How great an age difference between adult lovers strikes you as significant?

Recently I was watching Bones and hardly paying attention, as my interest in that show drops sharply whenever Tamara Taylor is not on screen. Anywhistle, for some reason the two main characters had gone on a double-date with the young psychologist and his girlfriend. The girlfriend later came to visit Brennan alone, and she commented that she (the girlfriend) was concerned about the age difference between her and the young psychologist: she was 26, and he was only 22.

This caused me to go “Wait…what?” Four years does not seem a remotely significant age difference to me so long as both parties are adults. I thought it might be grist for a good thread, though. How great an age difference between lovers (or even people just dating) strikes you as significant?

Do the sexes of the parties matter? (That is, do you have a different answer if both are male or both are female, or if the man is the younger party in a heterosexual relationship, or the reverse?) How comfortable are you with your position? (That is, do you instinctively respond in a negative manner to certain differences, even though rationally you believe that your visceral reaction is incorrect?)

And so forth.

No poll, so if you’re waiting around for one, you’re just being silly.

As long as both parties are adults, over ten years. Four years wouldn’t even cause me to blink an eye.

And it definitely makes me uncomfortable to see a 40 YO ____ with a 20 YO ____ even though I tell myself that logically there shouldn’t be a problem with it and no one really knows what is going on in a relationship. And if the 40 Yo is with the 20 YO for status and their youth, and the 20 YO with the 40 YO for money, and both are aware of the situation, what’s the big deal?

Gender deliberately ommitted but I do feel a little bit more uncomfortable with a 40 YO woman and a 20 YO man, but mostly because I don’t see it very often.

It depends on the age of the people in question. You don’t consider 26-22 to be significant, but what about 22-18? Or compare 50-40 with 28-18.

The standard creepiness rule is that the bottom of your dating age range is ( YourAge / 2 ) + 7.

If both people are over 30, I wouldn’t think twice about a 10-year different in ages. However I remember in college a 22 year-old friend of mine dating a 31 year old man, which we thought was rather scandalous. In one’s 20s, a more than five or six years is odd (but not wrong or creepy).

I don’t see anything wrong with 26/22. The age difference becomes less of an issue the older the couple gets.

My best friend began dating a 33-year-old woman when he was 22.
They just celebrated their 25th anniversary.

The age difference seemed like a big deal to me at first, but obviously they’re compatible, and as the years pass, it barely even registers anymore that there’s 11 years between them. They’re a great couple.

So I guess my answer is: it depends on how well I know the parties involved and how well they fit together. I’ll admit I might raise an eyebrow at first, but then realize that I don’t know their story, stranger things have happened, and who am I to judge.

(And yeah… 26 and 22? WTF? Who cares?)

I guess I broke the creepiness rule when I was 37 and got into a relationship with a 23-year-old. And I paid for it (and so did he, I guess). I had expectations of maturity and responsibility and sharing; he had expectations of being entertained and having a good time. It didn’t work out that well for either of us. (That was a long time ago; he’s now 47 and I’m 61, it probably wouldn’t be nearly such a problem now.)

Anyway, I’m glad I had the experience (if only for the life lesson) and I’m glad it’s long over.

26 & 22 is nothing–at least they can remember the same cartoons they watched growing up.

When Mrs. Montoya 2.0 & I hooked up we were 41 & 28. Honestly it took me the better part of a year to get completely over the age thing (maybe it helped when the ages became 4? & 3? rather than 4? & 2?). Anyways, it’s working out fabulously. I’m more immature than 43 and she’s more mature than 31.

I think a big age disparity can be a concern simply because what you value changes with life experience. Too much time can make folks incompatible. Maybe the top end is 20 years if the youngest is 30+ and both people are relatively hip. Other times people of the same age aren’t compatible at all. It’s just one of a lot of different things to consider.

MrWhatsit is 12 years older than me, although I always like to say that he was a really immature 30-year-old and I was a really mature 18-year-old. (Ooh, it sounds so sleazy when I put it that way!)

Anyway, if I hear that there’s a 15-year difference, I might raise an eyebrow and think, “Hm, that’s quite a gap.” To be honest, if I didn’t have a 12-year gap in my own relationship, my eyebrow-raising mark would probably be 10 years. But I do, so it’s not.

What does ‘significant’ mean in this context?

My boyfriend is 16 years older than me, and when we started dating I was a teenager and he was in his mid-30s. Obviously my perceptions now (6 years into this relationship) are very different than when I had never dated anyone more than 2-3 years older or younger.

I tend to agree that ‘age is just a number’ and I’m more interested in how a relationship works for the actual individuals involved, rather than speculating on the dynamics that might exist based on their ages alone.

ETA: I have a lot more in common with my BF than I do with most of my peers. Helps that I grew up as isolated from popular culture as my parents could manage.


Worthy of note or mention. What else could it mean?

I wasn’t asking how great an age difference you’d be willing to date, though; I was asking how great an age difference (or apparent age difference, anyway) would make you notice it. Obviously nobody is going to blink at a 16-year-old dating a 16-year-&-2-month old.

I dunno. I’m a lot older than my wife, and while it’s nobody’s farking business why that is, I can understand why people might notice it. And liberal on the subject as I try to me, I’ll concede that if I knew a real-life, actually-sexually-intimate Harold & Maude, I’d be taken aback.

When it gets to be cross-generational - ie, when one member (regardless of chronological age) seems like a mismatch with the other in terms of generational outlook. I notice this a lot with boomer/Xer couples, the older one typically being an affluent alpha male working on a second family. He might just be mid 40s and she mid 30s, but yech.

I usually don’t get too worked up over age differences if both parties are over 30.

What does sick me out, though, are those 24 year olds hanging all over Hugh Hefner. Blech. Did those chicks really dream about doing the Crypt Keeper when they were growing up?

I had to address a few raised eyebrows at first. When someone would ask how old she is I would just look a little awkward and say, “You know I could be her dad if I’d had the right 8th grade English teacher.” So 13 years is definitely enough to get people’s attention. But I’m curious about your comment–why would you assume the older guy is working on his 2nd family? This older guy just wants to raise the kids he and his wife already bring to the marriage and then get the hell on with life.

I think of ‘significant’ more as another word for ‘meaningful’. So my answer is that I don’t think any of them are very meaningful or telling. Although large age differences are somewhat out of the ordinary and absolutely something I make a mental note of. An obvious age difference is something that is on my radar for any couple, but it’s not any more significant than other obvious differences between the two.

When I was in high school, I remember considering it weird for a (female) Freshman to date a (male) Senior. Vice versa was almost unheard of. So my views have changed a ton.

Oh, I’d say a female freshman and a male senior is quite weird. The younger the people are, the greater small differences matter. 14 & 18 is a HUGE difference, whereas 22 and 26 is, as I said in the OP, only nominal. And 40 & 44 isn’t on anybody’s radar.

i think it’s a % difference rather than an absolute difference. it may even be %'s on a log scale. i haven’t done the proper calculations yet.

Age/2 + 7 seems to work quite well.

An 18 year old can date 16+ (statutory laws permitting, anyway).

A 22 year old can date 18+.

A 28 year old can date 21+.

A 40 year old can date 27+.

An 80 year old can date 47+. It starts to get a little wobbly at the extreme ends, but I wouldn’t even consider that pairing skeevy, just unusual.

My dad is thirteen years older than my stepmom. My dad could pass for about 10 years younger. If you saw them on the street, you probably wouldn’t realize the age difference.

It runs in the family as I am in my early thirties, but everyone thinks I’m 22-25 at first sight. I could easily date a woman in her early twenties and no one would really talk about it.

I think it comes down to appearances. If one partner looks significantly older, with lots of gray and wrinkles, and the other looks younger, then it gets weird. IOW, if I can tell on sight that one partner is older, it’s too old.

I’ve never seen this show, is the young psychologist supposed to be a prodigy? I’m pretty sure one needs a Ph.D., or at least a Master’s degree, in order to be licensed as a psychologist, and it would be pretty unusual for a 22 year old to have more than a Bachelor’s degree. If the girlfriend is also a psychologist then the guy is going to be younger than all her grad school buddies and all the other psychologists she knows, and she’s probably always hearing people exclaiming over how young he is to be a psychologist.

I don’t think I could reliably tell a 22 year old from a 26 year old based on looks, so if I met a couple like this I probably wouldn’t even notice the age difference. But at 26 I would have been very hesitant to get involved with a 22 year old myself. At 26 I would have been willing to date someone four years OLDER, and now that I am four years older I wouldn’t have a problem dating a 26 year old either. (Or a 34 year old, for that matter.) But the difference between 22 and 26 seems a lot more significant than that between 26 and 30.

Between the ages of 22 and 26 I graduated from college, traveled internationally (including a year working overseas), put myself through graduate school, and began work at my first professional job…at a college. So I was around 22 year olds all the time, and the differences between them and me in terms of experience and lifestyle were pretty obvious. Having just recently completed school and gone through the job hunting process I also would not have really been eager to hold someone else’s hand through the process. Had I met some really incredible 22 year old then the age difference wouldn’t necessarily have been a dealbreaker, but I wouldn’t have even considered the vast majority of 22 year olds as potential romantic partners.

Yes. It’s explicit that he is far younger than one would expect, and frequently he’s not taken seriously despite his degrees.