Did you ever date someone much younger/older than you? How was it?
November 17, 2022 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in hearing peoples' experiences dating someone much younger/older than them. I'm interested in casual experiences, serious ones. Good ones, bad ones. What was good? What was bad? It it ongoing? Is there anything you wish had been different? Anything you are grateful for?

I ask in hopes that I can learn from the experiences of others in my own dating life - avoid mistakes, etc.
posted by LambSock to Human Relations (43 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What do you consider "much" younger or older. My wife is ten years older than I am but are you looking more for a Leo DiCaprio type situation?
posted by bondcliff at 10:45 AM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: (whatever "much younger/older" means for you)
posted by LambSock at 10:49 AM on November 17, 2022

I had a long-term partner (10 yrs older) in my mid-twenties. We ultimately separated but not for age-related reasons.

For me, it was often a useful look ahead to a later stage of life, esp. for someone with similar interests. For the same reasons, some of my enthusiasms were met with "been there, done that" responses.

We were both sort of bohemian in lifestyle, so that was not a strain, but I imagine it could be tricky for folks who expect their physical surroundings to reflect their age, income, and "station" in life.
posted by Piso Mojado at 10:59 AM on November 17, 2022

I dated a 26-year-old when I was 19, which was not a huge absolute age gap but was quite a large relative one. It was fine, it was a good and positive relationship, but there were... maybe two things that I would take away specifically about the age difference:

- We recognized, from the start, that it was very unlikely to be a "forever" relationship, and indeed it was not. The amount of growth and change I experienced (and most people in that band experience) was tremendous, and definitely made me want to have a variety of experiences and live on my own and explore some different things. If we had stayed together much longer, it might well have ended in a way that meant we couldn't stay friends.

- It was super helpful on a lot of levels to move from my parents' house into the house of someone who had some experience Being an Adult, and I learned a ton, but I did also chafe somewhat at always being the person in the relationship who was Learning, and never Teaching. It was, genuinely, a power imbalance, and while my partner never abused it, it was also pretty inescapable and would not have been sustainable long term. (This was definitely one of the factors that led into point #1 above.)

I'm not currently dating across an age gap, but I have some relatively recent friends who are in their early-mid 20s to my early 40s, and we have talked about this. I've been pretty careful to balance our "teaching" or "mentoring" moments with genuinely equal, just-for-fun moments. I love being able to help them apply for jobs or learn to use power tools or whatnot, but I also really want to be able to just gossip and watch movies or whatever. I think it's possible to have a healthy, sustainable relationship across that particular gap, but it requires a lot of mindfulness, communication, and understanding of where the unavoidable power imbalances are. For example, I'm teaching one friend to use power tools, which is great! I am doing this because I have a house with a workshop space in the basement and a collection of tools I have accumulated over 20 years. She doesn't have access to any of this in her daily life, and won't, probably, for quite a while.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:01 AM on November 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

I've never dated anyone much older than me, but I've had serious, long-term relationships with folks 10+ years my junior, two of which are multi-year and ongoing.

One thing I find particularly true is that after ~25, when brain development is pretty much done, numerical age is a much less useful indicator than a person's background, life experience and generational cohort. My experiences have been generally positive, but there are definitely some communication differences that can arise due to various factors. I highly recommend Because Internet for some fascinating discussion of how age is often not the biggest factor here.

I'm most grateful for the fact that having intimate relationships with people with more varied background and life experiences have given me opportunities to broaden my horizons. I can't say there's anything I regret too much, but considering my life choices have led me to be the person that I am now, it's sort of a hard question to answer. While it's great to learn from others experiences, nobody's will be the same as yours and there's no better way to learn what's right for you than making your own mistakes. So much of my life which I value the most at this point I got to by deliberately going against conventional wisdom, so if I wouldn't suggest trying to avoid mistakes so much as I would suggest trying to live authentically and doing your best to learn from it when things don't go the way you want.
posted by Cogito at 11:03 AM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

My experience as a woman in her early twenties in a long-term relationship with a man who was 7 years older than me was bad, but I don't think it had anything to do with age. We broke up because he was an abusive, dishonest, selfish person.

I regret thinking that older means more mature/always right because of more life experience.

I think how much an age gap makes a difference lessens the older you both are.
posted by sm1tten at 11:04 AM on November 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

My wife is 10 years younger than I am. After a decade together, it is working out just fine.

The issue is that a decade difference is relative. A 28 year old dating an 18 year old is almost (but not always) guaranteed to be a predatory relationship and/or result in some insurmountable power imbalances. An 80 year old dating a 70 year old is just life. The general rule/joke is the old "divide by two plus seven." So a 40 year old should be careful dating folks under 27.

The trick seems to be to find somebody who is at the same point in their life in terms of career, experiences, expectations, kids, etc. By age 30 and 40 when we met, we were both setup in our respective careers, had a decent idea of what we wanted in a partner, and probably most importantly, both of us had "Fuck You!" money and could bail if things did not work out.
posted by SegFaultCoreDump at 11:05 AM on November 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

Ok. I guess I qualify.

I met my wife when i was 24 and she was 34. We started dating right when I turned 25. At the time 10 years seemed like a lot of years and I think it kept us both from dating for a bit.

When I moved in with her shortly before we got married she already had All The Stuff. So it kind of felt like her place until we bought a house and then it was a bit more of our stuff.

Age was almost never an issue unless matters of pop culture came up. I was big into the Simpsons (this was the 1990s) and she had never seen it. I was listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (at the time...) and she liked John Denver. A lot of this stuff was more who she was (and who I was) and less about the years, but the years did have something to do with it. She's still not really big on pop culture stuff.

Now I am Very On-Line and she is Not Very On-Line. Again, that's more about the people we are and less about our age, but some of it is about age. She doesn't "get" Twitter. I don't "get" TikTok the way someone ten years younger than me might. But plenty of people my age get TikTok. It's hard to say.

She was more mature than I was and I think she helped me grow up a bit.

A lot of the friends she had when we met were older than she was and now they are also my friends. I am (almost) 53 and have friends in their 70s. We all got together for dinner a while back and way too much of the conversation was about Medicare.

What is starting to matter now that we have been married 25 years, and what didn't really matter then, is we are at different periods in our lives. She's ready to retire, I've still got more years of working. She is also showing signs of her age more than I am. She gets tired faster, she can't hike as fast or as far. She's still in shape, she still tries to be active, but less than she used to. She has more health issues than I do. It's tough knowing I may be watching her decline. None of these would be issues if you're just looking to casually date people but it's something to think about if you're looking to be with someone long term.

None of this matters in the grand scheme of things. We could both be in our 20s and one of us could get sick and we'd have the same issues.

I have absolutely no regrets. Am am still absolutely as attracted to her, in every possible way, as I've ever been. In fact probably more so.

I guess my point is that we got together because we were compatible. The age stuff really doesn't come into play all that much or, if it does, it's usually something that could always have been an issue if we were closer in age.

If you're looking to date someone but age is holding you back, just go for it. It doesn't matter unless it's like, a creepy sort of difference. Like Leo.
posted by bondcliff at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2022 [15 favorites]

I dated two men 12 and 15 years older than me when I was a young woman in my early/mid 20s. With both men I eventually had the realization: I thought he liked me because I’m so mature, but he really liked me because he’s so immature.

One was, in retrospect, a sleazy guy with substance abuse issues who exclusively dated younger party girls and crossed a lot of boundaries. He was a terrible boyfriend and we broke up because he cheated on me with another one of those girls. The other guy, I call him immature because he didn’t have his life together in a way that was probably unappealing for most women his age, but he was a really nice guy and we had an amicable breakup when he moved to another city. We are still friendly and respect each other.
posted by vanitas at 11:27 AM on November 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

(It's interesting how exactly 10 years seems to be so common!)

My wife and I got together when I was 29 and she was 39 -- we were both divorced, kids, life goals in similar directions, and we've made it work with the usual relationship issues. The age gap wasn't that significant.

One of our common jokes is she remembers stuff from high school and college, and I'll helpfully point out that I was in the 3rd grade at that time. There's movies/tv shows I remember fondly that she recalls as "I was out at the bars, I wasn't sitting at home watching sitcoms". The 1990s were about the same for both of us though.

Now that we're getting older, I'm 48 and she's 58, so her looking at retirement while I'm still in the middle of careerhood, has added an unexpected facet to things. We seem to be at the point where we're aging at different rates, she seems to be more affected by old-age stuff than I currently am (but I'm sure is on the way for me).

(On review, things are a lot like bondcliff)
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:30 AM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

I had what I thought was a pretty serious relationship in my early 20s with a man who was 40, though he in cagey ways I never actually found out how old he was until the end of the relationship. It was a thrill for me, largely because he was a jazz musician and had lots of musician friends, and he always made a big fuss over me. Looking back (this was the early '80s, so no internet or cell phones) I was really, really naive, because so much of how he related to me, with gaps in time together never clicked for me that - wait for it - he was actually married. Not happily, obviously, but married nevertheless, and with children. I knew about the kids but never met them; this struck me as strange, since he professed to want a future with me, but as I say, it never dawned on me. (All those musician friends knew and they all kept his secret, which I think is despicable.) This actually went on for close to 2 years, but here were other problems, it was clear that the relationship would not satisfy me, and I broke it off. He was in love with me and took it badly, but I can't invest in a liar.

So basically it was an unequal relationship based on experiences - and honesty - but I learned a lot. I'm not quite sure I regret it, but I do still feel a sense of betrayal. This is probably not all about the age difference, but it is about different stages of life. I probably should have been more suspicious, but I don't blame myself. He shouldn't have deceived me.
posted by citygirl at 11:47 AM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

A question to ask: Whose friends does the couple mainly hang out with? A couple with a 15-year age difference--29 yr. old wife 15 years younger than husband--attended an intimate dinner party with two older couples (15-30+ years older). It was fun evening, but since the young woman was the same age as our daughter, I couldn't help wondering if she would've enjoyed a small couples'evening with such an age imbalance. I also wondered if the older husband ever hung out with his wife's same-age friends in small social gatherings. Age differences depend on the decade the couple belongs to. Mid-life? Late life? Or in their twenties?
posted by Elsie at 11:52 AM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I’m currently dating a man 19 years younger than I am — he’s 37, I’m 56. (I’m a woman.) We've been dating for a little over a year and it’s been great; we get along famously and never run out of things to talk about. We have lots of common interests, both political and cultural. I will say that he was very sexually inexperienced when we met, and I was…not inexperienced. So that may create a different dynamic between us than you find in relationships where the partners have a big age difference.

The only thing I sometimes find odd is that he won’t get references that are emblazoned into the brains of most GenXers; I can’t think of any examples at the moment, but stuff along the lines of “Who's John Lennon?” types of things. It's mostly just funny, but it does make me feel somewhat superannuated occasionally. I will also say that I feel weird about the fact they I’m far closer to his mother's age than I am to his (she’s eight years my senior), but that doesn’t bother him so I don’t think about it much.
posted by That darn sock! at 12:10 PM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

I dated a woman 14 years older than me for two years starting when I was 26 (we're both women). We had a great relationship and broke up for reasons not related to age, and she's still one of my best friends today. Looking back, it was very helpful for me at that stage in my life to have access to someone older than me that I could trust for advice. Many of her friends are still my friends, and my younger friends are still her friends. I did a huge amount of maturing in that time and went from someone who was very socially awkward to someone who can get along with anyone at a party and can be quite comfortable in social situations. That's just one example of something positive I can really point to--but I think getting into her (large) social circle full of people not like me was key. I'm now married to someone just a few years apart in age, and I definitely appreciate how I relate to her more on a generational level. It's such a case by case thing--I know so many people who have been in toxic relationships that having a good relationship with someone outside of your age range seems like such a minimal thing.
posted by shornco at 12:20 PM on November 17, 2022

I dated a 29-year-old for a few months, as an 18-year-old college freshman. It wasn't great. I threw myself into it way too deeply and accepted kissing I didn't actually want. Fortunately, he gently broke it off with me; unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it was because he could tell he wasn't gonna get into my pants.
posted by humbug at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2022

A big age difference makes a lot of difference when the older partner gets very old. It's more than the discussions about retirement and all that. My cousin got married in her forties to a man who was 18 years older. She retired in her early 60s and wanted to travel, he was too old and rickety. She found herself resenting him. He didn't live much beyond 80 so at least she didn't have to nurse him long.
posted by mareli at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'm a 48-year-old woman.

* In high school I dated men in their mid-20s. It wasn't healthy for me; I got more emotionally invested than I should have and wasn't old enough to know better.

* At 32 I casually dated a 42-year-old. It was fine, not a significant enough difference in our ages to matter.

*Between 40-48 I have had several long-term male casual partners right at the edge of the "half your age plus seven" rule. They work great for me; on average younger folks are more likely to introduce me to new ideas/ be enthusiastic about stuff, which I find invigorating so I love hearing about what's going on in their lives. And in bed they're more likely to be physically energetic. I don't REALLY know how it goes from their perspective but I don't think the difference bothers them, and hey, the one taking the class on USSR history might have been amused by my perspectives of its fall as an elementary/middle school student?
posted by metasarah at 12:42 PM on November 17, 2022

I've dated three people ~10 years older than me (including one person who I'm currently dating). I'm currently in my early twenties. In general age hasn't been a big factor in any of the relationships, especially since I skipped college and was like, working a normal white collar tech job since I was 18 — there was fairly good alignment in life phases, just not in age.

The big mismatches are mostly about generational things — both cultural references and broader generational trends. There are some kinds of reminiscing about or reflecting on experiences that are unique to my age cohort that I just have to accept that I won't get from these people, and have to seek out in other friendships. I'm fine with that, but I could see it bothering some people.

Sometimes someone I'm dating will get reminded of the age gap, and we'll have a sort of awkward laugh about it. I particularly remember one person being very shocked and hung up on the fact that I was younger than Pikachu, which for some reason made the gap feel much more visceral than just knowing my age, and I can make people feel old just by telling them how old I was when some story from their early adulthood or adolescence comes up, but I usually refrain from doing that unless it's particularly funny for some reason.

I think the things that would be really big problems in these kinds of relationships are kids and aging/death — I don't feel a particularly strong desire for kids and the older people I've dated have felt the same, and none of us are close enough to the end of our lives for old age to be a pressing concern, but it's definitely something I'll be thinking about more as I age and the people I'm dating age. If those things are at play in a relationship with a significant age gap that you're considering, I think it makes sense to be wary.

On the whole, when I give people in the situation I was in when I was 18 (skipped college to work in tech, financially self-supporting, without a history of being in abusive relationships) dating advice, it's to look for people ~10 years older than them. And more generally, I think my advice is to look for people in a similar stage of life and at a similar level of maturity to you, which doesn't really require considering age.
posted by wesleyac at 12:51 PM on November 17, 2022

I'm over 50.

I dated a middle-aged guy when I was in my late teens. Kind of classic situation in some ways but...I still consider him one of the really good people in my life. He supported me in becoming more who I am, saw my capabilities, never got in the way of my doing something I wanted to do, and just - loved me. At one point years after we talked and he felt the same way at that time.

When I approached the age he was when we were dating, I was kind of appalled. I cannot imagine middle-aged me wanting to date people the age I was. But I think maybe he'd leapt into adult responsibilities and dating me was a way to circle back? I don't know. It was a weird realization.

I think the 1/2 your age + 7 rule is a good one, especially dating anyone under 25. It won't hold in all cases but it's hard to sort out the cases.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:02 PM on November 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

the (mefi) controversial columnist, dan savage. ctrl+f 'campsite rule'
posted by j_curiouser at 1:03 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I dated a man who was 16 years older than me; I met him on my 23rd birthday, actually, at a bar. It was a very tumultous relationship for nearly four years. In hindsight, I can now see the power imbalance but I just couldn't then. He was an okay person, but had his own weird baggage that I resented and of course, how does a 39 yr old deal with anxiety-ridden insecure young woman? I was still forming who I would be as an adult, but the relationship was so intense and consuming, that it really messed me up for dating afterwards. Honestly, he was the only serious relationship I had during my 20s and I kinda regret that. (Disclaimer: I mean, I was a mess honestly. It was the beginning of my serious drinking to solve every problem phase.)

All these years later--happily married to a MeFite who is four years older than me for nearly 15 years--I hold no ill will towards that ex. I see the relationship now as I couldn't see it then: grossly imbalanced, overly dramatic, and unhealthy. In the end, he wanted kids, and I did not want kids, so he went and got someone else pregnant to get that kid (last time I was on FB in 2014, he was utterly devoted to the kid). I am super glad it was not me.

I have no idea what he's up to now. But I wouldn't do it again.
posted by Kitteh at 1:06 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

My husband is 17 years older than I (F) am. We met when I was 48 and he was 65. When he first asked me out I didn't know it was a date because I thought he was impossibly old for me. But we straightened that out and got married two years later and are happy as clams. We both came into the relationship knowing who we were and with enough "adulting" that there weren't any overwhelming imbalance issues. Though I missed the 1960s, we otherwise share cultural reference points and there is no gap between us when it comes to singing along with Elton John, Depeche Mode, the Smiths, or Radiohead. He has far more energy than I do and is much more engaged with the world, so he seems much younger than loaf-like me. And while we assumed it would eventually be me taking care of him, I was the one diagnosed with cancer last year (I'm currently fine so YAY). He's the brightest star in the sky and the best human I know. There are 40 yr olds in my life who seem older than he is. I think in the end it's not about how old someone is in objective terms but how they wear their age. I forget that there's almost two decades between us because of his vitality, curiosity, and general elan.
posted by fiery.hogue at 1:10 PM on November 17, 2022 [8 favorites]

In college, at age 18, I dated someone who was 30. A friend of mine did the same thing. At first we were smug about having snagged someone older. Within a few weeks we realized that there was a reason why they couldn't find anyone their own age.
posted by Melismata at 1:15 PM on November 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

When I was 17 (F) I lived for a summer with a 65 year old man who was an artist whose work I admired. We got along well and he seemed to respect my opinions although I was so young. We were a sexual mismatch, I wanted more than he was able to physically fulfill. When I left to go to college, he was heartbroken. I think he may have thought it was his last chance for love. It still makes me sad.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:24 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I am a cis woman who was married to a cis man 12 years older than I am; we met when I was in my mid 20s. I am now in my late 40s, and I have dated people younger than me by a decade or more. I have casually dated folks as much as twenty years younger, though those were more casual situations. I've been in a longer term relationship with someone about 12 years younger than I am. I also have very good friends who are younger and older by a decade or more in each direction.

I think it'd be weird to be dating people much older or younger than you if your friends are all roughly your age. So think about that a bit.

I'd say this: it feels super easy to date people my same age, within a few years. We have so many similar cultural references. But someone being the same age doesn't mean they're in the same place in life. For example, I have dated people my age whose kids are much younger than my kids; I'm about to be an empty nester. This also applies to things like career, lifestyle, etc.

Dating with a big age difference is usually weirder for the younger person; the older person has been that age and has a concept of it.

I'd also say that a situation with a straight couple where the man is much older is ... pretty stereotypical and some folks will look askance at it. My younger partner has commented that it feels a bit transgressive and feminist to him that he's dating an older woman. I'm not sure our age difference is visible when we are out and about, and it's really not an issue most of the time in our interactions.

If you're a man in your 50s who is dating a woman in her 40s, 50s, or 60s, that isn't such a major age gap at this point in life. A woman in her 30s is pretty young, and it's worth thinking about, if it has potential to be a longer term situation, if you are looking to have kids at this point, retire well before your partner, etc. I'd say just don't date folks in their 20s. Just draw a line.

Also, if you're interested in women who are much younger and not women who are older, it's worth taking some time to reflect on that, on patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and how that manifests in your life.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:01 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm a cis woman with experiences at both ends of the age spectrum. In my early 20s and early 30s I had two serious, long term, relationships with men 10 years older than I was. Like sm1tten, my experience was that they, and I, granted them a lot of authority due to their gender and ages. Their expectations about women and relationships were hypocritical and although the age itself wasn't the deal-breaker, their attitudes seemed baked in culturally for their cohort.

In my early to mid-40s I started dating men my own age--maybe 50 first and second dates overall?--and found them almost universally entitled. As an example, the "nicest" of them was a guy who spent the date telling me I should write a book about how amazing he was, then refused to "let" me go home when I wanted to. A typical experience was that men would straight up tell me they would only date me if I was going to support them in their hobbies and free time, coming to breweries (I would have to "become a drinker") and hockey games and what not, and who were visibly disgusted or laughed at me when I mirrored this back to them, that they would have to be comfortable riding on the back of my motorcycle and supporting my multi-day rides, or reading books I was interested in and discussing them with me.

After reviewing what I felt was adequate data about that cohort, I decided to try dating men in their mid-20s to mid 30s, and now that I'm in my early 50s I still only date much younger men. These are purposefully casual, but not unfeeling. They've been uniformly great experiences, for a variety of reasons. The best thing is that men of these ages/generations relate to me like a human being. I get asked genuine questions about my life, my feelings, my wants, my dislikes, my interests, and vice versa. My interests tend to skew "young" so I love learning more about things like AI or NFTs and Jordan Peele's latest or Bad Bunny's new single. It helps that I live in a pretty progressive area, so binary attitudes about gender behavior and expectations are also looser. Younger men are also more steeped in issues of feminism and consent, and a whole bunch of energy I used to devote to maintaining boundaries is now freed up for fun and curiosity and sex because they are meeting me half-way with the boundary keeping. To be fair, since birth control and monogamy are non-issues, that creates a lot of energy and freedom, too.

Do they occasionally seem/act "young"? Yes, but all of life is a learning exercise. Do I occasionally feel "old"? Yes, but in the best way, like, Oh! What a long shadow we can cast when the light is this low!
posted by cocoagirl at 2:40 PM on November 17, 2022 [12 favorites]

My cousin got married in her forties to a man who was 18 years older. She retired in her early 60s and wanted to travel, he was too old and rickety.

Same as a friend of mine. They are happy as clams, but he hasn't been able to do much in his late seventies/eighties, and she retired early to get in a few good years before he inevitably got really sick, and got about a year and a half. Now he has cancer, so that's where most of their days go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:58 PM on November 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Starting in my early 20s I was in a long-term (over 10 years), serious relationship with a woman nearly 18 years older than me. We are no longer together and we are not on speaking terms.

People have a lot of assumptions about age-gap relationships like this: that she supported me financially, that we must not have had many interests, cultural tastes, or lifestyle preferences in common, that I was looking for a parental figure, that friends my age would not get along with her, that she must have a "thing" for younger women, that she acted as a mentor to me, and that she was always more emotionally or socially mature than me. All of those assumptions are wrong.

People also assumed that there must have been a big power imbalance in her favor, and that assumption does have some truth to it. When you have nearly twenty years' head start on establishing yourself in life, well... yes, that matters. She often felt that she did not have to listen to me or explain herself to me.

We really did love each other and I am thankful for the good experiences we had together. But what started out as a nurturing and supportive relationship eventually decayed into something crushing and diminishing. Over the years we developed incompatible needs and goals. Over the years I gradually healed from an illness, and she was one of those people who is good at supporting somebody who is ill but not so good at supporting somebody who is well. But none of that is inherently tied to age.

Do I regret any of this? It's hard to say. I look back now on this relationship as something I survived, but it clearly gave me something I needed for a time. I could say that I regret not having higher expectations for myself, or a better understanding of what I needed in a partner, but I'm in my 40s now and you can find people older than me who are only just figuring out the same things. My next relationship was with someone just a few years younger than me and we may have had more pop culture references in common but we had a much, much bigger gap in shared values and interests. The financial power imbalance in my ex-partner's favor, however, was really rough on me when we were splitting up. It's a big part of why I believe very strongly in the legal institution of marriage and the rights and responsibilities that come with it. This was back when same-sex marriage wasn't permitted in the US, so as the "junior" less well-resourced partner I had little protection.

Do I regret the age difference specifically? Maybe not. Past school age we don't all mature in lockstep or go through the same experiences at the same age. It's certainly not something I would seek out again but there are many ways to have a good or bad relationship and age is just one factor out of many.
posted by 4rtemis at 3:43 PM on November 17, 2022

I had a two year relationship when I was 21 with a man 16 years older than me. It was not a great relationship, but that has much more to do with his personality and the fact that I'd never lived outside of my mother's house before. He ended up being cruel emotionally, and breaking up with me for a woman twice MY age, who was in a better way financially than he was.

I used to roll my eyes at some celebrity couples where the man is twenty or thirty years older than his (usually) drop dead gorgeous girlfriend. But then I met Tony... he was nearly 80 when I was 40. We never had a relationship..he was a customer in a store I worked in...but there was such an indescribable spark between us. So you know what? I think it's really all about the people involved and who they are at their core, than the age difference.
posted by annieb at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

In my early 50s I entered into a relationship with a man 15 years older than me. I had known and liked him for many years, we have the same professional background, know many of the same people, and have similar interests, so the age difference is mostly just amusing. He does have kind of a fatherly affect toward me, in a sweet way that I entirely welcome. Is that a product of our age difference or is that just his personality? I attribute it to the age difference but I can't know for sure.

The cons:

When we started it felt like we were at opposite ends of the "middle aged" bracket, but now it feels like I'm middle aged and he is starting to be elderly. I'm still working but spend a lot of time socializing with people who are retired. The cultural gap between him and my younger work friends is uncomfortably large. There have been times lately when his memory lapses or frustration with technology are concerning.

And, mostly, I worry a lot that he will die and I will be too old to find a new partner. I know that that's not strictly true but at the same time I know that it is statistically more likely. Sometimes I feel like staying in this relationship is objectively unwise for my old age, but I also know that same-age relationships can end at any time too, so why give up something good for something else just as uncertain?

I'm grateful for all of it, really. It's not problem free and I worry about the future, but in general this has been by far the most rewarding relationship of my life. He's a lovely person apart from the age difference, but also I think the May-December dynamic just suits me. I wish I had gotten to experience it sooner.
posted by HotToddy at 5:16 PM on November 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was with a dude ten years older than me for, amusingly, 10 years. It wasn't a great relationship, but that was less about the age gap and more about him being a jerk. But our cultural markers were totally different, our life experiences were very different, and it added some friction. When we first got together, I thought him debonair, but really, he just wanted a mother figure.

(Now I'm with someone I went to high school with who is 4 months younger than me, though we didn't get together until much later, and it's so much fun, being with someone I have that kind of personal history with AND share all the cultural references with. On the other hand, she has a lot of health issues - we have an appointment about possible surgery again tomorrow, good times - so a lack of age gap is no guarantee, there.)
posted by joycehealy at 5:42 PM on November 17, 2022

When I was living in Mexico at age 21, I had a Mexican boyfriend who was 16 - and it was okay with his parents! He was so nice. It was just such a light and pure relationship - never went beyond sweet kisses. We had so much fun together. I found him on Facebook a few years ago and asked him if he remembered me. He said, "Of course I do, you were my first love." I still have the seashells he gave me on which he wrote, "I love you."
posted by SageTrail at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

I dated a 10-ish year older woman for about 8 months when I was 25 and she was 35. The eventual deal-breaker was that she was looking for an academic spouse willing to negotiate the junior faculty/2 body problem together, and I was in the process of ditching academia (though I hadn't completely figured that out when we started dating). She also had strong feelings about kids now for obvious reasons, and I wasn't sure. Aside from that, almost all the conflict was less "age" and more "lifestyle" -- she had certain views about How Things Should Be that didn't align with mine. Even if she'd met me now, in my late 30s, I strongly suspect she still wouldn't have liked my laid-back lifestyle and I would've still chafed at her version of "how things are supposed to be." But, because that's almost all personal preferences that aren't really related to age, except for the kids/timeline thing, I don't think it was a bad idea because of the age difference or anything.
posted by Alterscape at 7:46 PM on November 17, 2022

My spouse(48) is 1.5 years older than me (46) but I also have a partner(34) who is 12.5 years younger than me. I count myself incredibly lucky that both of my relationships are stable, healthy and strong.

Fo the sake of your question I'll focus on my relationship with my partner. We've been dating for just under two years and our relationship is one of the best, most equal relationships I've had. We get along great, are very supportive of each other, have so much fun making the other laugh and have amazing sex. We both have partners that we live with so the fact that we are at different life stages doesn't affect us as much as it would if we were in a monogamous relationship. Even if that weren't the case though I think things would still be really good for the two of us.

It is probably worth mentioning that out of the four of us one is straight, one gay, and two are pan so we are a pretty queer group. It seems that larger age differences are more common in queer circles, likely in part because society has fewer rules/expectations about queer relationships.

Another data point - when I was in my 20s I dated someone who was 25 years older. That relationship lasted less than a year but I am still in touch with him and think of him fondly.
posted by a22lamia at 2:53 AM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

My spouse is 15 years older than me, across very different time periods - he's solidly gen x and im solidly millennial. Many people have weighed in, but I will mention that our parents are the same age and I think this makes a huge difference. Although we were raised years apart, and although we were raised wirh very different cultural expectations e.g. around gender, we were raised with similar levels of freedom and with many of the same reference points from our parents' youth. We have some points of generational difference for sure, but I think that has kept us more in step than not.
posted by branca at 4:37 AM on November 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

My wife is 15 years older than me. When she's 69, I'll still be 54ing her. Hey hey! I'm here all week.
posted by parmanparman at 12:29 PM on November 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

The late Mr. Nerd was 13 years my senior. We met when I was 21 and he was 34. (He died when I was 39 and he was almost 52.) He was my soulmate and it was a total crazy love/amour fou thing. Definite imbalance of experience and I missed out on doing stuff like going out to clubs in my 20's because he'd "been there, done that." Yes, I miss him, but I NEVER want to repeat that kind of dynamic again.

I'm now in a triad with 2 men who are 13 and 14 years my junior. One of them I've been dating since I was 40 and he was 27. The other one I started dating when I was 44 and he was 32. The age difference really doesn't factor in much this time around.
posted by luckynerd at 3:24 PM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've just turned 43 and my partner of 3.5 years is 26; we've lived together for almost as long as we've been together, which encompasses all of the pandemic so far.

Any initial concerns I had about the public perception of our age gap really were blown away by COVID; when you are living in lockdown and only seeing each other for the better part of two years, it really does not matter at all what other people think of your relationship.

One of the biggest factors that I think makes the age difference less of a big deal is that we have a major hobby that we share: we are both cinephiles and are very much enmeshed in our city's thriving film community, where our mutual friends range in age from early 20s to early 70s.

branca raises an interesting point about parents' age – ours are also roughly the same age and of the same generation. Also, although I'm at the tail end of Generation X, I took to the Internet very voraciously at a relatively young age, and I remain extremely online in a way that many of my same-age peers are not, which is something I think keeps me young in outlook and that my partner and I have in common.
posted by RubyScarlet at 11:29 PM on November 18, 2022

Dated someone who was 50 when I was 25. The major issues with it-- that eventually defeated the relationship-- involved other people's reactions. Everyone made a ton of assumptions that were not flattering to either of us. In any case I do think I was a little immature and that grated on her.
posted by coffeeand at 12:26 PM on November 19, 2022

My wife is 12 years younger than I and we just celebrated 20 wonderful years of marriage.

My opinion is that the only challenge will be as I get older. For example when she is 65 I will be 77 -- I hope. It's one of the reason I try and take care of myself.
posted by terrapin at 12:36 PM on November 19, 2022

My wife and I got together when she was 46, and I was 25. That was in 2000.

The after difference has never been an issue for us. It helps that she is open and inquisitive, always interested in learning new things, and we actually value the different perspectives we have.

I'll echo others in that it's more important that the older partner doesn't make condescending assumptions about the younger partner's experience and knowledge. It's not just love that needs to go both ways for a good relationship, it's respect as well.

Past a certain point, personality and having similar goals and worldview are more important than age.
posted by Vigilant at 7:44 PM on November 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

My partner is ten years younger than I am. I'm in my 40s, divorced, single mother. He is married (polyamorous) and not a parent. Between one thing and another we have a lot of similar cultural touchstones (I had a relatively sheltered upbringing media wise). He has a LOT more relationship and sexual experience - I was married for most of my 20s and 30s. He has lived alone, been technically couchsurfing/homeless, experienced a middle class upbringing - I only lived alone after my divorce, I've never been homeless, was raised thoroughly working class. We both have experience with alcoholism, trauma, and both have extensive education across a number of areas.

The thing that makes us work, as partners, are very similar core values on kindness and generosity. We connect over our weird and broad interests (he once lulled me to sleep with a recitation of lore from a favourite game). We cook well together. We allow each other space and reaffirm our love and support.

A significant amount of all that is due to his far more intense life experience - he and his wife have been together a long time, he has had myriad relationships of various configurations, and is a deeply social person. Mine is less intense, to say the least - I got the hell out of home, had a shitty boyfriend, had trauma, got married, had a kid, lived that life until the marriage dissolved. Intellectually we are matched - he is one of those "oh yeah I'm like...diagnosed genius IQ I guess" ADHD types where it comes up as an aside to explain exactly why he didn't get expelled from school; I am a working class girl who went "academics is my ticket out" and went hard on it. We have different areas of expertise and have no difficulty relating as the one being taught (he did all the unpacking and emotional work to be like that well before I came on the scene).

That said, a lot of the above doesn't display to others. He does not look middle class in any way, or sound it - I'm an academic and sure it's the humanities professor version, but I still seem middle class to most. We are both queer but I look it in a way that almost immediately designates him queer by association - he does flag it as much as possible. Neither of us look like an intellectual (unless I'm at work). We even look around the same age (I'm chubby faced with bright hair, he is bearded).

I get uncomfortable about the age thing sometimes, but as an intellectual thing. I'm used to being culturally disconnected from my peers so that rarely actually pings as an age gap thing. We have similar interests and values and approaches, and neither of us is so definitively advantaged as to disrupt that.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:00 PM on November 20, 2022

When I was 24, I had a serious relationship with a 46-year-old man. At the time, I believed he was the love of my life. He told me I was the love of his, and I believed him. But fundamentally, a big part of what I loved about him is that we were reenacting a dynamic from my childhood, in a way that was slightly less traumatic and over which I had slightly more control, so that I could feel safer than I had felt in my family of origin. And I think what he loved about me was that I didn't have the wherewithal to guard myself against some of the things about him that he didn't like about himself, and so I loved him wholeheartedly, rather than with healthy boundaries and limits that a person with more life experience and emotional intelligence would have insisted on to protect themselves.

Our relationship ended when he died of a suddenly, related to his long-term alcohol abuse. It took me a very, very long time to come to terms with the fact that I couldn't save him. And I ended up using a lot of resources for Adult Children of Alcoholics to figure out how to get through that experience, because my feelings about him more closely mirrored the dynamic between a child and a parent than that of two equal adult romantic partners.
posted by decathecting at 8:04 AM on November 21, 2022

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