Two, five, or 10 years — what is considered an acceptable age gap between two consenting adults who are dating?
With movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Something’s Got to Give, and Silver Linings Playbook, audiences have been led to believe that romances with significant age gaps are possible and can be successful.
However, society doesn’t seem as accepting of real-life couples. When the age gap is within the double digits, many people question the authenticity of the relationship.
With the differing opinions on which age gaps are acceptable and which are not, where should couples draw the line?
How much of an age gap is OK?
The most acceptable age difference within most heterosexual couples is three years. Yet this age difference tends to be judged more in some instances than in others. For example, a 23-year-old dating a 30-year-old, with a seven-year difference, can raise an eyebrow. However, the seven-year difference between people who are 45 and 52 doesn’t seem too strange.
For Gen Z, these age gaps seem suspicious, especially when an older man is in a relationship with a significantly younger woman. Many younger people have shared on social media their opinions about the dangers of being taken advantage of by an older partner.
These social stigmas may be why the recent relationship announcement between Marcus Jordan, age 32, and Larsa Pippen, age 49, has been under scrutiny. Their 17-year age gap has received criticism and mockery from the public. The couple has endured harsh comments, such as that Pippen was babysitting Jordan when he was younger.
Even Michael Jordan, Marcus’s father, was asked whether he approved of his son’s relationship with an older woman; he was quoted as saying a flat-out no.
When Pippen first heard of his disapproval, she said she was embarrassed. Fortunately, Marcus Jackson cleared up rumors by admitting his father was joking and hadn’t taken the criticism seriously.
Yet Jordan and Pippen aren’t the only couples who have found romance across generations.
George Clooney and Amal Clooney have a 17-year age gap and are happily married with twins.
Singer Elton John and filmmaker David Furnish share a 15-year age gap.
The superstar couple, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have a 10-year age gap.
Julius Tennon and Viola Davis have a 13-year age gap and have been married for 20 years.
Even one of the most famous and probably wealthiest couples, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, have a 12-year age gap.
As evident in these couples and others, the age gap doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. What appears to be the case is the age gap is uncomfortable for anyone outside of the relationship.
It begs the question of whether an age difference is a factor in the success and vitality of a relationship.
How important is an age gap in a relationship?
Many professionals say that the number of years isn’t the biggest concern between two adults and that the stages of life are a more influential factor. Every stage of life consists of different goals. For instance, someone in their early 20s might be focused on their career. Someone in their late 40s might be already established in their career and looking to settle down.
Thus, a couple can succeed or fail based on their life stage. If a couple wants similar things for the future, then the couple’s age difference may not come into play.
Furthermore, other factors need to be considered for a lasting relationship. These factors include:
Emotional maturity: Self-control to understand, manage, and work with your emotions.
Financial stability: Feeling and being confident in your financial situation.
Educational levels of partners: Relationship success tends to be stronger when both partners have a high education level.
Acceptance of the relationship between family members and friends: Relationships tend to thrive when they have the support and approval of family members and friends.
Secure attachment: When both partners feel confident in who they are and feel they can be themselves around their partner.
Is age really nothing but a number?
Celebrity couples often receive a lot of criticism and disapproval since their relationships are often on display to the general public. However, when it comes to two consenting adults in a relationship, their large age gap has very little to do with the connection two people have for each other.
Couples born a decade or two apart can have many differences, such as listening to different music and having different interests. However, a couple can stay connected through similar goals, values, and future aspirations. Alignment of these things can increase the chances of couples staying together.
When a couple’s expectations are in line, and they use healthy communication, the age difference may not factor into the ins and outs of their relationship.
However, society is often quick to look at one factor and make judgments and jokes. If a younger woman is with an older man, people say she’s only with him for his money. When an older woman is with a younger man, she is accused of “robbing the cradle.”
Although many people may not be comfortable with large age gaps, the only people who should be concerned about a relationship are the people in it.
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Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.