It’s no secret that age-gap love is still frowned upon. More so if it’s an older woman dating a younger man than the other way around!
Truth be told, even with the judgment attached to your relationship, and unfortunately, there will be judgment from others, you’ve got to follow your heart.
But what you might not be prepared for are the social norms or conventions that come with it.
These social norms are kind of the “unspoken rules” that tell us what a relationship should look like or who we should date.
While society has certainly become more accepting of “non-traditional” relationships, there’s still a stigma surrounding older and younger partners. Most people still believe that a young person can only be interested in an older partner because of financial interests and security.
This is only one type of norm, but there are at least 7 societal conventions to challenge when you want to date someone younger than you.
If you want to know what they are, I describe them below.
1) Marriage goals
Not everyone dates or enters into relationships to get married. However, there’s an expectation in society that two people who commit to one another for some time are expected to get married at some point in their lives.
There’s nothing wrong with dating someone younger than you, but don’t neglect to consider the different wants and needs of your partner.
Let’s think about an example.
You’re in your fifties and start dating a woman in her late twenties. You might have been previously married and are now divorced with no real urgency or motivation to get married again. You might even have children from a previous marriage.
Your girlfriend, on the other hand, may never have been married and doesn’t have kids. She has the expectation of marriage, which places pressure on you.
Being upfront and honest about your relationship expectations while listening to theirs can prevent any unwanted surprises and keep the relationship on track.
Marriage is about love, respect, and working towards common goals, and while it might be a far way off, keep this in mind when you want to date a younger person.
2) Financial matters
Ever heard the terms sugar daddy or sugar mamma? I wouldn’t call these terms of endearment, but they’re names that have been socially assigned to older men and women who date younger people.
It’s certainly not nice, but when you want to date someone your junior, money is always an issue that comes up, whether in the context of the relationship or because you’re being judged by society.
The generalization is that the only reason a younger person is showing interest in you is because they’re after your pocket, and they want financial security.
Let’s be real here.
There are many couples where the younger partner is only interested in financial gain, but this isn’t true for all relationships with a wide age gap.
Something that you’ll have to tackle head-on is whether you want to date someone who is young but already has an established career and can look after themselves or whether you are willing to take care of them.
You’ll also need to ensure that the person you form a relationship with is with you for the right reasons.
3) Respecting one another
It’s a given that we respect someone older than us, but when you’re in a relationship where the age dynamic is quite significant, is respect a one-way street?
Of course not.
The difficulty in age-gap relationships is finding the right balance between respect and control.
This can get a little hairy when you are the other person’s senior, and on top of that, you’re also the breadwinner. But no matter how much your net worth is or what your age difference is, respect in a relationship is always a two-way street.
It’s a social convention in a relationship that can be quite a challenge, especially when you’ve done things a certain way and your younger partner steps in and expects something different from you.
No relationship will work, regardless of age, if it lacks mutual respect.
As an older person, you may be wiser and more experienced, but that doesn’t mean that you should be dismissive of your partner’s views and opinions or try to control them.
4) Shared interests
Not surprisingly, social norms in relationships expect two committed people to share similar interests. This includes music, hobbies, food, and things that make you come together and have fun.
However, in a relationship with an age gap, you’re likely to have very different interests.
This isn’t always the case, but more often than not, trends that a younger person is aware of and shares in their social circles might be foreign to you.
Taking music as an example, a younger individual will know of the latest bands and songs that an older person has no interest in. It’s not unusual for older individuals to feel completely left out of the loop when meeting their younger partner’s friends or while discussing things like new music and movies.
The secret to a successful and healthy relationship is common ground.
Discovering new things together is great, but you should have shared interests, and that means making an effort to learn about the hobbies and trends that are important to your partner.
The last thing you need is to feel awkward and embarrassed in the company of your date’s friends because you have no clue what they’re talking about.
5) Judgment from others
In such a liberal period in our lives, you would think that dating a younger person is no longer seen as taboo. I guess some things never become a trend.
A good friend of mine who had just turned 40 started dating a 20-something she’d met at a business function. Now, this is a pretty significant age gap, and everything from their style to their mannerisms was different.
She confided in me that while he was fun and the intimacy was great, the stares they got when out in public started to make her feel self-conscious about her age.
It’s hard not to notice when your partner is younger, especially when the difference is more than 10 years.
It’s not considered “the norm” to see someone older with a significantly younger person, and this usually applies to women more than men.
So you’ll have to wear some thick skin to ignore a few judgmental behaviors from others when you’re out in public. Things like stares, laughing, or whispering while you’re holding hands or showing a bit of affection are not uncommon.
I’ve heard of a few people who were asked if their date was their son or daughter while out and about.
It’s awkward, but it happens.
These assumptions aren’t things to get upset about. So when you’re dealing with stares or social awkwardness, it’s better to ignore or correct the other person who thinks your date is related to you.
Ideally, we all want people to be accepting and to keep their opinions to themselves, but if they don’t, who cares? It might be a challenge when you’re dealing with judgment, but do what makes you happy.
6) Different life stages
Dating conventionally means that you’re both in similar stages of life and expect certain things in a relationship. It’s an important part of dating because it strengthens your connection and helps you work towards common goals.
The acceptable standard in a relationship is to find a person who is closer to your age because of shared life experiences. As the partnership progresses and as you grow older together, you’ll share values and perspectives, such as when to start a family and when to plan for retirement.
Dating younger usually means that you’ll meet people who are in a different phase of life, and it’s something that you’ll have to learn how to deal with.
Let’s say that you’re 35, the person you date is 23, and you’re both working full-time; you share similar interests, and your routines are pretty much the same. It is easier to work together and enjoy one another’s company, regardless of age.
But as you get older and you can’t keep up with their energy levels or you’re limited by an unexpected medical issue, you’ll be at completely different points in your lives. You also need to think long-term, as a lot can change in only 10 years.
It’s something to consider when dating younger people.
7) Starting a family
Marriage is a typical social construct in which a man and a woman who are in a committed relationship make their connection official for legal and religious purposes.
But after marriage, it’s expected that you start a family.
Depending on your age, having children might not be part of your long-term relationship goals.
Just be aware of the fact that young people in their 20s and 30s who are in a committed relationship usually see children in their short-term future.
If you don’t intend to have children, this is something that you must discuss when dating someone younger.
I don’t suggest discussing this on your very first date, but it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored should the relationship progress.
Dating someone younger than you can be quite difficult if you aren’t prepared for the ups and downs that come with it.
While all relationships have their own set of problems, dating younger means that you also have to deal with a few challenging social conventions.
Judgment from people you don’t know, issues of marriage and starting a family, and seeing each other as equals can be difficult to navigate.
But with time and understanding of the dynamic, it gets easier to deal with your differences along with societal pressure.
Following your heart and finding love can never be a bad thing.