Maybe age is just a number, but if you’re dating a younger partner or considering pursuing one, it’s important to consider certain questions before taking things further. Depending on what you want in life and in your relationships — from sexual desires to children to emotional fulfillment — there are crucial considerations to keep in mind when it comes to dating a younger partner with a considerable age gap.
While there are definite hurdles when it comes to dating a younger partner, Dr. Sarah E. Hill, a research psychologist and professor on sex and dating, says, “People with 10, 20, or more years between them can experience genuine romantic connections the same way people closer in age can.”
And despite heteronormative stereotypes (i.e., the classic May-December romance with the older man and the young ingenue), Hill says being in an age-gap relationship is a choice that is available to all.
“This isn’t a relationship choice that is just for heterosexual men or women, cisgendered women, or others who conform to a traditional gender binary,” she says.
What will help your relationship go the distance — or determine whether the connection is a temporary stop on your dating journey — is being honest with yourself and your partner, and asking the right questions.
“Entering into these relationships requires honesty and communication from both parties,” Hill says. “These are conversations that can be applied to any age-gap relationship, including yours.”
Even if the chemistry is electric, consider asking yourself — and your new love interest — the following questions to see if it’s truly the best fit for you.
What are my intentions in pursuing this relationship?
“Research finds this is one of the most important questions to ask before we enter any relationship, but it is particularly important to ask when pursuing non-traditional relationships,” Hill says. “Many enter these relationships with hidden assumptions about what these relationships mean.”
For example, is this a short-term relationship that exists to fulfil a sexual fantasy, or is this about wanting a real connection with someone?
“Knowing what your own intentions are will allow you to communicate your expectations and needs to your partner and allow them to communicate their needs to you,” Hill says.
How do I feel about the possibility of making more money than my partner?
“In our culture, older age tends to correspond with greater earning power,” Hill says. “Therefore, in most age-gap relationships, the older partner earns more money.” This is obviously a personal choice, but it’s a good idea to consider what that might mean in your relationship dynamics.
For example, are you comfortable with being able to afford travelling and picking up the tab more often than your partner? If you’re able to afford a house at this time in your life, are you OK with having fa partner who might not be in the same financial position as you? If not, then it might be time to call it quits.
How will I handle it if my younger partner wants to have (more) children?
Many people above the age of 30 already have children, so Hill says it’s important for both men and women who are already parents to consider whether or not they want to continue growing their family.
“If they are going to get into a relationship with a younger partner, do they want to have (more) children? Can they have (more) children? If they can no longer have children the old-fashioned way, how do they feel about non-traditional paths to becoming a parent?”
Am I emotionally prepared to be in a relationship around which stigmas still exist?
Although most Americans report that it is acceptable for older women to date younger men, according to Hill, double-standards do still exist. She cites an Ipsos survey of more than 1,000 Americans commissioned by Cougar Life, a Canadian-based dating site for empowered women that revealed that 71% of men and women reported being accepting of male-led age-gap relationships, while only 60% were accepting of female-led age-gap relationships.
“It’s important to be realistic about this double-standard before diving into these relationships and to make sure you’re prepared for the possibility that not everyone will support your decision,” Hill says. “For example, many people assume these relationships are purely about sex or money. It’s incredibly important that everyone is on the same page about the relationship expectations of all involved.”
And if you are somebody whose relationship doesn’t fit into a traditional cisgendered or heterosexual box, Hill says the aforementioned numbers would likely be even lower. “No matter how one identifies, LGBTQIA or heterosexual, it’s important to be cognisant about this double-standard before diving into these age-gap relationships and to make sure you’re prepared for the possibility that not everyone will support your decision.”
How do I see my relationship and life goals evolving in the next couple of years?
“Each of us is a work in progress and our needs and desires — both within our relationships, but also professionally and in our relationships with others — change as we mature,” Hill says. “In an age-gap relationship, there is a somewhat bigger risk of eventual misalignment since the two parties are at different life stages. It is important to think into the future to see whether there is the expectation of continued alignment despite the age difference.”
Because our needs and desires change as we mature, Hill says it is important to better understand your and your partner’s future expectations and where you fit in.
So before you take the relationship further, get clear on what your goals are for your life and relationships and be honest with yourself: Does your partner realistically fit within them? It’s important for you to keep true to what you want in a partner, no matter the age.