The cliché saying, “love is blind,” may sound overdone, but many relationships hold this deems to be true. In many circumstances worldwide, gaps in relationships don’t tend to be unheard of. Whether you’re one year apart or fifteen years apart, there may be an undeniable affection and chemistry between one another that speaks louder than numbers. Do you connect with someone based on emotional connection? Have you fallen in love with their mental age instead of physical? Or is physical age a huge factor for you when deciding on a relationship? These questions and more need to be answered when finding your true love.
What is an Age Gap?
Generally speaking, an age gap is a difference in age between two people. This can be in your family, such as between a parent or sibling, a friendship, or it can be a difference of age in your relationship.
In a relationship, an age gap is usually defined by couples where one person is significantly a certain amount of years or older than the other. An age gap relationship is demarcated with an age discrepancy of ten or more years between the partners.
In heterosexual relationships, it seems to be more prominent when the male is older than the female. From U.S Census Bureau data as of 1999, it was reported that 8.5% of married couples are in age-gap relationships, with 7.2% of that percentage being males older than the females. Since then, it is safe to say that decades later age gap structures are still around.
However, this dynamic can sometimes be frowned upon because an age gap allows for generational differences such as imbalances in life goals. It can also be because it “looks” like there’s an age gap.
The cause for the feelings of criticism can stem from the stigmatism of “trophy wives” and “marrying for money instead of love.” But those who are in committed relationships with age gaps can vouch against this.
Overall, age gap relationships started with a negative reputation. And the less common an age gap relationship, the more negative the reputation. This is not the case for every couple, especially those who can see past an age gap.
The Difference Between Physical Age and Mental Age
What is Physical Age?
Physical age, also called chronological age, is a measure of a person’s age based on the day, month, and year they were born. It’s an age in terms of structure rather than function. Of course, this is known as the birthday. This is typically what you give when asked how old you are as well as what is shown on your ID and used to purchase cigarettes, lotto tickets, alcoholic beverages, etc.
What is Mental Age?
Mental age is based on your intellectual development. It’s a measure of a person’s mental fulfillment based on the chronological age at which an average individual reaches the same level of attainment.
Mental age can also relate to psychological age, because it is an emotional age dependent on ability to cope with circumstances and self-awareness.
It is possible to act more mature or immature than their chronological age. For example, a child’s mental age can be average for their physical age because they are still developing, along with their bodies. However, it is possible for a child’s emotional intelligence to be more immature for their physical age.
This goes for kids and adults alike. Girls tend to mature faster than boys, as their brains are as much as two years ahead during puberty. The reason for slow development can be due to many things such as environmental pressures, lack of physical activity, social disconnection, always being on social media, and even poor nutrition. This lag in development reaches to the adult age and it can easily affect how a person acts mentally, especially in a relationship.
On the contrary, positive stimulation in the brain can help rapidly mature someone, making them seem older than they actually are, therefore finding it easier to connect with someone of a different (older) age).
Does Age Difference Matter When it Comes to Love?
Although age gap relationships are questioned regularly, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Take a look at celebrity relationships. Many famous couples have age gaps, and the average person on the outside looking in may not even question it because they don’t notice the age difference. Some celebrities with an age difference of ten years or more include:
Priyanka Chopra & Nick Jonas (11 years)
Jay-Z & Beyoncé (12 Years)
George Clooney & Amal Clooney (17 years)
Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones (25 years)
Sarah Paulson & Holland Taylor (31 years)
David Foster & Katharine McPhee (35 years)
Many fans will look at these relationships and not even realize how far these age gaps are. These celebrity couples are in committed, happy relationships and no one will bat an eye. So, although it may seem normal for celebrities, it sometimes seems weird for an average couple.
According to a study of age gaps and marital satisfaction, the larger the age gap between the couple, the more dissatisfaction reported, meaning it seems to be more challenging to maintain a happy and healthy relationship with a bigger age gap. However, that does not mean it’s impossible!
When discussing age gaps, it’s important to acknowledge the gap, because it’s not something you can simply look the other way with. Even if you and your partner choose to ignore it, not everyone will. It’s real, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Ways to Bridge the Age Gap
Discuss Your Differences
An age gap can include generational differences, meaning you’re also in different developmental stages and grew up with different plans or goals. While one may be focused on their career, the other may be focused on having a family. Make those clear and discuss what those differences may be. You will not see eye-to-eye on everything, which is normal. However, it is up to you to see your partner’s perspective on things and understand where they’re coming from.
Talk Long Term
With age gaps, you’ll need to talk about your health, since aging is inevitable. Once that time comes where the health starts to deteriorate, you’ll have to be prepared to be a caretaker. You’ll have to give up certain activities, take on extra household duties, and be expected to devote much of your free time to helping your aged partner. Make sure you’re committed to doing this ahead of time. This way, you save yourself time and don’t waste your partner’s time when they need someone most.
Understand Maturity is More than a Number
As discussed before, mental age is different from physical age. How you see your partner on the inside can be different. They can act more mature than their age, or you could connect with them because they’re older and they are already at the mature level you like. Your partner is a full-grown adult and you cannot shape, teach, or mold them to be something different. You need to love them for them and not someone they can be. It’s also best to not make fun of their age. For example, if your partner is old, don’t call them “old-timer” or “boomer.” If they’re younger, don’t say you’re “rocking the cradle.” It’s more insulting than funny.
Find Your Mutual Interests
Talk with your partner to find common interests. Then you can focus your time on doing the things you love together, growing your relationship stronger. But also don’t be afraid to try something your partner enjoys. This may become one of your new favorite activities too. You can also meet each other’s friends. Socializing with different generations can also help you expand your interests and create a better sense of comfort. It will feel stimulating and empowering for both parties. Doing activities together will help you explore each other’s worlds and become more involved in each other’s lives.
Age and love can seem like a tricky circumstance, but it should not be something though too much about. Overthinking can lead to more problems than solutions. If you and your partner truly love each other, then it will not matter their looks, size, or age. If you love someone, you are more focused on their mental maturity. It is up to you to decide what you can look past for love.