It’s pretty common to date someone who’s a few years younger or older than you, and often the age difference is no big deal. Sometimes, maturity levels match, even when ages don’t. But when the age difference is bigger, there are other things to consider.
An age difference of a few years may not seem like an issue, but things such as expectations, priorities and general interests can change quickly as you get older.
Here are a few things that can affect relationships where there’s a big age difference:
- Power: there may be a power difference between you, especially if you’re at different stages in life (for example, one of you is in high school and the other is working full time). The older person may speak for the younger person or take a bigger role in making decisions. The younger person may find it more difficult to voice their opinion, especially when it comes to their concerns about the relationship. Age isn’t the only factor affecting power. Gender, race and economic background can also play a role in relationship dynamics.
- Sexual readiness: a big part of feeling good about your sexuality is being able to explore it at your own pace. When there’s a difference in age, the older person may have more experience and want to do things the younger person isn’t ready for. The younger person may feel pressured to have sex or do other sexual activities, which is never OK.
- Legal stuff: there are legal issues attached to age and sexual relationships. In Canada, the age of consent to sexual activity is 16. The “close in age” rule means that:
- 12- and 13-year-olds can be sexual with people who are no more than two years older than them
- 14- and 15-year-olds can be sexual with people who are no more than five years older than them
If you’re approached by someone who’s a lot older than you, it’s important to consider the legal issues, but you can also ask yourself:
- Can I see myself in an equal, respectful relationship with this person? Or are they likely to have more power than I will?
- What are this person’s motives?
- Does this person have my best interests in mind?