Is age just a number when it comes to love?

Aoibhín Bryant

Relationships with a large age gap can sometimes end in flames.

The phenomenon of age gap relationships expands across the globe and probably began at the dawn of civilisation. This is expected to happen. We are people and we end up making connections with others regardless of age, gender or race. But I believe that, as a precaution, we should be wary of the May-December romance and the problems it may bring, from a practical point and a rather more sinister one.

Of course, not all relationships with a significant age gap between the two partners are going to end in flames. There are plenty of people who have built a foundation of love and trust despite a 10-year difference between them and I am not here to say that they should break up immediately and find someone else their own age. However, the statistics are not friendly to this form of romance.

According to a study by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, relationships with a five-year age gap are have an 18 per cent chance of ending up in divorce. When you double that age gap to 10 years, couples are 39 per cent more likely to divorce and with an age gap of 20 years, the rate staggeringly rises to 95 per cent.

From a practical point, this makes sense. In age gap relationships, the people are at different stages of their lives. In a case where one person is in their fifties and the other person is around 35, obvious problems are going to rise.  If the younger partner wants to settle down and have a family, the older person may have children already and not want to go through the process again. These key incompatibilities are more likely to rear their heads in these relationships.

Of course, we have to look at relationships where the age gap can create an unequal power dynamic. Obviously, a person at age 45 going out with someone age 50 is not going to faze many, but a five-year difference between a 20-year-old and a 15-year-old is very strange and also illegal. Even a 23-year-old dating an 18-year-old where it is technically legal is a strange sight for many, and rightly so.

The experiences and maturation one endures through the years of 18 to 23 is huge and although there isn’t a huge gap between the two people number wise, there is a vast disparity in relation to their mentality. The younger person in a lot of age gap relationships can be quite vulnerable as their older companion can take advantage of their innocence and inexperience.

The rule of thumb to determine if the age gap is socially acceptable is to divide your age and add seven. As a 21-year-old myself, this indicates that I can go out with a 17-and-a-half-year-old and it would be passable. From a personal standpoint, the thought of going out with someone aged 17 is very off putting. 17 year olds are really annoying because, well, they’re 17 and still teenagers.

I’m sure this is not a rare outlook on behalf of other 21 year olds out there. Also, if you’re 18 and a 24-year-old is interested in you romantically, ask yourself this one question: “Why can’t they talk to people their own age?”. It’s a serious red flag if an adult prefers the company of teenagers and I suggest you run.

To conclude, although age is technically just a number, with that number there is connotations of incidents and developments that make a healthy age-gap relationship difficult to attain.

Aoibhín Bryant

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