As we grow up and enter the world of dating it can be difficult to navigate. There are a number of ‘unwritten rules’ that we must familiarize ourselves with in order to avoid offending someone or making a fool out of ourselves. Of these, one rule that can cause a significant amount of controversy is the determination of who is considered to be too old or too young for you to date.
Sure, some say age is just a number but is that really true? Consider for a moment, you have a friend who is 30 years old, single, and looking to find that ‘someone special.’ How would you feel if they showed up to your next big function with a 19-year-old hand in hand? What if that partner was 50? Confusing things even further, does that reaction change with the gender of your friend?
Over the years there have been a number of different rules developed attempting to solve this question. One such rule states that you can determine the acceptable minimum age for a partner by dividing your own age in half and adding 7. Looking back at that 30-year-old friend, half their age is 15 + 7 means that it would be acceptable to date as young as 22. Therefore, that 19-year-old would be too young. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, considering a maximum age, on accepted rule involves taking your age, subtracting 7 and doubling it. This would suggest your 30-year-old friend could date as old as 46 before it would be considered inappropriate. So, their appropriate age range would span 22-46.
If you try to google the subject, you will find that the internet is very divided on what the answers to this question would be. Interested in comparing this estimation to what is actually happening out in the world, Researchers Buunk and colleagues took to the streets to survey random people. They asked them to picture themselves in a romantic relationship with an attractive partner from the opposite sex and then proceeded to present them with a list of different scenarios, recording their answers. Respondents were asked to consider the minimum and maximum ages they would be comfortable with in relation to sexual fantasies, casual affairs, long-term relationships and marriage.
They then compared the collected information to the age ranges determined by the equations and their findings were very interesting:
Men Prefer Partners Closer to the Minimum Age
Statistically male participants answered with age that was closer to the minimum recommended age when discussing their marital relationships or serious long-term dating. The ages they reported for casual sex or sexual fantasies often fell below the recommended age range, breaking the rule, although one could argue that nothing actually happens with a sexual fantasy, and therefore no rule is being broken. The area of casual sex still goes against the theory.
The maximum age limit for men, however, appears to be more than fair in the eyes of men in real life, with their answers falling far below the age limit for all categories. The only exception was in the answers of male participants in their 20s, who answered right around the maximum age limit, with their preferred age for casual sex climbing slightly over the recommended age.
Women Prefer Partners Right in the Middle of the Socially Accepted Zone
Across almost every age bracket the female respondents reported ages that fell right in the middle of the recommended age range, showing that the equations as they are presented were incredibly accurate for women in practice.
The only real exception to this was the female respondents in their 20s. The data showed that women at this age are largely attracted to older men in every area of their lives, with the ages reported for marriage, long-term dating, casual sex and sexual fantasies all falling above the maximum recommended age. As such, it appears that for younger women a mature partner is more accepted socially than they would be as they age.
Image via Daily Telegraph