young woman dating older manYou've probably heard the saying a thousand times that age is just a number, but is that actually true? When it comes to dating and relationships, how much of an age gap matters?

Half your age plus seven rule

When the question of age gaps comes up, most people cite the half your age plus seven rule, which states that you should divide your age by two and then add seven to find the socially-acceptable minimum age you should date. That means if you're 30, you shouldn't date anyone younger than 22 according to this rule.

The other part of the rule defines a maximum age. To calculate it, take your age, subtract seven and double it. For a 30-year-old, the upper age range would be 46. These age discrepancies adjust over the years.

Most research has shown that this rule doesn't map perfectly onto actual reports of what is socially acceptable. If you choose to follow this popular rule, you should be aware that it doesn't truly mirror age-related preferences when it comes to dating.

What's the ideal age gap, according to science?

Emory University conducted a study back in 2014 on age gaps in relationships. They found that there is an ideal age difference that can increase your chance of a lasting relationship. The study examined 3,000 people and found that the greater the age difference, the higher the risk of breaking up.

Couples with a five-year age gap were 18% more likely to split than those that are the same age in relationships. That figure jumped to 39% with a 10-year age gap, and 95% for couples with a 20-year difference in age. The ideal age difference, according to the study, is a one-year gap.

What if there's a significant difference in age?

If you end up dating someone significantly younger or older than you, don't worry. There's a lot you can do to ensure your relationship is successful:

  • Regardless of age, to make a relationship work, you should ensure that your values, morals, and life goals match up. Ask your partner about their future goals, where they want to live, if they want to have a family someday, and how they view religion. This will give you a better sense of whether things will work out.
  • Be prepared to handle criticism. The people in your life might ask questions and make comments that'll annoy you. Depending on who the person is, you might feel comfortable going more in-depth about your relationship.
  • Make sure you're on equal footing. You should ensure that your partner doesn't hold any power over you and vice versa. If you notice your partner putting you down or parenting you, this could be a red flag that the relationship isn't healthy and loving.

Bottom line: don't dwell on age

While research might suggest that there is an ideal age gap, at the end of the day, you can't control who you end up falling for. If you find yourself with a partner that's noticeably older or younger than you, don't dwell on that age difference. While considering how your age difference might affect relationship is a good idea, thinking about it too much can turn it into a negative.

References
  1. "6 Ways to Make a Relationship Work if You're not the Same Age as Your Partner," Insider, May 10, 2018.
  2. "The is the Ideal Age Difference in a Relationship," Cosmopolitan, July 31, 2016.
  3. "Who is Too Young or Too Old for You to Date?," Psychology Today, May 2, 2014.

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