The problem with this is that unofficial guidelines are exactly that. So if 40 and 27 are acceptable, one could say that 41 and 26 are close enough. Yet soon after that, the slippery slope becomes 44 and 24, which can lead to Lolita situations and other felonies. Some may ask another question. If a man is 40, is dating a pair of year-olds equivalent to dating one year-old? From a respectability standpoint, no. From a brag and go high-five your friends standpoint, yes. If the man is a billionaire, it comes with the territory.
In fact, the entire point of becoming a billionaire is for men to be unbound by the rules of everyday life that constrain the rest of us. When one is a septuagenarian billionaire, what else is there to do? Being a billionaire is not the real world, and even billionaires occasionally face consequences. Berlusconi has been accused of having sex with a woman under the legal age of consent. That is rape in any language and has nothing to do with dating.
If you have any doubts of your own, and other people voice those doubts you're having, then this can be enough to unravel your relationship. Show them by example, and when they see you together they will hopefully realize that you work and that the age gap isn't that noticeable. If you still find that your friends and family make comments, and if you find that the stares of others continue to come, then you can decide to be less 'obvious' in your relationship and to make it less public.
You of course don't have to broadcast the fact that you are a couple to anyone who doesn't need to know. In fact in some ways the 'you and me against the world' feeling that this can create can actually bring you closer together. Do note though that if you end up turning your back on your existing relationships as a result or falling out with your family, then you will be sacrificing more than you should have to for the relationship.
Note that if you are in a relationship where you end up pushing your family away then something is wrong and if you do end up breaking up you will end up with nothing. Of course over time these little differences can start to wear thin and you might find that the mental age gap is bigger than you realized. The solution here is to not let it grate on you, but to rather see the value in those differences. If they are much younger in their behavior for instance, then see this more innocent and less cynical outlook as refreshing and see their youthful energy as a way to get back some of your own youth.
Meanwhile if your partner is older, then see how they can help you to mature yourself, and how they can use their knowledge and wisdom to help you through your more difficult times. There is a lot you can learn from each other, but as long as you accept that there is no single outlook on life that is right, and that no outlook is wrong. You both just have different approaches but that's where you both have so much to gain. Not necessarily, but I'll leave it up to the two people in the relationship to decided whether or not it works for them.
Age itself isn't a factor in compatibility — it's elements like maturity and life experience, which tend to correlate with age, that can make or break a relationship's long-term potential. But so can future goals, background, culture, family, career, personality, and sexual chemistry. I tend to think that the combination of those factors maturity and life experience included takes precedence over whether or not your significant others gets your clever Beverly Hillbillies reference. And while we're at it, can we retire lingo like "cougar" and "cradle-robber" or grave-robber, as I've been called — it condescends both parties in question and is on par with sticking a cutesy label on someone who dates outside of their own race or background, in my opinion.
Date and let date — unless you're currently involved in a triad relationship with the May-December couple you're commenting on, leave it to them to form opinions on how their age gap works for them. Age and maturity often go hand in hand, but you can certainly have one without the other. All that said, I do have one admittedly hypocritical rule when it comes to dating much older men. To weed out the creepsters, I always ask if they generally date women as young as me. If they make a habit of trolling for women at the local college campus, I move on.
I want to be the exception, not the rule. On the Soapbox Abraham Lloyd is a divorced dad, closet geek, and aspiring author dating in New York City. He believes all men should own at least five jackets, know how to dance, and pay on a first date. You can tweet him at twitter.
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