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I’m 56 and My Partner Is 68. Here Are the Challenges We Face

There’s a difference between a large age gap when you’re younger and when you’re older.

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A May-December romance: when two people with a considerable age difference are romantically involved. Sure, there are many considerations when one engages in this type of relationship, but it’s important to realize that an age gap in one’s 20s or 30s varies markedly from that same gap later in life.

Oddly enough, there is an actual definition of what constitutes a May-December romance. According to Psychology Today, divide your age by 2 and add 7. This gives you the minimum “acceptable” age difference between two romantic partners. So, if I’m 40, I “shouldn’t” date anyone younger than 27. Kind of like the dog-years formula for human relationships.

In my personal situation, I am 56 and my significant other is 68 — 12 or sometimes 13 years apart. Let’s do the math. Yup, we’re technically okay but I’m not sure I agree that being a 68-year-old partnered with a 41-year-old doesn’t come with some very real challenges. And there’s also a difference, I contend, between a large age gap when you’re younger and when you’re older.

Retirement is one of the most obvious differences in that my SO is retired while I am not. So, there are times when he wants to do something fun, travel or just be spontaneous and I can’t because of work constraints. Taking that a step further, even after work hours, I’m tired and have responsibilities to tend to that he has unlimited free time to tackle. And although he tries, it’s sometimes hard for him to understand when I need to vent about a horrible workday. And it’s equally hard sometimes for me to hear about what luxurious activity he’s been savoring.

Health is perhaps the most significant difference with an age gap in the golden years. While I might be battling typical middle age health challenges — menopause, etc. — he is certainly facing more significant ones. Our levels of stamina differ, for sure. And sexual desire and ability disparities can be significant.

There’s more. He’s lost more friends and therefore tends to rely on my company more. His children are in different phases of their lives from mine. The reality of planning for end-of-life arrangements seems to be more pressing. Our financial situations vary. He’s been exposed to a greater variety of life experiences and possesses the wisdom that comes with that. Even our sleeping patterns and eating habits are different. Patience is required as memory issues and the like arise.

So, while age gaps come with their own consequences for the younger couples, from differing musical tastes to varying childhood experiences, the differences become more pronounced and significant later in life. Surely, the bigger the divide, the bigger the issues, and the older we get, the more obvious those differences will become.

And, just for fun, if you want to do some quick calculations: Legendary songwriter David Foster and actress Katharine McPhee have a 34-year age difference; Dennis Quaid and his new wife sport a 39-year age chasm. Also — notice a trend here? Yup. The May is usually the woman, the December the man, but that’s a whole other story!

So, while we can’t always help who we fall in love with, it’s important to be aware that age differences pose a whole new set of challenges later in life. Nonetheless, I say, follow your heart! Nothing in life is guaranteed, so enjoy that special someone regardless of your age.

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