I'm 18, my girlfriend is 23. We've known each other for a few years, been together for a few weeks. Sometimes people (a mix of family and acquaintances) will ask questions like "Isn't that a too big age difference?" "Isn't she too old for you?" "Aren't you too young for her?" and so on. Those questions kind of annoy me -- I've heard them several times already, I don't want to have to defend my relationship to other people - that's how it's feeling.

I mostly answered something like "Neither of us minds the age difference, so there isn't a problem." It's a true answer, and polite -- I could also snap at them like "that's our business" but that sounds rude.

But the problem with this answer is that they sometimes respond to the "there's no problem" part with "but you are still studying and she's working!"/"you live in two different worlds" and again it feels like I have to defend the relationship I'm in... as in I have to convince them it's not a bad relationship.

So I'm looking for a better answer to respond to the questions about our age difference. Something that's polite but does not leave room for further discussion. How should I respond?

  • 8
    My wife and I differ 4 years. If it's of any consolation, it gets better with age. After all, 23 and 18 might seem like a lot, but 50 and 55 doesn't :-) – Dylan Meeus Dec 5 '17 at 15:49
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    Not specific to this question, but a general answer to "how to respond to [any inappropriate question" is "Wow. Why would you ask me something like that?" – R.. Dec 6 '17 at 1:11
  • 1
    Q: "Why are you dating a 18/23yr old?" A: "Because I can." – Jared Smith Dec 6 '17 at 1:20

12 Answers 12

up vote 109 down vote accepted

Keep it short and simple:

No.

That's a complete sentence, can be delivered in a polite way (depends on your tone of voice). Or

Not in my (our) opinion.

Both times, you answer the question. You remain polite. And it's hard to come up with a way to question your statements without the situation becoming awkward (and then they caused the awkwardness!) or being rude.

If they still try to go on like in your post

Person: But you are still studying and she's working!
You: Yes.

Technically, they didn't even ask you a question, still you give an honest answer that's hard to dispute. Or

Person: You live in two different worlds!
You: No.

After all, you don't need to defend it, so don't do it. If it works fine for both of you, that's all that matters.

  • 31
    So, truly, deadpan! Masterfully done. Mind you having such an age difference the other way around will pass unnoticed most of the time. Odd that is. – Bookeater Dec 3 '17 at 18:37
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    @Bookeater That is going to depend very much on culture. In my neck of the woods, at the very least the young woman's parents would most likely be concerned. If anything, there would be more concern, given the greater physical risks for a female than the other way around. – 1006a Dec 4 '17 at 8:11
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    If you manage to deliver these with a really dry tone it will really bring the point across, too. – Magisch Dec 4 '17 at 13:44
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    The art of the frosty "I beg your pardon." has been lost forever. – Beanluc Dec 4 '17 at 17:48
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    @Bookeater I have found it to be the opposite (in Canada). A 23 year old guy dating an 18 year old girl would be questioned more than the reverse. – Childishforlife Dec 4 '17 at 18:11

Be assertive:

"I'm very happy with her."

Once you say that, if they want to keep going, they will have to criticize the fact that you are happy with her, which will make them sound quite silly. It does sound a bit selfish, but let's be honest, it does matter a lot in a relationship!

You can also add stuff like:

  • I like that she's more experienced
  • I like talking about her job, we don't learn that in school
  • I like the fact she's an adult/mature/serious and her friends are interesting too

The common denominator here is that you like it, you're not afraid to mention it, and you're not afraid to do what you like. Arguing against this would be quite difficult!

And anyway, you're 18. If it does not work out, you'll still have plenty of time.

  • 7
    +1. Or "We're both very happy." And 18 is an adult too, saying "I like that she's an adult" gives the impression the OP is a child, not good. Maybe "I like that she's mature" instead? – Xen2050 Dec 4 '17 at 12:15
  • @Xen2050 good point – peufeu Dec 4 '17 at 12:49

I feel that people in such cases are way too polite trying to answer such questions. It just confirms to the requesters that they are in their right to ask.

I had similar situations and usually replied with

what kind of question is that??

It was usually enough to stop the questioning.

Sure, some people may feel offended, and this is good. I am not particularly interested in keeping a close relationship in such cases.

Please note that this answer is in the context of the OP who feels that he should not be asked that.

It is very much different when a good friend asks you because he is worried or something.

  • 1
    That line would stop any questioning by anyone, outside a courtroom or police station. I'm not sure how it's applicable to this specific situation, other than "be rude to your family & friends, who needs'em anyway" – Xen2050 Dec 4 '17 at 12:18
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    What I like about this one is that it only shuts the conversation down if the person who asked isn't prepared to justify their question. It doesn't have to be said aggressively, but can be delivered in a tone of genuine enquiry. – Spagirl Dec 4 '17 at 13:00
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    @Xen2050: It's not rude. The ones asking the questions are the ones being rude. – R.. Dec 6 '17 at 1:13
  • @R.. That doesn't make it any less rude. It only justifies why it should be rude too but not everyone agrees on this. – Imus Jun 6 at 7:09

Age is but a number, but that doesn't stop others from being curious.

You situation is by no means that rare (I am 10 years younger than my wife, 21/31 when we started dating, and my parents are 16 years apart for example), but it may still be considered a bit unusual. Those inquiring about are probably just generally curious and interested in your relationship. Don't take it as an affront.

Yes, you will have to answer this question numerous times and to you it might seem repetitive and annoying but to the one inquiring it is likely their first time. Since the age difference stands out it might just be a way for them to find out more about how you met, what interests you share, and generally how your relationship is going. It may not be any of their business, but it is likely not a malicious inquiry.

Let's not forget that the divorce rate in the United States is high (if you are not in the US disregard):

However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.

And this rate only goes up when there is any type of age difference involved:

A five-year age gap statistically means you’re 18 percent more likely to divorce (versus just 3 percent with a 1-year age difference), and that rate rises to 39 percent for a 10-year age difference and 95 percent for a 20-year age gap.

So in conclusion, I would respond to genuine questions with genuine answers. I personally went through this quite a bit and learned to embrace it. It gave me an opportunity to explain how wonderful my girlfriend (and now wife) is and all the amazing things about her. Stick to positive reinforcement and positive attributes; that will drive any doubts from any doubting on-lookers.

  • 1
    Interesting answer. – davidbak Dec 6 '17 at 1:27

‚Love has no age‘. And there are just some few years between you and your love. If she was the younger one I guess nobody would ever comment it. Some centuries ago much more age differences would be totally normal and socially accepted. These few years won’t make such a huge difference - so don’t mind these people. Once you finished school and studies there won’t be a difference anymore. Me and my husband have an age gap of 20 years. This was never a topic in our relationship. Neither one of his friends or family would even ask about it. Mine tried sometimes but didn’t force anything. Just tell them you‘re so happy to love a wonderful person and this tiny, easily to overlook age gap will fade in some years automatically.

This is none of your business.

True.

Age is just a number.

True, especially considering that 18/23 is not the same difference as 20/50, and especially due to the fact that I have not rarely met mature 18-years-olds and never-grown-up 40-years-olds.

I am 36, my ex is 23, grown up without a father (suicidal) and helping her mother growing a younger brother with mental troubles: she was MUCH smarter, wiser, more caring, more understanding and more mature than many succesful 50-years-old C.E.O.

Which leads me to my suggestion on how to answer them:

I asses people by analyzing their brain, heart and experiences, not a mere date of birth.

To which you may want to add...

So please get back at me on this when you can make a stronger point than a useless difference of dates.

...depending on how aggressive you want to be.

You have plenty of arrows for your bow.

That being said, people only caring about a time difference and not taking into account life experiences are not worth talking to or explaining to.

When someone makes a comment like this you have the possibility to answer in a friendly way or in an unfriendly way. In many cases, I would consider the question itself to be rude and therefore give an answer like "That's none of your business".

Whether or not it makes to answer a rude question by saying "That's none of your business" depends on your relationship with the person with whom you are speaking.

"10 years ago you'd have had more of a point." "When she's 88, I'll be 83." "Well, only one way to find out."

There are a number of flippant answers that you can throw back at them. But the basic point is that you are not actually making permanent life choices here since the times have changed in the last hundred years.

Fortunately.

You're still young, and your peers are still young, but 5 years is NOT a large difference. I think the best answer would be along the lines of:

Why should it be a problem?

The fact that you haven't finished college and your SO has is a marginally bigger issue, but it's far from strange.

A possibility is to use irony in order to make them realize how stupid their comment is.

You:

My girlfriend is 5 years older than I.

Your friend:

Isn't she too old for you ?

You:

Indeed, she is. But, you know, I love her so much !

If they still insist, as in the "she's working and you're studying" case you mention in your question, then you could take the irony further.

Well, of course, just for you I'm going to ditch my beloved girlfriend only because of her age.

They should then figure their comment is rather displaced, stupid and pointless.

  • I disagree. People who will place that much importance on relative ages and who consider themselves a better judge of YOUR choices than you are, are mostly immune to irony. – Wildcard Jan 20 at 4:02

I have a couple of close friends who got married when he was 17 and she was about 28. They've been happily married for over 5 years and both have successful careers.

Another couple I know got married when they were 19 and 36 (the woman is older in this couple, also) and they have now been happily married for 8 years and have a son.

People are different. Age is NOT an index to maturity, life status or really anything at all besides how many loop-the-loops that body has had around Sol since its passage through a birth canal.

I've known seven-years-olds who I would trust far more with crucial tasks or decisions than other thirty-year-olds I've known.

Live your life. Don't let other people tell you how you should live it.


A good piece of advice (from The Code of Honor, part of Scientology) is:

Never permit your affinity to be alloyed.

You're not obligated to be polite in all cases, either. If your friends ask anything about it ("isn't that a big age difference...?"), you can say "No" in a very final tone. If they continue to push it, you have the option to simply not receive what they say.

I have recently observed that a lot of my highly educated female friends (doctors, Ph.Ds, etc) are with much younger men. Why is this? I think it's because sexism (the same version that causes people to pester you about the age gap - women must be "younger" and "less experienced" relative to men in order to make people feel comfortable with the situation) has collectively set back the life stages of women relative to men. Even though you're still studying, and she's already working, if you fast forward a few years to you being fresh out of school and her having worked the past few years, you'll probably be making the same amount of money she is, have the same social status, etc. So my suggestion is for you to use the following double edged sword:

Don't worry. Sexism is going to hold her career back, so in no time, we'll be social equals. And then if we ever have kids, this country's parental leave policies will basically kill her career, while I'll have no time to spend with our children, and will therefore continue working. So come back in a decade and check in on us! If your attitudes have anything to do with it, I'll be so far ahead of her, you'll never guess she's 5 years my senior.

protected by Community Dec 4 '17 at 14:26

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