What difference does an age gap make when it comes to love? In 2015, are there still age-related dating taboos? Inspired by Stephen Fry’s engagement to a man 30 years his junior, dating website EliteSingles investigated these questions. Using anonymous search data from almost half a million of its members, EliteSingles discovered exactly what age differences singles look for in a match.
The study analysed the upper and lower age search limits for more than 450,000 EliteSingles members and found that men and women have different age limits when it comes to love.
As the male curve on the graph indicates, the stereotype of the older man seeking an increasingly younger partner does in fact ring true. Men aged 60-69 set, on average, a minimum desired partner age of 11 years younger than themselves, while the oldest they would accept is someone just 1.3 years older.
But younger men buck this stereotype; with men aged up to 39 indicating that they would rather date someone older than younger. In fact, between the ages of 20 and 29, many men indicate a preference for a partner 3 – 6 years older than themselves.
EliteSingles Partner Psychologist, Relationship Coach Sam Owen believes that ‘’the finding that men aged 18-39 prefer older women rather than the suspected ‘younger model’ is likely indicative of the change in gender roles in modern society towards more equality between the sexes. Young men nowadays probably also recognise that women, rather than young girls, are adept at diligently juggling so many responsibilities (career, children, housekeeping, fitness, finances, socialising), which makes them intriguing and attractive and a more secure option.’’
However, women may not be so keen to play the ‘cougar’. In fact, the data from female users suggests that women prefer to be the youngest in a relationship. Women aged over 50, for instance, tend to focus on finding a match who is ideally 5.6 years older than their own age. There is not much wiggle room in this instance: anyone more than 4.8 years younger is deemed too youthful.
Younger women echo and even amplify this interest in men older than themselves. For 18-29 year olds, the average given age difference wanted was up to 10 years, whilst women aged 30-39 can imagine a partner 8 years older. And, for women aged 18-39, a mate should be no more than 1 and 3 years younger.