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Does age difference matter in a relationship?

Couple in love
Mind the gap! Does age difference really matter in a relationship?

As we mature, the biggest priority in our long-term relationships tends to be compatibility. We long for someone who understands us, appreciates us and cares for us, above all else. Sometimes in life, people find this compatibility with the most unlikely of partners. But what happens when the love of your life is 10 or 15 years older (or younger) than you?

What are some of the most common problems faced by couples with years, even decades between them?

VIEW GALLERY: The health benefits of love

The norm
In recent history, relationship statistics indicate that most people end up with a partner that is close to them in age — around three to five years either side tends to be the norm. But times they are a-changin', and now more and more people are saying to hell with society's age stereotypes, and pairing off with people who are 10, 15 or more years apart in age.

The second time around
A common problem for those with a major age gap in their relationship is mismatched life experiences. These can include major milestones like career, travel, marriage and children — all of which are profoundly affected if one person in the relationship has already "been there, done that".

If you're a 25-year-old hoping for a family of your own one-day, and are dating a divorced 45-year-old with teenage kids from a previous relationship, you need to get things straight with your partner about their interest in having a second family. Age gaps can become more prominent when it comes to big life experiences and rites of passage. It pays to be clear about your relationship hopes and dreams from the start.

Who's your daddy?
Not exactly a problem, but certainly something of an embarrassment, is the likelihood of social situations in which you and your partner are mistaken for parent and child — or worse. Work functions, booking into a hotel for a weekend away, and shopping for clothes together are all potential minefields for couples with big age gaps.

Do you nod and smile through gritted teeth as the sales assistant talks to your "Dad" or do you set the record straight then and there? And if you are constantly attracted to vastly older partners, are there some unresolved parental issues that could need addressing?

In sickness and in health
Your age gap may not be that noticeable in your lifestyle right now, but the bigger the age gap, the more you'll need to consider what your life together will be like in the long term. Health and the natural aging process are both factors that will impact on the quality of your lifestyle with a partner who is vastly older than you.

A gap of 20 years means that one of you will be a sprightly 45-year-old, while the other will be approaching retirement. And yes, you're only as young as you feel, but how will your relationship cope with the ravages of time? Are you comfortable with the idea of becoming someone's live-in carer rather than live-in lover?

Making an age gap relationship work is like any other successful relationship — it depends on strong communication skills, dedication, honesty and a lot of effort. But as anyone who loves someone regardless of an age difference will tell you, love is not only blind, it can't count very well either.


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