Let’s set the scene: You have a preference for age gap relationships. You’re one of many younger women dating older men, or a mature woman who’s into cougar dating. Maybe you’re one of the growing number of older men dating younger women. No matter your gender or which end of the age gap spectrum you’re on, you’ve finally found a partner who makes your heart skip a beat, and you’re thrilled by the prospect of embarking on a life together. But once the initial honeymoon stage of your age gap relationship wears off, how can you know that the dynamic between you is healthy? Most of the hallmarks are no different than they are for romantic relationships between peers, but there are a few complicating variables. We’ll explore a few of them here, so you can take stock of your partnership and know whether you’re in a mutually satisfying, reciprocal relationship, or whether you need to consider moving on.
Hallmark #1: You can communicate freely with your partner.
This is perhaps the most important feature of any healthy relationship. No matter how well you and your partner get along, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit the occasional rough patch, and when you do it’s vital to know that you can discuss your frustrations and insecurities with your partner and know you’ll be heard with respect and compassion. Take a moment and ask yourself this: When you need to have a tough conversation with your partner, do you walk away from it feeling like you’ve reached a resolution? Do you feel like your partner listens attentively to your troubles and responds with empathy? Do you feel like working through conflict together strengthens you as a couple? If so, these are signs that you’re in a healthy relationship, and that you can trust your partner enough to be vulnerable with him or her. However, if you’re afraid to ever address a misunderstanding with your partner for fear of starting a fight, if your partner belittles or mocks your fears and insecurities, or if your partner downplays and trivializes your frustrations, those are symptoms of emotional abuse and a sign that you should take a hard look at your relationship.
While emotional abuse certainly doesn’t occur solely in relationships beginning on cougar dating sites or sugar daddy/sugar baby sites, the difference in life experience and the relative imbalance of power associated with the age gap can make younger partners in particular more susceptible to abusers. Younger men dating older women and younger women dating older men should know the red flags so they can recognize them if they appear.
Hallmark #2: You share responsibilities and expenses equally.
Especially if you and your partner are cohabitating, it’s important that you agree upon the division of labor and finances between you. If both partners work full-time jobs, it’s unfair that one should be stuck with the bulk of the housework and meal preparation on top of it. Likewise, one partner shouldn’t always be expected to foot the bill for the other. (Exceptions to this rule include sugar mommy or daddy/sugar baby relationships in which the transactional nature of the relationship is made clear and agreed upon in advance.) Ideally, you and your partner take turns doing dishes and taking out the garbage. One of you picks up the tab at dinner this time, and the other gets it next time. Rather than one partner emptying his or her pockets for the other, or tidying up after them like their personal housekeeper, both partners should work together to make a comfortable, happy home for each other. If you find yourself feeling like your partner is more into your bank account than you, or that you’re more of a servant than a boyfriend or girlfriend, it may be time to walk away. Remember, younger men dating older women and younger women seeking older men are still adults, and they still need to do their share.
Hallmark #3: Your partner honors your boundaries in the bedroom.
Kink and BDSM sometimes overlap with age gap and cougar dating. For some older men dating younger women and younger women seeking older men, the power differential between partners is a turn-on that makes for some fun, taboo daddy/daughter or mommy/son age play. But whether kink is a feature of your age gap relationship or not, it’s non-negotiable that your partner should respect your boundaries in the bedroom at all times. If dominance and submission are a feature of your sex life, those dynamics should be negotiated in advance, and consent must always be freely given and received. If you skew more vanilla, the rules still apply: It’s totally permissible to ask your partner to experiment with new activities, but if they aren’t comfortable with it, no means no. It’s never acceptable to pressure or guilt a partner into submitting to sex acts they don’t want. If ever you feel uncomfortably pressured by your partner, that’s a major red flag that you need to reevaluate your relationship. Remember that nobody is ever owed sex!
As you can see, whether you and your partner met on one of many popular cougar dating sites or sugar daddy and sugar baby sites, the rules for healthy relationships are no different for partners negotiating age gaps than they are for anybody else. We hope that this article has empowered you to enter your next age gap relationship prepared to receive the respect you deserve.