How To Handle Challenges In Age Gap Relationships
Updated March 20, 2020
Reviewer 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 come up with possible solutions for any trials you're already facing or are likely to face.
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 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! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You might also consider counseling, since having a professional can help struggling families put aside their differences for the greater good of the family unit. BetterHelp has counselors that specialize in these types of challenges and can help you get on the right track.
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.
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.
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 tends 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.
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.
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 one 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.
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. Instead, seek relationship advice from a BetterHelp professional who can offer personalized assistance.
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.
If you are feeling stressed as a result of the problems you're experiencing, 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.
"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 improve 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."
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.