Odds are you’ve seen at least one couple with a big age gap. Does it weird you out to see someone dating an older man? If so, have you examined what makes you feel that way?

Let’s look at the act of dating older women or men and see whether there’s something fundamentally wrong with it.

How Many Relationships Have a Big Age Gap?

Before we bite into the topic proper, we need to do two things — define “age gap” and see how widespread of a “problem” age gap relationships are.

So what age difference is large enough to be considered a relationship with an age gap? In most cases, when talking about age gaps, we refer to relationships with a difference of ten or more years. In other words, think of a couple with 20 years or 15 years difference for instance.

With that out of the way, let’s see how common it is with people of different ages to date.

One study has found that, across Western countries, around 8% of couples — in this case, straight, married couples — have a gap of ten and more years. It has also shown that the vast majority of these relationships involve older men. Namely, only 1% of age-gap couples involve an older woman.

But what about same-sex couples? Apparently, the data on that front is sparse. But the research that does exist points to interesting differences in same-sex couples. If the data is to be believed, 25% of male couples have a pronounced age gap, whereas 15% of female couples do.

So couples with a significant age gap aren’t all that common. While they may be more common among same-sex relationships, they aren’t exactly the norm there either. Overall, they’re more of an exception than the rule. But why do they exist?

Why Doesn’t Age Matter to Some?

For many, age is little more than a number. Someone over 50 may look like they’ve barely scratched into their 40s. Meanwhile, a person in their early 20s might have a hard time moving around.

The idea of being “as old as you feel” is more than a coping mechanism for aging people. As such, many people won’t pay much mind to someone’s age when considering whether or not to date them.

But there’s more to it than just that. Sometimes, people don’t feel like they “click” with people as old or young as them. They might be what’s known as an old soul, or they might feel much better around older or younger people.

Whatever the case may be, they just don’t mesh well with their peers on a romantic level. So it makes sense that they’d start looking for someone of different age. Be it someone younger or older, they just look for someone to connect with, and they find a connection with whoever, age be damned.

To be fair, that does make sense in some cases. The difference in experiences of a 50-year-old and a 40-year-old isn’t too radical. All the same, they’re distinct enough to feel fresh for the people in the relationship. People don’t date 13 years older guys for nothing, after all.

Even if the gap is wider, say 25 years, if they’re happy together without any coercion or manipulation, there’s no reason for two people with this age difference not to get together.

Will the Success of the Relationship Be Based on Age Gap?

One of the biggest gripes people have with age-gap long-term relationships is that they can’t last long, regardless of how many relationship tips and counseling they wade through. There’s an inevitable expiration date when you date younger men or younger women, people say.

Here’s the logic used when talking about this. After a while, the people in the relationship realize their differences are ultimately insurmountable, no matter how hard they try. Even if they themselves don’t have such problems, society eventually finds a way to drive a wedge between them. For example, the younger party’s parents could interfere with the relationship.

Honestly, these sound like compelling arguments. But they involve a fair bit of assumption.

For one, there’s no reason to assume the relationship won’t work because of the age gap. After all, so many age-gap couples are out there, and they’re fine and dandy. Secondly, “society” rarely gets in the way in real life (some outliers notwithstanding). Granted, parents could be a tangible factor for some people in such relationships. But if you’re all adults about it (in more ways than one), you and the concerned parents can work things out reasonably.