What young European hasn’t dreamed of a significantly older partner, to teach them the ways of romance and life. This romanticised concept has been immortalised in a series of hollywood films, from the British film An Education to Scusa Ma ti Chiamo Amore in Italy (two extremely different takes on the topic). This goes without saying similar trends occur the other way around, fantasies of a younger partner to relive one’s youth, have fun and shed all responsibilities. But how do young Europeans really feel about the age gap? E&M speaks with some to find out experiences, anecdotes and tips on dating someone significantly younger or older than you.
Friederike, 30, Germany
Dating someone significantly below or above your age can be excellent fun. I found that younger men look up to you, worshipping the ground you walk on. I felt they were more attentive and caring. And so was I towards them. Older men cared less about the stuff I cared about, especially in bed. That can be incredibly freeing. There were no games, but clear words and communication. Refreshing, really.
For me personally, but never say never, I don‘t know if for a long relationship I could go into either of the extremes. I want children, one day. Would a younger guy be prepared and at a stage in his life, when it would align with my wishes? And would I want to put this on him, thinking about the fun I had in my mid and end twenties and this exhilarating lack of responsibilities? I know a lot of women who are dating older men. In most cases though, the women don‘t want children or the man doesn‘t mind to be an older Dad. I think for me personally, being with someone roughly in my age is the best case scenario. I like to think it‘s nice and comforting to be able to tackle age, certain experiences and mile stones together, at approximately the same speed and under the same conditions.
Angus, 23, Scotland
I dated a guy who was 31 when I was 21. I had zero problem with it and it didn’t feel particularly strange. It did start to feel strange when it turned out he’d been lying about his age and was in-fact 37…how immature!
Sasha, 34, Poland
I am currently in a relationship with a partner much younger than I am. I guess the big question hanging is whether s/he is genuinely in love (as malleable as the term is) or it is just a fling, done out of curiosity. Also, whether I am really feeling it or just mildly interested precisely because of the age gap. These are key questions, as they will determine the dynamic and timespan of the relationship – it will inevitably get sour if at least one of us is not going through the emotions they declare they are having. But despite all the doubts it is really nice. Let’s face it – there is nothing like the sharpness and openness of a young mind or the touch of firm skin next to yours. That is why I guess most people have had or striven for the attention of a younger partner at least once in their life.
Nicoletta, 23, Italy
Young girls today are always bombarded with information on the difference in maturity levels, and how if we wish to date men, we should probably be dating someone a few years older than us – as only then would we be at the same maturity level. I have on various occasions dated men younger than me, and experienced this problem first-hand. There’s always those jokes that fall a little flat, those birthday presents that seem so miscalculated you think it must be a joke, suggestions for activities that seem too dumb to be true. Yet there I was – 16 and desperate for love – perfecting my fake laughter and perpetually bemused. When this cycle was interrupted by one older man, who was really quite significantly older – I felt my life revolutionised.
Suddenly I thought, naturally that I was probably the coolest person on earth, but most importantly that suddenly no one’s maturity levels would ever reach mine, experienced and ready to take on the world. Needless to say that was extremely far from the actual truth. What did I learn from my high-school idiocy? Wish I could just go back in time and tell myself to get over myself and that until the age gap poses serious problems due to differences in lifestyle and priorities it does not change much. So for now, it just makes for embarrassing anecdotes to share with old friends and debase myself to new acquaintances.
Maria, 26, Portugal
I am currently dating a man who is over 20 years older than me. Our relationship started very early but I interrupted it when I started university. Just like a number of people who break up with their high-school partner, I thought university was time for a fresh start and didn’t want anyone holding me back in this new experience. However, it quickly transpired that while I get along with people my age, none of them seemed to offer what I looked for in a relationship.
Now that I think about it with a little more perspective, I think the real difference is simply that no other person, regardless of age, gender, or ear shape, could offer what I was looking for then – or now.
A lot of people are very judgmental of age-gap – and while it is more common to see older men with younger women than the opposite, many would say that I actually participate in creating this mentality. I personally don’t see it that way, but I understand the reasoning. There is a lot of pressure for women to look younger than they are past the 25 year old threshold, one that – let’s face it – men often don’t, simply because they don’t need to. (But I guess I’m biased here.)
I will give age-gap critics one thing though: I see the danger of adopting the lifestyle of your partner and detaching yourself from people your own age – meaning losing your close friends and missing out on experiences specific of a generation, that you might live on to regret. But this is the danger of any unbalanced relationship, only stretched out to the extreme, and if this starts happening it is a sign you’re in an unhealthy relationship, regardless of age.