When you start seeing a new woman, you’ll probably get this standard question: “How old is she?”.
If there’s not much of an age difference between you two, the conversation moves right along.
But people can get pretty hung up on the topic of age once they find out that woman is 5 or even 10 years younger than you. And you can expect a similar reaction if she’s much older than you, too.
After surveying more than 3,000 men and women a few years ago, researchers from Emory University found that even a 5-year age difference resulted in an 18 percent higher likelihood of divorce compared to couples who were the same age.
The research also suggested that a 10-year age gap boosted a couple’s chance of divorce by 39 percent, and a 20-year gap led to a 95 percent increase.
On the flipside, an age difference of only 1 year just resulted in a 3 percent higher chance for divorce.
However, the survey may make age gaps seem worse than they really are, says Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D, a sex and relationship expert.
In fact, the study authors later admitted that while there was a correlation between age gap and divorce, they couldn’t definitively predict a couple’s risk of divorce.
And that makes sense: “There are so many other factors that differentiate you from your partner,” she says.
Your culture, geography, family history, education, and income, for example, all shape your personality and relationship values, says O’Reilly.
And these can be more predictive of how your relationship goes than your age is.
In fact, being 20+ years older or younger than your partner can sometimes be a good thing, says Jane Greer, Ph.D.
“This offers the opportunity for the younger partner to bring vitality into the relationship, balanced by the older person bringing wisdom and experience,” she says.
Unfortunately, aside from the anecdotal evidence from experts and the Emory University study, insight on the perfect age gap in a relationship is pretty slim.
That’s because there’s no way to make an accurate prediction about the success of a relationship based on age alone, says O’Reilly.
“No matter how much data you collect, you can’t predict how future marriages will unfold,” she says.
That being said, one surefire way to wreck your relationship is to get hung up on the age difference, says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
Remember: You’re not destined to be a statistic.
“If you get along, have good communication and problem-solving skills, and you love each other, that’s far more important than your ages,” says Tessina.
If other people have a problem with it, let it be their problem.