Is an age difference in a relationship really a big deal?

May 18, 2024
Age differences are common in relationships, but how wide of an age gap is too wide? Experts share their insights on this timeless question. Source: Getty Images.

Age differences in relationships are hardly uncommon throughout the world. Almost everyone knows couple with a noticeable age difference, be it five years or even ten. But how much of an age gap is too much?

This has been a question that people have pondered and opinions on the matter have always been mixed amongst the public. Some people don’t view it as much of an issue but others are quick to highlight age gaps whenever they appear in the media.

Leonardo DiCaprio has made headlines previously for reportedly only dating women below the age of 25 and separating from them afterward. “Cougars”, older women who date younger men, have also been increasingly highlighted in the media since the 2000s.

After her divorce from Guy Ritchie, pop icon Madonna has exclusively dated men who are often a decade or more her junior, which she has also faced scrutiny over. Madonna and DiCaprio are obviously extreme cases, but it does raise the question: how much does an age gap impact the success of a relationship?

An analysis by Dr Randal S. Olson regarding a study from Emory University has recently resurfaced and its findings have been making headlines once again. The original study focused on wedding expenditure compared to the length of a marriage. It found that the more a couple spent on a marriage, the less it was likely to last.

Dr Olson’s analysis of the data however suggested that age gaps were also a predictor for divorce. A five year age gap was correlated with an 18 per cent larger likelihood of divorce. This jumped to 39 per cent for a ten year age gap and up to 95 per cent for a twenty year age gap.

The conductors of the study disagreed with Dr Olson’s findings about the age differences between the couples, and he later retracted that part of his analysis. However, other studies have also been conducted on the topic and there still does appear to be some correlation between age and the likelihood of a relationship ending in separation.

Professor Gery Karantzas at Deakin University suggested that societal disapproval of age gaps in relationships may have some bearing on whether a relationship is successful. If a couple faces perceived disapproval from family, friends, and acquaintances over an age gap, it is likely to have some impact on the relationship’s success.

Overall, however, Professor Karantzas credits the couple’s values, beliefs, and goals about the relationship to be the most important predictor as to whether the relationship is successful.

While an age gap may cause some differences in values, beliefs, and goals, there is no direct correlation between an age gap and having different expectations in a relationship at the end of the day.



Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up