The dating universe is bursting with options today — yes, a mere swipe can take you one step closer to your potential match. This can be deemed highly progressive in a country like India, right? But wait…as always, there are certain caveats. Now, if you are a woman seeking a partner on dating apps (or otherwise), you will be amazed with the choice you have at hand. What if you decide to go against the grain and date a younger man? Let’s just say all hell will break loose — so, get set to be bombarded with all kinds of unsolicited advice and judgemental glares.
We may have entered the 21st century, but even today, the older woman-younger man relationship is considered a taboo. There are a few couples who may have gained acceptance from their friends and family; but the majority are subjected to the log kya kahenge syndrome. Well, even celebs like Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal as well as Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas were not spared from the society’s wrath, only because these women are much older than their amours. It hardly matters if they are both accomplished individuals, who are making their own choices.
On the other hand, Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor’s marriage was celebrated, despite a similar age gap. Unfortunately, this shows that it all boils down to a patriarchal mindset.
Taking this factor into consideration, does this relationship really work? What are the dynamics between the couple? Are there any challenges? We spoke to a few women in such relationships to find out the details!
‘Age no bar for love’
For Akshita Sahni (33), a New Delhi-based food blogger, age has never been a deterrent — be it in the case of younger or older men. Over the years, she has found herself being more attracted to younger suitors, mainly because she finds them open-minded. She recalls having great conversations with most of them, which is rather hard when you deal with ‘older men’.
“In my opinion, older men are far more rigid and hesitant about having new experiences. That’s quite a put-off for me. Last year, I dated a guy who was seven years younger than me, but we couldn’t carry further, because he moved to the US for a career opportunity. I really don’t think long distance is my cup of tea, so I called it quits. But I have to admit, this was by far the best relationship I have had,” she adds.
Akshita is not alone; there are several women who have confessed to having far more mature relationships with younger men. Aishwarya Sharma (41), a Chennai-based investment banker, has never dated an older man. She has always been at ease with those who are much younger than her. As someone who is termed ‘progressive’ by her friends, she believes that love really shouldn’t have so many rules — she follows her heart.
“If you get along with someone and see yourself happy with them, does it really matter what their age is? It’s all about how well you are in sync with each other; nothing else is significant,” she says.
The lens of judgment
When people encounter an older woman-younger man relationship, they are quick to assume that the equation is purely sexual. The society also believes that the woman’s character is questionable and that she only wants to have fun. While there are ‘hookups’ that exist, it isn’t fair to label anyone. After all, women should have as much agency as men to do what they like, without scrutiny.
“Why are men never questioned when they date younger women? Why is that hailed? I believe there has been an aversion to age-gap relationships; these ideas are ingrained in the minds of people. In several cultures, it is not even considered acceptable to fall in love with an older woman,” says Sherin Akashi (29), a New Delhi-based educationist, who has been in a three year relationship with a younger man.
Zinia Bhattacharya, a New Delhi-based marketing professional, was judged by her closest friends and family for dating a man younger than her by four years. One of the major reasons, she believes, is that if you are a woman and start dating when you're 26-27, people expect you to get married to that person. But what if you are not looking for marriage in a relationship?
“What if you're with someone just because that person makes you happy? I had a hard time explaining this to people. I felt judged at weddings and get-togethers. It felt like I was in a relationship, which, according to most people, would eventually end one day. And that, too, very soon. Everyone viewed it as a relationship with an expiry tag,” she explains.
That’s not all — more often than not, it is said that the older woman is ‘mothering’ the man. The web is flooded with sensationalist accounts of how men are attracted to such women, because of their maternal instincts. Women are also termed ‘cougars’ and several such derogatory labels, if they choose to love someone younger than themselves.
In fact, 41-year-old Kim Kardashian’s relationship with 28-year-old Pete Davidson has also been under the scanner and at the centre of unnecessary backlash. This brings us to the next question — does this relationship really last?
Do such relationships have a future?
While Prerna Sheshadri (50), a Kolkata-based sales professional, has always been an advocate of such relationships, she believes that most men do not want to fight the society and stand up for their love. They may be mature otherwise, but they rarely own up such relationships before their families, and that’s why such bonds may not last as long.
“I was in a two-year relationship with a man, 15 years younger than me. While it was great all along, I feel the issues arise when they have to disclose it to the world. They are not too comfortable in openly declaring their love, mostly because they are not too sure what their family will say,” she says.
Dr Preeti Rao, counseling therapist, IWill, shares that most people assume age-gap couples to fare poorly, when it comes to relationship outcomes. Surprisingly, some studies reveal that the relationship satisfaction reported by age-gap couples is higher. These couples also seem to report greater trust and commitment and lower jealousy than similar-age couples. Over three-quarters of couples where younger women are partnered with older men report satisfying romantic relationships.
“The negative outcomes for age-gap couples seem to reside not in problems within the couple, but in pressures and judgments from the outside world,” she says, adding that the success of a relationship depends on the extent to which partners share similar values, beliefs and goals about their relationships.
It is also critical that they support each other in achieving personal goals; foster relationship commitment, trust and intimacy; and resolve problems in constructive ways. These factors have little do with age.
All in all, while an age gap may bring about some challenges for couples; but if they are ready to face it all — age is really no barrier.