4 Questions To Ask Yourself When Entering an Age Gap Relationship

In this more egalitarian century, we’re encouraged (and pressured) to seek out equals in relationships. The reasoning behind it is sound: Age gaps inject complexity into our relationships. I just think they’re worth thinking about before we put the whole age gap thing into the bin.

I’ve had the pleasure of dating older and younger. And sleeping with older and younger, too. Although I don’t consider myself a resident expert on age gap dating (that’s Kayla), I do have some thoughts about getting into age gap relationships. Read on.


Are we at different places in our lives?

Often, the apprehension about an age gap relationship isn’t about The Number™. It’s about where people are in their lives and how that shapes the relationship dynamic.

Life stages are the story of where we are and where we’re going in life. Yes, part of it is where we stand on the career continuum or what our aspirations look like. But more than that, it includes life stages that are incompatible. Some people want to transition from working hard now so they can have children later. I visualize a future a safe distance away from children with lots of cats.

We can’t just discuss life stages that are certain like employment (or not) because love is about much more than that. Being in the same neighborhood of life doesn’t guarantee compatibility either. Someone working while finishing off a PhD is in a very different place compared to a sophomore, even if they’re both ‘in college’. A few years of life planning and experience can reshape a relationship.

So, always ask that question of a potential age gap relationship: Where are we, and where are we going? 

Now that I think about it, we should ask that of any relationship we’re starting. I’m guilty of not following my own advice.

How do our energy levels compare?

Growth brings a change in how much energy we have to do things. Everything. Most of us see our ability to do stuff wane over time, but there are exceptional people who get bolder with time. Either way, feeling like we can ‘keep up’ with our partners is key to success.

That energy isn’t limited to one domain, either. We have different tolerances for different activities. A person’s enthusiasm for sex might not match their interest for socialization. I’m trying to wind down how much work I do after eight frantic years in university, but some of my friends have just gotten their first big girl jobs. My bestie was afraid of answering emails until 26 and now thinks they’re kind of…fun?

Energy and how we manage it in a relationship matters a lot. What if an outdoorsy and sociable person is paired with someone who has an age-related impairment that keeps them indoors? Will someone feel burdened if their partner is aging and just can’t do as much? Is everyone on board with parenting labor if needed?

The energy balance in a relationship always matters, but age brings a ton of changes in how we experience things. I’m about to hit 30, and I’m still working out the gravity of my forever-disabled life while my slightly younger girlfriend is on her fitness kick. That raises feelings and questions.

Where’s the financial center of mass?

Money. The root of, and solution to all of my problems. Onlookers often worry about material influence on an age gap relationship. It’s not unwarranted. We know exactly what happens when a materially advantaged group can wield that power in relationships and marriage.

I won’t presume that older partners in a relationship are wealthier by default. It’s often true, but not always. What I can presume is that all else being equal, age gap relationships are likelier to have a financial gap. It’s often because older people have better established finances, but don’t knock off the possibility of someone young coming into or from money either.

Finances have a way of establishing or devastating relationships. They can shape a relationship right from the start if one person pays for all the outings and offers to move someone in. I’m not the only one who’s made jokes about needing a sugar mommy lately, but those statements can have severe consequences in implementation.

Working through these questions is necessary in any relationship, but goes double for age gaps. These aren’t just different numbers on bank statements, but potential clashes in spending informed by life experience and worldviews. Get it wrong, and a relationship is torched.

What are the power dynamics?

People in age gap relationships often have to defend our relationships. The most common concern is that the younger party is being exploited. That’s a valid concern, but I read Foucault in postgrad. This makes me an insufferable prick who thinks everything can be examined in terms of linked power dynamics.

So I’m not going to close off by saying we should consider power dynamics in age gap relationships. Because we should do that for anyone we date.

I actually want to end off by saying…if you’re looking at an age gap relationship, follow your heart but keep your eyes open. Life’s coming at us fast, and us queers know we can’t always change other people’s minds. But we can make an earnest decision to love people even in the face of complexity. So the most important consideration is still: Can we make it happen?

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 38 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. I am 15 years older than my partner and our relationship is a mutual delight. However, I have entered perimenopause and I get so hot in bed, whereas she runs cold and needs loads of blankets in winter. It’s a problem haha and most certainly uniquely age-gap related. However, I’m sure it’s not insurmountable!

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