Mistakes To Avoid If You Are In A Relationship With A Big Age Gap

From Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, many stars have publicly defended their big age gap love stories through the years, and while some have ended up giving in to the many challenges their love came with, others are still going strong.

This doesn't mean that big age gap relationships are easy or that they aren't, as according to experts, that is more of a case-by-case situation. But quite often, especially depending on how large the age gap is, your relationship will raise eyebrows and attract all sorts of criticism.

Past the criticism though, many couples get over the social pressure and go on to have a beautiful relationship, like George and Amal Clooney, who, despite their 17-year age gap, went on to get their dreamy Italian wedding and now have two four-year-old twin girls.

But, like every relationship it will take a lot of effort to be successful, and below are a few expert tips on mistakes you should avoid when entering a large age gap relationship.

What are the biggest mistakes to avoid in a big age gap relationship?

It takes a lot of hard work to keep a relationship going, even more so if your partner is significantly younger or older than you, and you are working towards different milestones, based on your age. But there are a few things you can take note of to avoid spoiling the relationship.

Forgetting to picture how things could go in the future

Experts think that one of the main mistakes people make when dating someone with a very large age gap is ignoring how time will pass and what future they're creating for themselves and for the couple.

Chloe Carmichael, psychologist and author of Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating told Newsweek that sometimes people get caught up with what works right now, without really thinking about how things could be far out into the future.

She told Newsweek: "If you have a 35-year-old woman who is dating a 65-year-old man who is actually very youthful, very active, and maybe he's also successful, and it all just seems great, he seems he doesn't have any major physical differences, and you might totally overlook it. But when you think about it, what about when you're 60 and he's 80?

"So then, when you're 60, you're going to be approximately the same age that he is in the relationship now at 55. And you're going to have that similar level of just feeling active and sporty and everything else, but then you're going to be doing that with an 80-year-old man."

Perception of family

According to our experts, another big problem in the relationship arises when it comes to family, especially if one of the two is divorced and has children with a previous partner.

Carmichael says that early stages of dating might feel very much the same, while the later stages of dating might be different for somebody who is at a different place in their life. Family dynamics and the perception of family should be discussed right at the beginning, to make sure you're not both looking for different things.

She added: "Let's say you're dating someone who's divorced and has kids, and you only see him when the kids aren't with him, so your interactions with him feel very similar to what it feels like to be with a single person. But then, what's it going to be like, if your goal is dating for marriage?

"You need to think, are we sharing all of our days together? Am I prepared to be a stepmom? Does he want to have children again, or does he want to get married again?"

Forgetting to acknowledge your differences

New York City therapist Jean G. Fitzpatrick LP says that for any couple, but especially one with a significant difference between partners like a big age gap, accepting their difference and finding constructive ways to talk about that difference is the key to a fulfilling relationship.

"How do you handle being at different career stages? How do you deal with having friend groups of different ages and different interests? How do you cope with differently aging bodies?" she said.

In her opinion, contrary to what most people believe, being "different" doesn't mean you should end the relationship, "when you learn how to handle it, it can be the spice of life."

What is the age gap between the couple usually accepted by society?

According to Carmichael, the milestone that people start feeling like they are no longer dating an age peer is usually five years, although this changes and stretches depending on who's older and who's younger and their stages in life.

She said: "For example, a 25-year-old woman is probably not going to date a 20-year-old guy, whereas a 40-year-old woman might date a 35-year-old man, and it's not that big of a deal. So that number five is a little bit flexible based on the age of the person.

"Whereas, with men, sometimes they don't want to date anybody who's even more than two years older. And sometimes that's even just simply for reasons of wanting to have a family or fertility. And so a man who is 35, may not want to date a 40-year-old woman, as he may think it's more strategic for him to date younger."

Fitzpatrick says that the general age gap usually accepted by society is about ten to twelve years, after which you'll probably start raising some eyebrows; "Once one partner is old enough to be the other's parent, people tend to frown."

When does the age gap become a problem?

According to Fitzpatrick, the age gap becomes a problem when partners are not willing or able to acknowledge and navigate their different experiences, needs, and life stages.

She said: "Over the years, the older partner is likely to be dealing with health issues before the younger one, and if they are not prepared for that the stress on both of them can be very challenging."

Carmichael says that the age gap can also become a problem when your life goals are no longer matching, as life goals really tend to be patterned around age.

Another big issue that can arise in a relationship with a large age gap is that, sometimes, either person in the relationship may not be aware that they're only attracted to the other person because of their looks, or manners, and not for what they really are.

"It can happen that the older partner is naturally excited by the youthful appearance and vigor of the younger person, and there's a little bit of a risk that it's just a superficial relationship, and that they might not really be honest with themselves about the fact that maybe they don't actually really find that younger partner quite as deep and interesting or as good of a match in other ways that actually are going to be important to that person down the road," said Carmichael.

Do couples with big age gaps have more challenges raising a child together?

Raising a child with a partner who is much younger or older than you doesn't necessarily comprise issues, although you may have different approaches to parenting because you were raised in different generations.

According to Fitzpatrick, couples with big age gaps who wish to form a family, need to plan around both partners' fertility, energy level, and lifespan, to avoid unnecessary issues.

Carmichael says that this depends on the relationship, and sometimes problems due to differences in values can happen, but mostly couples with big age gaps face issues with fertility, adding: "When you do have an older partner, sometimes people automatically think it's the older woman that's going to have issues with fertility, but some studies have also shown that older men may be more vulnerable to certain fertility challenges as well, whether it be through actually conceiving or sometimes for certain genetic abnormalities that can be more likely to occur when the man is older."

Older man with younger woman
A stock image shows a couple with a big age gap. While relationships with a big age gap are a lot of hard work, they can also be beautiful. Here are some tips on how to preserve the relationship. Getty Images

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