The talk about age gaps in relationships is not new, and neither is the stubborn criticism around it. From heated debates at dinner parties to crass jokes that are almost never funny, a large age gap in relationships continues to be taboo. However, a new survey by Bumble shows that more Indians are starting to look beyond age in relationships.
In April, the dating app Bumble conducted a survey of around 2,000 people aged between 18 and 40, which showed that more than 80% of Indians are not rattled by age differences in relationships and consider it a thing of the past. There is even a term for it—"gen-blend" romances.
From calling it a fleeting attraction to a “phase”, society uses a myriad ways to dismiss relationships between a couple who have an age gap. One of the ways has been to undervalue the seriousness of the couple. Often, such relationships are brushed off as being illogical too. For instance, in Farhan Akhtar’s film Dil Chahta Hai, one adored by millennials, Akshaye Khanna’s character falls for an older woman. In the film, when he tells his closest friends about it, they are quick to tell him that it’s madness, not love, and follow it up swiftly with a remark about it being just about sex.
According to the recent Bumble survey, about 80% of people said age is just a number and doesn’t determine the success of a relationship. Many (76%) also said that age-gap relationships are no longer considered an idealised concept as seen in films or celebrity relationships. Moreover, three-fourths of the sample also believed that age tends to matter less as relationships progress.
However, people admit that societal pressures still make gen-blend relationships restrictive. Gen-blend relationships are often brushed off as being more physical than emotional, especially when older women date younger men. Older women are laughed at and called cougars. But even when younger women date older men, the women are usually blamed, labelled as having “daddy issues” or called gold diggers.
Almost 2 in 5 (39%) of single women surveyed admit it gets more difficult to date when you get older. This is more of a reality for millennial women (44%) than Gen Z (35%). Moreover, 33% of Indians surveyed say fear of judgement from family and friends makes it difficult for them to be open-minded about such relationships.
Research shows that social disapproval is an important factor that negatively affects relationship outcomes of couples with an age gap. Gery Karantzas, Associate Professor in Social Psychology at Deakin University explained in the 2018 article, Mind the gap – does age difference in relationships matter?, published in The Conversation that if people in an age-gap relationships believe their loved ones and wider community disapprove of their union, their relationship commitment decreases and the risk of a break-up increases. This seems to apply to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
But, it’s also important to understand that as in any relationship, couples with an age gap will also face challenges of their own. Shahzeen Shivdasani, a relationship expert consulted by Bumble, explains how to make sure it’s a healthy partnership. Here are some tips from Shivdasani:
In an gen-blend relationship, one partner could be earning significantly more than the other, thus, creating a wealth gap. It’s important to set boundaries regarding finances at the beginning of the relationship to avoid imbalances. Talking openly about shared finances, money management, budgeting and lifestyles can help each partner understand what works best for both.
As the partners might be in different stages in life, it’s important to address pressing questions about the future and priorities in life. Discussing this can ensure there is a balanced approach and one doesn’t feel burdened or ends up making too many compromises.
As emotional and physical intimacy needs could vary, it’s better to communicate openly, listen without judgement and find a middle ground. Doing your own things and also findings ways to spend time engaging in things that both enjoy sounds like a good plan to start with.