Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas; Amal and George Clooney; Beyoncé and Jay-Z. None of these killer couples have let age stand in the way of a relationship that they knew was right. And neither should you.
That doesn't mean that it's all that easy, though. Between societal pressures and differing milestones, a couple that is made up of two individuals from differing decades might just have to try a little harder to make it work for the long haul. Experts believe that if you put the work in from the beginning, however, it might actually make for a happier and healthier relationship than many with no age gap at all between partners.
Experts often try to identify the ideal age gap between romantic partners. And while a May-December relationship might raise a few eyebrows, specialists believe that, though not always ideal, they can absolutely work when the match is right.
What Is a May-December Relationship?
A May-December romance is a term for a romantic relationship between two people with a considerable age difference. Note that this is more than just an age gap, which can mean any age difference, even if it's a gap of only just a few years.
The name comes from the difference between the seasons, with May signifying youth and December a stand-in for old age.
To get to the bottom of the relationship ingredients, and learn about what helps those with a larger age gap make it work, MyDomaine spoke with Social Worker Ruschelle Khanna. Khanna shared that a one- to five-year age gap between partners is ideal. But, as we are told time and time again, love is blind. It is certainly not exact science.
Meet the Expert
Ruschelle Khanna is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. She has over 20 years of experience working with couples and individuals on a wide range of issues.
Psychotherapist Matt Lundquist offered MyDomaine an additional perspective, adding, "There are certain obvious criteria—raising children, growing older together, how different career and life transitions align—that can pose challenges." But when prepared for, they are challenges that can not only be overcome, but actually work to the benefit of the couple overall.
Meet the Expert
Matt Lundquist, LCSW, MSEd is a psychotherapist with more than a decade of clinical experience with individuals, couples, and families. He is the founder and clinical director of Tribeca Therapy.
Lundquist cautions that individuals shouldn't get bogged down by rules and expectations, however. He shares, "People can make all sorts of relationships work. There's a good deal of talk about having a lot in common as an asset in relationships, but differences can be just as sustaining with the right attitude and effort." So what are the challenges facing relationships with large age gaps, and what can couples facing these challenges do to reinforce their bond?
Ahead, our two relationship experts give us the lowdown on May-December romances.
Can Relationships With Large Age Gaps Work?
Experts believe that May-December romances might actually be beneficial to laying the groundwork for more stable relationships later on. "In some ways, relationships where there are obvious differences can benefit from the fact that they require thoughtfulness and attention early on," explains Lundquist. "Couples with these differences must learn how to navigate things earlier in the game than others."
Despite age-gap challenges, Khanna also believes in the power of May-December relationships. "Age is one of the least likely factors to happiness in a relationship," she says. "Relationships are made happy when they are based on trust, commitment, and understanding and respecting the other person's experiences. There is evidence that relationships with age gaps present are actually happier than the average." They've often taken more care to put in the work, and their work is thus rewarded.
And, beyond a relationship with a large age gap, even similarly-aged individuals can benefit from this extra care. Finding point to connect on and find interest in one another's lives, past what you might know a lot about yourself, is a great way to build a strong bond from the get-go.
What Challenges Do May-December Relationships Face?
While experts agree that relationships with large age gaps can work, that doesn't mean they aren't without challenges. "Perception of friends, family, and strangers is by far the biggest challenge," says Lundquist. Khanna also believes that May-December relationships can face challenges of social disapproval, which can put a strain on the relationship. "Blending families can be a challenge for couples with large age gaps," she notes. "Navigating the integration of siblings of vastly different ages can present many problems for which families may need to seek help."
Outside of the disapproval of others, experts also agree that the couple may face challenges related to life changes, such as career paths and chronic illness due to aging. These are all factors to be aware of when entering relationships with large age gaps.
Those in May-December relationships must both prepare for those obstacles as well as use them to their benefit. As stated earlier by Lundquist, the building blocks might, indeed, have been stronger from day one and it's a foundation that will have to be relied upon later on. Don't allow others to deter what you know you've worked hard to achieve.
What Can People Do to Strengthen Their Relationship?
"There are multiple things couples can do to strengthen the bond in their relationships, starting with being curious about one another. "Proactively seek out common interests," says Khanna. "Work on building memories and experiences together that support a relationship from growing apart." Lundquist agrees: "Learn to have discussions about all the things that need to be sorted," he says. "It's incredibly important. Ignoring awkward stares and critical comments is also a big one."
Social pressure can take its toll on a May-December relationship so overcoming that challenge should be at the forefront of priorities. Khanna recommends you "find support to overcome social pressures as well as to improve the integration of your families."