This 23-year-old woman fell in love with a 46-year-old. Here are the benefits of age-gap love

Upset young lady sitting on the couch with a man in background

For the hopeless romantic, the cliche, ‘love ain’t nothing but a number’ is just one of love’s signals to honour place where Cupid’s arrow lands.

Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann wrote a song about a character falling in love with someone much older. In her song, Mr Harris, she sings:

“I’ve always thought age made no difference. Am I the only one to whom that’s making sense? And honestly, I might be stupid to think love is love, but I do. And you’ve waited so long, and I’ve waited long enough for you.”

Despite age-gap love still being a topic for discussion around dinner tables, with many still believing a couple should be around the same age group, more and more romantics are embracing this unconventional pairing.

While we all have written or made mental lists from our childhood, teenage and adult years of what love should look like, we often find ourselves defying our expectations and ideals by falling in love with someone who exists outside of our vision of what the perfect partner should be.

When love happens, it usually supersedes all previous notions of the “right” kind of love.

In the small university town of Grahamstown in 2013, Mandy, then 23, fell in love with Graham, who was double her age: he was 46 at the time. Both are musicians, and their meeting was inevitable in such a small community.

At the beginning of their relationship, Mandy was concerned that the age gap would result in a struggle to find common ground.

But, rather than seeing the age gap as a problem, the couple embraced it. Mandy explains, “We overcame the doubt by finding celebration in rebelling against tradition and expectations. It became ‘our thing’ that we would defy the odds, and age was one of the odds.”

Mandy loves the calm confidence that comes with age – it means her partner is not jealous of others, nor threatened by her personality. He is far more generous, committed, and devoted than he was 20 years ago.

The more serious challenges, however, are around the practicality of life experience and lifespan. “Having been twice my age when we got together means that he had lived twice the life I’d lived. He’s lived through various careers, relationships, tragedies, losses, travels, successes, failures, while I was (and still am) just starting out,” Mandy explains.

The couple has found a way around this: Graham gives Mandy lots of space and freedom to explore, travel alone, and experiment.

She sometimes worries that her partner will grow old and sick when she is only middle-aged.

While the fear of being a young widow is real, she doesn’t see it as a reason not to be with someone you love right here and now.

Societal expectations and traditions can weigh heavily on a relationship, but many have proved that love can thrive in an array of unconventional iterations, such as 42-year-old Natalie and her 61-year-old husband, Tim, who met at a tennis club.

They played tennis together, and the relationship blossomed into a romance. There are 19 years between them, and Tim is occasionally mistaken for their children’s grandfather, but they both just laugh it off. Natalie feels that, for the most part, the age gap between them is barely noticed by people and that society has become more accepting of diversity.

While it might be easier to pursue unconventional relationships in this day and age, relationships with significant age gaps do not come without their challenges. The bridge that needs to be crossed to find commonality between two people who come from different generations and mindsets can initially seem unsurmountable.

For Natalie too, the unavoidable truth of lifespan is tricky. She is also aware that her partner will have less time with their children and grandchildren. She feels that her husband knows himself well, and she is never worried that he might have an affair or a mid-life crisis.

Natalie does not dwell on the age gap. She believes she married a decent man and that in that sense, age is irrelevant.

READ MORE: This trait could be key to a lasting romance

For both Mandy and Natalie, there were the inevitable differences in pop cultural references and tastes. Both women still experience moments where their partners’ taste in music or TV varies vastly from their own, but they have enough in common in other areas for these conflicting surface interests not to become a significant issue. Despite these challenges, both couples have built beautiful and full lives together.

Compatibility, shared values, and mutual support can override any obstacles brought about by the age-gap.

Are you in and age-gap relationship? -W24