What You Should Know Before Dating Someone Way Older or Younger

Is a May-December relationship doomed to fail? Not necessarily, says Health's resident psychiatrist.

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Is dating a person who was born in a different decade from you just asking for relationship troubles? The good news: Not necessarily. Maturity levels can vary big-time, regardless of biological age. I've seen plenty of May-December couples who are truly a good fit. But keep in mind that a very wide age gap—10 years or more—can mean that you and your partner have different life perspectives, goals, and even cultural references—and all of these challenges can complicate a relationship over time.

For example, maybe your biological clock is ticking but a younger or older guy doesn't have growing a family on his radar. Or perhaps your younger fling is hoping for long-term commitment, but you've already been there, done that. When you're in a May-December relationship, it's important to remember that differences require compromise; the farther apart you are in years, the more compromises—and sometimes sacrifices—you may need to make. What's key is to start talking about each other's relationship expectations before you get in too deep. That way, you'll know early on whether or not you're in sync.

One final caveat: If you always fall for much younger or older men and the relationships don't go well, take some time to think about whether there's something you're looking for from these partners—such as a yearning to be taken care of or a desire to escape from the reality of middle-age—that you can give yourself, without all the relationship drama.

Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.

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