When Jennifer and Charles met online, she was a little hesitant to pursue a relationship, because Charles, at 60, was seven years older than she. We are both glad that she didn’t let a number stand in the way of true love, but we recognize that age can matter, and it may it be a concern for you as you seek a partner.
In the United States today, most married couples consist of spouses who are within a year of each other’s age, or a husband who is two to three years older than his wife. Despite all the jokes about “cougars,” who are women involved with much younger men, most women select a mate who is the same age or older, sometimes considerably older. This can become something of a problem as we age, since women tend to outlive men, and the dating pool of older men shrinks over time. While the longevity gap between men and women is closing a bit (average life span for men is 76 years, while it is 83 years for women), it is still substantial.
Because our society still supports the image of the older man and younger woman, there aren’t huge numbers of women dating men several decades their junior. It is more likely that a man will have a younger partner in a male-female relationship. Regardless of statistics, as you consider dating partners, you will probably think about the age range that is comfortable for you.
There are many factors to consider. We all know two people who are roughly the same biological age who seem to be from different generations – the 60-year-old who is fit, vibrant, and engaged in life, as opposed to the 60-year-old who seems ready for the rocking chair on the front porch as a full-time pursuit. When we recently conducted a workshop on Sex and Dating After 60, a couple of the gentleman participants said they were willing to date women their own age (about 70) but they couldn’t find any 70-year-old women who were able to engage in the kind of vigorous activities they enjoy, such as hiking and mountain biking. A 45-year-old partner might be a better match for these youthful seniors!
If you are considering becoming involved with someone who is quite a bit older or younger, it’s essential to be honest with yourself and each other about the challenges that may bring. What will a 15-year age difference look like 20 years from now? Is the issue of having children still on the table for either partner? Will the differences in values and experiences between age levels be a problem? How will you handle aging (your own and your partner’s)? Do you have similar goals and expectations? Are your sexual needs compatible? Will it be weird if your partner is close to the same age as your children?
Certainly couples with moderate or large age differences can have happy, healthy, fulfilling relationships. That is more likely to happen if you give the relationship time to mature before committing to each other, and keep your eyes open to what the age gap may mean in the long run.
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."
Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:
Who Pays for What on a Date
Starting a New Relationship Before Your Kids Are Grown
Why You Need a Relationship Roadmap
Living with Pets and a New Partner
Exploring New Roles
Rowing Through Life Together
Let’ Talk About Sex
Helping Your Adult Children Accept Your New Partner
In Sickness and In Health
Step-Grandparenting Can Be Grand
Enjoy Life Together
Online Dating for the Older Set
Enjoying the Single Life
Sex in Midlife Relationships: Complicated but Wonderful!
Upgrade Your Communication Skills