Does age really matter? Among LGBT couples, it’s pretty common to see a significant relationship age gaps: according to a 2013 survey, LGBT respondents were both more likely to be attracted to people 10 years older than them, and more likely to attract partners more than ten years younger.
Some studies suggest that gay and straight men have similar age preferences when it comes to partners. (With one important distinction: More masculine gay guys seem to prefer younger men, and those who identify as more femme desire older partners.) A more recent study by Facebook, however, found that partners in both gay and lesbian couples tend to have much higher age gaps than their heterosexual counterparts.
Even if your relationship is deemed wholly kosher in the eyes of the law, it can be hard to avoid the stereotype that dating someone older automatically means you have “daddy issues” — a view supported by some gay psychologists. “Simply put, I think we’re angry at [our fathers] for running away from our expressions of love and physical contact,” writes the psychologist Stephen Lugar in Father Figure: On Dangerous Daddies and Cross-Generational Desire. “The deaths of our gay fathers to AIDS made this retreat literal and final,” he adds.
For some LGBT couples, an age gap can be a hurdle to a successful partnership, while others embrace the age gap and view it as a benefit. For couples who have learned to work with an relationship age gaps, there can be many positive aspects of a “May-December” romance, although there are also many societal expectations and perspectives that can cause strife within these relationships.
BENEFITTING FROM A RELATIONSHIP AGE GAP
There are many reasons an relationship age gaps might be more common for LGBT couples than straight couples, and many benefits for couples who don’t mind an age gap. Older LGBT people can feel more in touch with younger members of the LGBT community, while the younger person in such a relationship may be able to learn from the experiences and background of someone who has several years of experience in relationships:
- Excitement: For many people, having relationship age gaps can be exciting, whether it’s because a younger partner makes them more active and adventurous, or because having an older partner can shift their view of the world.
- Experience: A younger person can also benefit from an older partner’s experience, since an older partner is likely to have dealt with many of the same obstacles in their lifetime. Conversely, a younger LGBT person can introduce an older partner to events and opportunities in an LGBT community that’s much larger than the one they know.
- Stability: Generally, people become more emotionally and financially stable as they get older. This stability can have a very positive effect of a younger partner, especially one who is just starting out in their life and figuring out how to handle adulthood as a member of the LGBT community.
Since both younger and older LGBT people can benefit from an relationship age gaps, it’s not really all that surprising that we see so many couples embracing an age gap and the opportunities that go along with it.
WHY A RELATIONSHIP AGE GAP MIGHT NOT MATTER
That old saying that “age is just a number”? It may not be quite that simple, but the success or failure of a relationship isn’t about age, but about compatibility. Plenty of couples who are the same age deal with issues related to financial imbalance or emotional maturity, and LGBT couples of any age have to successfully handle society’s expectations of what relationships should look like. Couples with an age gap may be subject to more scrutiny or experience these issues in different ways than couples of the same age. However, for many, the benefits outweigh the negatives.
We’d love to hear from you if you’re in a relationship with an age gap. How do you handle the issues that come along with an age gap?