Is It Normal To Have Older Sex Partners? All About Age-Gap Relationships

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated June 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Age-gap relationships often refer to relationships in which partners are separated in age by at least 10 years. Couples with significant age gaps often use strategies like passing, lampooning, and dismissing to cope with potential stigmas and judgments from others. When introducing a partner who is significantly older or younger than you to your family and friends, it can be helpful to wait until you’re ready, plan what you want (and don’t want) to share, set healthy boundaries, and prepare for widely varied reactions. Online therapy can help you and your partner navigate the possible difficulties associated with age-gap relationships.

What Are Age-Gap Relationships?

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between the partners. Often, members of an age-gap relationship are separated by decades. Recent studies show that in heterosexual relationships across 130 countries and multiple religions, men tend to be older than their female partners. 

When Is Age Just A Number?

For this article, we are examining relationships between consenting adults and not adolescents with adults. Resources are available to help if you are under the age of consent in your state and an adult’s behavior makes you uncomfortable.

2019 U.S. Marriage Age Gaps

  • Among partners who married in 2019, same-sex couples generally had a significantly higher average age difference at 6.3 years, compared to an average age difference of 3.9 years among heterosexual couples. 
  • First marriages normally saw the smallest age gap. Heterosexual couples averaged 2.9 years compared to 5.8 years for same-sex couples. 
  • Remarried couples typically had the highest average age gap, with 7.4 years for same-sex couples and 5.6 years for heterosexual couples. 

— BGSU American Community Survey

The Potential Stigma Against Age-Gap Relationships

Couples with a significant age gap often face stigmas, and people may be inclined to make assumptions about the relationship. If the woman is younger, she is often thought to be a “gold digger” who is only after an older man’s money, while he may be congratulated by friends and viewed as a predator by others. 

However, if the woman is older, some perceptions say she must be a “cougar” out to prey on younger males, while her partner may be seen as a “boy toy,” according to research. An established older partner and an inexperienced younger partner may have a power imbalance, where one could be exploited, taken advantage of, or used. 

Studies show that most couples where one partner is significantly older than the other generally use three strategies to cope with the stigmas about their relationship. 

  • Passing usually involves one partner actively working to feel and appear closer in age to their significant other
  • Lampooning typically uses humor to deflect the stigma’s threat to the relationship
  • Dismissing normally involves both partners agreeing to pay no attention to the stigma

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Potential Benefits Of Age-Gap Relationships

  • Older adults generally have much more life and relationship experience. They are often significantly more mature than their younger counterparts, and many young people find them to be better mates. 
  • An older partner will often be emotionally stable, with a consistent and effective repertoire of coping skills to manage stress, the emotional intelligence and literacy to understand and express their feelings and needs, and the tendency to pay attention to their partner’s emotional needs. 
  • Younger partners may bring an open-minded, energetic vibrance to the relationship, often giving their older lovers a boost of energy and invigoration. A refreshing mentality can be a solid foundation for a happy relationship.
  • With years of experience can come the opportunity to earn and invest money. Older partners are often financially stable and able to spend more on leisure activities. They may be able to provide guidance to younger partners and help them establish a stable future. 
  • After going through previous relationships, older lovers are often prone to romance and touching gestures. They can put that experience to use, and more senior sex partners may be generous lovers who ensure their younger partners enjoy the encounter. 

Possible Drawbacks Of Age-Gap Relationships

  • Older lovers may face sexual and other health issues related to age. This can impact the relationship, particularly if the younger person unexpectedly finds themselves in a caretaker role. 
  • Younger partners tend to be more physically demanding. People generally engage in less physical activity as they age, and keeping up with a significantly younger partner may not be easy. 
  • Dating someone younger can mean there may be a gap in maturity as well as age. If you don’t have much in common, it can be hard to maintain a healthy relationship. Partners may also be in drastically different life stages. 
  • You will likely face a lot of judgment from friends, family, coworkers, and other people in your life. Age-gap relationships often still have many stigmas attached, and people tend to dislike what they don’t understand. 
  • Because of the difference in age and experience, there may be a power imbalance between older and younger partners. 

Making Age-Gap Relationships Work

2017 study indicated that differently-aged couples might experience a drop in relationship satisfaction after six to 10 years, possibly because they lack the resilience to withstand adverse economic shocks compared to couples of a similar age. Like any relationship, it will usually take consistent effort and commitment to make yours work. Here are some tips to stay connected within an age-gap relationship.

Tips To Stay Connected Beyond An Age Gap

  • Focus on your love story.
  • Communicate openly and frequently.
  • Share expectations.
  • Accept your differences.
  • Plan for your future.
  • Remember that maturity can be relative.
  • Be patient and flexible.
  • Identify common interests.
  • Prioritize time together.
  • Attend couples therapy.
  • Prepare to face uncertainty.

Approaching The Topic With Friends And Family

Significant age gaps can make introducing your new partner to friends and family span the social spectrum from pleasant understanding to overtly awkward examination of your decisions. When you are romantically involved with someone significantly older or younger than you are, you should generally be prepared for your friends and family to question the validity and health of your relationship. There’s not likely to be a perfect time or way to tell your loved ones that the love of your life is decades older or younger. 

Plan What You Want To Share (And What You Don’t)

It can be helpful to sit down with your partner and talk about what the two of you want others to know about your relationship and what information you aren’t willing to share. Is it most important for them to see that you are in love? Perhaps you want loved ones to know your plans for the future or how happy your partner makes you, despite—or maybe because of—the age difference. 

Wait Until You Are Ready

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You may have to defend your relationship to friends and family because of the age gap. There can be many factors to consider before you tell the news about your partner. If you are introducing an older lover close to your parents’ age or a younger lover near your children’s age, the stigma of age-gap relationships may mean you’re in for a difficult conversation. 

Once you’re ready to talk about your partner, consider telling people one at a time or in small groups. It may be easier to speak to your loved ones in a calm setting when you feel safe and comfortable. If you aren’t ready to tell everyone, you might ask them to keep it to themselves. 

Set Healthy Boundaries

Some people may feel that the unusual parameters of your relationship allow them to ask intensely personal questions. Some may ask what it’s like to have sex with an older partner or how to keep up with a younger lover. It can be best to set healthy boundaries for yourself, and don’t feel you must share or owe anyone information about your sex life if it makes you uncomfortable. 

Prepare For Widely Varied Emotions

Significant age gaps in relationships aren’t always understood well by many people and can be seen as taboo by many people. You should first be prepared for shock, anger, disbelief, confusion, and various negative reactions. It may help to remember that they don’t know your partner yet and haven’t seen how happy they make you. They may simply need more information and time to absorb it. 

How Couples Therapy Can Help Age-Gap Relationships

Every relationship may have ups and downs, but partners should generally lean on each other to overcome difficult times. Couples therapy can help partners who feel they may be drifting apart or are experiencing other relationship challenges. Many people prefer online therapy through virtual platforms due to the reduced wait times, lower costs, and flexible appointment formats that may not require you to leave home. 

Recent studies show that online couples therapy can be as effective as treatments in the traditional clinical environment. Don’t hesitate to reach out for the professional guidance you and your partner deserve.


When one partner is at least 10 years older than the other, they can be said to be involved in an age-gap relationship. Introducing a significantly younger or older partner to your loved ones can be intimidating and challenging. It may help to wait until you and your partner are ready, discuss what you’re comfortable sharing, set healthy boundaries, and be ready for varied reactions. If you and your partner have encountered challenges in your relationship, working with a couples therapist online or in person can be helpful.

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