Okay, we have all known that guy who’s about 100 and going out with someone young enough to be, well, their caregiver *or their grandchild*. When it comes to dating, there is an unspoken dating age rule. To be fair, it isn’t just that someone is too old to date someone else, it is that someone might be too young. It goes both ways.
Some might think there isn’t any magical dating age rule, but there is. In fact, a lot of scientific research was allocated to studying how many years difference people should have between them for a happy relationship.
Also, many lawmakers have gone to great lengths to protect young people. There are times when the dating age rule can be tantamount to child sexual abuse. Yet, I digress, and won’t go there. Age appropriate sex and minors is a given, right?
The science of the dating age rule
So, what does science say about the dating age rule? Apparently, it is a mathematical equation that goes something like only dating someone half your age plus seven years for a successful, fair, equitable, and peaceful relationship with someone who is your equal on the minimum scale. Or in reverse, subtract seven from your current age and then multiply it by two to find your maximum.
Yep, that is right. There is actually an equation used to calculate how many years two people should have between one another. It indicates how old or young someone should be to be an acceptable mate. [Read: Dating someone younger than you: 12 ways to make it easier]
Is the evidence real?
Many relationship researchers have gone to great lengths to figure out what type of couples make it and which don’t. Of course, just like any outliers, some couples fall outside the limits that are still happily in love and live a long and fruitful life together.
What the research really indicates is that there are several different dating age rules according to what someone looks for in a relationship. If you look for someone to have casual sex with, your dating age rule differs from if you want a serious relationship.
What a study by psychological researchers Buunk and colleagues concluded was there are all sorts of differences between males, females, preference, and maximum and minimum acceptable ages. [Read: Age gaps – Are they the new trend in relationships?]
When it comes to men, they have varying ages of acceptability according to whether it is a relationship, fantasy, and marriage. When surveyed, there is a different age men want to marry or have a serious relationship versus who they think is acceptable to fantasize about.
Even men limit the age of a girl acceptable to fantasize about. Any younger than what is acceptable makes them uncomfortable. Men are guided by what is deemed as socially acceptable, even when it comes to fantasies.
#1 A man’s age matters. A strange finding was after the age of 40, perceptions of men changed. All bets seemed to be off. Of all ages surveyed, the older the man became, the more unlikely he was to follow the dating age rule. [Read: Dating a younger woman? 10 things the older man should know]
#2 Minimum age for men. Men have a different standard when it comes to relationships and marriage versus fantasizing about a woman. For both relationships and marriage, the dating age rule stayed pretty reliable. But, when fantasizing about a woman, the minimum age remains very low. No matter how old a man is. And, as a man ages, there is a widening gap of what’s acceptable.
For instance, a forty-year-old man thinks that fantasizing about a 25-year-old is acceptable. Likewise, a man in his 60s does too. There seems to be a cut off age where a girl is too young period. But the older a man gets, the more the gap widens instead of shrinks. [Read: 5 “creepy” myths about older guys dating younger women]
#3 Maximum age for men. When it comes to a maximum age, the research shows men’s opinions do not always follow the dating age rule. The rule overestimates how acceptable a man believes it is to be with an older woman.
Men deem women acceptable at about the same age or younger until they reach about 40. After that, their maximum age begins to decrease, and they believe they should be with women who are younger than their own age.
#1 Minimum age. When it comes to women, the rule does not follow along with the same guidelines. In general, women report their minimum age requirements are much higher than the rule.
For example, a woman in her 40s, according to the rule, considers a man 27 years or older as acceptable. Nevertheless, surveys show women much more comfortable with a man 35 or older, much closer to their age. Even when fantasizing, their minimum age is much closer to their own age. [Read: Dating an older man: 9 reasons to do it at least once]
#2 Maximum age. When it comes to maximum age, the rule is also not very reliable. When it comes to women choosing a relationship, they prefer a man much closer to their own age than someone much older. The rule underestimates women considering someone close to their own age as much more acceptable.
If there is one true thing, no two relationships are the same. There is no scientific reason why we choose the mates we do. Sometimes they make sense. Sometimes they make absolutely none.
If you look for some magic calculation about who is either too old or too young for you to date, really only you decide that for you.
[Read: When does age difference really matter in a relationship?]
Sure, societal pressure is always going to play a role. Since no two relationships are the same, nor two people, in the end, if you are okay with your relationship, follow your heart, not the dating age rule.
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A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined...
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