Is He Too Old for Me

Edited by Kathy McGraw

It has always been common for older men to date and marry younger women, principally because women in general look for men who can provide financial security and men look for women who are fertile and capable of bearing them many children. Sure, you probably didn't look at your older guy and think, wow, he's a good provider when you hooked up with him. And I'm fairly certain he's not interested in you because of your fertility; however, the atavistic preferences are still there and something of which you should be aware. But, how old is too old? Five years? 10 years, 20? Let's examine this in greater detail.

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The Formula

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There is a popular formula for determining the socially acceptable age differences for dating, and it's called the "Half Your Age Plus Seven" Rule:

  • Your Age/2 + 7= the socially acceptable minimum age of your dating partner
  • (Your Age-7)2= The socially acceptable maximum age of your dating partner

Since this article is about figuring out whether a guy is too old for you, we'll stick with the second formula. Let's say that you are 22. If we plug your age into the second formula we get:


So, according to the formula, the oldest acceptable age for you to date would be 30, and the age gap between you would be 8 years. Now, this formula is not scientifically derived, and no one is really sure where it came from, so I don't think that anyone should take it too seriously. If anything, consider it a "ballpark" figure.

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What Do the Statistics Say About Age Differences?

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There was an interesting study out of Emory University that found that the larger the age gap between the partners, that the more likely it was that they would get divorced. It found that when couples had an age gap of one year between them, they had a three percent likelihood of divorce whereas couples with a five year age difference had an 18 percent chance of divorce. The chance of divorce shoots up to 39 percent for couples with a 10 year age gap and to 95 percent when there is a 20 year age gap. However, considering that the rate of divorce for all couples in western countries has been hovering at around 50 percent since the 1970's, I don't think that we can call the Emory findings conclusive on this matter. Indeed, even couples with a 10 year age difference divorce at a rate that is lower than the average rate for all couples. Here are some other interesting numbers regarding age differences in couples:

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  • The average groom is 2.3 years older than his bride
  • According to a Swedish study, the ideal age gap between men and women is 4 to 6 years, where the man is older than the woman

Is He Too Old For You?

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I am not here to tell you definitively whether or not your man is too old for you: that's for you to decide Whether or not he is too old for you depends on a lot of factors, and some of them have nothing to do with the age difference between you. With that in mind, I am going to give you some points to consider.

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  1. 1
    How old are you
    Age differences matter less the older you get, but when you are very young, they matter a great deal. If you are in your teens, you should probably hold off on dating someone who is older than you because you are entering a stage of your life where you will be doing a lot of growing and changing. You are still finding out who you are, and being with someone older might stymie your personal growth. The chances are also good that in a few years you'll find that your needs have changed, and he may no longer suit you at all.
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  2. 2
    Be wary of the control issue
    Some older guys like younger women because they believe that they can mold them into the kind of woman they want. This is especially true when the woman is in her late teens and early twenties. In cases like this, the power dynamics in the relationship are not equal, and it can quickly become unhealthy.
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  3. 3
    Do you both want children
    Whether or not you agree on having children is the single most important issue that you need to get out of the way early on in a relationship, especially if you see yourself being with this person for the long-term. If he already has kids, he may not want more children; he may be done with that part of his life, while you are just entering that stage in your own. If that's the case, then he's not right for you.
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  4. 4
    What do your parents think
    While you don't have to let your parents' opinions affect who you date, if your boyfriend is your parents' age or close, bringing him to family gatherings may cause friction. If you're serious about this man, you need to consider whether or not you're okay with that (and how he feels about it, too.)
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  5. 5
    How is his health
    If the age-gap between you is significant, his health becomes an important issue. Even if he is in good health now, the chances that he will become ill or suffer an injury increase with age. Are you okay with the fact that you might have to take care of him? Do you accept that he might not always be able to be as active as you and that you might have to forgo activities that you enjoy because of him? It's not pleasant to think about, you need to take his health into account.
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  6. 6
    Do you have common interests
    While it's not necessary that you enjoy all of the same things, having some common ground is crucial to having a lasting relationship regardless of the age difference between you. However, it becomes harder to find that common ground when your partner is much older, and the reason is simple: he grew up and came of age at an earlier time than you did, which makes his frame of reference different from yours. You won't have common experiences from your growing up years; you won't know any of the television shows he grew up watching nor will the music of his youth make much sense to you. He might think that the music you like is noise, and he many not get Instagram or Twitter. On the other hand, if you share other interests, such a love for Science Fiction novels or share the same political beliefs, your other differences may not matter.
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  7. 7
    Examine why you want to date an older man
    Some women like older men because they can provide more financial security than a younger man can. Some women like older men because they are mature, whereas men their own age still have a lot of growing up to do. Whatever your reasons are, they are valid and acceptable, but you should analyze them all the same. It's part of knowing getting to know yourself.
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  8. 8
    Does he have children
    If he has children and you decide that you have a future together, those kids will be in your life for as long as you are with this man, and maybe after if you have a good relationship with them. If you marry him, you will be their stepmother, a very difficult position to navigate. If the children are grown and close to your age, or older, there will be some awkwardness, for sure. You need to be prepared for it and accept it.
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  9. 9
    What do your friends, and his friends think of the relationship
    I was reading this story about this girl who was dating a guy who was fifteen years older than her, and one of the challenges she mentioned was that he didn't fit in with her friends and she didn't fit in with his. He tried too hard to get her friends to like him and came off hopelessly out of touch while his friends thought she was after his money. You may not face the same challenges, especially if the age gap between you is less than 10 years, but as with cultural references, it may be impossible for either of you to fit into each other's social circle.
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  10. 10
    What life stage are you in
    Another cause of friction in relationships with significant age differences comes down to being in different stages of life. For instance, if he has grown children, he may be past the stage of life for raising kids; he may not want any more, while you haven't even entered that stage yet. Another one involves partying: if you're still in party mode and like to hang out in bars and dance clubs with your friends until the last call, but he was through with that years ago and now prefers a quiet evening at home, you're going to clash.
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  11. 11
    What do you want out of the relationship
    This is probably the most important factor of them all: where do you see your relationship with this man going? If both of you are just having fun and you don't see being with each other long-term, then nothing else matters. However, if you see a future with this guy, then you need to carefully consider whether or not you can handle the challenges you will face, especially if there is a large age gap between you.
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If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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