Dating can be pretty tricky. Adding a big age difference to the relationship can add even more strain, but that doesn’t mean it has to be doomed. If you’re looking to make sure your age-gap relationship goes smoothly, follow these helpful tips!

1.    For the older partner: Your dreams are not necessarily your partner’s dreams.

If you’re ready for marriage, that’s wonderful – but keep in mind that your partner might not be yet. If she’s significantly younger than you, chances are she’s still got some living left to do before she’s ready to settle down for good. Give her some time to make some more mistakes.

She hasn’t had as much life experience as you have, so give her the appropriate time to get some. You don’t need to forgive major indiscretions like cheating or stealing, but within reason, you should let her be her own person for a while.

2.    For the younger partner: You cannot survive on your partner’s experiences.

Just as the older partner needs to allow the younger partner to experience things, the younger partner has some responsibilities here as well. No matter how much life experience your partner has, she cannot pass that experience on to you. She can give you advice and insight, but it’s important to remember that you still need to make your own mistakes.

This can be really hard if the older partner has made a lot of mistakes in her youth. If she loves her partner, she’s probably going to try to protect her from bad decisions – but the fact is that it doesn’t work like that. Even if someone tells us what to do and what not to do, we need to actually experience those situations to benefit from them. Let your partner guide you, but don’t let her make your decisions for you.

3.    For both of you: Communication is absolutely 100% necessary.

For some people, communication is scary. I’m one of those people, most of the time. But truthfully, without proper communication, there is no relationship. It’s just two people existing near each other and sharing some feelings. But love itself isn’t a feeling – it’s an action. It’s something you have to repeat every single day.

If you and your partner can communicate freely, you’re not only solving problems, but you’re also helping to prevent some. Miscommunication is the number one reason relationships fail. One partner doesn’t communicate their needs, and then they hold it against their partner for not fulfilling them. If you don’t let her know what you want, quite frankly, she won’t know.

4.    For both of you: Rushing into things is always a bad idea. No exceptions.

When you’re entering any relationship, it can be tempting to jump in head-first. But this almost always ends in disaster. Whether you choose to admit it or not, a relationship is a huge commitment to a person, and to yourself. Rushing into the decision to start something official might end up causing you to gloss over the things you need – don’t do that!

Of course, sometimes things work out even without proper planning beforehand, but this is the exception, not the rule. There is a chance that, coincidentally, the two of you will have things in common even without planning ahead, but you should never count on that being the case.

5.    For both of you: Your age does not define you.

One of the biggest problems in an age-gap relationship is the assumption that the age of the partners has any bearing on their roles. While the older partner may take on the role of the caregiver, this isn’t necessarily the case. Likewise, while a younger partner may want to be spoiled by the older partner, this isn’t automatic. Make sure you’re comparing your actual desires – not just an assumption you’ve made about your partner’s desires.

More than just expectations, age doesn’t automatically correspond with compatibility. It’s more about core values and interests – and it’s entirely possible that those can align even when the candles on the birthday cake don’t match up. For older partners who expect their younger partners to be into “hip young things” and to help them be all those things, you might be disappointed to find out that you’ve got a non-hip youngster on your hands. The important thing is that you find things to share, and you work together to make your dreams a reality.

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