How Much Age Differences Do And Don't Matter In Relationships

People are still quick to judge when they see a couple with an obvious age gap, but does age matter in relationships?

couple with an age difference that doesn't matter in their relationship Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

We may be in the modern age of love and dating, yet many people still wonder whether or not an age difference matters in the best long-term relationships and marriages.

Does age matter in relationships?

Sure, it may, as age differences may mean a younger man or woman is in a different life-stage than the older woman or man they're in love with. For example, he may be retiring right when her career is in full force, or he may want to have children when she is happily enjoying her empty nest.


Research has shown that couples who are closer in age face a lower risk of divorce, but only slightly so. The basic fact remains that every couple faces some differences, regardless of either person's age, and those differences are not in and of themselves the factors that make or break a relationship in the long-run.

Age matters little in regard to how healthy or long-lasting a relationship will be because the keys to a happy, harmonious and consistently loving relationship lie elsewhere.

RELATED: How to Handle Age Differences In A Relationship


Healthy relationships depend on how a couple deals with their differences far more than what those particular differences are.

Here are four reasons why age difference means pretty much nothing, as explained by the four main ingredients that do go into healthy long-term relationships.

Four things that matter more than an age difference in relationship

1. The ability to resist the temptation to get mad.

Above all, in healthy relationships partners stay primarily in the calm zone. Angry outbursts risk saying things you really don't mean, as well as saying things that are mean.

Healthy couples resist the impulse to pound each other with anger in order to get what they want or get the other to stop doing what they don't want them to do. Instead, they step back and take a breath in order to calm down as soon as anger begins to rise up within themselves or within their partner by doing something like talking about a safer topic or by going to get a drink of water when a conversation first becomes heated.


When they return, they resume the conversation calmly and rationally, without resorting to bullying each other via anger.

2. The ability to use collaborative dialogue skills.

Healthy couples enjoy smooth-flowing conversations about even the most sensitive topics.

When she talks, she expresses her own thoughts, feeling and preferences with zero accusations or criticisms of her partner, and he listens to understand and enter her comments into his understanding of the situation. Similarly, when he talks, he too shares his perspectives with zero interpreting of his partner's thoughts, feelings or motives. He does zero telling her what to do or accusing her of being wrong about this or that, and as she listens, she aims to understand him rather than to disagree or prove what's wrong with what he is saying.

Healthy couples also enjoy an easy back and forth in their dialogue. Neither of them pontificates with long monologues. Rather, they toss the conversational ball back and forth.


They also resist the "I'm right, you're wrong" temptation. Instead, healthy partners consistently assume that both are generally right about what they say. That way their conversations together build mutual understandings and bring them closer as a team.

RELATED: Don't Let The Age Gap Define Your Relationship

3. The ability to use collaborative conflict resolution and problem-solving skills.

All couples have disagreements.

The issues may be big ones:

  • Should he retire?
  • Should they try to have a child?
  • Should she take a job in a different city?

Or the issues may be everyday smaller concerns:

  • If he is tall and she is short, how high should they hang the pictures on their walls since their eye-height differs dramatically?
  • Will he or she help with the laundry and share the responsibility for cooking and cleaning up the dishes after they eat?
  • Can dirty clothes be dropped on the floor or should they immediately be tossed into the hamper?

When partners in healthy relationships disagree, they share their concerns openly and listen to the other person's response, building mutual understandings through which they can then create mutually satisfying plans of action.


4. Oodles of positivity.

Healthy couples exude positivity. They frequently express positive thoughts and feelings to each, indicated through statements like: "I agree with ...," "I appreciate that ...," "I like when ...," "Thank you for ...," "I'm so glad to know ...," and "I love how ..."

They also exude positive energy through their actions. They help each other. They smile often. They touch and hug. They eye kiss, connecting with each other's souls as their eyes meet. Most likely, they also enjoy pleasurable sex together.

So, where does age come in?

It doesn't. Unless, of course, one person feels as though, because he or she is younger or older, these rules don't apply to him or her.


But the simple truth remains that refraining from interacting in anger, kindness in talking, respect in listening, cooperative decision-making and affection doled out freely need to be consistent contributions from both partners. That is an ageless truth.

These guidelines for emotional health apply to every couple no matter what their ages, because what sustains relationships is how you treat each other.

Want a healthy relationship? Pay attention to how you are treating your loved one and how your loved one treats you! Age difference your relationships should include the four ingredients listed above, and if it doesn't, you need to fix it, nix it, or be clear that what you are signing up for will include a host of difficult challenges for as long as the relationship lasts.

RELATED: The Perfect Age To Get Married, According To Science


Harvard-educated psychologist and marriage counselor Susan Heitler, Ph.D. teaches couples skills for relationships' success. Her book "The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage" teaches the how-to's of having healthy partnerships in full detail.