Dating outside of your age range may help you meet more people and increase your chances of meeting someone you want to be in a relationship with. But is it okay to date a Christian much older or younger than you? How big of an age difference is too much? What advice is there for Christians who want to date someone or marry someone who’s older or younger?
The Bible does not say anything directly about relationships between adults with a big age difference. So as usual when it comes to dating and relationship advice, we need to apply biblical principles and wisdom to the questions we have.
Here are 4 points to consider if you want to date or marry a Christian who is older or younger than you.
Spiritual Maturity Is More Important than Age in Christian Relationships
I think there are three terms that often get jumbled together when talking about a Christian dating someone who is older or younger. Your age, your spiritual age, and your spiritual maturity. When you want to rank the importance of these in the success of a Christian relationship I believe your spiritual maturity is most important, your spiritual age is next important, and then you physical age is last.
We all know what physical age means. You spiritual age refers to when you became a Christian. Your spiritual maturity refers to how much you know about the Bible and how much of that knowledge you live out in your life (Galatians 5:22-23).
I’m not saying your physical age is not an important factor in relationships. I’m just saying it’s not as important as your spiritual maturity. If you are the same physical age but you are far more spiritually mature than someone, you will not be as happy with this person as you might be with someone younger than you who is closer to your spiritual maturity or ever more spiritually mature than you. Notice the emphasis on character rather than age in Ruth 3:10-11:
The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”
Ruth wanted to be with Boaz because he was a good man, not because he was her age. And Boaz wanted to be with Ruth not because she was younger but because she had noble character. Character is always more important than chronology.
(For more on this you may want to read 4 Tips for Dating Someone Less Spiritually Mature as You.)
The Greater the Age Difference the More Sacrifice Both Christians Will Need to Make
My wife is five years older than me. I asked her out when I was 20 and we got married when I was 22. She was already an RN. I would not be done with getting my masters in pastoral counseling and graduating from seminary until I was 26 years old. When we got together, we knew we were very compatible and on the same spiritual maturity level but we also knew we both would have to make sacrifices to be together because of our age difference.
She would have to slow down on some of the life events that normally happen at her age and I would have to speed up some of the normal life events for my age. I would have to skip over some things and get through things faster and she would have to delay some things and wait longer. For example, she had to wait for me to finish up school and get a better job before we could have kids and I was not going to be able to ease into adulthood slowly. I finished my bachelor’s degree and we had our first child as I was finishing up my master’s degree.
Both Bethany and I were happy to do this and neither thought twice about it. Our gain was far greater than anything we gave up to be together. But if you want to date and marry someone who is in a different age bracket, you should expect to make sacrifices to be with this person in a relationship.
Know that the Younger Person Has More Changing to Do that the Older Person
I was getting counseling to prepare for my future marriage with Bethany and as I was talking with the counselor he let me know there was no issue with me marrying an older woman. He did point out, however, that I had more changing to do than her. She was more of the person she would be in life than I was at that time.
He was right. At 22 years of age I was still transitioning more than she was at 27 years old. Over the years we’ve both learned things about me that we didn’t know then. We didn’t know how introverted I really was and how much large groups of people drain me. We didn’t know that I would be in ministry. I didn’t change on any of my core beliefs. But I have really changed. We both have, but I have changed more because I was younger when we first met.
All people change over the years in some way or the other. But when you want to date or marry someone who is younger or you are the younger one, just expect that the younger person has more transitioning to do in general than the older person.
Is It Socially Acceptable to Date Someone Older or Younger? How Old Is Too Old?
In one sense, the simple answer here is, “Who cares!” If you two are in love, you both are equally yoked, and you feel God is leading you together, then don’t let people’s opinion of your relationship control the way you live.
In another sense, however, I think it is helpful to at least know what to expect socially if you date or marry someone in a different age bracket. First off, you should know one social consequence is that you two may have greater difficulty in finding mutual friends that you both enjoy. You may like being with a younger man, but you may not like that younger man’s immature friends. Likewise you may enjoy being with an older woman, but you may find her older friends boring because they are in a different life season than you.
Speaking from personal experience, however, I have not found this socially awkward at all. For whatever reason most of my friends have always been a little older anyways, but through the years Bethany and I have found couples that we both enjoy.
Lastly, if people are really shocked by your pairing with this person, it might be a red flag that you want to look at. Many times dating someone much older or younger can be rooted in unhealthy behavior our wounds from our past. I would say these instances are more likely when the age difference starts getting closer to a decade. Five years or so does not seem to be a big difference from what I’ve experience in my life and witnessed in the lives of others, especially the older you get. But when you are a decade older or more it might be a challenging relationship, especially when it comes to socializing with others.
A decade difference is also going to be a much bigger sacrifice regarding your life seasons. Many people have healthy relationships even with a large age difference, but when you are 40 and the other person is 50 you will feel the weight of this age difference much more than when you are 25 and the other person is 35. Or if there is a 15 to 20 year age difference, for example, the older you get the more challenging this relationship might become because of age. A 25 and 45 year old might be able to have fun now, but what happens when one is 55 and the other 75? It might not be as fun then. I’m not saying it would be a sin, it’s just something you want to consider.
Christian Advice for Dating a Significantly Older or Younger Man or Woman
In summary, there is no command saying two grown adults cannot be together romantically. However, the wider the age difference the more of a sacrifice it will be for the guy and girl. But sacrifice is an expression of love, so don’t this scare you off if you feel led to be together.
My main advice is to just fully acknowledge what you are signing up for so you know what type of sacrifice you are committing to making in this dating relationship or marriage with a Christian who is a different age than you.
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