How to Handle Age Differences in a Relationship


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There's Hope for Cougars and Geezers Alike!

In today’s society, an older man dating a younger woman draws very little attention; if anything, a smirk, but little else. [We’re not talking Grandad with Teenager - that’s going to draw more than a glance.] On the other hand, an older woman with a much younger man still causes a few heads to turn, elbow nudges and knee jerk reaction in a number of quarters. Regardless of which sex is older, know that big age difference in relationships can be adroitly handled.

Age really is a state of mind as couples with huge age gaps have shown for centuries. Some May/December marriages have outlasted many of their same-age rivals, due solely to the hard work, love and respect put into them. However, to assume that age disparity is irrelevant would be ludicrous.

From the older partner’s standpoint, whether male or female, care must be given to allow the younger partner to be their authentic self, warts and all. No partner enjoys being “remade” unless they have expressed a desire to be or given consent. There is a huge difference between guiding someone socially and knowingly remodeling them from top to bottom.

The older person should also understand that there may very well be a large gap in their own emotional maturity versus their younger partner’s. However, age alone is no barometer of emotional maturity. There are twenty year olds who are emotionally forty, just as there are fifty year olds who display the emotional maturity of teenagers. Nonetheless, the younger partner’s feelings should never be mocked nor repudiated.

While certainly not always true, when dealing with a big age difference in relationships, the older partner generally will have developed stronger communication skills by virtue of having lived longer. The ability to communicate effectively, whether lovingly or comprehensively during disagreements plays a huge role in the duration of partnerships. A wise older partner should be mindful of not talking “above” or condescendingly “down” to the younger partner.

Couples who are compatible enhance each other’s lives in numerous ways. Those with the same goals, attitudes and activities are drawn to one another more often than those with divergent interests. Consequently, sameness, in all societies is a bonding mechanism which intrinsically unites people. The older partner should therefore recognize that youth, being what it is, is more active than sedentary and find as many activities and situations where compatibility can be demonstrated.

From a younger person’s standpoint, again whether male or female, respect and appreciation for the older person’s abilities, intelligence, life experiences and successes and endurance are key. Viewing one’s partner as “old” is quite different than viewing that same partner as “older.”

The younger partner should bare in mind that their loved one may not have the same physical stamina and vitality which the younger one exhibits and make allowances for some activities. That may sound “ageist,” but a sixty-two year old woman might find it difficult to even eke out excitement at the prospect of accompanying a 35 year old man down the ski slopes, just as a 75 year old man would probably find it daunting to go roller-blading with his forty year old lady love or white water rafting in Costa Rica.

Unfortunately, since prejudice exists in all shapes and forms and is a common everyday occurrence despite the strides having been made in the last several decades, neither partner should be surprised at the vehemence with which family members greet a big age difference in relationships. Either be prepared to face them head on with resilience, or move on, knowing the loss is theirs and not yours.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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