Age does not determine the health of a relationship between consenting adults

The stigmas associated with age gaps in adult relationships are unfounded

Age is a weird concept, but for some reason we use it to sort through potential romantic partners. We use it as a factor to estimate the likelihood of a successful relationship, and dating outside of our age range is dismissed as a fling.

However, large age gaps in relationships can prove to be healthy, sustainable and successful. Just because a relationship doesn’t fit into an ideal doesn’t mean it's less legitimate.

Consent and mutual respect determine the health of a relationship, and as long as these factors are solid, the relationship is completely valid. We need to stop stigmatizing age gaps in relationships. Dating is a huge part of many college students' lives, and putting socially constructed limits on relationships can hinder us from finding the right partner.

“A healthy relationship, whether there's an age gap or not, means there's mutual interest and respect,” said Amber Hutchins, professor of sex, love and romance in the mass media at ASU. “This can happen when there is an age gap, you just have to determine whether it’s realistic. You have to look at whether or not you’re at the same place in your life.”

Of course, being of age is a necessary element of consent, and normalizing age gaps between consenting adults doesn't negate that. However, many adults find that relationships with age gaps can be more fulfilling. It's not uncommon to experience deeper connections with someone younger or older than you. They are able to offer different perspectives and open your mind.

Yet it’s strangely taboo to date someone out of your age range. Phrases like “cradle robber,” “cougar” and “gold digger” are thrown around.

Limiting ourselves to a specific age range only limits our opportunities to be challenged, grow and engage in new experiences.

If you date someone older, for example, they’ll be able to share a wealth of experience with you that other partners your age may not be able to. Older partners have experienced more of life and more relationships, and therefore tend to know what they want. There are less games played.

Age, however, doesn’t necessarily determine your maturity — in fact it often doesn’t. So, if you are more or less mature than someone your same age, you should open yourself up to the opportunity of finding someone who works well with you.

Our culture puts so many limitations on who we should date. Really, it's unlikely that we’re going to find someone that meets all the requirements. So let's forget age, because it really is just a number.

While this number will not determine your potential for a happy, fulfilling relationship, closing yourself off to opportunities because of this number will.

Deciding whether or not someone is right for you comes down to consent, mutual respect and shared values. Mr. or Mrs. Right isn’t defined by their age, they are defined by their ability to connect with you and know you intimately. 

Age doesn’t determine who you can share your life with, you do.


Reach the columnist at sljorda4@asu.edu or follow @skyjordan4 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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