Dating: How much of an age gap is too much?

I think this very well could be a GD, but I thought I’d start it in IMHO, so if it gets too bad, feel free to move it on . . .

OK, so here’s the story, a friend of mine (19) is dating a girl that is 15 (and a half, if that makes a difference). I personally have a problem with this. Now, it’s not the four years age difference that I think is the problem. I think 18 and 22 is still a somewhat questionable age gap, but I think it’s definitley better than 19 and 15. I don’t even think 24 and 20 would be that bad, but since he’s in college and she’s still in high school there is most likely a maturity gap.

I must admit that I have not met this girl, but just on principle I don’t think it’s a good idea for this to be going on. To add to this story he was talking to her older sister before this. He is a good person, but I think that it is at the very least morally questionable to be involved with a girl that young (at these ages). They’re both still growing up, finding things about themselves out, and at 15 I would guess that she is especially. I don’t think he should be getting into a relationship with her at this age, he doesn’t seem to be taking her feelings into consideration either (that’s a recipe for bad news).

Anywho, I was wondering, what does everyone think about this? I’m sure plenty of dopers have had experience with age differences, so any stories, advice, opinions, etc. would be helpful.

The standard rule amongst my single friends as it pertains to adults is one half your age plus 7 is the youngest potential match. By this math, your friend is breaking the law (halfs don’t count). Aside from legal ramifications, anything more than a 25% difference raises eyebrows.

I seem to only date older women. I dated a woman who was six years older than me two years ago, and she didn’t like that. Anniz is older than her, and it’s absolutely not a problem.

I think with teenagers, age matters a lot. You do a lot of growing up between 15 and 19, 16 and 20, etc. So I’d discourage teens from dating anyone significantly older or younger than themselves.

That said, I dated someone 30 years my elder for a while, and it was fantastic. Both of us were adults, and age really didn’t matter. Adults are all sort of the same age, I think. YMMV.

If you don’t mind my asking, were you still in high school at the time?

Two questions I would like to add:

What do you think of this situation in particular?

Do you have any advice on what I should do in this situation? He thinks I should give him support. I told him that I don’t agree with it so I’m not going to say, “yeah, go for it!” if I don’t agree with it. He asked for my thoughts and I told him.

In most situations, a 19 or 20-year-old dating a 15-year- old is probably too great a difference considering their very youthfulness and the amount of maturing that both have yet to do. However, I think it must depend on the individual. In 1973, my 19-year-old uncle began dating a 15-year-old–he was condemned immediately by her parents, God and everybody (my own mother who was 30-odd years younger than my father, being one of the exceptions). Long story short: They’ve been happily married for nearly 27 years. Similar case with another couple I know, 20 and 16 years of age. She (16) was whipped in public by her mother for daring to see this 20-year-old man who “should know better.” They’ve been married since 1976. And what always gets my gander up is this–when the grandchildren come along, “all is forgotten,” or “He’s a good guy after all.” “So sorry that my husband attacked you with a two-by-four.”

Personal experience. At age 33, I dated a lady who was 48. At age 34, I briefly dated a lady who was 21. Age played little or no factor in either case. I’m nearly nine years older than my wife (37 and 28).

Again, I’m not trying to validate statuatory rape, just saying that in some cases, you cannot tell a 16-year-old that she is not truly in love. In most cases, yes, in a very few, no.


Young love rarely lasts. Of all of the couples I know who married before they were both 21, the vast majority divorced before they were both 21. (Not that the OP mentioned marriage, but sometimes people are young and foolish.)

At this point, the age difference is pretty significant, almost a third of the girl’s lifetime. Even if the boy is honorable, there is the nagging suspicion that he might be taking advantage of her.

Unfortunately, at that age, if you try to discourage them, it will only make them that much more determined to prove you wrong. About all you can do is stay out of the crossfire and hope that:

A. It works out, and everyone lives happily ever after.
B. They break up before she gets pregnant or he gets arrested.

IMHO, anyone who is over 18, and is dating someone too young to drive, has serious problems and should be watched carefully.

I’ve leaned towards older women over the years, though most of the relationships weren’t true dating. The youngest girl I have ever been with was 18 (I was 23) and she was considerably more mature than me. Most other girls who were younger than me have been emotionally immature, though, and it caused problems. I also dated a woman who was about 8 years older than me who had been living in seclusion for well over a decade and had problems with relationships. It all depends on the person, really.

Only a little bit on topic, but I’m 36 and my SO is 45. We have a terrific relationship in every way imaginable. Someone else said it well earlier: the age difference between adults matters less and less as you age.

Having said that, the chronological difference between 15.5 and 19 is only 4 years, but the difference in maturity, expectations, sense of self, and willingness to accept responsibility is (probably) huge. This is not going to end well.

In general I’d say that when you’re in your teens no more than a 2-3 year age gap is reasonable. That said, I think it very much depends on the individuals involved. When I was 15, I dated a 19 year-old. The relationship lasted for two years and was a perfectly normal teenage relationship. We didn’t notice the age gap (although we were both initially hesitant getting involved with each other because of it, but gave into our mutual feelings) and certainly no harm came of it. I was eventually the dumper, having outgrown the relationship, and he was heartbroken. (He seemed to honestly think we would end up getting married. Even at 16 I knew better than that. :rolleyes: ) Most of my other relationships have been with guys 1-2 years older than myself (I only once briefly dated someone my own age). However, my husband is about 8 years older than I (he just turned 31, I’m going on 23). We first got involved as penpals after I saw an ad he placed on an international penpal site, and when I saw his age I almost passed the ad by, despite liking everything else that he had written about himself. But then I told myself, “Well, it’s not as if we’re going to be dating or anything, so what the hell?” The friendship progressed and eventually we met and sparks flew, yadda yadda yadda. We have never noticed the age gap. And arguably our relationship would not have been possible without it – because as a young student my life was flexible enough that I could pack up and transfer to a uni in Scotland at the drop of a hat, and as an experienced naval office he was able to financially support us. If we had both been young students, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to live together (and HM Immigration probably wouldn’t have let me in), and if we were both older professionals with careers I doubt that neither of us would have been able or even would want to move.

Anyway, I know my current situation is different from a teenage relationship. But I’ve been in that sort of relationship, and in my experience there has not been a problem with it. But I totally understand the reservations of having a 4-year age gap when it comes to teenage romance, having had them myself. But in these cases you really have to take into account the individuals involved.

P.S. I just remembered that first boyfriend I mentioned had an acquaintance, also 19, who was dating a 12-year old. As a 15 year old at the time, I thought that that age gap was inexcusable and disgusting – she didn’t even look older than 12. She was a child.

I’m surprised no one else has questioned which state. In Michigan, for example, your friend would possibly be subject to prosecution. (criminal sexual conduct laws include behaviors such as touching breasts, buttocks, thighs, with and without penetration, the age for consent is 16.000000000000 years).

IMHO. that much of an age gap is too much, at that age. Past 20 or so (for the younger one), realtive age is a whole other issue. My current SO is 7 years older than I, and I tease him about me being in jr high when he went off to college.

touchy subject.

I’m 25, dating an 18 year old. Just happened that way. First time I’ve ever dated a woman that much younger than me, but then, my parents are seven years apart themselves, so it doesn’t bother me.

i figure, age matters up to a point. Depending on maturity, and how serious you are about dating it can go one way or the other in regards to becoming a blossoming relationship or a failed one.

IMO, 19 and 15 are not good. at 15, one has way too much to develop left for them to jump into a relationship with someone that much older and experienced. Even if at 19, one isn’t very experienced, I would venture to guess they would be too much pressure on the 15 year old.

Only thing else I can think of is that since I’m from the USA, and have grown up with the USA attitude towards all this about relationships, I may not be entirely on the money here. For example, in Europe, I’ve seen situations where a 30 year old was dating a 19 year old, and that was totally acceptable. In Israel, a friend of mine is 17, and she’s dating a 35 year old. In Brazil, I have a pen-pal/email-pal and she talks about women at 14 dating 20 year olds as if it were common. so maybe a lot of it comes down to culture, maturity and what’s generally accepted by peers and family, as for keeping the relationship healthy.

I think that if the only time you can visit her during the day is at recess, she’s probably too young.

Taking away the cultural mores, I still agree that 19 and 15 are too wide an age gap. At 15 your body is still developing, your brain is still developing, and your experiences that you have to draw upon aren’t as refined. I’d think that 17 would be acceptable merely because the two would be more in sync as far as expectations from a relationship.

Hahah, no. I was 26 and she was 32. She was very self-conscious about her age, so anything I said/did that reminded her of the fact that there was an age difference – such as commenting that my parents didn’t let me see Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in the theatres in 1977 because I was four years old and they thought it would be too scary for me. She was ten and saw it with her parents.

Y’know, things like that.

As far as your friend, I’ve noticed that the younger you are, the greater age differences can seem (really, does a 90 and 85 year old couple seem odd? 50 and 40?). But, I don’t think it’s your place to judge anyone based on who they’re dating. Be supportive. He’s your friend, and probably will need the support from those who aren’t.

My first reaction after reading the OP was “yep, that’s too much of an age gap, too much of a difference in maturity between 15 and 19.” Then I remembered that when I was 15, my best girlfriend, also 15, dated a 19 year old, and they stayed together for three years. We are still good friends with this guy now that we are all gracefully approaching middle age. So I’m going to change my vote to “it depends.”

When I was 15, the group of kids we hung around with ranged from about 14 - 19 (it was a pretty small place). It wasn’t at all uncommon for several siblings to lump all their friends together for parties and other activities. I think that’s why it didn’t strike anyone as odd that a 15 year old would date a 19 year old, because we were already all hanging out together anyway. It wasn’t as glaring as a 19 year old attending a party where every other person is 15.

I really think that the level of physical involvement is a big issue. As wring pointed out, there is the legal issue, and I think there is also a moral issue. Fifteen year olds often don’t know thier own minds when it comes to sex, and they are frighteningly easy to manipulate–even if you don’t mean to.

You use the term “dating” and we have all been assuming that is a euphimism for “boinking” or “working up to boinking”. If that is true, I think it is inappropriate to say the least. If it isn’t, and by dating you mean “hanging out, going to the movies together, snuggling” well, I think that is acceptable. If your buddy isn’t willing to wait for her to grow up a bit before steping up the physical side in the relationship, well then, it’s not her he’s interested in. (And he has to bethe grown up on this issue, and turndown anything she might offer).

When dating I’m not age prejudiced. However, if the woman is on the young side, Ill meet her folk(s). They don’t seem to mind.

My father was a lot older than my mother so thats probably why. I suppose if one looks at the age relationship of their folks they might have a better idea of what is acceptable for themselves.

My daughter is 15 and a high school freshman. I would not want her to date a college freshman. While she is rather mature for her age, she’s still got a lot of growing, emotionally and socially, before she can hold her own in a college-aged group. As others have pointed out, too many changes occur between 15 and 19.

Just one mom’s opinion…

Montfort said:

That’s the same thing he said to me, “why aren’t you being supportive?” I told him that if I don’t agree with something he’s doing, I’m not going to give him the go-ahead. He didn’t like that I would go out and party, I didn’t care though, I didn’t need his support to make my decisions. He felt a certain way and let me know. I think this is the same.

Another thing that influences me on this is I have a younger sister that is the same age as this girl (they don’t know each other though). I think my sister is very smart and knows the difference between right and wrong, but can suffer from severe lapses in judgment (lapses that I think could be taken advantage of by someone my age). She still has a lot of things to figure out. I’ve noticed this trait in a lot of 15 year olds. Also, I know how I think and how my friends think, and I know how manipulative we could be if we wanted to, especially to someone less mature, that is another reason why I’m against this. Once you’ve both made it through HS there’s a bit more of a common ground.

Also, I’d mentioned that he was talking to her older sister before hand, she knows him and she knows her sister and she’s against it.
by Manda JO:

I’ve talked to him about this too. He says that he isn’t going to do that, but it’s not always something that you can plan, sometimes it just “happens”. I’m also less inclined to believe him because he was dating a girl in HS two grades behind him and when he was 18 he was having sex with her (despite the illegality of it). I wasn’t a big fan of that relationship, but I let it go. This new girl lives in a different (still close) town.

Another thing about this, I asked him if he honestly thought this could turn into marriage and he told me no. I told him to take into consideration the girl’s feelings and his feelings (he was pretty distraught over the break-up with the aforementioned HS gf). He said how she’d really have to piss him off for him to break up with her and that if she broke up with him he’d just take it “like a man” and be mature (even though he didn’t in the last break-up).

I really don’t think he’s seeing the big picture here, and that there isn’t a whole lot (any?) good that can come out of this.