On being in a relationship with an age difference

I’ve mentioned before that I have a long-term boyfriend (we’ve been together for over five and a half years now) and one thing that I often get questions about from people who only know me, rather than us as a couple, is about the age gap between us, which is not insignificant. In fact, at seventeen and a half years between us, I think it’s technically termed a May-December relationship.
So, I thought it might be interesting to address some of those questions here and maybe look at some of the pros and cons of being in a relationship with an age difference. You might also be glad to know that there won’t be any photos of how sickeningly happy we are, because although he might appear in the background of some of my food shots, this is my blog and so putting him on the internet without his consent wouldn’t really be fair.

We met through work. We worked in different offices of the same company and if it weren’t for the annual all-staff trip to the races, we might never have been more than colleagues within the same department. But, a free bar and a day of sunshine and gambling meant that we ended up chatting and laughing together as we stood around the parade ring checking out the horses. Although we never strayed into obvious flirting territory, so I didn’t think much more of it.
Monday morning came around though and mid-morning an email popped up from him:
So far, so friendly. We started emailing back and forth and I started to suspect that his intention was not just to pass a quiet morning, a suspicion that was cemented when he asked me out to dinner. A few months later and we had the ‘what are we chat?’, following which we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend, a term that somehow always seemed a bit wrong to me when referring to a proper man, rather than a boy.
I held off telling my mum for a while, not because of the age thing, but because I had exams coming up (exams I had to pass first time) and I didn’t want her thinking that I might lose focus (she does worry). So the conversation went a little like this:

Mum: So what are you up to this weekend?
Me: Not much, although I’ve been hanging out with this guy a bit lately so I might see him
Mum: Oh right, how did you meet him?
Me: Through work
Mum: How old is he? (now, I can guarantee that had he been my age, this is never a question she would have asked)
Me: Umm… he’s a bit older, he’s 39
Mum: Has he been married before? (gah)
Me: Yes, but he’s been single for a while

She didn’t go on to ask if he has any children (he doesn’t), maybe she just didn’t want to know any more at that point. For the record, my mum and family love him so no problems there, but that day she definitely asked all of the questions I didn’t want to have to answer at that point.

My friends were similarly accepting of him, although it helps that he’s charming (not in a sleazy way), gregarious and makes people laugh, I like introducing people to him because I tend to think that they think better of me because of him.

But, even though we’re really happy together, there are obviously times when we notice the age difference, mostly it happens when he mentions something and expects me to know about it, it then turns out it happened before I was born. He also thinks it’s weird that I’ve only ever known Germany as a united country and never knew it as East and West Germany.

There are pros and cons to our situation (some more light-hearted than others, we like to laugh about the whole situation):

1. I never have to worry about what he’ll look like when he’s old, because he’s already old – This is one of the things I joke about

2. If there’s a war and conscription, he’ll be too old to go – And this is another of the things I joke about

3. He never has to carry photo ID to buy alcohol – At nearly 28 I can pretty much buy a bottle of wine unchecked but sometimes supermarket ‘ask over 25’ policies mean I still get flattered by being asked for ID and so have to make sure I have some, he doesn’t

4. He knows who he is and what he wants – I don’t worry that he’s going to turn around tomorrow and tell me he needs a break to ‘find himself’ (ie. find other women)

5. He’s been well trained by other women – Something you just don’t get when you meet someone in their early 20s, he hasn’t recently been a student, he’s fully housetrained and is much better at doing the washing up than I am!
1. People who don’t know us may assume I’mgolddigger – I’m really not (even if he had any gold to dig), in fact I couldn’t be less interested in men with money, I support myself thank you.

2. He’s less interested in a messy night out on the town than I am – Not too much of a problem as I’ll just go out with my girls, but sometimes it would be nice to have a night dancing our cares away together.

3. Assuming nothing bad happens to either of us in the meantime, he’s likely to need care before I do – Ok, so this is probably the biggest concern, but if life has taught my anything it’s that it doesn’t always turn out the way you think. Either one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow or be struck down by illness, so we can only really enjoy our time together and tackle this if and when we have to.

4. He doesn’t get a lot of my references to pop culture – Trying to explain the lure of Funhouse or Knightmare on Challenge TV as nostalgia is just something he won’t understand.

5. I’ll never beat him at Trivial Pursuit – He’s had so many more years to accumulate knowledge! Plus, I can never get the orange Sports widget anyway.

Obviously, the main thing for me is not the age difference but the fact that he makes me laugh more than anyone I’ve met (even when I’m in a grump and don’t want to laugh) and he’s kind and sweet and loves me. As long as I have those things, then nothing else really matters.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone else with experience of a relationship with an age gap or from anyone with thoughts on relationships with an age gap (positive or negative).

  • lucyandthesky

    Good for you, it’s brave talking about things like this especially when people can be so judgemental! There’s 7 years between my boyfriend and I which obviously is a little different but we find that even this affects our relationship as we’re at different life stages. Your Pros and Cons made me laugh and I could definitely agree with some of them! I’m still watching out for the receding hairline and silver hairs appearing on his chest though.. Lucy xxx

  • As a silver fox enthusiast I have to agree with ALL those cons. Especially number 1, every single time, even when I’m the wealthier partner.

    Sadly pros 4 & 5 aren’t always so. I’ve dated someone 20 years my senior who didn’t have his act together, not even half of what I have. It was confusing and tiring being young enough to be his daughter but having to act like a mother. Just goes to show that age really means nothing when it comes to wisdom or maturity. Likewise a wide age gap between two people doesn’t mean a relationship is unsuitable. I used to be angry at people who are presumptuous, but now I just feel sad for them that they have such a narrow view of what a ‘correct’ relationship is.

    I’ve blogged about this before, but not nearly as eloquently as you haha. http://www.poshbrokebored.com/2013/12/may-september-romances.html


  • Angie SilverSpoon

    You’ve put this so well and it was a really good read. Mr Silver is only 4 years older than me but even then you can feel big differences, all his friends have children (some two or three) whereas my friends are just getting started. It does put you both in slightly different mindsets.

    I think its great that you’ve found your soul mate and the fact you’ve been together for 5 years is testament to that.

    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London

  • Lisa

    Seven years isn’t insignificant though, it’s enough to still make a difference. I suppose it’s a good thing that generally women mature faster. I love the idea of being on silver hair watch, although that’s how I currently feel about my own hair, I discovered my first grey the other day, nightmare.

  • Lisa

    Thank you. That’s interesting that even with a four year age, there are differences. The most important thing really is the two of you and whether you’re both in synch.

  • Lisa

    In a way, I like defying con number 1, I like being able to challenge people’s expectations of our relationship based on appearances. I’m sure I’d be a lot more defensive though if he was well off. Although maybe I should just let them think what they want.

    Now I’m considering myself relatively lucky with older men if pros 4 and 5 aren’t necessarily a given.

    Great post on your blog about this.

  • Amy Rowland

    Love this post! There are 14 years between my partner and I – though often he acts a lot younger than me! x

  • This is very interesting to read. Personally I have a 5-year limit either way, so they can be up to 5 years younger thanI am or 5 years older. I just don’t think I’d have enough in common with someone outwith these age limits but it clearly works for some people and at the end of the day you should do what makes you happy! x

  • Rachel Charlton-Dailey

    I honestly think age doesnt matter, I’ve had older boyfriends and younger and its about the couple not the age. If you’re happy thats all that matters

  • 10 years is as far as I’ve gone in a serious relationship. Quite generally, I love the maturity and wisdom of older men. I sometimes have noticed in my relationships with older men a bit of a paternal dynamic and even some power and control issues. My current guy is 8 years older than I am, and our compatibility is the absolute best.

  • I get the gold digger thing. And I get the pop culture reference. That goes for any age. There are people my age who just don’t know basic things that are going on with current music, tv shows and songs. I can’t stand that.

  • I’ve got the situation with my lovely husband – but the pros simply out weight the cons. We’ll just have to deal with the rest of it in later years!