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An analysis of age gap relationships

1782 words (7 pages) Essay in Sociology

5/12/16 Sociology Reference this

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Views towards age-gap relationships should not be viewed through stereotypical eyes; instead they should be viewed with an open mind, for they are more than what you see.

Age-gap relationships have been around since the dawn of human life. Historically age-gap relationships have been between an older male and younger female, and many cultures arranged marriages with this pattern. Age-gap relationships are not socially constructed, but have evolved. They are also seen often in nature. Stereotypes and negative opinions are heard often in media, by friends and by family. Many famous celebrities, royalty, and rock stars have been in age-gap relationships.

In many cultures, arranged marriages have been between a young girl and an older man, this could have been to prevent marriage outside of the culture, to increase political power, for livestock, or to resolve inter political issues. Doing this helped to increase the number of the community members, because a young girl could produce many more children than an older woman. Older men had more resources to support the girl and her offspring than a young boy. By arranging the marriages in this way the parents were insuring a greater number of surviving grandchildren to pass on their genes, wealth, legacy and land.

At an evolutionary stand point age-gap relationships should be more common as well as less criticized. “.. men are predisposed to produce as many offspring as possible, to increase the probability that their genes will be passes on……women prefer a mate who has adequate resources, or the potential to obtain resources,….”(Banks and Arnold 2001) By learning to seek these qualities we have subconsciously insured the survival of the human race. This evolutionary process is not much different from the way animals use to choose their mates. “Mate preferences may have evolved, rather than being socially constructed” (Banks and Arnold 2001), therefore age-gaps should be considered the social norm, and similar age relationships should be considered abnormal.

Age-gap relationships have a rollercoaster history, where they were once accepted, then they weren’t, and now they are becoming accepted once again. Women older relationships however are still considered taboo, but that doesn’t mean they should be discriminated more. Age-gap relationships whether female older or male older should be looked at as a regular relationship. The same challenges and problems should be considered when the relationship itself is being evaluated. Criticism of age gap relationships is similar in the way which different races and gay couples are criticized, people look at what is on the outside and not at what they really are. There is an old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and I feel that more people should follow this, not only when dealing with age-gap relationships but when dealing with all situations in which it is not as it appears.

There are many different stereotypes put towards age-gap relationships. Such as: “The younger partner is either looking for a parental figure or is in it solely for monetary gain, and the older partner is only after youth and physical attributes” (Anisman-Reiner 2008). Sadly these stereotypes are true in some situations, but it does not mean that every age-gap relationship is like that. The relationship in question should be examined first, then the age of the partners. Many relationships that were healthy and actually had love in them, were broken up due to constant harassment from family, friends, and even strangers.

Criticism that age-gap relationships receive are based on extreme instances. The older partner will get dirty looks and be called a cradle robber or be accused of cheating on their spouse (which other than the younger partner doesn’t exist). Other things people say are: “what could you possibly have to talk about,” “can they even keep up with you physically” or “they are holding you back from experiencing your youth” this usually causes stress for the couple. These are not always true but it causes the couple to focus on what people say about them, instead of other things in their relationship. It’s possible for couples with large age gaps to be able to have common interests, as well as have the same amount of physical activity. For example a 45 year old man can play a game of tennis at the same level as a woman in her 20’s, or both could be into classic rock or horror movies. It is true that sometimes when you enter an age-gap relationship you are risking losing some life experiences, but you can create new ones that neither of you have had. That way the older partner is not repeating life experiences, and they younger partner is gaining life experiences. Either way age-gap couples get around these obstacles and have healthy lasting relationships.

Many people will admit that they have been in an age-gap relationship or they know someone has. These relationships are becoming increasingly common nowadays and yet they still receive criticism. “Although men and women report a preference for and openness to age gaps in their own relationships, they typically disapprove of age gaps in others’ relationships.” (Lehmiller and Agnew 2008) Why would you be willing to consider something for yourself, but then tell your friend that they shouldn’t do it? If it is because you know you could handle it and your friend couldn’t, what makes you think you know your friends capabilities better than they do? Better yet if your friend doesn’t know herself, then what makes you think you know your own self? These are questions you should ask yourself before you make the decision to discriminate against others being in age-gap relationships. My grandmother and her husband were 25 years apart and yet they did not receive criticism, but when I entered into a relationship with a 14 year age difference she made a big deal about it. Sadly this occurs often to people by their family and friends.

We are all born with an incest avoidance instinct, sometimes depending on your upbringing it could go away, but normally we tend to react to what we see before we have a chance to think about it. “A difference in age of 15 years and greater would mean that a couple could, in terms of age be parent and child and so we suggest that social opposition to these age-differences will be greater, because people would wish to avoid the suggestion of incest” (Banks and Arnold 2001). Due to the appearance of the couple we instantly think that the older partner could be the younger partner’s parent. Because of this instinct we become so focused on the difference in age that we don’t notice anything else about the relationship.

Parents are often worried that when and if their young son or daughter enters into a age-gap relationship, that the older partner will exploit them for sex and not truly love them, or that the partner is closer in age to themselves than their child. I feel that though the parents mean well, they should evaluate the relationship and get to know the older partner before being so quick to judge, and find out if it is healthy for their son or daughter. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Due to the different rates at which boys and girls mature, age-gap relationships could even be considered ideal to insure the survival of a relationship. “It’s possible for two people at different ages – even with a 20 or 30 year age gap – to be equally “mature,” however you define the term.”(Anisman-Reiner 2008) Everyone growing up has heard that girls mature faster than boys, and it makes sense that this would make it easier for age-gap relationships to work and last. It also answers why many similar-age relationships (especially high school relationships) don’t last. As you get older the age-gap in the relationship matters less, because both partners are maturing.

Many famous couples both present and throughout history were involved in age-gap relationships. The gaps range from less to one year to more than thirty years. Billy Joel and Katie Lee had thirty-two years between them, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have sixteen years between them. These are people we idolize, we watch on television, on movies, and whose music we listen to. One day the media will pick them for cutest couple and then the next day they criticize them, and we just go along with it, instead of using our own minds. The criticism increases more if the woman is the older partner, and they have been labeled by the media as cougars. Such as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher (15 years difference), they receive tons of criticism and yet remain happily married, so far for 5 years. It is not only in present times that age-gap relationships exist, they have been around for centuries. Cleopatra and Julius Caesar had more than 30 years between them when their romance began. Another couple would be Frank E. Butler and Annie Oakley who had 22 years between them.

During my personal experience in an age-gap relationship I have been lucky to have friends and family to support me, well most of my family. We do get dirty looks in public even though my boyfriend doesn’t look that much older than me and definitely doesn’t act older than me. If we just focused on what other people thought of us, we wouldn’t last. Together we have accomplished so much, and continue to climb mountains! I guarantee that if we did not receive the support we have, we would not have made it. You should not discourage an age-gap relationship unless you know for an absolute fact that it would be damaging to one or both parties, you may find that age-gap relationships are a wonderful positive experience.

In conclusion age-gap relationships are criticized, stereotyped, and put down. Even though they are becoming more common, have been around for centuries, occur in nature, and have proven to have lower divorce rates. Society should look at the relationship, not the ages of the people, and maybe more of these relationships would succeed. Age-gap relationships are just like normal relationships and should, according to evolution, be the social norm though due to social influences this is not the case. Nobody likes to be picked-on especially for something that makes them happy, so we should follow the golden rule “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Age-gap relationships should be looked at for what they are, not what they seem.

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