The average age difference between partners has generally been around three years. But sometimes love can be age-blind. As such, May-December relationships are not unheard of, thanks, in some part, to society's burgeoning acceptance of age gaps. Spouses usually have more in common and share similar belief systems when their age difference is just several years, but whenever a significant age gap exists, couples are more likely to have different life goals and perspectives, which may prove the two people incompatible long term (although it's not a given). We rounded up some age-gap relationship advice to help ensure your relationship is successful and holds up over time.
Read on for some ways to handle your relationship if there's a significant age gap between you and your partner.
Although this applies to any relationship, an awareness of your partner's expectations is particularly important when you're far apart in age. An older man may want his younger partner to birth a child, for example, while the woman may be more focused on financial security. At the relationship's outset, and during its course, honestly share and discuss your expectations to avoid miscommunication.
If you're struggling with merging life expectations due to an age gap but don't want to walk away just yet, consider having a few sessions of couple's therapy to work through the issues.
Accept the Differences
From interests to perspectives, chances are you will encounter many differences with your partner. One difference that's especially salient in May-December relationships is being in different developmental stages in life. While one partner may be riding out the wave of a well-developed career, the other might be focused on the hustle of building theirs. Instead of trying to force your partner to conform to the lifestyle that your particular stage requires, be supportive of where they are in theirs.
Consider Your Role as Caretaker
At some point, an aging spouse may need long-term health care and may no longer be able to do certain things that you both enjoy. Ask yourself whether, as the younger partner in the relationship, you're prepared to be a caretaker, give up certain activities, face the possibility of living a celibate life, and take on extra household duties. Sure, you may not hesitate to say "yes" now, but will that still be the case in five, 10, or 20 years? It's important to be completely honest with yourself in this situation, and, depending on the seriousness of your relationship, discuss such possibilities with your partner.
Know That Maturity Is Relative
You must view your partner as a full-grown adult, rather than someone to teach, shape, or mold. No one wants to be scolded or patronized for acting a certain way or saying certain things—especially when you're the one who's older and making admonishments in the name of age-earned wisdom and experience. Likewise, if you're the younger person, avoid referring to your partner as "boomer," "old-timer," or any other turn of phrase that implies their outlook is too traditional or passé. Age alone isn't the only barometer of maturity.
Identify Mutual Interests
Equalize the age gap by focusing on your mutual interests. Spend time doing things you both love, and your difference in age will seemingly melt away. Meeting each others' friends (and socializing with different generations) can be stimulating and empowering for both parties. Explore each others' worlds by trying new things, meeting new people, and being more involved in each others' lives.
Create Some Space
Keep in mind that balance is essential. Take time to yourself for recharging and introspection and also to hang out with friends or partake in activities that don't magnetize your partner. Maintaining a sense of individuality within your relationship can be just as important as cultivating common interests and shared experiences.
Whatever you do, don't allow your age gap to become the elephant in the room. Instead, openly and honestly communicate concerns (age-related or otherwise) and work to find mutually acceptable solutions to issues. Just as with any other relationship, communication is key to the health and wellness of your union.
Respect the Relationship
If the two of you are fighting a lot, chances are age isn't solely to blame. A strong emotional and physical connection is the most important part of any relationship regardless of age, gender, and cultural differences. Be confident in your decision to be in a relationship with someone much older or younger and understand that, like any other relationship, things can go smoothly or awry—and that isn't necessarily a byproduct of an age gap.
Drefahl S. How Does the Age Gap Between Partners Affect Their Survival?. Demography. 2010;47(2):313-26. doi:10.1353/dem.0.0106