Social Question

MissAnthrope's avatar

Why is it that people judge when there's a serious age difference in a romantic relationship?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21491points) June 20th, 2010

How is it their business? Why do tongues wag? If two people are happy and there is 10–20 years difference between them, what’s the scandal?

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42 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Because it is not unheard of for older people (often men) to prey on the naivete of younger people (often women).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

They assume either party has ulterior motives and that no one can possibly be in love when there’s an age difference. The thing is, this is complete bs, because every person that wags their tongue has set an arbitrary range on what is an acceptable age difference and what isn’t – it’s a bit like when people call women ‘sluts’ (which I hate, ps) – one’s idea of a ‘slut’ is not another person’s and it, therefore, becomes meaningless. @nikipedia – that kind of mistreatment can and does occur in any relationship, though.

jerv's avatar

I believe that there is an element of “You could be her father/mother!” going on there and thus making such an age gap vaguely incestuous. Or maybe it’s the fact that one of them will likely die far sooner and thus the relationship cannot possibly last.

I know that age gaps in general can cause problems though. I have a hard time relating to two of my cousins even though we are in the same generation because I am old enough to be their father. I would imagine that the problems would be far worse if there was romance involved. I mean, once the age gap gets that large, we are talking about two different cultures here, and people often raise an eyebrow at dating outside of you cultural group. How can two people that are that different possibly have a good relationship?

nikipedia's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Yeah, good point. But I definitely think the odds go up if you’re looking at a young woman (late teens, early 20s) with a dude in his late 30s or early 40s.

talljasperman's avatar

It’s all Dr. Phil’s fault

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jerv Some people are afraid of incest because they’ve had those feelings and want to run away from them. @nikipedia No, of course this occurs – genuine relationships are rare, as is. It’s just that when two people the same in age get married because that’s what they’re ‘supposed to do’ and cause it’s ‘that time’ – no one bats an eye as to how wrong that is or as to how stupid this decision is but you’ve got someone with a 14 year difference, it is guaranteed, in their eyes, to not be a smart idea.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it’s because it takes them out of their comfort zone. So instead of getting to know and understand why the couple is together and see that they are happen, they instead scoff and feel it’s wrong. All of us have our limits to what we are comfortable with dating. I personally could not date someone as old as my parents, but could easily date someone in between their age and mine when I was single (so 10 years or so older than me). I don’t see a problem with people dating someone much older or younger than them as long as both people are adults.

MissAnthrope's avatar

The reason I ask is I’m talking to a 21-year-old and considering going on a date with her. This is very premature, this question, considering the stage we’re at right now, but it got me thinking. I have reservations due to the fact that no matter how mature a 21-year-old is, there is a lot to be said about knowledge/wisdom gained by life experience. The other thing is that if I told people that I (as a soon-to-be 34-year-old) was dating someone that age, I know people would judge. And that got me thinking about the people with large age gaps in their relationships I’ve known, and that there is a tendency to judge such unions.

I’m really not sure why that is, especially if the people are happy and that it works for them..

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MissAnthrope You have one life to live, live it with love and however you feel is best – fuck the others.

nikipedia's avatar

Yeah, as usual I agree with @Simone_De_Beauvoir. People might judge, but fuck ‘em.

When I was 24 I dated a 36 year old and age was totally a nonissue. So it could work out just fine.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia @MissAnthrope When I was 24, I date someone who was 38 and it was a wonderful relationship.

Seaofclouds's avatar

When I was 22, I dated a 34 year old. It was a good relationship and our break up had nothing to do with our age. There were people that made comments about our age difference, but we both ignored them and the people close to us never had an issue with it.

reverie's avatar

Sometimes, I think those kind of judgements say far more about the person doing the judging rather than those that are being judged.

rebbel's avatar

Or they are talking behind our backs, or it indeed isn’t an issue for them, but people in our families/friends have never said anything negative about me and my girlfriend’s age difference.
In fact, we talked about it in the beginning of our relationship (would it be of influence, would people talk shame of it, etc.), but no, it really is not an issue.

Scooby's avatar

Just go ahead & live your life for yourself, why worry what others may think?? You’ll never be able to keep everyone happy so why waste your energy on them when you could be putting into a loving meaningful healthy relationship, when I was a lad of sixteen I was in a relationship with a woman more than twice my age, thank goodness she had no such inhibitions about my age back then , she made a man of a boy & I’ll never forget her for that…. ;-)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@reverie ..like every judgment, really.

chyna's avatar

Because people can’t mind their own business. I like younger guys and usually date only younger men. To me, guys my age and older (that I have met) act like old men. My spirit is too young to settle for old.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Well, I sincerely appreciate the support in the direction of checking it out to see what’s there. That’s kind of my attitude, especially since she seems pretty mature and we have a lot in common.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I didn’t think they really did all that much. I’m a female and I’ve been in several longterm partnerships with males at least 10yrs younger than me and no one’s made a fuss at all, no “cougar” comments or anything. The difference may have be my relationships are the serious live in with intentions of marriage kind rather than casual dating. Dunno.

KatawaGrey's avatar

When both people are legal adults, I’m not bothered. I might wince a little if, say, there is an 18-year-old and a 40-year-old, but 21 and 34 does not seem so bad to me. Also, it seems to me that the “rules” are different with homosexual couples.

I’m friends with a guy who is 28 and dating a 16-year-old girl. He has a tendency to go for girls who are a lot younger than he is and they’re getting progressively younger. His last girlfriend was a year older than I. That raises all sorts of red flags for me.

chyna's avatar

@KatawaGrey I’m surprised her parents allow her to date a 28 year old. When you are 16, dating someone more than 3 or 4 years older seems like a bad idea.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@chyna: I don’t know this for sure, but she lives with her mother and her stepmother, both of whom were married to men and had kids and then came out of the closet. I wonder if maybe there’s a bit of, “People hate our relationship and we’re not going to do that to our daughter” going on. Apparently she has a history of dating much older guys. Her last boyfriend was 22 when they broke up and apparently she dated a 19-year-old when she was 13.

chyna's avatar

@KatawaGrey Then she totally missed out on being a kid and a teenager. IMHO.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@chyna: When it’s that extreme, I’m not going to heap all the gross on the adult men. She’s obviously targeting these guys who want little girls and somehow keeps finding them. They’re not princes, but she must have a hand in this.

dutchbrossis's avatar

my husband is 26 years older than me. we are going on 2 years of being together now. I think people judge because they like to find things to complain about and aren’t happy if they don’t

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@KatawaGrey
Your friend is taking a huge risk dating girls under 18 if that’s the legal age where he’s at. I had a wonderful friend who dating the same girl from the time she was 16 til the time she turned 19 and when things didn’t go her way then she called the Sherrif’s dept. and reported him which kept him from ever being accepted into the Sherrif’s dept., police dept., etc.

It’s not impossible for males into “young girls” to find legal aged young looking women to cover their asses, sheesh.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

I don’t see a problem….at all. I’ve dated younger men many times, and the issue has never been “age gap”. The issue has been “levels of maturity”. What I mean is that you can have a 40 year old airbag of a guy that still acts like a kindergartner and then have a 28 year old who is thoughtful and understanding. (And no, under 21…no, I think there has to be a cut-off…my cut-off is higher…lots higher.)

I can assure you that age does not make a difference. Maturity, thoughtfulness and a sense of themselves….does. You are right, at 21 a person is not fully formed psychically, but I still contend that a 21 year old may have more sense than a partying, drinking, cheating heart of a 42 year old who has never been in therapy or worked out his mommy issues and is still cruising for “babes”.

I think you have to take each situation and each person individually——rather than work it out as a general “age” thing. That being said, I also don’t enjoy dating men who don’t have a job or are still “trying to find themselves” and say, “Dude” and Twitter incessantly. That’s also one of my no-no’s. :)

Why do people judge? Jealousy. Mostly.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Neizvestnaya: I know but I don’t know him well enough to say anything. Seriously though, if her dad found out I gather he does not know cuz she lives with her mom and stepmom I’d be willing to bet he’d squish her old boyfriend into jelly. Like I said, I try not to pass judgment on age-gap relationships if both people are legal adults but when there is at least one minor involved, then I have issues.

dutchbrossis's avatar

Honestly that is what I don’t understand. Why is it okay for a 18year old to date a 21 year old but not 16 and 19 ? Doesn’t make sense to me. Or if a girl is 14 with a 16 year old, but when the 16 year old turns 18 and the 14 year old is now 16 they are supposed to break up because of that ? doesn’t seem right

john65pennington's avatar

One man on Answerbag asked almost the same identical question. he was in his 60s and dating a girl around the age of 21. 39 years difference is really stretching it. how would these two have anything in common? the generation gap would reach to the moon. i will not say that it could not happen. i am sure it has somewhere in the past. happiness is the key word to any relationship, no matter what the age difference might be. those that gossip just might be jealous?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@dutchbrossis It’s a matter of legal issues. Most often, people assume that if they are dating, they are also doing other things that would be against the law. States have different ages of consent and different statutory rape laws.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@dutchbrossis: I don’t have a problem with that, but you have to admit that 28 and 16 is not such a good thing.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

There was a 20 year age difference between my lady and I. She had to listen to crap about “gold digger” as did I about “cradle robber”. The important thing was that we were right for each other and loved each other deeply. The biggest issue with us was not age but cultural and socio-economic differences; those were minor and were settled long before we married.

As long as you’re both adults, you love each other and can tolerate each others differences, age should not be a barrier. Just be aware that there are ignorant types who can’t seem to mind their own business. In the face of true love, comments of the ignorant pale to insignificance.

dutchbrossis's avatar

@Seaofclouds I am just speaking morally. Honestly as far as legally, just make sure you know each other well and the parents to protect the older one from really bad legal stuff. Other than that legally doesn’t matter, in my opinion

@KatawaGrey Some people will hate my answer for this, but I like to always be honest, I think it depends on the 2 people and their motivations. If it is love and they are really happy together as a couple, I don’t think 28 and 16 is a bad thing. If one is taking advantage of the other then that is wrong, but that happens with people of all ages.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@dutchbrossis I get what you are saying, but all it takes in a situation where one is underage is a fight and a phone call and the older person gets screwed. They may know each other well, but people don’t always think clearly when they are hurt or angry.

Other than that I agree with you. Morally I don’t have an issue with a 16 year old dating someone close to his/her age (like within 2–4 years) and most statutory rape laws have something about being within a certain number of years from each other, but I don’t think a 16 year old should be dating someone 20 years older than them. There’s a big difference there in my opinion.

dutchbrossis's avatar

I know. I am against all statuatory rape laws, I don’t think age really matters as long as both people love each other. It isn’t just within 2–4 years for me, I don’t like to put age limits on things like that. If a 16 year old and 30 year old are happy together and trust each other then morally I can’t see what is wrong with it as long as no one is hurting each other.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, in case this results in children. Imagine a 10-year-old boy with a 85-year-old Daddy.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@mattbrowne
My biological father’s mother had her last child at about 50–52 and her husband was 64, my uncle grew up loved and well adjusted even though his dad only lived another 9yrs.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Neizvestnaya – I don’t judge. I just tried to answer the questions why some people do.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@mattbrowne- I didn’t think you were but it did give me opportunity to share an example of the “un norm” working pretty well.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. People have trouble with it because sexually America is like a man before e the mirror who promptly forgets what he looks like the moment he turns away from it. Many Americans are ignorant to traditions and cultures overseas where for centuries it has been quite normal, even 80 years ago or more here in the US gals married young and with greater distance in age of their husbands. All the incest/pedophile hysteria was media made in the mid 70s to early 80s when it was a cause celebrity of the media with the Mc Martin pre school snafu and the Tara Burk kidnapping etc. Many Americans also forget just how many unions go bust when the ages are the same or within 3–5 years. Generational gapage is another truck load of warm BS society comes up with to try to steer people into relationships that are more appealing to them. Just to point out so not get all steamed and pissed but why would a 21yr old woman with a 52yr old man be more creepy than 2 late 20somthing men having a relationship?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central
I think difference in ages has become more of an oddity since child birthing became safer and safer for women. Up until around 100 years ago then it was common for men to marry several times if a wife died in or soon after childbirth. Most re married eligible women, the greatest number being younger as the man aged. Also, marrying for love is the stuff of fables for a lot of people around the world, many still marry for security and social standing. Here in America we are all lucky to be in the land of “do whatever you want if you can” and that means you can fall in love and pursue just about anyone and buck the rest of the world’s conventions. People live longer now, woman stay healthier and youthful longer, most are no longer at the mercy of uncontrolled births or harsh living conditions/elements so they are also enjoying access to a larger dating pool of men who are still primarily youth focused.

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