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Age-Gap Romance

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"Mr. Rochester was about forty, and this governess not twenty; and you see, when gentlemen of his age fall in love with girls, they are often like as if they were bewitched."

This is a romantic relationship where there is a big difference in age between two lovers.

The age difference usually causes some raised eyebrows or disapproving comments from other characters in the story, like these: "He's old enough to be your father!" — "You could be his mother or much... much older sister."

The age gap is often presented in the work as an obstacle that the couple must overcome as they might be judged by others. Some characters can assume that the younger one is only in it for the money or nice gifts, or that the older one only wants to score a hot piece of ass and is not interested in anything else. And it often can be precisely the case.

The age gap is often not significant because of the specific number of years, but because of how the disparity in age is relative to each other in the couple. As a general rule, when an older character is dating a character less than two-thirds of their age, it becomes notable; for example, 9 and 14 is notable, 19 and 24 not so much; 18 and 30 is notable, 38 and 50 again not so much. Naturally, this means that as the characters grow older, their age gap becomes less and less significant. Generally, the man is the older one and the woman is the younger one, though it can be reversed as well. When the woman is older, she may be Mrs. Robinson. As a general rule, the difference should be noted in-universe as unusual. It may often overlap with Unequal Pairing if the age difference overlaps with a difference in authority/status as well.

May–December Romance is a subtrope and the extreme version — there is over 30 years difference between the lovers, and the younger is in the spring of their life, while the older one is a senior citizen, and they could easily be mistaken for a grandparent with their grandchild.

The Jail Bait Wait can be related if the younger one in the couple is below the legally defined age of consent.

The ways in which these relationships can occur in media can vary:

See Precocious Crush when the younger one is a child with a (usually one-sided) crush on a teenager or adult.

Truth in Television. Until the 1920s, before women became a major force in the job market and romance became a major part of marriage and courtship, it was even more common. Men would try to become economically secured before starting a family, while women would get married much younger due to high infant mortality rates requiring a longer window during their lives for women to be pregnant. Ten to fifteen years' difference was considered quite normal.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Junjou Romantica: It is a major point of conflict in the Junjou Terrorist sections featuring the 35-year-old Miyagi and his boss' son, the 18-year-old Shinobu. Miyagi worries about the relationship ruining his career and reputation if it gets out and Shinobu is self-conscious about his relative lack of sexual experience and the fear that Miyagi isn't taking him seriously.
  • Ian Vashti and his wife, Linda, in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Ian is even called out on how young his wife is, causing him to defensively note he waited until she was legal to marry her (or try anything else), before demanding they focus on the important reasons they're there and not on his young wife. They are 57 and 32, respectively, in the second season (which is when Linda first appears); it's also worth bearing in mind that they have a 14-year-old daughter, the Bridge Bunny Mileina.
  • In one episode of Violet Evergarden, Violet assists the fourteen year old Princess Charlotte write letters to her betrothed, Prince Damian, who is twenty-four years old, where their marriage is arranged by their countries. Charlotte reveals to Violet that she is actually in love with Damian years before the marriage arrangement but she worries that their age difference will be an issue and that Damian isn't really interested in her. He shares the same feelings and he and Charlottle end up in a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: In the story "Terror", a 35-year old female college professor becomes romantically involved with a 21-year old male terrorist. When she's under interrogation by the Judges, they inquire if she "likes them young", but she points out that it's not a crime.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Flashdance: Nick is quite older than Alex. She's only recently become a legal adult, he's old enough to be an established industrialist and already gone through a divorce. Pointed out by critics who say that the age difference is WAY too big for both the characters and the actors to be believable.
  • Prime: A 37-year-old divorced woman falls in love with the 23-year-old son of her therapist. They have a wonderful time together, but ultimately break up because of their fundamental differences in their life—she's divorced, established in her career, he's just starting out in life, etc.
  • The Reader: As a teenager, Michael has his first sexual experiences with Hanna, a woman in her thirties. He later admits that it was a borderline abusive relationship fueled more by hormones and didn't really help his psyche. Moreover, he's rightly shocked when he later finds out that she used to work at a concentration camp, which she kept hidden from him.

    Literature 
  • Jane Austen:
    • Sense and Sensibility: Colonel Brandon, 35, falls in love with young Marianne Dashwood, 17. She thinks that he is extremely old and a bit offended that he thinks of her that way, and barely considers him a family friend. Her sister Elinor agrees that 17 and 35 is indeed a significant gap and not ideal age difference. When her mother starts supporting the relationship, she acknowledges the age difference as well but thinks it might be a good thing that his principles are steady and fixed. After being disappointed with her First Love, Marianne eventually marries him.
    • Emma: When they decide to marry, Emma is 22 and Mr Knightley about 38 and the text suggests it's slightly unusual. Previously, when Mrs Weston thought Mr Knightley might marry Jane Fairfax who is the same age as Emma, she says there is "a little disparity of age" between them.
  • Jane Eyre: When they fall in love, Jane Eyre is 18 and Mr Rochester is over 40. Another problem is the Uptown Girl aspect of the relationship because she is a governess and he is a rich gentleman.
    "Mr. Rochester was about forty, and this governess not twenty; and you see, when gentlemen of his age fall in love with girls, they are often like as if they were bewitched."
  • Warren and Verna from the Sword of Truth books are actually both the same age, but due to Warren spending more time in a spell that slows aging, he looks much younger. Verna was at first really self-conscious about her apparent age.
    Verna: Warren, I love you. I mean I really truly love you.
    Warren: You have no idea how long I dreamed of hearing you say those words, Verna. I love you, too.
    Verna: What about my wrinkles?
    Warren: Someday, when you get wrinkles, I'll love them, too.
  • In Harry Potter, Tonks and Lupin have an age gap of around thirteen years; she's in her early twenties and he's in his late thirties when they fall in love. Lupin spends some time angsting over it, believing he's too old for Tonks and she'd be better off with someone closer to her own age, though they ultimately end up together.
  • Books by Mary Higgins Clark:
    • In novel I Heard That Song Before, protagonist Kay Lansing is twenty-seven when she marries her husband, forty-two-year-old Peter Carrington. The age gap between them, in addition to the fact Peter is very wealthy and that they married after only dating for a short time, leads many people to assume Kay is a Gold Digger, though in actual fact she's Not with Them for the Money and genuinely loves Peter.
    • In the novel Stillwatch, the heroine nixes her budding romance with a politician given that he's 25 years older than she and married. They rekindle things after his wife dies and agree to work through any qualms about their age difference.
  • Eighteen Days To Graduation: Miranda is 17 when she starts dating 30-something Jeff. This disgusts many of her friends.
  • John Buchan: In Mr Standfast, Richard Hannay and Mary Lamington meet and fall in love when he's approaching forty and she's seventeen. Hannay is somewhat self-conscious about the age gap, and Mary occasionally tweaks him about it, but nobody regards it as a serious obstacle. It's noted that Mary is mature for her age compared to what she might have been if she hadn't spent the last few years as a wartime nurse and an agent of British Intelligence. In the sequels, they're married and the age difference is never mentioned.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Friends:
    • Monica's boyfriend Richard was "a person who can drink" older than her and friends with her parents. His friends are impressed that he's dating a twinkie. Her friends freak out at first, but Rachel and Phoebe admit that he's very hot. They eventually broke up because they were at such different stages of their lives. Specifically, Monica really longed to have children and Richard was only willing to consider it because of her wish.
      Monica: I used to pee in your pool!
    • Phoebe's younger half-brother Frank marries his former teacher Alice. He is 18 and she is 44. When Phoebe found out about them dating, she tried to break it off and wanted to convince Frank he needs to have fun and enjoy his youth, but he was just too unhappy without Alice.
    • Ross and Elizabeth, who was ten years younger than him and his student to boot. Rude jokes aside, Monica eventually pointed out that there were legitimate issues despite such a small age gap, namely that Ross was established in his life and career while Elizabeth was still in college and hadn't even started out yet.
  • In the made-for-HBO movie The Girl in the Cafe, the girl from the title (in her early 20s) falls in love with a 46-year-old diplomat. They are in denial of this until the very end, even though he invites her to a conference in Iceland with him. They pull a bit of She Is Not My Girlfriend until they admit their feelings.
  • In the British House of Cards, there is a distinctly creepy relationship between Francis Urquhart (53 at the beginning of the series) and Mattie Storin (23 or 24). She actually calls him "Daddy," and although he's clearly using her for his own ends, it seems both are into this whole father/daughter dynamic for their own, twisted reasons (although we never quite fully figure out what they are).
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Lord Petyr Baelish aka "Littlefinger" is creepily obsessed with Lady Sansa Stark and loves her in his twisted way. She is a daughter of his first love Catelyn Tully and he views Sansa as a suitable replacement.
      Shae: Men only want one thing from a pretty girl.
      Sansa: Littlefinger's not in love with me.
      Shae: Love is not the thing he wants.
      Sansa: He's too old.
      Shae: They never see it that way.
    • Tyrion Lannister (about 40) and Sansa Stark (14) are forced to get married. Tyrion is unsettled that she is so young, and she is unhappy that she has to marry a dwarf from a family that killed her father and holds her hostage. He promises her not to force her to consummate the marriage unless she wants to. They later start to bond, but the relationship suffers another blow when his father orchestrates the murder of her eldest brother and mother.
      Tyrion: She's a child.
      Bronn: She's a foot taller than you.
      Tyrion: A tall child.
  • Community:
    • There are some feelings and series-long Ship Tease between Annie (in her late teens at the beginning of the series) and Jeff (a thirty-something guy). They occasionally act on their feelings and kiss or act like they are a couple on a date, but they always realize that them dating would be too weird and rather creepy, and the full relationship does not happen.
    • Evil Annie & Evil Jeff are together in the Darkest Timeline. When Evil Annie asks if he has a problem with the age difference, Evil Jeff says he wishes she was younger.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • In one Thanksgiving episode, Robin (in her twenties) dated Bob (about forty). However, as Ted is telling the story, he pictures him much older and he's portrayed by Orson Bean who was 79.
    • In a flashback, viewers learn that Barney's first serious girlfriend Shannon broke up with him to be with an older suit. She was around twenty and Greg the suit was about forty. Barney tells the story to the gang and at first, he says Shannon talked and started to make out with her dad. Presumably, when he saw her, he thought she was making out with was her father.
      Barney: We're breaking up? But what about the Peace Corps?
      Shannon: Yeah, all this granola business, it was just a phase. Greg's older. He's successful. He buys me all this cool stuff. (smiles and laughs)
      Barney: But I love you.
      Shannon: He has a boat.
    • Ted dates Carly, and while they barely fit this trope (he's in his early 30s, she's 21), she seems to only be dating him because she thinks he's really old (remarking that he "still goes at it like he's in his 50s"). She describes being turned on by watching 60 Minutes with him and playing shuffleboard.
  • Grey's Anatomy:
    • Intern Meredith Grey begins dating attending Dr Shepherd, and eventually marries him. Their age gap is no more than 10 years, but it still causes amusement with Shepherd's friends, who call her "the 12-year-old".
    • One of Dr Shepherd's friends, Dr Sloan, starts dating Lexie Grey, Meredith's little sister. There's a twelve year age gap between them, but they joke that they have to call her "the fetus".
  • Mad Men:
    • Office manager Joan Holloway and one of the partners Roger Sterling have a long love affair. She's in her early thirties, he is in his mid-to-late forties. Most people in the office don't know about it. Bert Cooper advises Joan she could "do a lot better" — She thinks he means a professor she had a date with and Joan explains "he's just a friend", Cooper insists, "that's not what I'm talking about, my dear. Don't waste your youth on age."
    • Roger started an affair with Jane Siegel, a college graduate and new secretary, and later they got married. One day she told him that their souls were the same age. At a country club party hosted by Roger to help Jane socialize with his colleagues and friends, Jane becomes wildly drunk and expresses her frustration at not being accepted. Roger's mother confused Jane with his daughter from his first marriage Margaret. Margaret was very upset by Jane's attempts to befriend her and she did not want Jane to attend her wedding
    • Don Draper and Megan. After they get married and Megan throws Don a surprise birthday party, we find out that Don is forty while Megan is in her mid-to-late twenties. Don is not super excited about Megan's younger friends and her modern ideas.
  • The Masterpiece Theatre Mini Series Reckless features a young doctor falling in love with his boss' wife. This is the main focus and conflict of the story. That she's 10-15 years older than him is completely unimportant to him. She's more affected by it in the sequel where she's reluctant to marry him, lest he dump her for a younger woman like her husband did.
  • On True Blood: Middle-aged Sam Merlotte seems to only date girls at least a decade his junior, and ultimately marries college student Nicole, whose mother sharply disapproves when Sam declares his love.
    Mary: Nicole, you are only 22 years old! *turns to Sam* And may I ask how old you are, silver fox?
"Silver Fox" became her nickname for him.
  • In episode "Something's Rotten in Redmund" of The Mentalist, a high school drama teacher had a love affair with her student. She killed the victim of the week (a fellow teacher) because he saw them making out and wanted to report her.
    Ms. Austin: I know what I did to Mr. McTierney is unforgivable, and I wish to God I could undo it, but you have to understand. What Billy and I have is special. It's real. I'm not some pervert. I love him, and he loves me. Is... that wrong?
    Agent van Pelt: Yes.
  • On Halt and Catch Fire Joe MacMillian and Cameron Howe are about 13 years apart; Joe is 35 at the start of the series and 45 by season 4, Cameron is 21-22 at the start of the series and 32 by the final season.
  • In The Last Kingdom, middle-aged father Beocca tries to help a young traumatized girl Thyra who was imprisoned as a sex slave to Sven, and he falls in love with her. She seems to have found her safe place with him. Uhtred advises his friend Beocca to ask her to marry him. Beocca is anxious about the age gap as he says that he knows he could be her much, much older brother. Another obstacle for them is their origin: he is a Saxon while she is a Dane. They get married and seem very happy together.
  • Downton Abbey:
    • Lady Edith Crawley (in her 20s) and Sir Anthony Strallan (in his 50s, and widowed). Within her family, this was actually considered a fairly decent match for Edith before the War, in large part because her family thought Edith, being "less pretty" than her sisters and a bit tomboyish and abrasive, couldn't do any better than a middle-aged widower. After the War, though, Sir Anthony came back with a crippled arm, and the family decided—and Sir Anthony recognised—that the match was no longer any good, as Edith would have to be a nursemaid to him rather than a wife, and their age difference was discussed as well. Edith refused to believe this until Sir Anthony jilted her at the altar.
    • Anna Smith, a head maid, falls in love with and later marries John Bates, the valet to the Earl. He is about two decades older than her. He is troubled by his past, but they are both very happy together. In one scene, one of the ladies asks Anna about their marriage, especially if their age difference causes any problems.
  • Parodied in the Saturday Night Live skit "Meet Your Second Wife", in which three male contestants are introduced to the girls who will become their second wives in a number of years. Already distraught at the idea that they're going to leave their wives, the men are even moreso at seeing how young the girls currently are—the first is only 13, the second only 5. The third contestant is relieved that his next wife is currently a college sophomore, but is then told that she isn't the second wife, she's three months pregnant with the girl who is.

    Music 
  • The Spanish songwriter Jose Jose has a song called "Cuarenta y Veinte" ("Forty and twenty"). The song is about the protagonist who is in his 40s and has fallen in love with a young twenty-something girl, and it deals with the obstacles the couple has to face, including other people's disapproving comments.
    Cuarenta y veinte, cuarenta y veinte. Es el amor lo que importa y no lo que diga la gente.
    Forty and twenty, forty and twenty. It's the love that matters and not what people say.
  • The '90s Chilean group Sexual Democracia has a song called "Profanador de Cunas" (in English "Cradle Desecration"). The song tells a story of a guy (and a friend of the narrator) that likes to date young girls in high school, but this guy is implied to be over thirty. The chorus has various local expressions about these relationships, including the Title Drop "profanador de cunas".
  • "Hey Nineteen" by Steely Dan is about a middle-aged man's disappointment with a young lover. There is not so much of an age difference — at most, the man is in his early 30s going by the lyrics as well as the song creator's age at the time. But the generation born about 1950, give or take a couple of years, had a hugely different world to deal with in their coming-of-age compared to that of those born about 1960.
  • "Our Ages or Our Hearts" by Roberta Flack is about a woman in a relationship with someone much older (or younger) than her. This age gap is large enough to be deemed inappropriate by society, but the woman doesn't care. She asks her lover if they will stay with her or leave her due to judgment from others and the pressure of societal norms.
  • "Oah" by Alexander Rybak, while the song isn't mainly about this trope, it still does mention that she's significantly younger than the singer.
    Singing oah
    I love you moah
    You're way too young for me
    But I don't mind
  • "Does Your Mother Know?" by ABBA is about a man feeling conflicted about a significantly younger woman who is interested in him.
    And I know what you mean when you give me a flash of that smile
    But girl, you're only a child
    Well, I can dance with you honey
    If you think it's funny
    Does your mother know that you're out?

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dustin: Among their many differences, the main character's parents have almost a whole decade between them, which is sometimes exaggerated—at a restaurant, the waiter asked for their I.D.'s: he wasn't sure if Dad qualified for a senior discount and had his doubts about Mom being old enough to drink.

    Theatre 
  • In the William Shakespeare play Othello, the title character (age unspecified, but getting up there) marries the young beautiful Desdemona. Their age difference is one of the many reasons Othello suspects her of cheating on him: The man he thinks she's sleeping with is closer to her own age. She's actually perfectly loving and innocent, but the play is a tragedy and they all end up dead.
  • Hedda Gabler: Thea Elvsted's husband is twenty years older than her, leaving them with little love between them and nothing in common. The gap is one of the causes for Thea's departure from the house and her romance with Lovborg, a man her own age.
  • In the Mrs Hawking play series: In part four, Gilded Cages, we see Reginald Hawking falls for Victoria Stanton when he is 31 and she is 19. Though not an unusual age gap in the Victorian period in which the story is set, it is made clear to the audience that he is an adult and she is still a child— one of many subtle indicators that the match is a bad one.

    Video Games 
  • Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life has 30-year old Muffy (who is an Eve expy) being able to marry the 20-something-year-old protagonist. Muffy is quite self-conscious about being a Christmas Cake. If you don't marry her, her age will constantly ruin her love life as men end up leaving her due to it.

    Web Original 
  • In you could make a life, the 35-year-old Mike is very reluctant to get into a relationship with the sexually inexperienced 18-year-old Liam who looks even younger than his age. The fact that the age/size difference actually turns Mike on makes him feel even dirtier. Even when he inevitably gives in to Liam's persistence, he lives with the constant belief/fear that Liam will eventually outgrow his crush on him. He doesn't.

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman:
    • Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter have an age gap minimum of 15, she is at 34 at the beginning of the series and he is in his early 50s. As everything else, this does end up with them facing troubles in their marriage as she is facing her last chances to try new things in her life while he is already used to a certain lifestyle and has a hard time adapting to her younger way of thinking.
    • This gets deconstructed in Season 5. In general Mr. Peanutbutter has a pattern of dating women much younger than him, which Diane explains in "Mr. Peanutbutter's Boos", may be the reason why all his marriages fail, since these women keep growing whereas he has stopped doing so, eventually, they outgrow him.
    • Penny and BoJack at the end of season 2, in which she falls for him and they briefly almost sleep together. She is 17 and he is in his early 50s. Although nothing ends up happening, the event severely made them feel guilt-ridden.
    • BoJack and Sarah Lynn briefly sleep together on season 1, the age difference is around 20 years. He knew her when she was a child actor before she hit puberty. They get together in the episode "Prickly Muffin", but their relationship is a short one.
  • The Simpsons: "Rome-Old and Juli-Eh" revolves around the romance and marriage of Abe Simpson and Selma Bouvier, their ages separated by nearly four decades (she was in her forties, he was in his eighties). Their marriage didn't work out, due to Abe's senility leading to the ruination of their kitchen and Selma finding her new job as a department manager too stressful.

Alternative Title(s): Big Age Gap Between Lovers

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