531: Age Gap

What do you consider too big of an age gap for a romantic relationship?


Full episode script

Max O’Rell’s Her Royal Highness Woman, a book from 1901, gives a rule about the age of marriage in a way that will likely sound familiar to many, minus one big detail. Quote “A man should marry a woman half his age, plus seven.”

These days, half your age plus seven is usually used as the lower limit for quote-unquote socially acceptable ages for sexual or romantic relationships. But, humans being what we are, what’s socially acceptable isn’t what we all fall lockstep in with.

There’s plenty of very public – and very private – relationships with much larger age gaps. French president Emmanuel Macron is married to a woman 24 years his senior, for example.

What does the research say? Once you go beyond the question of individuals too young to consent — in and of itself an entire discussion that is worth very close ethical consideration, because seriously people, consent is a thing, there is quite a bit of research out there.

Buried in a 2014 paper about wedding expenses from Emory University was a discussion of age differences. With a sample size of 3,000 people, the study found that couples with a five-year age gap are 18 per cent more likely to split up than those of the same age. That figure rose to 39 per cent for couples with a 10-year age gap and 95 per cent for those with a 20-year age gap.

Similarly, as quoted by AARP:

The research group Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) compiled 13 years of data from 8,682 households and 19,914 individuals. The study investigated “how the marital age gap affects the evolution of marital satisfaction over the duration of marriage.”

 

Researchers found that people coupled with younger partners mesh well in the beginning — basically the same as same-age couples. But statistics show the relationship may sour as time goes on. he study points out that after six to 10 years of marriage, the age gap appears to widen and satisfaction tends to dissolve. “The people who are married to a much older or younger spouse tend to have larger declines in marital satisfaction over time as compared with those who are married to spouses who are similar in age,” according to the HILDA study.

 Your personal opinion, though, may vary. Because statistics are averages, and those averages don’t work for everyone. So what’s your opinion?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.