Does Age Gap Depend on Gender?

Q: I just read your answer to the 50-year-old woman dating the 39-year-old man. I don't think 11 years is all that much of an age gap. And many older women today look so much younger than their ages. But, I wonder, would you have given the same advice if the 50-year-old was a man with a 39-year-old woman? I doubt it. - Anne, 50

Dr. Susan: Not only do many women look younger than their ages, but so do many men. Improved health care and attention to diet and exercise can help most of us look and feel good longer. My advice, however, is not usually based on appearances. Looking good counts most, perhaps, for the early impression you make on a prospective mate. But as time goes by, and real love takes hold, a wrinkle here or a sag there don't make a major difference. Or one hopes they won't matter very much to a deeply bonded and devoted partner.

My concern with large age gaps (a decade or more) is that the two people involved have different cultural references, often different sets of life experiences, and sometimes are at vastly different points in their developmental journey. You won't have as much in common as two people who are only a few years apart in age. Now, in individual instances, that won't be true at all. So I believe you have to get beneath the surface of age and appearance. How do the two of you feel about children? What are your short- and long-term goals in life? How do you see yourselves in a decade? In two decades? Do you have similar amounts of energy, similar interest in going out and staying in? One answer does not fit all. Age is merely one factor among a great many.

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