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Age Gap Relationships:
Much Ado About Nothing?


e believe that age gap relationships (just like rebound relationships

) are another topic that women think about more often than men. After all, most men have a much shorter "need to have" list for a partner than most women.

The fact that she seems to like us (enough to sleep with us) is all it takes for most guys to enter a relationship. Almost everything else is in the "nice to have" category. Would a 23-year-old guy with raging hormones decline the favors of a woman simply because she's a few years older than he is?

“… the older she gets, the greater the gap in desirability between women her age and men of that same age …”

Hardly. Most men don't have numerous women competing for them until they're well into their thirties or even forties, as it takes most men that long to reach their peak desirability. And unless you have lots of suitors to pick from, you can't be too picky.

But women do fret about age gap relationships because they have different biology and therefore a different timetable. They usually reach their peak desirability very young (late teens to mid-twenties) and then begin a long decline. The older she gets, the greater the gap in desirability between women her age and men of that same age.

That "quick peak and long steady decline" pattern concerns women greatly, and with good reason. Expectations are based on past experience, so starting at the top and then sliding downward from that point forward is a much more depressing progression than starting at the bottom and then moving up each year. Most men (other than professional athletes in contact sports) don't have a comparable experience.

But even young women worry
about age gap relationships

They may be at peak desirability now but they can look around to see how aging impacts other women's relationship options. Their fear? They may have found a good catch now... but will he abandon her in a decade or two when his prospects will be better? And if that happens, will she be able to find a decent replacement?

Given the tendency of middle-aged and older guys to pick mates 10 or 20 or 30 years younger than themselves, the outlook for older women wanting a desirable mate is often bleak. And therefore, the age gap relationships that most upset women are those involving a middle-aged or older man with high earning power or substantial assets selecting a "trophy bride" half his own age.

Occasionally, age gap relationships will go the other way. For example, Demi Moore is more than 15 years older than husband Ashton Kutcher and Susan Sarandon has been in a relationship for more than two decades with Tim Robbins (12 years her junior). That pattern doesn't bother women at all. In fact, they applaud them.

But outside Hollywood, age gap relationships where she's more than a year or two older than him are very rare.

So if you're a guy, is an
age difference in relationships
even worth thinking about?

Only in broad terms. For casual relationships, it shouldn't make too much difference as most of these tend not to endure for very long. But if you're contemplating marriage, then it's definitely worth thinking longer-term as you stand a good chance of ending up financially impaired for decades to come.

If you're looking at an age difference in relationships that you're comfortable with now, add 10 years to each number and see if that still sounds good to you. Then do the same but add 20 years to each number. And then 30 years. If you're looking at marrying a woman who's quite a few years older than you, her age may not give you pause today but might at the +20 or +30 range.

“… changes in her mood and attitude tend to loom as much larger negatives in later years …”

And when doing that mental exercise, don't just factor in likely changes in her physical appearance. Changes in her mood and attitude tend to loom as much larger negatives in later years than will a few extra wrinkles (or pounds).

What about going the other way? Suppose you're 56 and are "back on the market" … should you find an 18-year-old? That may be tempting from a physical attractiveness standpoint, but we've found that most guys who are older find it unsatisfying to get into a long-term relationship with a woman that young.

The sex would be fun, but there'd be little to talk about the rest of the time as you and she have so little in common. A general rule of thumb we've seen is that older guys tend to mesh most comfortably with women who are roughly half their age.

However, there are far more important issues to consider than age gap relationships when you're a guy, so take a look at our

Understanding Women in Relationships page to see what you're missing.