Age is just a number

Like is attracted to like, so choosing a partner based on his or her life stage means you’ll have more in common.

Dating cartoon 521 (photo credit: Metro)
Dating cartoon 521
(photo credit: Metro)
Upon signing up for an online dating account such as JDate, you’ll be asked to choose an age range for your matches.
Choosing your age range doesn’t sound like it should be a complicated matter but, alas, age isn’t just a number. By choosing an age range you’re systematically eliminating thousands of prospects based solely on their age.
Like is attracted to like, so someone just out of college is often drawn to someone in the same phase of life – someone who is trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, someone who probably doesn’t have a corporate job or own a house. While someone in their late 20s who is working really hard to get to the top of their field is attracted to other people in that phase – people who are setting up the stage for the rest of their lives. The same goes for people in their early 30s who are beginning to think about starting a family – they’re looking for someone who’s on the same page regarding getting married, settling down and having children. That’s why many people end up dating and marrying people close to their own age.
Selecting a narrow age range on JDate or any other Internet dating service is not in your favor. If you are a 28-year-old and are selecting a maximum age of 32, imagine how many 33-year-olds you’re excluding. Now imagine how many 34-year-olds you’re excluding. And it’s only an age difference of a few years! There’s really no reason why a 28-yea-rold couldn’t connect with a 34-year-old – six years isn’t that much of an age gap.
When you meet someone at a bar, you can only attempt to measure his or her age based on looks and possibly career and maturity. But think about it: you were attracted to that person and started getting to know him or her before asking his or her age, right? So when it turns out that he or she is a few years younger than your minimum or a little bit older than your maximum, are you going to turn your back? Probably not. So attach that philosophy to your JDate account and broaden your options.
Unfortunately when you do know someone’s age straight out, you make assumptions on their maturity level and life experience. These are things I thought about when a friend’s younger brother asked me out many years ago. I decided to give him a chance and found out that he was a mature, respectful, funny and successful man who preferred “older” women. Basically he had all the things I was looking for, but my mind-set was stuck on his age and I couldn’t get past it. (And yes, I admit, the older woman/younger man thing threw me off as well.) Then I reminisced about when I was in high school and dated college guys and I thought I was so cool. Or when I was in college and dated young businessmen and I thought there was something substantial there. Now I can’t remember what it was we had to talk about. We were in such different stages in our lives. It’s not impossible to have commonalities when there’s an age gap, but it does make seeing eye-to-eye on things more difficult. As we get older, age differences seem to matter less.
My friend Kevin is a 32-year-old doctor who just got engaged to a 22-year-old senior in college. All of our friends were hesitant when they began dating, but his admitted immaturities combined with her self-described “old soul” make them a perfect match. There are, of course, things she can’t connect to, but he’s patient with her and makes sure she’s not out of the loop. And she keeps him young.
When he wants to stay home night after night, she makes sure he gets out and stays active.
Interestingly, as we get older our preferred age ranges tend to change. They start out narrower and then become broader. When you’re approaching your 30s you tend to only add a few years on each end (for women it tends to be older men and for men it tends to be younger women) because for some inexplicable reason age matters. In your mid- 30s, the age range widens a bit as other, more important traits take precedence such as independence, success and wanting a family. And as 40 looms in the not-too-distant future, you’re more than willing to add 10 years on each end because you become pickier about other qualities – a sense of humor, commonalities and loyalty, for instance.
The last approach really is best: make the age range as broad as possible and use other, more important, traits to narrow down your search.