Keep Them Coming: Age Gaps and Algorithms

Bring them in with Kristen Thomas. // Photo by Nicole Bissey

“Oh, you have a younger man, you Cougar! »

I kindly remind people who tell me this that the culture dictates with an age gap of less than nine years, I’m called Puma instead, thank you very much. My partner and I have an age gap of almost 6 years, which makes me a Xennial cusp and he solidly a Millennial.

By all accounts, from the research papers I’ve combed through, my guy and I shouldn’t be a thing. A Hitsch, Hortacsu and Ariely study 2010 found that both men and women avoid online dating in which the woman is older than the man.

Our culture doesn’t exactly support age-gap relationships, although we’re generally nicer when the man is older. We use terms such as “Dad”, “Cougar”, “Cradle Robber” or “May-December relationship”. Keanu Reeves has been praised for dating someone his own age, which means our society expects men to date younger women as a rule, rather than as an exception.

I remember a woman in her fifties – let’s call her Linda – who I sold a car to once in her mid-twenties. Linda had an age gap of over 20 years between her and her husband, who was 70. You get to know a lot of personal stuff while you spend hours with another person testing car after car.

She said it was fun as hell when she was younger because he was active and loved traveling with her. Eventually, he had become “a boring old man” to Linda. He didn’t like the sporty little car she had chosen because the ride was too difficult for him.

She advised me not to marry someone much older than me and bought the Honda Civic she wanted.

A 2017 Australian study says, “Couples with an age gap of one to three years (with the man older than the woman) were the most common and had the highest levels of satisfaction.”

So, is this some kind of “chicken and egg”? Does the lack of social acceptability of wider age gaps and the fact that women are older affect the happiness levels of couples, especially when they are part of an outlier group and experience negativity additional ? Is it causation or correlation?

In Justin Lehmiller and Christopher Agnew’s chapter “May-December Paradoxes: An Exploration of Age-Gap Relationships in Western Society” in the book The Dark Side of Close Relationships II, they reported that about 8% of straight couples have a decade or more gap.

It climbs to 15% for lesbian couples and 25% for homosexual couples. That’s millions of couples with 10 or more years between them.

Does it really matter that their pop culture references match? Just five years old can mean growing up with very different media and musical influences, and that’s what daters in my practice often cite as reasons why they choose to date a similar age group exclusively.

The judgment of close family or friends is also often cited. Age gaps aren’t a big thing in my family. Not a couple on my mother’s side married within two years of their age, except my grandparents. Age gaps have actually been a determining factor for most of us.

Ditch the stigma of age differences and simply choose partners based on your shared tastes and life goals.

What I see is that the couples that keep having fun together are the ones that work. Each couple must define what it is. For my parents, currently, it’s gardening and going out on weekends.

For my Aunt B and her husband, it’s camping in national and regional parks and wine tasting. For me and my guy, right now it’s playing Magic The Gathering and going to cheap movies on Tuesdays.

Esther Perel tells how she had four or five marriages with the same person. What she means is that each time they realized that they had changed and grown as people with different needs and wants, they had to either adapt to honor this new version of the person they fell in love with or move on.

Chronological age is not what really matters for couples. What does it matter if you have to explain a cinematic reference, a historical event that you experienced or if you experienced the same bad fashion as a teenager?

Who are you now? Do you align in a meaningful way? Are your long-term goals similar? Are you emotionally at the same level of maturity? Are you on the same wavelength with the children?

Your relationship will evolve over time as you evolve. The world too. Ten years ago no one was offering Drunken Fiddles, but now it’s the date I keep asking Matthew to book.

Ten years ago, I would have laughed if my boyfriend asked me to go to the game store and play Friday Night Magic, but current Kristen loves to go when a new expansion comes out.

Who knows what we will be up to 10 years from now. Couples have to wake up each day and choose to love the person next to them. Both of you will grow slowly over time due to your experiences, and you are each responsible for learning about yourself and each other over time.

No matter what the numbers say about the likelihood of age gap success, relationships actually end because of things like poor communication, financial insecurity, lack of support from family and friends. , low emotional intelligence, and a lack of satisfaction or confidence with your sexual status. .

If you and your Silver Fox or MILF have all the makings of a good relationship, and both parties are consenting adults, don’t worry about your age gap. If you’ve avoided slipping on people outside of your age range, consider some slack in a few years and see who’s out there.

Sharon D. Cole