The 'average age gap' for couples in a relationship is just over 2 years. Small wonder then that we all have an opinion when couples fall outside this norm. Whether you believe large age gaps can never work, or there are simply too many problems which come with the age difference, many couples provide evidence that love is blind and pays no attention to these concerns.
How difficult can it be?
There are four key factors that face couples in a May / December relationship:
- the external pressures that come from everyone else's opinions and assumptions.
Are you able to laugh it off when other people jump to the conclusion that your partner is your parent rather than your spouse? Or does it make you angry or embarrassed? How many of your family and friends assume they have the right to have an opinion about your relationship - just because it is a bit different?
- the fear that the initial attraction will wear off. There is a higher than normal risk of insecurity - based on entrenched ideas about what is attractive: youth, good looks, energy, maturity, wisdom, experience. Jealousy doesn't support comfortable, happy relationships
- whether or not to have children. If your partner has children from a previous relationship they may have moved on from the instinctive drive to have children. And of course where they may not have worried about the age difference with you, they may be quite concerned about being too old to relate to children. This factor may affect the sexes differently, as women have a narrower time period when they are able to have children and 'waiting' may not be a viable option.
- future health. Staying fit and healthy for your younger partner is a great motivator for taking care of yourself. However, nature doesn't always co-operate and maintaining the same relationship when one of you has greater health needs is an added pressure.
Like religious, cultural, social and educational differences, age difference is simply another difference - so of course it's possible to keep your relationship on track. In that respect a May December relationship is like any other - it demands commitment and effort!
Here are our top tips for enjoying your relationship to the full:
- Talk to each other and keep talking to each other.
The one thing we all want from our partner is understanding. When we feel understood and loved by our partner, we are reassured that they will always be there for us. Acknowledge your age difference and talk about its impact on you, on the children, on your family, on your friends. Being open and honest about your feelings will keep you connected. If you face any of the above issues, make sure you talk about them. Come up with as many options for dealing with them as you can and open your mind to looking at things differently. After all you've already done that once before!
- Live in the moment. You may have less time together than some other couples, so enjoy them to the full.
- What are the key things that attracted you to each other: Friendship? Laughter? Shared interests? Above all else keep this aspect of your relationship intact.
- Stay focused on the positives, so that you have less space in your head for the difficulties.
This is such a difficult question anyway! Very often a relationship is right at the moment. But of course what is meant is 'Is this the right relationship for the future? Will it last?' I'm sorry - there are no guarantees!
If there is an age gap that worries you, spend some extra time to check out why you are in this relationship. If it is age related rather than focused on the person you are with, your relationship may be at higher risk of breaking down.
If you know deep down this is the person you are meant to be with and they feel the same as you, then go for it. Other people's opinions have no place in deciding what's right for you.
We discuss age gaps with Katie Martin of Radio Solent at 2.30pm on Monday 23 January 2012. Listen live on 96.1fm, or later on BBC IPlayer until we upload our recording.