Not so uncommon
If we look closely, we can see examples of such relations in our own families too. Ever noticed what is the age gap between your own parents or grandparents? Chances are it is more than what you had initially thought.
People in these relationships often have to deal with suspicion and disapproval from family members, friends, and society as a whole. Some might think the relationship is doomed to fail, especially if the woman is older than the man. Priyanka Chopra is 37 and Nick Jonas is 26. Rumours about their break-up started the day they went on their first date!
Against popular belief
How likely is an age-gap relationship to last and be satisfying? Does it matter if the woman or man is older? These were the sorts of questions a team of researchers from the U.S. were also interested in answering.
The researchers tracked down almost 200 heterosexual women, over half of whom were in age-gap relationships. The number of women who were the older partner was roughly the same as the number who was the younger one.
The researchers wanted to know how committed the women were to their partners and how satisfied they were in their relationships. They also asked each participant whether their family and friends supported their decision to be with a partner who was much older or younger than them.
Relationship in which the woman is older turned out to be the most satisfying and committed in the study. This definitely goes against popular belief and is good news for anyone in an age-gap relationship.
The Romeo and Juliet effect
What are the reasons, you’re probably wondering? The researchers have an idea or two. One of them is less jealousy and greater trust when the woman is older.
But women-older relationships could also thrive because of suspicion or disapproval. In fact, researchers have a term for this: ‘The Romeo and Juliet effect’. Basically, it’s where feelings for a partner become stronger despite disapproval from others.
And these couples certainly face disapproval. The study also found that women in age-gap relationships, especially those who are older than their partner, had less support from family and friends.
Standing the test of time
Though age-gap relationships may face disapproval, in some ways they can fare better than those where partners are close in age.
So what’s the take-home message from this study? Just because there’s a big age difference between you and your partner, doesn’t mean your relationship won’t work out over the long run.
Though family and friends may be obstacles, especially when the woman is older, age-gap relationships are likely to stand the test of time.
Reference: Commitment in age-gap heterosexual romantic relationships: a test of evolutionary and socio-cultural predictions. Psychology of Women Quarterly. Published 2008.