a woman said they’d date a guy — get this — younger than them.”

        I think this attitude applies much more to submissive women (and vanilla women, who are generally more submissive than their partners).

        I’ve noticed in that in heterosexual D/s relationships, the dominant is usually older, regardless of the gender.

  9. “Frankly, we are from different countries and have very different ways of operating in the world, so I consider age to be the least of our potential problems.”

    I can relate completely to this. I have recently made a friend who is twenty years my junior, and we are still in the “getting to know you” phase. I’m not really certain which direction things will in go as of yet, but because she is not a native English speaker, I find that miscommunication, due to language, is a far bigger potential issue than our age difference.

    1. Ahhh… yes. And you can’t really discover other incompatibilities while you are struggling with communication issues. Maybe that’s a good thing!! *laugh*

      I wish you the best of luck with it!!

      Ferns

  10. I don’t think an honest personal answer offends anybody and you clearly state that you are aware of the generalisation you have made.

    Personally I am of the opposite persuasion to you with regards to men. I find older men very attractive, there is something about that worldly wiser man that just makes my eyes light up… although men in general also can have this effect on me ;)

    Mollyxxx

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