Ain’t Nothing But a Number?

Ain’t Nothing But a Number?

By Nicole Seligman, a loveisrespect advocate

Age isn’t a factor in every relationship, but with a bigger gap between partners, there is a higher risk for unhealthy or abusive behaviors to come about. Abuse is about power and control, which can sometimes be a dynamic in a relationship when someone is older and feels that they know best or are above the other partner.

Red Flags

Here are some red flags to look out for in a relationship with a significant age difference:


  • “I know what’s best for you”
  • “You just haven’t experienced enough to know better”
  • “You’ll understand when you’re older”
  • “I’m helping you learn from my mistakes”
  • “This is what real/adult relationships are like”
  • “Stop being such a child/so immature”


  • Making you feel inferior, inadequate or less-than
  • Controlling who you talk to, how you dress, where you go
  • Keeping tabs on your phone, social media, email or bank account
  • Threatening to tell your parents/someone about the relationship or other information that could get you in trouble
  • Pressuring you to stop hanging out with your friends or family

Other Things to Consider

Dating someone who is older does not mean that you will experience abuse by any means. However, when unhealthy or abusive behaviors are present in a relationship with someone who is older, there are some unique issues that could stand in the way of being safe or supported the way you deserve. For instance, sometimes people are more willing to believe the adult or older person in the situation when the younger person reaches out for help.

Another unique issue is the isolation someone in an abusive relationship with an older person experiences. Whether you were keeping the relationship a secret from your friends or you stopped hanging out with them so much because of your partner, you might realize that your support system isn’t there anymore. Having someone you trust to reach out to about things going on in your relationship is always important, but especially if you’re feeling scared or hurt by your partner.

Feeling like the age gap is causing your relationship to be more like a power struggle than an equal partnership? Let’s talk about it! Call, chat or text with a loveisrespect advocate 24/7.

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