Should Age Really Matter in a Relationship?

I’ve been thinking about age lately especially when it comes to relationships.

Men date younger women all the time and it’s no big deal, right? Is that because these women are fertile, can still have kids and generally look better the younger they are whereas men “age better” (though most of the guys I seem to know are all bald or balding, but let’s assume this is generally true)?

Is it true that if we’re the same age we then have a shared past or experiences? What if I grew up in New Jersey and he grew up in Afghanistan? Even if we’re the same age, I can’t imagine he grew up salivating after Michael Jackson and Madonna or watching Beverly HIlls 90210. Shouldn’t it be more important to have a shared present and future? Does it really matter if the person I’m with digs 80’s music or is it more telling that we both read The Economist today or want to travel to the Maldives in the future? What are the things that really define the core of a relationship with someone? Is age just an anchor we wear around our necks?

I’m also wondering if the obsession with age is an American thing. In Asia and Africa, age is revered. In Latin America and Europe, age doesn’t even seem to be part of the conversation. Rather, it’s about cherishing, intimacy, being connected. I have one girlfriend who is married to a Cuban/Columbian guy and he adores her even when she is a sweaty mess. I truly believe that even if she was 65 and he was 40, he would still have big eyes only for her because he’s connected to her beyond just how she looks.

On this topic, of course I read more about the demise of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. It seems the “age thing” here (a 16-year gap) stemmed from something else lacking in their relationship. Who knows, perhaps Demi was insecure as she got older and less famous while Ashton got more famous and remained in that 20/30 age bracket where everything generally still looks pretty good. I get it. It’s like she may have been waiting for the shoe to drop and when he cheated with a younger woman, it was over. But I also believe by fearing or thinking about something too much we give it life and bring it to being.

In Ghana, my business partner Sammy said to me, ”Old people are dying. Young people are dying. It doesn’t matter. When you stay together over the years, you both start to become the same age.”

Actions

1. Let it go. Getting hung up on age as a number seems narrow-minded. I’ve always dated guys who were my age or older and they all turned out to be wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m not saying a young guy is the answer, but maybe age isn’t necessarily a defining factor of strength in a relationship.

2. Keep options open. Just because someone is 10 years younger or 10 years older, don’t shut the door on the conversation. If you connect intellectually and emotionally, maybe something’s there that transcends age.

3. Be willing to explore. Sure, maybe a relationship with a 10-year age gap can fail, but so can a relationship with no age gap, right? Sadly, relationships fail all the time. Don’t let boundaries you’ve created hold you back. Even though the world is big and life is long, everything can suddenly feel very small and limited if we close ourselves off based on our definitions of what we can and cannot have.

This post was originally featured on Jody’s blog, Got Ennui?