Does Age Matter in Online Dating?

Couple of different ages

Without a doubt, enormous assumptions are made when you know little else about someone other than their age (actual or approximate). Ignoring, for a moment, the question of whether someone’s photo on their dating profile seems to match the age they say they are, we all carry in our heads some perception about what people born 10 or 20 years older or younger than us will be like. And there are “big birthday” numbers which get more significant with age.

Big Birthdays ARE Watersheds in Online Dating

Turning 40, 50 or 60 is an important milestone in most people’s lives. Saying you are this age feels like it is propelling you into a whole other, less flattering category. In reality people can be shallow and specify “must be under 50” or something in their online dating “Ideal Date” specification or searches. Everyone knows this, so online dating sites have a massive amount of people who are 39, 49, and 59, and not many 41, 51 and 61 year olds (according to their profiles).

How bothered you are by this is down to you. However, just remember that if you say you are younger than you are, while you may attract a bit more interest, the person you end up wanting to get to know better may feel deceived and wonder what else you are not telling the truth about.

The advice throughout is to be honest. However, if you must have a 9 or an 8 at the end of your age, the balanced approach is probably not to go more than one or two (literally) years away from the truth and to tell them very early on, explaining why you did it (ie you wanted to avoid putting off Mr or Mrs Right for such a silly reason), rather than needing to “confess” 6 months into a relationship.

Generational Differences are About Experiences, not just Mind & Body

Whether someone is 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 today they will be very different compared to someone the same age 20 or 30 years ago. Generally improving health and living conditions play a part for most of us, but a big part of this is “cohort” related: To take an extreme example: going through World War 2 as a child was a totally different experience to being a child in the 1960s or in the 1980s.

People who are between about 60 and 75 today could have been hippies in the 1960 or early ’70s when the birth control pill changed attitudes to relationships massively compared with prior generations (VERY different to the caricature of grannies and grandpas still rolling around in some media sterotypes). Those 10 years younger had AIDS to contend with when they were teenagers. Anyone born since 1980 probably grew up with technology and (during the 1990s) the internet in their lives and the idea that cheap overseas travel is a big part of their lives.

Apart from the formative experiences of each era there are also major differences in reference points: some people watched men walk on the moon – live on their TVs! Some generations learnt to cook when microwaves were new, others didn’t have mobile phones until they were in their 20s, recent generations grew up with a sense of global community which previous generations never imagined, and so on.

In things like music, movies, TV, and books the experiences can vary enormously with only 5 or 10 years age difference. Finding out that someone you are fond of never even heard of your favourite artist or actor can be quite disturbing (and make you feel very old).

Remember, also, it will not just be about you. If the age difference is too great then your friends may find they have little in common with your partner too.

Does a Big Age Difference Matter?

There are three sides to the question of age when dating online: yours, your date’s, and what you think people will think about it. Plus, over the top of this there is a male and a female perspective.

Many men would find their egos flattered to be going out with someone 20 years younger than themselves, while women may be freaked out by the thought that a guy 15 or 20 years younger than themselves could be their son! On the other hand, some people will value the knowledge, perspective, and possible stability of someone older. Generally these things matter less when both people are somewhere in the age range of about 30 to about 50.

When one person’s age is closer to 20, then “Child Snatcher” and “gold digger” perceptions may enter the equation. Society has some fairly strong views on this. If one person is 60+ and the other still in their 40s, then other considerations emerge. Someone who is in their 40s is far more likely to have children still at home. Someone 60+ will be thinking more of a grandparent role, if anything. Also, of course, age begins to take its toll on the body in terms of wear and tear – and also in looks and weight.

Well, you may think, some of us know people in their 60s who are in fine physical shape – indeed it is possible that someone could have a body that the average 45 year old would be envious of (some of us know people who are in their early 60s but could put most 30-somethings to shame physically). On the whole, however, people are going through quite a lot of age-related changes when they are in their 50s and 60s, so you have to think whether the person’s stunning personality and the personal chemisty which exists between you is enough. “Enough” because it may be another 10 or 15 years before you are in a similar physical condition. When people are in similar situations they generally almost automatically make considerable allowances for each other. Far less so if one person thinks they are in the prime of their life and their partner is, well, just so old!

Age Differences Matter More or Less Depending on the Ages Involved

If forced to offer some advice: as a general rule, most people over 30 are comfortable dating someone who is within 5 years of their own age. This can broaden out to perhaps 10 years when they are about 40, but really should narrow back down to about 5 years age difference once you reach 55.

For example, some people over 55 find it difficult to believe that someone new will find them attractive enough to choose them versus someone 15 years younger (particularly with all the choice that online dating has seemingly creaed these days). Even if they do – will they be so set in their ways that it would be impossible to live with them? This is usually a bigger worry among women than among men (many of whom still think they are about 35 years old – in their own heads!), but actually, most guys with a woman 15 years younger will find themselves looking over their shoulder at all the much younger men who may be interested in her. Remember, for her the field may include men 5 or 10 years younger than her – so the guy is being compared with men perhaps 25 years younger than himself – and he knows it!!!

TWO Biological Clocks to Consider when Dating

We all know about the biological clock which many women feel is ticking down once they are in their mid-30s. There are only so many fertile years left in which to settle down and create a family.

Really NEVER spoken about, however, is a second clock which starts up in the mid-50s for both men and women. The closer people get to, say their mid 60s, bigger, larger self-doubts begin to emerge (even for those who are one of the seemingly perpetually beautiful people whom age does not seem to have affected much).

Age-related Dating Priorities for the Middle-Aged

Well, the field may certainly be thinning among the 55+ age group, but this is not necessarily the problem you might think. When we get older – and more sensible (?) – at some point it will dawn on most people that the game now is not just about having “fun” (which a lot of the post-divorce 50-somethings will have been doing); the focus now needs to change to finding someone to have a great time with now, for sure, but someone who you could also imagine yourself perhaps going into retirement with and sharing your lives in later years.

In this context, it becomes massively more important to find someone that you get along with, have things in common with, share some common interests and perspectives about life with, and generally enjoy spending lots of time in each other’s company. To bring this back down to a focus on age, the chances of achieving all that are much better if you are about the same age – say within about 5 years of each other. It really doesn’t matter which way round it is (the man or the woman being older).

So… easier said than done, you may be thinking. How will you ever know how well you get along with someone you have only just met? You don’t. And the bigger challenge is that it takes time to get to know someone and see if you are going down the right path, relationship-wise. The challenge is that as we get older, time becomes more precious. We generally don’t have two or three years to experiment with a relationship that goes no where.

Solving this challenge is about risk-reduction. Looking for someone about your own age gives you a better chance of happiness than if they are 10 or 15 years younger or older than you.

For both parties, the chances of this working out well can be improved when you put the emphasis on finding a partner within 5 years of your own age, who is looking for happiness first and foremost.

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