Peter’s couple therapy blog

Does a big age gap affect couple satisfaction?

People with partners significantly younger than themselves start out happier, but many experience a sharper decline in satisfaction over time compared to similarly-aged partners. This is usually apparent within 10 years from the start of the relationship.

An age gap of six years or more is considered a significant age difference in committed intimate relationships. One research study into the effect of an age gap between partners found:

Marital satisfaction declines over the duration of the marriage for those married to differently-aged partners relative to those married to similarly-aged partners. These relative declines erase the initial higher levels of marital satisfaction experienced by men married to younger wives and women married to younger husbands. Differently-aged couples experience larger declines in marital satisfaction in response to a negative economic shock compared to similarly-aged couples. Differently-aged couples may experience greater declines in marital satisfaction over time.

Approximately 57 percent of men marry women about their same age; 18 percent choose partners six-to-nine years younger, and 20 percent choose women who are ten or more years younger. In the same study, only 11 percent of women reported being with an older spouse.

Age gaps are usually larger for hetersosexual couples in a second or third long term relationship.

Love, commitment and companionship are the top three reasons people give for starting out with their life partner. That has nothing to do with age. However, when parenting is thrown into the mix, an age gap of ten to twenty years starts to show the difference in energy levels. This is more apparent when the children of the relationship reach teenage years.

A significant age gap impacts retirement planning as well. This often impacts companionship. Just as the mothering one is ready to re-enter the workforce an older (bread winner) partner is likely leaving the work force and looking to spend more time at home with their life companion.

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