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Age-disparate is an adjective describing romantic or sexual relationships involving people of substantially different ages. There is no minimum amount of years between a couple to qualify for an age-disparate relationship. Small age gaps usually seem more substantial for young, inexperienced couples than larger age gaps do for much older couples.
Age-disparate relationships have been common throughout history. For heterosexual age-disparate relationships, it’s much more common and thus accepted for an older man to become involved with a younger woman. It’s considered taboo for older women to become involved with younger men, although it is increasingly more common.
While age-disparate relationships may be considered taboo, they are not usually a problem among consenting teens and adults. However, they can be problematic in some circumstances. It is illegal for adults to pursue relationships with children or teens who aren’t of legal age. People who consistently couple with younger partners may be immature and unable to form relationships with people their own age. People who exclusively pursue relationships with much younger or older people, without considering people their own age, may also be fetishizing their partners rather than appreciating them as people. Words like alphamegamia, sexual arousal trigger by people of a different age group, and chronophilia, an intense sexual interest in people of a different age group, may apply to these people. Therapy can help them redirect their sexual focus and form more appropriate relationships.
Young people involved in age-disparate relationships with older partners are more likely to have sex earlier. Evidence also suggests that young women with older male partners are more likely to have unprotected sex and contract sexually transmitted infections. People in age-disparate relationships may also face social criticism, with younger partners labeled gold diggers and older partners said to be robbing the cradle. Sex can also become difficult for older people, and navigating these problems requires honest communication.
Despite these risks, there are many benefits to age-disparate relationships. People of different ages can learn about the world from one another. A younger person may enjoy the social standing and financial security of an older mate. Older men who want to become fathers may seek out younger women if women his own age are no longer fertile.