Falling in love comes naturally and sometimes you just can’t help who you choose – whether the person is quite older, or younger than yourself. Skeptic’s tend to say it won’t work out; however, couples who are in these relationships report there are several ways to make it work.
“I have seen couples with significant age differences bridge that gap,” relationship expert Rachel A. Sussman, LCSW, told Insider. “They have to have a sense of humor and be comfortable discussing the pitfalls. I also think it works well when the younger partner is very mature for his/her age, and the older partner is playful and perhaps a bit immature.”
However, others including Sussman believer there is such thing as “too much” of an age difference. “The more a couple has in common, the greater the likelihood they’ll last,” she said. “But when you’re looking at a 30-year or more age difference, that’s a huge generational difference, and those couples may struggle with certain issues that would be difficult to transcend.”
Insider chose to dig further into the subject by asking real couples with significant age differences to find out how they make their relationships work. Here is what they discovered:
“My husband is 13 years my senior. We make the relationship work with mature wine, cheese, and conversation — we talk about everything, laugh hysterically, and forgive quickly. Because we are both professionals, we often negotiate and find arrangements that are as close to win-win as possible. Successfully agreeing to disagree when necessary has helped our marriage thrive, as well. Albert and I fully acknowledge that we may not have 50 years together, so we are on a mission to make as many fond memories as possible with one another and our children (and eventually their spouses and children).” – Lisa (48) and Albert (61)
Carol (54) and Guy (35) believe accepting your differences is the way to go in a large age difference. She says: “My husband and I are 19 years apart; we were 21 and 40 when we started dating. It works because I gave up the notion that because I was older, I knew better, and how to love or guide a relationship better than him. We’ve been together for 14 years (married for two) … We respect each other in every way. We are very different; opposite in so other many ways than our age. But we have found a balance in providing what the other needs, and that includes space: Space to be our true selves, warts and all; space to commune with friends separately; space to have differing opinions on faith. But always, together, we fundamentally know we support each other in a way no other could.”
A third couple believes compromising is very important in this particular type of relationship, stating: “Jake and I have been together for over 21 years. Our age difference has never really been an issue. Maybe at the very start, though I was more mature for my age so that probably helped. Our relationship differences are more about our personality differences — whether it’s hobbies and interests, introvert versus extrovert, cynical (I prefer ‘realistic’ or ‘practical’) versus upbeat, etc. These differences can be a source of frustration and annoyance, but when you learn to embrace and appreciate the differences, you realize they are what balance things out and lead to a more fulfilling and well-rounded life.
“No matter what the age difference, you both have to accept each other for who you are, including all those things that drive you absolutely bonkers (remembering that the grass is always greener until you get to that side; that’s when you realize it has its own weeds). It’s about compromise, being honest and communicative about what you’re feeling, and every now and then doing something you’d rather not (or wouldn’t normally) do.” – Keith (42) and Jake (52)
While majority of these suggestions are quite typical for all relationships, other pieces of advice go further into detail, explaining that keeping things exciting is key to a successful relationship.
“I am 16-17 years older than my boyfriend, Tom, but when we met, we each thought the other person was in their mid-thirties. He has a beard and looks older than he is, and I look younger than my age, so we look closer in age than we are. But I tend to date younger guys (a few exes were a year, two years, and 10 years younger). In our society, men seem, traditionally, to be much older (15 years or so) than the women they date, and no one notices; but when the woman is older, they do.
“Tom and I are in a long-distance relationship (he’s in England and I’m in the US). We do one month in London, one in America (New York and Miami), and then meet in fun places around the world in between. This, too, may help our relationship work; it’s always new and fun and exciting. -Reyna (46) and Tom (28)