Age Gaps Between Couples: How Many Years is Too Many?

Carolyn Light

In relationships between consenting adults, is age truly just a number?
Greg Doherty/Getty Images for HollyShorts Film Festival

Dane Cook has proposed to his girlfriend of five years, Kelsi Taylor.

While celebrity engagements usually make the news cycle, this one in particular drew specific attention due to the age gap between the two. Dane Cook is 50, and Kelsi Taylor is 23.

According to an article in Newsweek, the reaction to this news was mixed. While many rushed to celebrate the couple, Twitter was awash in criticisms and ire.

One tweet read:

i am SO SORRY to do age gap discourse today but idk imagine you're a 45 year old man and you are friends with dane cook and dane cook is like "can my gf come hang out with us?" and she's f*ing 18 years old. like. what do u talk about?

Another read:

I'm trying so hard to be happy for you, but I can't get over the fact that you, as a 45yo man, took advantage of an 18 yr old. How in the world did you even have anything in common with someone more than two decades younger than you?

Cook's fellow comedian, Christian Finnegan, sought to add laughs to the situation tweeting:

Dane Cook and his fiancee are registered at Build-A-Bear.

Dane Cook, of course, isn't the first celebrity to marry someone much younger than himself.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a 25 year age gap between them; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had a 12 year gap, and George and Amal Clooney have an age gap of 17 years. And, of course, celebrities are not the unique holders of such relationships.

According to BBC, it's believed that approximately 8% of male-female couples have an age gap of 10 years or more. This percentage increases between same-sex couples -- 25% of male-male couples are in relationships with a large age gap, and 15% of female-female relationships are as well.

Criticisms of relationships with large age gaps are numerous.

Women who find love with younger men are often called "cougars"; men who find love with younger women are called "sugar daddies." Women who seek out older men are "gold diggers," and men who seek out older women are sometimes referred to as "couglers."

Many believe that these relationships are a violation of power dynamics -- that the older partner is taking advantage of the younger partner, and that the younger partner is too naive and star-eyed by the prospect of being loved by someone older, to notice their exploitation. Some will go so far as to say that such relationships are "morally abhorrent."

Others believe that these relationships won't have the longevity of a relationship with someone similarly aged. Unique challenges, such as aging at different times, and being in vastly different stages of life are reasons presented for this argument.

Still, there are many that support relationships with large age gaps. Dr. Loren Olsen, a psychiatrist in Iowa says, "We have a chronological age, a psychological age, a physical age, and a sexual age. Age gap couples are frequently compatible in the last three. People conflate age with emotional maturity."

What do you think?

Is age truly just a number? Is there anything wrong with two adults of vastly different ages falling into a relationship? Or, as a society, should we just live and let live? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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