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A few days ago, I scrolled through the feed of a forum where people ask for relationship advice.
I read a post from a woman, aged 30, expressing a problem that she had with her partner, who was 37; it sounded trivial, something about a miscommunication between them.
Scrolling down the answers, though, I noticed a strange phenomenon: people were more eager to discuss their age difference, even presenting it as the sole reason for the problem, rather than providing solutions.
The woman posted that they had been together for five years, and suddenly the only thing that mattered was that a 25-year-old had dated a 32-year-old.
People’s opinions ranged from him being immature for dating a younger person to going as far as calling the man a toxic predator who had preyed on her.
Those replying were focused on their perception, convinced that the relationship was toxic and had ruined her “innocence.” They disregarded that miscommunication is a common problem amongst couples.
The poster tried to defend her relationship, only to be told she was gaslit.
In the 1950s, there was a rule that said, by dividing your age in half and adding seven, you could find the socially acceptable age gap. Over time, that acceptable age difference has gradually lessened, and recently I’ve noticed that even a four-year difference is often frowned upon.
Certainly, I would agree that a 14-year-old shouldn’t be dating a 21-year-old, but when did we start seeing adult 25-year-old women on the same mental and emotional level as 14-year-olds?
She deleted her post without receiving one proper answer.
In my honest opinion, the problem that the woman described had nothing to do with their age gap; it was something that many couples experience, regardless of an age difference.
As I sat there reading the barrage of answers, a question kept annoying me:
“Why are women never considered mature enough to choose their life partner?”
“When did an age gap become a reason for invalidating someone’s life experience and emotional maturity?”
One might say that the older partner would patronise their younger one using experience through age as leverage. And even though such cases might exist, I rebel against the notion that younger women cannot be mature enough to notice the red flags if faced with a patronising partner.
My biggest issue with the reaction against age gap relationships is that, in the attempt to condemn them, we have created an image of women as infantile and unable to make correct decisions. Even in instances when they are abused by their older partner, they are somehow blamed for not being “clever” enough to stay in their age lane and thus must have been looking for trouble.
We disregard women’s life experiences and their decision to choose a partner on this premise: if she is young, she must be naïve.
This is not limited to younger women, despite the notion that as women grow older, the age gap seems of less importance. It seems that once the age difference is known, a woman’s experience within the relationship is essentially a consequence of her having chosen to be with an older man.
All in all, this notion is deeply problematic and misogynistic.
“How can we change as a society when we blanket all experiences as the same?”
“How can we promote the concept that women should be allowed to make their own choiceswhen we invalidate the ones we deem as inappropriate?”
I think that we need to look beyond the surface if we are to change into an equal society.