Age-gap relationships – how to navigate dating someone from a different generation
“Age is just a number” is a phrase that might sound familiar to couples who have quite a few years between them.
Meeting new people is becoming increasingly easier thanks to social media and dating apps, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the number of fish in our dating pool is growing.
Before the advent of online dating and hook-up apps, the easiest way to meet other guys was primarily through friends or work. Now, the opportunities to meet guys from different backgrounds, cultures and professions seem endless.
Those opportunities also extend to meeting guys that are younger than you, or older than you.
But can the age gap divide couples, or unite them? And what about winning over the perceptions of friends, family members, and wider society? Or does the issue of age simply not matter?
“Toby messaged me on an app and we chatted for a while before deciding to meet up,” recalls Robert who is 19 years older than his now partner, Toby. After a few more exchanges on the app, they arranged to meet for coffee.
“Age wasn’t raised during either the app chat or the initial meeting. Both of us were transparent about our ages, but neither considered it a barrier.” says Robert.
He agrees that he did take into consideration that there were 19 years dividing them, yet felt that maturity and age were two separate things – “If he’s a solid bloke with a good level of maturity, then what’s the problem?”
Paul, 55, also met his partner online. “We chatted online for a few months and then I went to visit him, because he lives in Bordeaux and I live in London.”
“I felt quite lucky really,” laughs Paul about dating somebody younger. “I’m not sure it would work the other way round if it was somebody who was 15 years older than me.”
Offline, Brandon, 22, met his boyfriend at a New Year’s Eve flat party in Soho. He and Michael, 29, had been chatting all evening and then kissed at midnight. “It was pretty romantic, I’ll admit.”
“I don’t think either of us really minded at the beginning,” says Brandon of the difference in age. “Michael looks very young for his age and so I think initially it didn’t occur to me.”
Being at different stages of their lives has come up in the relationship, admits Brandon. “Only when we went further into our relationship did our age start to show, in terms of career and future plans. Apart from that, I think I’d say we both act on a same level of maturity.”
Is age an issue?
An argument resulted in Robert bringing up the age gap in his relationship with Toby. “There has only been one occasion since he and I have been together where the age gap has been an issue and it was me that raised it,” he shares.
“I made some droll remark during an argument along the lines of “it’s like dealing with a fucking toddler” – which upset him,” recalls Robert. “So we talked it out and that is literally the only time it’s been a challenge.”
Robert also says that Toby looking older, means that age is seldom questioned by other people.
“There is an assumption that he is a few years younger, but not 19!”
Paul echoes that age is sometimes an issue. “It’s something that I think about: is this sensible? Is this going to work? Isn’t there going to be some differences in the sense that I’ve already achieved things and done things that he’s not?”
As for his partner – “It’s not something that he seems to think that much of, or thinks is that important. I probably give more importance to it that I probably should, and certainly more importance to it than he does.”
On the other hand, Brandon says that he has felt supported by his friends and family, despite their initial “shock” about the age of his boyfriend.
“My father has always been very supportive and he shared the same level of surprise,” explains Brandon. “He only voiced his concern around us being at different points in our lives and it being something I should look out for, and navigate maturely.”
Brandon believes that his father’s advice is something that has been helpful late on in his relationship.
“At this point in our lives, we both want different things in the bigger picture and in our everyday lifestyle choices,” reflects Brandon. “He’s looking to buy a house in the near future, I’m looking to travel the world. He prefers going home a bit earlier when I’m ready to go to the next club.”
How do they navigate their differences? “It’s about being aware of what each other wants and making compromises around that because you love each other.”
Time to adjust your dating app filters?
“I think it’s entirely down to the individual and their preference,” says Robert of people who filter profiles based on age. “It’s not for me to judge those who will only meet guys with beards, over a certain height, hairy chests or age – the options on the apps are there to provide a service to the individual user.”
Robert argues that age is just a number, and thinks that other aspects of a potential partner are more important to him than their age.
“You can meet a 25-year-old who acts like a 12-year-old and you can meet a 25-year-old who acts like they are 45,” he believes. “It’s about the individual, their life experience, their independence, exposure to the world, attitude, confidence, and how they approach life in its entirety.”
Paul says that when he used apps he would filter out profiles based on age. “I would tend to filter out the older profiles, so maximum age of 57 or 58. If I was somebody looking for me, I wouldn’t have found me, and therein lies the irony.”
So does he think age is just a number? “My experience is that it’s people who are older that tend to say that, rather than people who are younger. I think age is more of a mentality and an attitude.”
Regarding his own relationship, he feels this rule also applies. “Probably in terms of attitude, I’m a little bit younger than Cedric is,” reflects Paul. “He’s a bit more conservative and a bit more slow and steady. I think I’m a bit more liberal and childish sometimes.”
There can be hurdles to overcome for couples who break the “never date anyone under half your age plus seven” rule.
Having different life experiences might be a blessing for a relationship rather than a curse, with maturity and attitude seemingly playing a more important role than the year your partner was born.
Perhaps now is the time to open our minds to dating a person, rather than a number.
In this scene for Say Uncle, Derek Allen and Jack Bailey turn up the heat pool-side.
In this role-play, Jack is Derek’s nephew. Derek knows he shouldn’t cross that line, but young Jack is making it clear exactly what he wants. It’s an offer that Derek finds impossible to resist.