And is it really just a number?
Have you ever had that experience where you meet a guy or gal and you’re instantly attracted to them? Love at first sight? Hmm… maybe. You then approach them, strike up a conversation and realise there’s a possibility you two could work. You show you’re interested, they show they’re interested, everything seems pretty sweet. You ask their age and then you’re left asking yourself “is 40 too old?” or “is 20 too damn young?”
When does old become too old and when does young become too young? We spoke to psychologist and relationship expert Melanie Schilling to get all the answers.
First things first, does age really matter when pursuing a relationship? According to Melanie, no age doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter. “People should be focussed on stuff that relates more to the value of the person, as opposed to some of the more superficial stuff like age or height,” she said.
Doesn’t the saying go “maturity comes with age”? What about those times when you’re pining over someone and you think “they’re so young, they’re not mature enough for me.” But little do you know, age most likely has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s more about their state of mind and life experiences that determines a person’s maturity.
Melanie agrees, saying, “It’s important to think about what life stage you’re both at, not so much about how many years are between you.”
“You might find that you’ve got two 25 year olds who are at different stages in their life. One might be really serious and want to settle down, buy a house, have babies. But the other one might just want to travel the world. So keep in mind that it’s not so much about the age difference but stage difference,” she continued.
Taking someone’s age into consideration when dating isn’t uncommon, but some would argue that the age gap causes conflict. But according to Melanie, it’s the difference in life stage that’s more than likely to cause problems between the two of you. “It really links to the value of what’s important to a person in a given time in their life,” she said.
Melanie Schilling referred to a blog post (The four F’s of dating) on her own website – datingcrusade.com – in which she claims there are four F’s that everyone bases their life around, fun, fitness, finance and family.
“Basically there’s some research that says in different decades of your life, you prioritise your four F’s differently. Hypothetically speaking, a 25 year-old guy’s most important thing in his life is having fun and going to the gym to keep fit, making those two factors his top F’s,” Melanie explained. “Then he starts dating a 48 year-old woman whose number one F is family. They’re not going to have a lot meaningful things in common because their priorities are so different.”
So what’s the big deal then? Why is there always so much controversy surrounding a couple when age comes into the picture? Well the answer to that, as said by Melanie, is the media.
“I think the media has a lot to answer for, even just the term ‘cougar,’ which is completely offensive. It perpetuates the stereotype that if an older woman dates a younger man, she’s essentially a predator. Or if a young girl was to date an older man, then the she’s a ‘gold-digger.’ There’s definitely a label being placed on women,” she told The Newsroom.
So that explains as to why age is merely just a number when it comes to dating, and Melanie Schilling’s advice to anyone in pursuit of a long-lasting relationship is, “Be really cautious when you use age a criteria for a partner, just blow age off the planet and look for someone who’s at the same life stage as you.” – Heba Dandachi