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Teen Life Q&A: Is the age difference between you too big?

Does age really matter, when is an age gap too big?


My boyfriend is 28 and I’m 16. My parents don’t approve, my friends think it’s creepy and his family says it’s disgusting but we’re in love. Am I crazy thinking love can conquer all or does age really matter? When is an age gap too big?

To say “he is X number of years older than you and that is too much older” is an oversimplification of a complex situation. In matters of the heart things don’t always make sense, timing isn’t always right and people are not always in the same age group. Large age differences can be overcome if people are at similar places in their lives. That said, when you are a teen and your partner is a full grown adult the chances that you are in similar places in your life are slim to none.

Look at the big picture. You are of high school age and presumably still in high school. He’s been out of high school for a decade. A lot happens in a decade and specifically, a lot happens in the decade right after high school. Careers are built, dreams are followed, your adult path is being cleared and you begin to see who you are when you are no longer sheltered by the safety of youth. The learning curve of life begins to disappear, sort of speak, and you are out there really doing things for yourself for the very first time. Even a very immature 28 year-old man has had life experiences that your average high-schooler can’t even begin to fathom. It is this vast difference in life experience rather than the age gap that makes this sort of relationship so questionable.

While situations are not always cut and dry here are some signs that the differences in your life experiences make the age gap too big to navigate:

  • The relationship is illegal as defined by the Age of Consent laws where you live.
  • S/he has more in common with your parents than with you.
  • S/he has voted before and you can’t even drive yet.
  • You live at home; s/he owns or rents her own home.
  • You babysit; s/he has babies (or kids).
  • You still see your ex at school; s/he still sees her/his ex when the kids get exchanged.
  • You get an allowance; s/he draws a salary.
  • S/he’s building a career, you’re looking for an after school job.
  • You daydream about marriage; s/he’s been there, done that and filed for divorce.
  • Your social life still revolves around weekends, holidays and school breaks; s/he only gets 3 weeks paid vacation time a year.
By now you are probably starting to see the things that make a difference and they’re not as simple as an age gap. Life experience, shared values and common beliefs are the cornerstones of a good and solid relationship and in cases of high school aged kids dating independent adults these essential ingredients are all too often missing. As we age, gaps of a 5, 10 and even 15 years seem to matter less because our life experiences are more similar. When you are a teen still finding your voice in this world dating somebody who is significantly older can stifle you. While it may seem worldy, mature or sophisticated to have a much older boyfriend in reality you are robbing yourself of some much needed personal growth time. You do not gain maturity by surrounding yourself with older people you gain it by living and learning for yourself.

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