How To Handle Challenges In Age Gap Relationships

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated December 21, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Christy B.

Better known as May-December loves, age gap relationships can be rewarding but also trying for those involved. Though age might be 'just a number,' some challenges come with age differences. This doesn't mean that age gap relationships are doomed, but they may take more work. If you're part of a May-December romance, one of the best ways to make sure your love lasts is to prepare for challenges and develop possible solutions for any trials you're already facing or are likely to encounter.

When one has a basic understanding of prospective challenges that can occur in age gap relationships, there will be ease in solving them.  Age differences in a relationship have their good and bad sides, so do not be perplexed when you notice these challenges occurring. Come along; we will equip you and get you prepared for the hurdles one has to jump to enjoy massive age differences in a relationship.

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Age Gap Challenges and Solutions

Every relationship has strengths and strains. Partners in age gap relationships must tackle a unique set of challenges that couples with smaller windows of age will probably never face.

Some of these challenges include family concerns, money concerns, and blended family struggles. These are not impossible to manage but do require some extra work from both parties. If you and your partner are willing to put the work in, you can make the relationship thrive.

Many couples have great success in age gap relationships, but for others, it requires work.

No matter which group you fall under, you can get assistance. Couples therapy has shown great success in helping people manage age gap relationships, especially in cases where both parties are willing to work out the issues. Couples around the world make age gap relationships work, and you can, too! A significant age difference does not make the relationship is a disaster waiting to happen. Let's discuss a few of the challenges you may face in an age gap relationship, along with some possible solutions.

Challenge 1: Family Concerns

One of the most common challenges is family disapproval. Although you may be head over heels in love, one or both of your families may not be accepting of your relationship. Unfortunately, lack of family support is typical, especially in 20-year age gap relationships.

It is not a strange thing to scurry the approval of those most important to you- they are your support system, so their opinion counts in your choices in life. For romantic relationships, there are more expectations for you to regard their thoughts – this person would be your companion for a really long time. The approval of your family is, therefore, paramount to you.

The big age relationships are not easily approved whoever you consider family, maybe your parents, siblings, your aunt. For a widow/ widower or divorcee, those dear to your heart are often your children, and they may not welcome the idea. The significant age difference is sometimes very clear. The physique of your spouse may show how old or young they are. It is clearly impossible to hide it. Even though you are so in love, their comfort as a support system is will always ring a bell in your heart.

  • Parental approval

Parents are considered more experienced and mature than us in the game of love and life. No matter what the age is, they act as the critical eye for our decisions, especially when it comes to love.  Since they are not emotionally and romantically in love with the intended spouse, they seek to guide a relationship checking the person thoroughly.

Due to scrutiny, rejection of your lover may negate your fantasies. The factors they are considering why it is a no-no with that person could be very important. Other times, it could be based on  personal biases. Focusing on the life stage will determine if you are accepting such bias.

More common of personal bias is coupled with significant age differences. The age difference comes to them as a red flag. The antennae are turned on. 

Since the age preferences of the average parent are between the range of two to three years- bringing someone quite older, even if it is five years could make them worried, thinking of potential age-related issues to be encountered.

Solution

First, hear out your family and friends' concerns. Although it might be difficult, do your best to listen carefully and respond calmly. Don't meet them with criticism or defensiveness.

Next, ask yourself as honestly as you can if any of their concerns valid. Even if you don't think so, it's important to make sure your loved ones feel heard. Respond to their questions, provide clarity, and express your feelings (sadness, anger, etc.) as well as your need for support going forward.

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Knowing that you've listened to what they had to say might help your family/friends be more accepting of your choices. If not, you may have to take a step back from those relationships/friendships for a while. If they remain defiant, then you may have to take your stance. You would have to show them how valuable your spouse by setting a boundary.

Drawing boundaries in their involvement in your choice of having an age gap relationship should be done at the stage you see that they are not considerate of your emotions: that is, they are more focused on their bias. These biases they have towards age gap relationships can stand in the way of you finding true love, so be ready to stand your ground. Let it be clear that as an adult, you are a hundred percent responsible for your life.

You may have to draw these boundaries with family members that are not are naturally not a fan of big age gaps. Lessen their involvement as their bias can lead to conflict in the family, seek advice more from aged couples that are open to the age gap.

If it is everyone in your family that is against the age difference, it would be good to consider their opinion, find the pros and cons and make your choice. Then go ahead with the relationship if you want.

NOTE: Falling for someone with age a little more distant from yours does not make you less of an adult, it may instead affirm your ability to choose what you consider reality to you.  There are couples with age gaps which have successful marriages, be rest assured that yours will not be an exception. Be stringent with not allowing your family to get in- this is first for your own sanity, then your spouse- It will show how much you respect and value them.

Challenge 2: Blending Families

Another common issue for people in age gap relationships is figuring out how to blend already established families into one happy clan. This is a challenge that many couples face, even those without age gaps, but significant differences in age can make it even more difficult. This is especially true of couples who have children from previous marriages that are close to the age of the new spouse.

Couples with significant age differences find it hard to break the news to their children- that they have found someone really younger to them. They feel it will sound ridiculous, but without their children's approval or a boundary set, a peaceful home may be far-fetched.

  • Children approval

Children's approval of an intending spouse as a divorcee or a widower/widow is paramount. These family members are closer than even the parents since they are your product of the former marriage. The attachment is stronger because you know you are responsible for them

Age gap relationships have less conflict when it comes to little children- toddlers or children in the range of five to ten. When one starts experiencing challenges is with older children from the teenage years upward. They can pose a threat to the relationship and refuse approval no matter what the age gap is.

Their reaction is not outside the box; they have been around your former spouse for long, seen how the relationship was with their other parent, so the fight to keep memories is common. Children who are closer in age to their parent's new lovers have a tendency not to respect them. They will feel that the year age difference is not worth them giving consideration to-the negativity can be so loud that if one is not careful, it could frustrate the union destroying the romantic relationship.

The party with the larger age, on many occasions, is the one with older children. With so many factors to consider, he/she is in a dilemma, seeking what is most palatable, is it letting go of the lover? Or the children?

Solution

There are many blended family scenarios that can come into play when one partner is much older than the other, but the solutions work regardless.

The first step is to work on a solid understanding of the situation with your spouse. Unless you two are on the same page when it comes to children, boundaries, rules, and consequences, true blending will never take place.

Then, be realistic with yourself and others, and limit your expectations as best you can. You can't expect to fall in love with your partner's children overnight, and the children may never fall in love with you! The same goes for your partner and your children. Although this might be a tough pill to swallow, it's a reality many couples face after the dust has settled, and the honeymoon is over.

The key is to remain civil and connected.

Don't give or accept ultimatums, communicate often, and insist on respect. Find the time to do things that will help you bond as a family. This will help close the blended family breach that many age gap relationships struggle to close.

As a person with a big age, you may consider seeking the advice of aged couples or better still a relationship expert. The aim is to be able to make decisions favorable to you, the partner and the children. There has to be an understanding of what is most palatable.  You might also consider counseling, BetterHelp can help struggling families put aside their differences for the greater good of the family unit. At BetterHelp,  there are counselors that specialize in these types of challenges and can help you get on the right track.

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Challenge 3: Having More Children

Some questions should be asked before tying the knot. Whether or not you plan to have more children is a major one. Though this may seem like a question that can be sorted out down the road, it can also end otherwise loving marriages.

The subject of having more children is one that can come up in any marriage, even those that don't have big differences in age. But the conversation can become more difficult in age gap relationships, especially when one partner has already raised a family and the other hasn't.

There are factors to be considered when the discussion of having more children comes up while considering this distance relationship. With them being listed out, you should critically check them out- the euphoria of love comes to an end when issues of having more children arise in age gap relationships.

Factors for consideration

  1. Fertility state of the man. There are some couples that may not be able to give birth to children because of age advancement. The study on age shows that a man at a certain age is less likely to be able to father a child, especially when he is past forty. The significant age difference of a male partner from his female lover needs to be checked if the couple intends to have more children.
  2. The Woman's health and timing: The process of pregnancy naturally takes a toll on a woman no matter the age difference between the couple. Even after childbirth, the mother experiences transformation that is uncomfortable. When considering the age gap relationships, the health status of the Woman to give birth to a child cannot be neglected.
  3. Financial Capacity: It is very likely that the partner with the big age already has children that he/she is responsible for financially. It could be that they are in high school or college- this means more expenses. Thinking of having more children with financial constraints may require a demanding budget.
  4. Number of Children: How many children do you have now? The person with the lower age differences bridges the gap by asking this question. He/she may likely not have a child and would be desirous of that. When considering going into an age gap relationship, you as the lesser age person should put that into consideration.

Solution

It's important for both partners to consider not only their willingness to have children but also their ability to have more kids. In age-gap relationships where the Woman is the older partner, having children naturally might not be an option. In some cases, children might be on the table if alternative routes (IVF, surrogacy, adoption, etc.) are acceptable by both partners.

What's important is that you never assume. Ask, discuss, and decide if the situation is one that you can live with long-term. If not, a compromise might be necessary. Don't be so gone in love that you can't see what you would be getting yourself into.

The age preferences for a person considering childbirth should be realistic. You cannot marry a woman fifty-five,  a thirty-five-year-old man, and expect her to give birth to a child for you. If you think you really want to continue with the relationship, then consider the alternative routes mentioned above.

Challenge 4: Money Matters

Money issues are one of the most common causes of discord between couples of any age. With age gap relationships, there tend to be unique financial situations that wouldn't be common in other types of marriages.

When one couple is much older than the other, it increases the likelihood that one partner would have an established career, be more financially stable, own property, and have investments. Although this isn't always the case, when it is, special care has to be taken to make sure both parties enter the marriage on the same page about who owns what and what will happen financially if things don't work out. Couples must also consider how things will change when the older partner has to retire (sometimes years before) the other spouse.

Also, when the age difference is wide in a marriage/relationship, there is also a possibility that they would not be referred to as aged couples at the same time, one of them will grow old faster and likely die earlier—relationships with significant age difference tow this lane often. You have to understand that the life stage of each person would be different; one of the couples may be more susceptible to diseases as they grow older more than the other. All of these should be planned. You should focus on the health insurance scheme so that when one of you grows older, he will not be a burden to the financial capabilities of the family.

Relationships work in tandem with how much the couple, no matter the age difference, can work towards financial stability.

Solution

With money matters, simply "talking it out" isn't a likely solution. Instead, couples should sit down with a financial planner and come up with a plan for the future. Just as BetterHelp's professional therapists can help you deal with personal and family issues, a financial guru can help you solve money matters.

Many spouses are opposed to these types of meetings because they fear the conversation will lead to mention of the dreaded "prenup" or "postnup," but that's not always the case. Most of the time, both partners will leave the meeting feeling empowered and protected with a solid plan for their future in place.

 Challenge 5: Growing Apart

"Irreconcilable differences" is divorce talk for "we just couldn't make it." More than any of the other challenges that come along with age gap relationships, growing apart ranks as the number one reason for divorce. These changes can be physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, or just plain personal.

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A significant age difference is one of the reasons for growing apart. Theories for age in marriage, according to a research made in 2010 shows how age affects marriage. Many couples with large age differences come to impasses where one partner is ready to do X, and the other spouse is still focused on Y. Neither is wrong for the way they feel, but no one knows who should give in. When spouses are in different stages in their lives, they can feel alienated and alone. If these feelings are rising in you, your partner likely feels the same.\

The generation gap between them makes them see things differently. Without conscious effort from both parties, they may have thoughts that they do not just understand each other. It is not always the case, e.g., it is not possible to compare a generation used to desktop computers to that of a generation where they can work on the go with their smartphones.  With a spouse that sees life from a technologically savvy point, you cannot avoid rift. BetterHelp has a history of clients with issues of this sort.  Indifferences in culture and lifestyle can be worked when the couple have knowledge of the chasm in their lifestyle due to the difference in decade. - They have a higher percentage of survival.

Solution

With any life stage, comes challenges of its own. At the point of getting married, there are a series of issues that can arise when the age difference is wide. It does not end when the marriage has taken shape.  There will be disagreements that can make the couple drift apart-all relationships go through that phase.  If you find that you and your spouse are beginning to drift apart, don't wait until the gap is too far to close to ask for help. Do not allow long-distance relationship at this point. Long-distance relationship, with couples in a state of chaos, requires them treading carefully. It should never be considered that you, as a couple, go your separate ways when conflict arises.

You have to start prioritizing your relationship again. Remember what made you fall in love with each other, even with the age difference. Choose not to allow this life stage sap you from the undying love you professed to each other. Think of all the hurdles you had to overcome to be together, was it limiting your relationship with your parents? Do not allow their prophecies to come to fusion. Do not be oblivious of the fact age differences can bring a gap between your worlds Seek relationship advice from a  BetterHelp professional who can offer personalized assistance. Choosing to be proactive will steer up the old feelings and the tenacity to make your relationships work.

 When relationships work, it does not come by chance. Just like any relationship, a May-December love will take work and commitment. Knowing what challenges you are likely to face is the first step to building a strong foundation. Now when a difficult situation comes along, you won't feel sucker-punched with surprise. Instead, you'll be prepared and strapped with possible solutions. Couples closer in age also have to put that much effort into making it work, so also couples with significant age differences- they have no excuse. If you are consistent with working out your age differences, the big age could be a blessing in disguise for you.

Book a session with a BetterHelp counselor and see how your once dilapidated relationship because of age differences is revitalized.

Other Solutions

If you are feeling stressed as a result of the problems you're experiencing with the age difference between you and your spouse, there are a few things you can try.

One solution is deep breathing. Breathing exercises are great for calming down and collecting your emotions. This can help with anxiety and also reduce negative feelings within.

Another thing you might try is journaling with your partner. This will not only help you release frustrations, but it will also give you a great reference point while you're trying to strengthen your relationship.

Lastly, take care of yourself. Self-care is so important when it comes to being in a healthy relationship. If you are happy inside, you can make your partner happy, too!

How BetterHelp Can Help

Therapy could be a great option if you're struggling with relationship issues due to age gaps. Much can be done to help your relationship-and if things truly aren't working; a therapist can help you move forward.

The counselors and therapists at BetterHelp are licensed professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping people just like you. If you feel there isn't much you can do to fix your situation; a therapist may be able to help you realize possibilities you never imagined. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I really enjoyed my sessions with Dr. Anstadt. He helped me see how one issue was affecting multiple aspects of my life. He has greatly improved my relationships with the people I'm closest to, and even the way I approach work. I have seen a huge difference in my relationships already, and I have several tools to help me manage the issues I started seeking therapy for. I cannot express how thankful I am to Dr. I Anstadt!"

"She has been a great listening ear, and given me some great suggestions to improving my relationship."

Conclusion

Age gap relationships pose many challenges, but if you truly feel you're right for each other, you can make your relationship work. Therapy could offer tremendous help. Take the first step to a fulfilling relationship, with challenges overcome, today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can age gap relationships work?

Yes. Many couples with a significant age difference can make a relationship work. The key is to be mindful of the gap in your relationship so you can address all the issues involved. But for many couples, age is a minor factor, because their similarities and differences have more to do with personal and psychological factors than age. Whether you are already married, living together, or just thinking of getting closer, talking to a couples' counselor can help you face and make decisions that come up because of age differences.

What is the age gap too big?

When it comes to the difference in age, there is no hard and fast rule about the specific age you each have to be. Of course, big age gaps will likely present more problems than a relationship in which the partners are more similarly aged.

But are there any guidelines at all to rely on? Some people suggest going by the half-your-age-plus-seven rule. The idea is that if you take half your age and add seven years, that should be the minimum age, you should have a relationship with to be socially acceptable as a couple. Or, you can find the maximum age you should have a relationship with by taking your age, subtracting seven years, and multiplying by two. At least, that's the theory.

However, the half-your-age-plus-seven rule isn't necessarily valid for everyone. Certainly, by doing the calculation, you might be more aware of potential problems that you need to sort through. But it won't tell you for sure whether the relationship will work or be socially acceptable or not.

What is the best age gap for a couple?

So, if the half-your-age-plus-seven rule gives you an idea of about the maximum or minimum age your partner should be, what is the best age gap for a couple? Again, there's no magic formula that will definitely tell you what will work best. However, people who are closer in age seem to stay together longer. With an average age gap of one year, couples only had a 3% chance of breaking up, while couples five years apart had an 18% chance, couples ten years apart had a 39% chance, and couples 20 years apart had a 95% chance of breaking up, according to one study.

So, it seems clear that trying to have a relationship with a big age difference between you and your partner is riskier, the greater the age differences. Does that mean a relationship with a big age difference can't work? No, that's not true in every case. Remember that even the couples with a 20-year difference still had a 5% chance of staying together. Only you and your partner can decide if your relationship is worth facing the risks inherent in a big age difference.

What age is considered old?

When considering whether to dive into a relationship with a big age difference, it might help you to think about whether you would end up being a young person with a partner who is considered old. By the same token, if you are the older partner, you need to consider whether your partner would find you too old after a while, or you would consider them too young. Age differences often seem more important when one partner is old.

The exact age when you're considered old depends on several factors. For one thing, researchers determined that if the average age when the likelihood that you will die in the next year is 2% or higher, you would be considered old. Right now, that works out to 73 years old for women and 65 years old for men. Other factors that may make someone seem old, and thus maximize the effects of a big age gap, include poor physical health, low energy, not being deeply engaged in any activities, or being socially isolated.

Does age matter in a relationship when the Woman is older?

Age differences matter in relationships when the Woman is older just as when the man is older. But with older women, age differences can mean that the couple needs to seriously consider the impact on marriage and family since there is a limit to how old she can be to have children safely. On the other hand, since women aren't considered old until they're 73 – 8 years older than men are considered old – that factor is less of an issue for older women than for men.

What age is a woman's prime?

A relationship with a big space between the partner's ages may work better or worse depending on when they are each in their prime. A woman is at her peak hormonally in her mid to late 20s. Many people have suggested that women are in the sexual prime during the decade between 30 and 40. Yet, each person hits their own peak of sexuality at a different age. Other factors that come into play are the Woman's body image and confidence, their own unique sexuality, whether they trust their partner, and how well they know their own sexual preferences. The age differences are less significant when the two partners can meet on common ground in terms of sexuality.

What age are men most fertile?

If you plan on having children within a relationship with a big variance in age, you need to consider whether the man is fertile enough to get the Woman pregnant. The average age of a man's peak fertility comes before they are 40. Although men can still father babies much later in life, their fertility decreases after they reach the age of 40.

What age should a woman stop having babies?

There are many roads to marriage and family. But if you want to have babies within the relationship, you need to consider the Woman's ability to have healthy babies safely. As with most questions regarding age, there is a lot of variances based on factors like health, heredity, and living conditions. Although it may be younger for women with health problems, generally, the age when women should stop having babies is about 45 years old. At that time, her fertility is likely so low that she couldn't conceive naturally. But even in their late 30s and 40s, women are at higher risk for complications and health problems related to childbirth. The fetus is also at higher risk of congenital disabilities if the mother is in her late 30s or older. So, in a relationship with a big span of years between the partners' ages, the couple may need to consider adoption if the Woman is older than her late 30s.


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