There are social standards and personal standards, but what do we do when these don’t align? Krystal Baugher looks into the age-old question: does age matter?
When I was a senior in High School I dated a guy who was a freshman. Everyone thought it was weird; but, then again… they thought I was weird, so they didn’t make too much of stink out of it (even though there was a bit of stinking).
I thought it was pretty hypocritical that senior guys dated freshman girls all the time and no one bothered questioning it, as if women could never be attracted to younger men.
I wasn’t attracted to him because he was younger; I was attracted to him because in my rural Kansas town, he was one of the few guys around who happened to be intelligent, funny and attractive. It was a rare combination in my community and I felt we were capable and mature enough to disregard the two-year age difference—even if other people had more trouble with it. Now many boyfriends later, I’m seeing someone who is three years younger than me and no one would even know the difference.
So what’s the deal? Does age matter? Better yet, who does it matter to?
Throughout our culture we see examples of major age differences in relationships. Mariah Carey and Nick Carter (11 years), Anna Nicole Smith and J Howard Marshall (63 years), Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart (22 years), Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (25 years), Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris (60 years).
Even in my own circle there are major differences. My 32-year old friend dated a 19-year old for a year. My best friend from high school married a man eight years older than her. My uncle is 13 years younger than my aunt.
When it comes to relationships—regardless of age—I like to think of the three C’s: Consent, Compatibility and Cooperation.
Of course every relationship is about power in some shape or form, but when there is a bigger age gap, so is there a bigger power dynamic at play. There are age of consent laws in every state to protect young people from being manipulated or coerced by those who are older and generally have more experience (and thus more power).
But consent is not just for the youth, it’s for everyone in all forms of relationships. There must be consent of both people involved that you do indeed want to have an intimate, healthy relationship with each other.
My good friend ended up parting ways with a woman he was dating who happened to be 14 years younger than him because they didn’t have enough in common. Now, this doesn’t mean everyone with big age gaps have little in common, just that they specifically didn’t, and that it may be more likely the bigger the gap. I mean, I can’t imagine someone not knowing what Saved By the Bell is or how Surge tasted.
Couples require having enough in common that a connection can form while still retaining one’s own interests, likes, hobbies etc. It’s being able to have a fluid conversation. It’s getting each other—the quirks, the good traits, the bad traits, the past, the same desired future, regardless of what year either of you were born.
This boils down to being on the same communication level. It’s about learning how each other works and working with that accordingly. It’s about the willingness to compromise for the sake of the relationship continuing. It’s about trust, honesty and loyalty. If all of that is there and there is consent and compatibility, again, it doesn’t matter how old either of you are.
In the end, the question isn’t “does age matter,” but do the two of you matter enough to each other? Are the 3 C’s being met? If so, then nothing else should get in the way of your happiness together, particularly whatever year the two of you happened to appear on the earth.
[image: via wikimedia commons]