Dating someone several years older comes with its usual challenges. I’m not talking about an age gap of five to six years, I’m talking more like ten and above. You can be 25 and easily date someone in their thirties. Or you can be 30 and date a 50 year old. Successful cases all around the world prove that it is all completely doable. But in this post, I’m not going to talk about those adults. I’m going to tread into a separate grey area. I’m going to talk about that crucial, transitional phase between 18 to 21 (or in some cases 25) — a phase where we are legally adults, but neurologically still teenagers. Let’s call it the Blur Phase.
The Neurological Aspect
For several decades, scientists believed that our brain reaches full development by age 18. However, recent studies in neuroscience counters that view. Researchers have proved that the prefrontal cortex continues to develop during our early twenties, with the average age for overall maturity being 25. This means that those ‘new adults’ aged 18-25 are still essentially teenagers. Thus arises a gap between law and science: a Blur Phase who are allowed to make adult decisions without having the adequate resources to do so.
Here are some challenges faced by almost everyone in a relationship with someone older. But when focused on the Blur Phase, they prove to be more threatening.
This is the single most important issue in every age-gap relationship. There will almost always be varying degrees of power imbalance, with the older one more in control than the younger. But this is more prominent in the case of a new adult, because their brain is less developed and more impressionable compared to their older partner.
The age of 18 comes with strong feelings of insecurity. Our life goes through a couple of radical changes. The shift from parental dependency to self-sufficiency is too sudden, and we have no idea how to ‘adult’ yet. This automatically makes you more susceptible to your older partner. You look to them, the more experienced one, for guidance, and subconsciously accept them as your superior. In some cases, you may even try to fill up the role of your parents with your partner. This gives an oedipus/electra tinge to the relationship, something that is far from healthy.
Rarely do our immediate life goals match with someone much older than us. For a person fresh out of high school or college, our primarily goals focus around completing our education, launching our career or attaining financial stability. But someone in their late twenties or thirties is bound to have different views. Your older partner has passed the hurricane that is the Blur Phase. They’ve probably reached a stable point in their career, or are thinking about marriage and children. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that they are less willing to take risks or disturb their life’s rhythm. This happens because once we have developed a stable personality and identity, we are more resistant to outside forces.
Their Social Circle
An older partner is a subjective preference. Even if your partner sees you as their equal, there are high chances that their friends will not. This is because not everyone can relate to the age-gap concept, the same way that they cannot relate to any other preference that they do not have. It is not their fault. Your partner is used to spending time with someone much younger, but their friends may not be. If this is the case, there will always be an elephant in the room. They will not be overtly patronizing, but you will feel the subtle differences between their treatment of you and each other.
While this is more common during the initial stages of the relationship, it can cause feelings of distress and humiliation. The good news is that this problem can be overcome with time, when your partner’s social circle becomes used to you and eventually accepts you as one of their own.
The Victim Paradox
It usually takes us a few years to start thinking like an adult even after we have come of age. This again is because of the neurological view that I explained earlier. As a minor victim of predatory or manipulative behaviour, you have the law on your side. But being physically or emotionally exploited as a new adult is no one’s fight but your own.
It is common to feel violated even after giving verbal consent. It may have felt alright at that time, but you may later grow to regret your actions. You may feel like you weren’t qualified to make the decision, or that you were subconsciously coerced. You may feel like a child with adult responsibilities thrust upon you, and blame your older partner for not being the responsible one. But because you are not a minor anymore, you will have no one to legally blame but yourself. Similarly, your partner will have done nothing wrong from their side, since you had given them consent as an adult.
It is a paradox — it is okay, yet it is not. You feel violated, yet you have no explanation for it. And this problem can single-handedly ruin your relationship with your older partner.
Everything being said, dating an older person is an exciting adventure in itself. It is wonderful and stimulating. Your partner can teach you things those your own age can’t. Through you, they can rediscover their own youth. You have to deal less with commitment issues and dating games. And they will dote on you like no one else.
If you can survive the challenges thrown your way and emerge victorious on the other side, dating someone older will undoubtedly be one of the best experiences you ever have.
Image Sources: Tumblr, Pinterest