‘Love conquers all’ is a common but perennial maxim. Love is indeed a warrior who wins over the most difficult of barriers that sometimes besiege many lovers. Such is this warrior’s power that it can also unite people from two different generations and make them fall in love. Love is, quite simply, timeless and it proves this to be true by forming age-gap relationships, also known as May-December relationships.
Nowhere are instances of the May-December romance more on display than amongst cinema’s brightest stars. George and Amal Clooney have an age difference of 17 years, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively were born 11 years apart, and it’s 10 years for Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. These May-December couples are a testament to how ageless love can be. It’s not just that fleeting, flapping birdie called infatuation, you know?
But some studies say not all May-December romances are rosy. A study by US-based data scientist Randy Olson has stated that there is a significant relationship between age gap and increased divorces. “Only being 1-5 years away from your partner in age is nothing to worry about, but if you’re old enough to be your partner’s parent, then your marriage might be in trouble,” the study says.
Such findings could be nail-biting for those who are considering a May-December romance or are in one already. So, for solid relationship advice and to help us navigate the question of age difference in love, I have brought in a guide, Geetarsh Kaur, a life coach and the founder of ‘The Skill School’ which specializes in building stronger relationships.
What Is A May-December Relationship?
“Age is an issue of mind over matter,” Mark Twain has famously said. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” This adage has stood the test of time for lovers who have loved despite the vast valley of time between them. And that is what a May-December romance or a May-December marriage is – timeless.
The only conventional definition of a May-December romance is that it is defined by the age difference between two partners. But if we were to have a romantic, Wordsworthian definition, we could say that a May-December romance is an age-old convention like the seasons of the earth themselves. Thus, in a May-December relationship, the spring-y May represents youth and the wintery December connotes wisdom.
All in all, a May-December relationship is one with a considerable age gap, and given its name in accordance with the seasons the months portray. Whether you’ve come here to understand the May-December relationship psychology or because you’re facing problems with May-December relationships, we’ve got the answers you need.
Do May-December Relationships Work?
“They do,” says Geetarsh. “But it depends entirely on the partners. May-December couples must have a certain level of understanding regardless of which partner in the relationship is older. It is all about communication.”
Considering the fast-paced and busy lifestyles in the 21st century, it is all the more necessary to work on romance, because it is easy to be complacent when you are pressed for time. Eventually, the relationship, once enamored in love, could wither away. In a May-December relationship especially, lack of initiative could result in you feeling the stark difference of age between the both of you. In such cases, do ask yourself whether you want to deal with the ghosts of a dead romance at the end of a hectic day.
“When complacency kills a relationship, one partner starts feeling the brunt of it more than the other. In such a scenario, the idea is to identify what is going wrong in the relationship and discuss it with the partner,” Geetarsh says. Of course, the foundations you need to keep a relationship alive apply to a May-December relationship as well.
In this dynamic, you both need trust, respect, support, love, and empathy. When the relationship satisfaction begins to die out, (which is one of the problems with May-December relationships according to studies), you’re going to need to work harder than just buying your partner a gift, hoping it makes up for the lack of effort in the relationship.
The famous May-December relationships that we speak of, like the ones with Amal and George Clooney, may make it seem like all is fine and dandy in their lives, but do remember that you’re only seeing the polished parts of the relationship that they’re allowing you to see. They too must experience their troubles, just like any age-gap relationship does.
When it comes to May-December relationships, the age difference you have with your partner can affect it drastically. For example, a study found that an age difference of fewer than 10 years will bring more satisfaction. But, of course, numbers can’t always predict the joy your love will bring you.
One thing is for sure, however, whether you have a May-December relationship with an older woman and younger man, or an interracial May-December relationship, or of any kind, really, you probably need to know a few things about how you can keep the magic alive. Let’s take a look at all you need to know, so you don’t end up stonewalling each other into oblivion.
How To Keep A May-December Romance Alive?
There are plenty of ways to keep the love going. But then again, there are plenty of ways of messing it up too. If you end up not putting in effort into your relationship, or worse yet, not knowing how to put in the effort, you may find yourself struggling to keep your relationship healthy. Let me list down five things you could do to keep the May-December romance or May-December marriage fresh, always:
1. It’s important to find mutual interests in May-December relationships
Geetarsh suggests that partners in a May-December relationship must have mutual interests and make the time to indulge in them. “A couple must spend time with those interests. It could be as simple as going on a drive or watching movies slouched together on the couch with a bowl of popcorn in between. Whatever it is, make sure you do it regularly,” Geetarsh says.
Don’t be too picky or too bossy while choosing mutual interests – make it a mission, and treat it like a to-do list. Once your ideas coalesce, you could end up discovering the unexplored commonalities between the both of you. Then take this idea for a walk because, as our relationship coach said, “laziness will kill it”.
If this idea of doing mutual things is not executed, its absence might linger, making the partners feel the burden of the “something is missing” thought. Sounds like the beginning of problems that you could have avoided!
Related Reading: How Important Are Common Interests In Relationships?
2. Walk down the memory lane
When did you see each other for the very first time? Do you remember the feeling? If you are the younger partner, did you wonder how old your partner was when you saw them for the first time? If you are the older one, did the butterflies in your stomach almost stop you from approaching someone way younger than you? Time to reminisce about your feelings. A walk down memory lane for a May-December couple is considered healthy.
Steer yourself into remembering your 50 first dates (see what I did there?). When you recall them, tell your own behind-the-scenes stories. For instance, 31-year-old Ryan had never told his 48-year-old partner Dan that he had spent more than $1,000 to get his outfit right for their first date.
“Dan laughed it off. But when I told him that I wanted to be well-dressed because I saw how splendidly elegant and well-styled he looked in his pictures on social media, he was genuinely shocked! He asked if people my age look up their dates online. I said it was quite common for people of my generation to do that. That particular conversation with Dan has made us more willing to understand the nuances of each other’s generation. It is a healthy curiosity,” Ryan says.
3. A tip for the older partner: Let the younger partner be
Pearls of wisdom are meant to be collected and not to be thrown into every conversation. In a May-December relationship, depositing these pearls in discussions as life lessons might hinder the experiences of the younger partner.
“The experiences of partners in a May-December relationship may clash. It is important for the older person in the relationship to not take away from the experience of the younger partner’s life,” Geetarsh says. In short, let them be, let them fall even – just be there to catch them. Support is important in any relationship, as it is in yours.”
Sienna, a shop-floor manager, said she had to watch her partner Matthew – who is a decade younger than her – suffer through a set of difficulties at his corporate workplace. “On many occasions, I felt like giving him unwanted advice since I had at least seven more years of office experience than him, but I refrained from doing so. Moreover, my advice may not have necessarily fit his workplace dynamic,” she said, adding, “It was something he had to experience on his own. Of course, I was always around for very rational support. Eventually, it was great seeing him figure out that part of his life himself.”
When you know that the decision your partner is making is perhaps not the best one, all you can do is tell them your point of view, not force them to change their decision. At the end of the day, they’re going to do whatever they want to, you just need to make sure you’re their biggest cheerleader no matter what it is they do. This holds true for age-gap relationships as well as any other dynamic.
Related Reading: Age Difference In Relationships – Does Age Gap Really Matter?
4. Devise a safe word to stop arguments
An age gap between two partners may create differences of opinion, especially on several touchy topics like politics or religion. While it is prudent to deal with these issues right at the beginning of the relationship, one cannot predict how tempers can flare during such discussions. Well, if discussions on sensitive issues are frequently turning sour at home, a May-December couple can think of devising a safe word for fighting fair, after consulting with a counselor.
A safe word is a way to draw an instant boundary in an argument. But it is a contract that both partners will have to agree to. This word could be anything – a name of a fruit or a country. For instance, 28-year-old Kevin and 41-year-old Sarah use the word “Switzerland” to stop any argument they feel is getting out of hand.
“We came up with this word as Switzerland is known to be a neutral country. Its foreign policy does not allow it to be involved in armed or political conflicts between other states. It made sense to use because Kevin is a researcher with a focus on political science, and I am a journalist,” Sarah said.
Just like any other dynamic, the problems with May-December relationships will come up every now and then. Though it’s recommended that you communicate through your issues and try to learn from every fight you have, sometimes you just need to take a break and escape into Switzerland.
5. Five-day sex challenge
Yes, this is a pop-culture thing to generate intimacy among all couples, including May-December couples. It is employed when the dry spell lasts longer than usual or when sex takes a backseat, and becomes a dusty thought in long-running May-December marriages. And as May-December relationship psychology tells us, such relationships are prone to running the course of relationship satisfaction sooner than others.
The five-day sex challenge involves planning – decide what you want to do on each day and how you want to experiment. But the focus should be on intimacy and not just sex. Don’t do it just because you have decided to do it. Attempt to generate the lost passion. If you complete this challenge, you will realize that you – a May-December couple – are actually, sincerely capable of working on things that you may have lost touch with. See how much sex can benefit you?
Related Reading: Sexless Marriage Effect On Husband – 9 Ways It Takes A Toll On Him
All those famous May-December relationships you see like Jay Z and Beyonce, Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger, and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi probably know the things they need to do to keep their relationship healthy. The tips we laid out for you above aren’t just things you can employ when things in your relationship go bad. They’re things you need to keep in mind to constantly make your relationship better and healthier.
Pros And Cons Of A May-December Relationship
Just like everything else in life, a May-December relationship has its pros and cons. It does not matter if yours is an interracial May-December relationship, a May-December relationship with an older woman and younger man, or vice versa, there are a few things you’ll need to be wary of, and a few positives you can boast about. Let’s take a look at them:
|The older partner is more willing to commit||It may be difficult to find mutual interests|
|The relationship, or at least one half of it, may provide better financial stability which makes it more secure||Studies suggest that relationship satisfaction decreases if there’s a big age gap between partners|
|The relationship may feature more maturity, less drama||You may find it difficult to connect with each other|
|You’re able to enjoy very different worldviews in your relationship||You may find it difficult to accept your partner’s distinct worldview|
|The physical intimacy will be different than most other relationships you’ve been in||You may be affected by the rumor mill discussing your relationship|
|You’ll be able to give each other advice from distinctly different points of view||Inability to accept each other may cause frustration|
In May-December relationships, the age difference may make it seem like that’s the biggest and the only hurdle you’ve got to cross. But just like every other relationship, you’ve got to navigate your way around the fights that everyone has, the jealous feelings, the mismanaged expectations, and the times you hurt each other.
Does The Age Gap Really Matter?
Geetarsh says no. “Age is simply a number,” she states. The question about the age gap is woven around insecurities like the perception of society or unaccepting families that keep asking you “Do May-December relationships work?”.
There are several notions of the ideal gap in a relationship or a marriage, but even then, studies differ. Some say that an age gap of one to seven years between couples is ideal, whereas others say that an age gap of five to seven years would be preferable. But then there are plenty of successful relationships with a large age gap that serve as a testament to the fact that love is indeed timeless and that a May-December relationship or a May-December marriage has a big chance of succeeding. “The level of understanding between the partners of a May-December relationship must match for it to work,” says Geetarsh.
At the end of the day, making a May-December romance work is also about maturity, which is the desirable tool to have to battle all the challenges that a May-December couple may confront. But, a word of caution. Before gleefully jumping into the boat of May-December love, one must discuss matters with the partner that form the basic foundation of a long-lasting relationship.
Do you and your partner have similar ideas for the future? This is something you need to know. It involves talking about growth in career, the desire for children and building a family, and finances. An honest conversation can solve the simplest as well as the largest of problems.
Last but not the least, how far are you willing to compromise? In the beginning, love may make you feel like you are ready to go to any length. But take a step back from the romantic picture and assess yourself. How much have you compromised in life, in general situations? If you are a fairly adaptable person, you may not have problems. But a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude may not be an ideal stance to take in this relationship, or any relationship for that matter.
- Just like any other relationship, a May-December relationship requires a solid foundation of love, trust, support, respect, and empathy
- Don’t interfere in each other’s lives too much, let your partner live and try to be more accepting of them
- The age gap doesn’t spell doom for your relationship, it might just be the best quality about it. Find out your strengths and work on the kinks that you sweep under the rug
It is time to speculate, but with hope and optimism. If you are going to be involved with someone with a significant age gap, think of it as a union of two different milestones in this journey we called life. If singletons with apprehensions regarding dating someone older have been reading this, just imbibe what I said right at the beginning – love is ageless.
Given that each party involved is older than the age of consent in the area you live in, there is no ‘right’ number for the difference. There could be no age gap between two partners or it could be 15 years…who’s to say? If it works, it works – age gap notwithstanding. If the age gap is comfortable for the couple, then there is no problem. If it is a bond between an 18-year-old and a 30-year-old, though, you may want to assess the skewed power dynamics in the relationship before getting into it. Or it could become a case of ‘grooming’ the younger person.
Yes, they do. Age is one aspect among others in a relationship, like personal choices, routine, family, and job profile. Like these factors, age needs to be taken care of like all the other things that make a relationship.
Yes, they do. Anything lasts if couples decide to make it last. Of course, you must keep in mind the common problems a marriage goes through and understand that every marriage involves a substantial amount of effort to keep it afloat.
It’s called a ‘May-December’ romance to signify that the relationship features a considerable age gap. In more poetic terms, the month of May is supposed to signify spring, intuitiveness, and an optimistic mindset. The month of December is supposed to signify winter, wisdom, and maturity.