How old should my partner be?

In looking for a long-term partner, possibly the primary and single most telling and influential factor considered is that of their age. From this one piece of information a significant number of assumptions are made and the importance of a variety of other factors ignored or summarily dismissed in the bat of an eyelid. This might seem a touch unfair as our age is perhaps the only thing alongside our gender that is not under the realm of our control. Our age though, once framed within deeply embedded socio-cultural norms, standards and expectations, themselves highly dependent on biological and evolutionary aspects, is so highly indicative of a partner’s suitability that many decisions hinge on it almost entirely. It’s the touchstone of relationship compatibility.

But why should age be so determinative? Contemplating the mysterious, enchanting and often unfathomable nature of love and romance, it would seem somewhat at odds with the specific and delineated marker that is our numerical age. It establishes limits and boundaries where flexibility might serve us better. It puts a spotlight on what we want and relegates what there is to the shadows. Yet there are undeniably evolutionary elements at play here and there is invariably an optimum age for both males and females to reproduce with regard to levels of fertility. The closer the couple is to this age and the less disparity in age there is between the two the greater the supposed likelihood of their being able to reproduce successfully. This evolutionary impulse influences our behaviour in subtle yet profound ways and does go some way to explaining the importance of age in our selection of a long-term partner.

This expectancy has been reinforced and compounded by social attitudes to romantic relationships. There has been no insignificant amount of social stigma attached to those who remain unmarried or do not have children, as well as sustained pressure on people to have achieved certain relationship milestones by a certain age or after a certain amount of time in a relationship. A partner of similar age is also common and more likely in those relationships where the couple have gone through stages of life together or have shared cultural experiences such as going to university at the same time or growing up in the same town. Equally, social factors are inextricably linked with age, such as in rational choice theory, whereby a mate is chosen in terms of their suitability over others to provide the desired social circumstances in which to maintain a relationship and raise a family.

As pervasive as these factors are, and as influential as they often prove to be, we are evidently living through an age of cultural shifts and have developed to the extent that biological aspects are no longer necessarily of primary importance. It is perhaps more important than ever given the transitory and changeable nature of modern-day society, to take a more relative view of the idea of age and the priority it is given in gauging how right someone is for us. If we truly wish to find a long-term partner then only dating women under thirty five if you are a fifty year old male or refusing to date anyone older than yourself will very likely hamper your chances of happiness. Age is also relative to a person’s outlook on life and how active and engaged they are in their lives. Added to this are the enduring appeal of physical attractiveness and wealth which have always proven themselves capable of overcoming differences of age, sometimes at incredible odds. We need to appreciate as well, that as people get older it is possible that they may be divorced and have children and that we should not forego the opportunity of meeting someone special, simply because we have only met them later on in life.

Age is a number, a gauge, a benchmark and no more so. While this is helpful in establishing our commonalities with others, it is often too easy to make snap decisions and judgements based on the information we glean from it. This is not conducive to a true evaluation of someone as a long-term partner and is often counter-productive in that it might prevent us from meeting the very person we would otherwise fall in love with. So while you remain single, remain aware of who people are, not just how old.

‘Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’ Mark Twain