Many people are curious about acceptable age differences in romantic or sexual relationships.
In fact, there are even rules and mathematical equations to come up with the ideal age difference between two people.
But age is not the only factor that plays into whether two people are a good match.
So, whether seven years is too big of an age gap depends. Sometimes it absolutely is too big a gap, yet that often has more to do with how mature you are and where you are in life.
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You might be familiar with the popular equation that defines the minimum age for your potential partner: your age, divided by two, plus seven.
Right away, you can see that a straight seven-year age difference doesn’t work with this. In fact, the older you are, the larger the gap becomes.
Still, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule or one that everyone recognizes. That’s the problem with only considering the math.
For example, this rule says the minimum age for a 35-year-old’s partner is 24.5 years, but these two people wouldn’t necessarily be a good match for other reasons.
Compatible is less about age and more about where you are in life.
If you’re still in high school, your experience and goals are quite different from those of a college student.
Similarly, someone in their 30s might be more established in their career, so a 20-something partner who prefers to party doesn’t make a lot of sense.
You can easily see how the number alone doesn’t give the best answer to the question of age.
Seven years makes a big difference in maturity when you’re younger but less so as you get older. That’s also why the equation from above generally works.
You may need to consider the age range if you want kids. For many people who want kids, there’s a period in which they would prefer to have them.
They don’t want to be too young or old and because of this, a couple that’s otherwise compatible might not work out if one partner feels too old to have kids.
This is exactly what happened between Monica and her older boyfriend Richard in Friends. Despite being in love, they envisioned different life paths.
Age differences can also be an issue as you get older.
For example, someone who is in their late 50s may feel relatively young and excited to enjoy the lifestyle of an empty nester.
Yet someone closer to 70 is likely retired and may prefer a quieter life. It goes without saying that there are always exceptions, however.
Some people will say that maturity is all that matters. While some people are more mature than the average person their age, the opposite is also true.
But focusing on so-called maturity levels ignores experience and life goals. In fact, it also paves the way for predatory behavior.
What do we mean by that? When a legal adult is romantically interested in a minor, they might point out how mature that person is as a way to justify a potential relationship.
They may insist that the minor should be able to choose who they’re in a relationship with even if it’s illegal or a large age gap.
It’s important to remember that even a few years can make a big difference for teenagers, and not just with maturity!
Teenagers’ brains are still developing, which makes it harder for them to resist impulsive behaviors.
Plus, what teen doesn’t want to rebel against their parents and do what’s forbidden?
The problem is, these relationships typically play out in a certain way. There’s often a power imbalance in the relationship and it can be dangerous.
One person is usually more impressionable and less skilled at setting boundaries because of their lack of experience.
The other has more power and may be able to coerce their partner into things they don’t want to do.
It’s also possible for the older partner to isolate the younger one from safe friends and family.
That’s why we have to consider not just how mature the younger person is but how immature the older person is.
Is the reason they’re interested in a minor because none of their peers see them as desirable? This can be a huge red flag.
Similarly, consider why someone would be interested in someone who is not just much younger but also not as mature or in the same life stage.
Are they looking for someone to manipulate?
Or perhaps they haven’t given enough thought to the differences created by age because they’re only focusing on physical attraction.
It can be harder to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy behavior in a relationship than you might think.
This is especially true in societies that subtly or not-so-subtly promote sexism.
Look to the screen, and you’ll find jealous and controlling behavior painted as romantic in movies and TV shows.
When these things become so normalized, we forget to view them as red flags.
Of course, the younger a person is, the less likely it is that they’ve had the necessary life experience to unlearn these depicted norms.
Plus, vulnerable people may feel lucky simply to have someone pay attention to them.
As the saying goes, red flags are simply flags when viewed through rose-colored glasses.
Of course, not only young people or couples with age differences have to worry about unhealthy relationships.
You can be quite close to the same age as someone who is immature, controlling, or otherwise a bad match. Sadly, some people don’t seem to mature as they get older.
Just because the age gap is acceptable doesn’t make two people compatible, however. It’s just one factor to consider.
Strong relationships with family and friends can help someone avoid falling into such situations. Loved ones can identify red flags that might be overlooked.
A seven-year age difference in a relationship is fine when there’s no power imbalance or struggle for control. You both feel like equals.
This age difference is also acceptable when both people are in the same place in life and share similar goals.
Your long-term plans don’t have to align if you’re on the same page about the relationship being casual or physical only.
But you cannot assume the other person feels the same as you without talking about it! So make sure you have a conversation with your partner to make sure that you are both on the same page.
Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, no matter how many years are between you or what life stage you’re in.
If you struggle to communicate well, consider professional help to learn new communication strategies and skills.
Keep in mind that a larger age gap means you might have different experiences with pop culture, societal views, and even technology.
Instead of focusing on those things, remember the things you have in common.
Differences in experiences can even be a way for you to bond with your partner by teaching each other new things.
Loved ones and friends who are nearer your age can provide an outlet for discussing issues that your partner might not quite understand.
You should also incorporate your partner into your life by introducing them to your friends and family.
It’s important to remember, however, that people may judge you for the age gap in your relationship.
But as long as you focus on the feelings of the people who are actually in the relationship, you will have a strong foundation to build on.