Handling the age gap in relationships: Practical steps - Full Gist News


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Handling the age gap in relationships: Practical steps

To conclude the discussion on the subject, please finds below suggestions of experts in relationships and psychology on the practical ways of handling age gaps in relationships. We start with the issues as identified by Dr. Theresa E. DiDonato

The issues; the questions:

How similar are you? Similarity predicts relationship satisfaction in long-term relationships and while all couples must navigate questions of shared interests and preferences, age-gap partners could experience this more than others.

Do you share the same relationship timetable? If marriage is a possibility, a conversation of when to take that next step could be particularly beneficial for age-gap couples.

Are your friends and family supportive? Age-gap couples report experiencing general social disapproval of their relationships more than similar-aged peers do. Such marginalization may be stressful or isolating, and can translate into relationship evaluations. While individuals in age-gap relationships tend to be no more or less committed to each other than similar-aged couples, the extent to which they feel more general disapproval of their relationship may lessen their commitment. In other words, having supportive friends and family could be particularly useful for age-gap relationships.

Handling the age gap in relationships: Practical steps

Kids or no kids?: This question is not unique to age-gap couples, but having many years between partners can make it more challenging to navigate.

Are you financially prepared? Should your age-gap relationship become long-term, you might consult a financial advisor for a plan that will support both partners, especially the younger partner.

Are your relationship goals compatible? It’s not easy when one person is thinking about short-term fun while the other has long-term ambitions. Such incompatible relationship goals are not unique to age-gap relationships; however, certain age-related factors could play a part in goals.

How to Deal With the issues

While these are all real issues that face couples who have large age gaps, there are ways that some of the problems can be dealt with and overcome. Here we will look at some useful tips for dealing with big age gaps.

Dealing with Others: First of all, you need to know how to deal with the judgmental comments of others and with the negative attention you get as a couple. This is something that you will need to expect from some people – even strangers – even when your family and friends are understanding.

To deal with this you need to be perfectly confident and happy in your relationship. If you have any doubts of your own, and other people voice those doubts you’re having, then this can be enough to unravel your relationship. You won’t be able to convince people of your relationship by just telling them that you’ve thought of every angle – the only way you will get them on board is by being able to actively demonstrate to them that you are happy. Show them by example, and when they see you together they will hopefully realize that you work and that the age gap isn’t that noticeable.

Do note though that if you end up turning your back on your existing relationships as a result or falling out with your family, then you will be sacrificing more than you should have to for the relationship. Note that if you are in a relationship where you end up pushing your family away then something is wrong and if you do end up breaking up you will end up with nothing.

Views and Maturity: If you are attracted to your partner to begin with, then at least at first it seems that the age difference and difference in views/life experience/maturity isn’t causing any issues. Of course over time these little differences can start to wear thin and you might find that the mental age gap is bigger than you realized.

The solution here is to not let it grate on you, but to rather see the value in those differences. If they are much younger in their behavior for instance, then see this more innocent and less cynical outlook as refreshing and see their youthful energy as a way to get back some of your own youth. Meanwhile if your partner is older, then see how they can help you to mature yourself, and how they can use their knowledge and wisdom to help you through your more difficult times. There is a lot you can learn from each other, but as long as you accept that there is no single outlook on life that is right, and that no outlook is wrong. You both just have different approaches but that’s where you both have so much to gain.

One word of warning is to make sure not to try and modify your behavior too much for your partner.

The Future

The issues of the future are sadly unavoidable (until medicine finds a way to reverse the aging process). You can’t slow down the aging process, and if there is a big age difference between you and your spouse, one of you may reach old age while the other is middle aged. For instance, one of you may retire when the other’s career is just beginning to take off. In addition, there is a high chance that the younger person will be a widow or widower later in life.  It is important to discuss and plan for these things early.

What’s important though is to discuss early on how you are going to handle them and to make sure you are both happy and aware of the upcoming difficulties before you get too involved. Do you both want children? If one of you wants children and the other doesn’t, is that something they’d be willing to sacrifice? And what will the reality of the age difference be when you’re 80? As long as you don’t avoid the issue it won’t creep up on you and you’ll be strong when you come to deal with it.

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