Dating can be difficult, no matter your age, so it makes complete and total sense that you might want to know if there are some things that can make it a little bit easier, as well as what those things might be. As it turns out, some research says that the age difference between you and your partner might be one of those things that can make dating easier or more difficult, depending on how large or small it is. Knowing the best and worst age ranges for you to date, based on your own age, ultimately won't decisively dictate if your relationship is successful or not, but having an idea of what sort of age range might have the largest positive or negative effect on the outcome of your relationship is interesting nonetheless (and might help you know what sort of things to expect).
Every couple is different. While some might not be able to handle a large age gap (there are certainly some challenges that come along with them), others might thrive under those sort of circumstances. But this is actually an area that curious researchers have studied and looked into, to try to get a better grasp on dating and relationship habits and preferences, as well as to learn more about possible predictors of relationship success. Whether you're the same age, older, or younger than your partner, there might be something that science says about your relationship based on how far apart in age the two of you actually are.
1. Best: Same Age Or A One Year Gap
Though many couples have an age gap of some sort, there are also a number of couples who are the same age or have a very modest one-year age difference. A 2014 study from researchers at Emory University found that couples who have a one year age gap have a three percent higher change of their marriage ending in divorce than couples who are the same age. Additionally, as Business Insider reported, in his book, Dataclysm, OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder noted that though heterosexual male OKCupid members say that they're more attracted to younger women, they're also more likely to reach out to women around their own age.
2. Best: Five Years
Five year age differences between partners aren't super uncommon, nor do they seem to fall under the definition of a large age gap. That being said, in the previously-mentioned study from Emory University, researchers found that couples who had this slightly larger age difference between them were also slightly more likely to divorce — 18 percent more than those who are the same age, as The Atlantic reported.
3. Worst: 10 Years
For some people, a 10-year age difference between two partners feels like the upper limits of what they think they'd want in a relationship, while for other people, that's still pretty modest. Still, once you move into the 10-year range, your risk of the relationship ending again might increase. The aforementioned Emory University study found that once your age difference gets closer to 10 years, you have about a 39 percent higher chance of your marriage ending in divorce.
Again, not all couples who are 10 years apart in age will have this experience. Ultimately, the success of your relationship depends on many different factors.
4. Depends On Your Circumstances: "Half Your Age, Plus Seven"
When someone asks about the minimum age of a person they can date without it being weird or creepy, the old, standard advice often given is "half your age, plus seven," and no younger. In a post that she wrote for Psychology Today's website, Dr. Theresa E DiDonato, PhD, said that a 2001 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior found that, in terms of dating and relationships, heterosexual men's preferences generally align with this rule, but that heterosexual women actually preferred partners older than the bare minimum dictated by the "half your age, plus seven" rule.
Since people, for better or for worse, tend to have opinions about couples with large age differences, it might seem like a good guideline, but it can also result in couples with age differences that are larger than some people would feel comfortable with. Though the way the outside world sees your relationship doesn't dictate exactly how it will go or how successful it will be, outside pressures can, in fact, weigh on some relationships.
5. Worst: 20 Years
As you might expect, a 20-year age difference can present a number of challenges for a couple. Still, some couples make it work. But, as the previously-mentioned study from Emory researchers found, the likelihood that your marriage will end in divorce if you're about 20 years apart in age is about 95 percent higher than if you're the same age. For some couples, that feels quite daunting, but for others, the potential risk that the relationship will end, regardless of how large that risk may be, is worth it for the relationship that you have in the meantime.
6. It's Harder To Tell: Someone Younger
An April 2018 paper published in the Journal of Popular Economics found that people who marry younger partners are initially happier, but that that happiness and satisfaction in their relationship doesn't always last, particularly if the age difference is large. It also found that couples with large age gaps might be less "resilient" when facing financial and economic obstacles when compared with couples close in age.
It's important to stress, again, that statistics and real life are different things and that just because you and your partner have a large age difference that doesn't mean that your relationship won't last. Each couple is different, like each person is different, and the way that the two of you relate to each other, the values and goals that you share, and the like can all, of course, play a very significant role in your ultimate relationship outcome.