Age differences and dating: How to make it work in your favor

Aug 27, 2009 at 5:54 a.m. ET

You know the deal. You're a wise, dare we say more "mature" woman and well, he's significantly younger (hey, it works for Demi and Ashton). Or how about the reverse as you're dating a man perhaps a decade older? When it comes to the language of love, the differences in years can work to your advantage.

May-December RomanceJust ask Nicholas Aretakis, dating expert and author of Ditching Mr. Wrong: How to End a Bad Relationship and Find Mr. Right. He says the key with the age difference, in particular with a younger woman/older man scenario is that men tend to settle down a little later. So if a woman is 26 and the guy is 31, he says, "That's probably not a bad ratio."

On the other hand, a younger guy/older woman situation could be a fun project for the woman: he's not so set in his ways yet. Yes, ladies, that means he's "moldable!"

Life experience

Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again reminds us who wouldn't be attracted to success, smarts and yes, experience? "Young men can find this just as attractive in an older woman as in anyone else. Perhaps he enjoys the mentoring, perhaps just the emotional stability of an older woman who knows her mind and her heart." While he's focused on a career, he may appreciate an older woman who is self-sufficient and brings all of her life experience to the table.

In fact, there's a role reversal that works in our favor. "Women are more powerful and may want men who are younger and therefore, more flexible -- men who can let the woman's career and lifestyle be more important. Because of careers and freedom issues, women are exercising more choice."

It's all about trust

So whether you're older and he's younger or the reverse is true, Tessina emphasizes a relationship is about how well the couple builds trust, partnership and a life together. "It's not age that makes the difference," she explains. "What counts is how well you two can form a partnership or team that works. Age difference is an adolescent worry: when you're a teenager, an age difference of ten or more years makes a vast difference in your experience and your outlook on life."

At that age a significant difference can interfere with communication styles, life goals and relationship experiences. As we get older, she notes, life experience and emotional growth even things out. "A ten year or more difference in your ages makes little difference in how well you can conduct your relationship."

Net net

As long as you're getting along, have good communication and problem solving skills and most of all, love each other, Tessina says it's all good. "If you love each other, that's a precious thing, and far more important than any age difference could be. If other people have a problem with it, let it be their problem."