Question: Hi, Luise: I have a dating question. I know it’s an individual preference for most people but do you know when looking to date people, is there any “real” rule of thumb regarding age as far as picking a decent match for one’s self? I often find myself trying to stay within a five-year gap of my age and it’s usually older, not younger. My ex and I were three months apart but the same age. It just happened that way. I guess I’m trying to figure out if that is a factor and whether it would limit one’s prospective matches. Some people say, “age is just a number” while others say too many years is too much of a big gap, which I tend to agree too. But I want to be smart in what I’m looking for but not limiting myself either. Thanks, M.
Answer: Dear M.: For every rule of thumb about the age differences in couples, or the lack thereof, there are glaring exceptions. Some, but not all, who feel “age is just a number” learn to their dismay that it’s simply not true…at least, not “forever”.
Recently, I have seen some very glaring documentation that differences from fifteen to thirty years can become an issue in relationships later in life…one such situation being the subject of my last article. Also, on a very personal basis, I have a dear friend who just left a twenty-eight year marriage where the age discrepancy was eighteen years. It was wonderful when she was young and he was a very attractive figure at the top of his game. But now, she’s at the top of her game and he is retired without any real interests except his dependency on her.
To counter that, my husband and I bridge a sixteen-year gap and are still finding that we have a great deal in common. So go figure!
I think the real issue is how people mature as relationships ripen. Some stay pretty much the same and some learn and grow and become very different people. Often those who learn and grow do it in a compatible or complimentary way…but not always. The variables are never-ending.
We simply don’t know, when we enter into a serious commitment with another person, who we will grow into and neither does our chosen mate. Hopefully, most of us will never stop growing but there are many threats to a permanent relationship in that premise. We happily promise that we will stay “no matter what”, when we haven’t a clue what that might entail. Age may affect our future compatibility or it may not. There are many other factors that will fluctuate and challenge us, as well.
The only thing you can really count on is the “now” of a relationship. If everything fits in the present, it’s my humble opinion that that’s as good as it’s going to get. As life unfolds, the relationship may endure and be a supportive, expansive experience for both people. That’s what we all hope for. There just isn’t any way to guarantee that hope or to remain, “no matter what”, if it disintegrates with time.
We often don’t know someone until we live with that person. Even then, we all know of long-term “live-ins” who married…only to bite the dust after saying “I do”. The odds regarding the unknowns are just too high, with age just being one of many.
The best most of us can do, when it comes down to it, is to be as careful as possible and as open as possible when selecting a mate. Then we need to give it our best and cross our fingers. Blessings, Luise