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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:11 pm

Does anyone know where this rule came from? Does anyone really like it? Really hate it? Have another variation they like more?

I've always been more drawn to older men, but I'm getting some pushback from people in my life about dating guys in their mid-forties. I'm 34, so am safely within the rule, which would put my limit at 54. That seems high to me, though. Does the ratio work better with younger couples than with older? Is a good rule for older couples, "Could this person technically have contributed procreationally to my existence?"

I am mulling deep age questions today. Mull with me?

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Post by reboot on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:15 pm

Like most dating rules I think it makes no sense at all. It should be based more on being in similar life stages and commonalities rather than age. And there is huge variation in maturity in each age, so it is not the best predictor of emotional, intellectual, etc. maturity. The most important thing is to look at what you are comfortable with and call that your age range.
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Post by Robjection on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:34 pm

I think I once found a scientific study that showed that the "half your age plus seven" rule can reduce your body's sodium levels, so just to be safe I've been taking it with a pinch of salt.

Personally, I don't think I would feel comfortable dating anyone more than 4 years younger than me regardless of my current age, simply because then they would be closer to my niece's age than my own. And that's before getting into what reboot said about life stages and commonalities.
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Post by reboot on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:47 pm

For me, it is +/-10-12 years unless there is an extraordinary level of shared experience. Older/younger than that and it is hard to have similar frames of reference, especially for relationship norms. For example, if you finished college the year I entered kindergarten (or vice versa) we are going to have a hard time connecting on anything more intimate than friendship.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:52 pm

Relationship mode is also a factor. Explicit(eg, both participants clearly agree on what it means) hook-ups with large age disparity inside the legal range take away a lot of the icky factors with regards to power dynamics that one might expect if it was a serious relationship.

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Post by Wondering on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:57 pm

I don't know if this is where the rule came from, but I first encountered it when reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X where he said it was a rule established by Elijah Muhammed for the (male) members of the Nation of Islam. So that would have been in the 1950s.

I have always thought it was ridiculous. My personal rule of thumb was 5 years either side of my age, but the stage-in-life status was the real issue that mattered.

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Post by eselle28 on Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:58 pm

The basic principle behind it seems to be that differences of a few years can be a big deal when people are very young, but that fairly large ones aren't necessarily a signal of a power imbalance if the younger member of the couple is still an established adult. I think there's some truth to that as a general concept, though I think the rule itself makes more sense when it's being applied to relationships where one or both partners isn't completely developmentally mature, which apparently doesn't happen until the early or mid-20s.

Past that point, I think half your age plus 7 can get a bit nitpicky. I'm not so fond of the "old enough to be your parent" concept, either. I'm also 34 (and we have very different friends, because some of mine pressure me pretty hard to date men in their mid- and late 40s!), and I wouldn't be interested in dating a 54-year-old, either. I wouldn't be concerned if another woman my age did, though. At some point, I'd say people's own relationship choices become a function of who they're physically attracted to, who they're at a compatible stage of life with, and who is interested in dating them, and that other people's relationship choices are a matter of personal taste.
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Post by Lemminkainen on Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:08 pm

I feel like the rule is useful as a heuristic. You don't have to follow it exactly, but when a relationship that you're getting into fails to satisfy it, it might be a good cue to stop and think about power dynamics issues that might make it weird.

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Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:18 pm

I think it's a good rule for not being creepy, but it's not a good rule for deciding who you actually WANT to date. Example: I will not date men younger than me seriously, but with women it's a bit younger to a bit older. If I followed the rule I could date 24-year-olds, which, no.

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Post by fakely mctest on Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:46 pm

embertine wrote:I think it's a good rule for not being creepy, but it's not a good rule for deciding who you actually WANT to date.  Example: I will not date men younger than me seriously, but with women it's a bit younger to a bit older.  If I followed the rule I could date 24-year-olds, which, no.

Yeah, I think it's, unfortunately, a great rule for people who don't actually care about it as a rule.  Like, creepers gonna creep, you know?  But it IS excellent for the borderline-creeper-adjacent to leverage it as a tool of social disapproval because it's so commonly known.  Without it we live in a depressing universe of "She told me she was [age]," and "She looked [age]!"  Bleh.

I too could date 24 year olds, but my BF is 26 so I am safe.  Grin

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Post by Guest on Sat Oct 11, 2014 2:14 pm

I never had a problem with the idea of dating older or younger.

I'm 22 and I've never gotten a push to date older or lower.

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Post by The Wisp on Sat Oct 11, 2014 2:30 pm

It seems like a good rule of thumb for very young people (say, under 22) looking to date people younger than them, though I don't think it is perfect. An 18 year-old high school senior probably shouldn't be dating a 15 year-old high school freshman all else being equal.

I think it breaks down for everyone else, though. At that point, the problem of power differential comes down as much to life stage rather than age. A 26 year-old in grad school dating a 20 year-old college junior is much less problematic than a 26-year-old who is making a decent income in their career dating a 20 year-old college junior.

Age in itself is still a factor, but I think the line between "creepy" age difference and not creepy is much fuzzier and more contextual than with young people.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Sat Oct 11, 2014 6:48 pm

I think it's also a useful rule for younger people finding themselves attracting attention from much older ones. I mean, when I was 17 I had crushes on some 30 year olds. I know when I was teenager, all my peers (including me) were convinced we were so mature and so grown up, we totally weren't "any different" from adults... which is hilarious to me now.

But we also all knew about the "half your age plus 7" rule, so when a 35 year old started hitting on 15 year old me, I knew that wasn't cool even if I didn't yet understand just how big a chasm there was between being 15 and being... hell even 16, let alone 20 or 25 or 30.

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Post by Ron Ritzman on Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:38 pm

I remember hearing somewhere that in the area of science fiction and fantasy, it's been modified to apply to "immortals" (vampires and such) as "half your apparent age plus 7". This might be a good "rule" to follow if you are strictly using it as an "anti creep defense".
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:40 pm

But yes, early 30s is the lowest I will consider and even then if somebody is in that age range, there would have to be some obvious chemistry and a connection there and she would have to make the first move.
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Post by BiSian on Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:59 am

Like many other people have said, I don't think it's a good hard-and-fast rule.

I also have dated men who were significantly older than me (my record's 16 years) and want to echo what others have said about power imbalances and different life stages being far more concerning than calendar age.
That being said...50-something dudes on OKC: Do. Not. Message. Me.
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Post by fakely mctest on Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:14 pm

Ron Ritzman wrote:I remember hearing somewhere that in the area of science fiction and fantasy, it's been modified to apply to "immortals" (vampires and such) as "half your apparent age plus 7". This might be a good "rule" to follow if you are strictly using it as an "anti creep defense".

Teeny derail here: I have always found the immortal "well they look my age" thing to be creepy. Like, I could never get past the fact that Angel from Buffy was over 200 years old (I mean, he was also an apparently 20-something dude which, no, when it comes to high schoolers). And the appearance stuff strikes me as a fictional corollary to the "she looked 18" IRL defense. When it comes to age differences it's really not at all about the horror of being seen with someone who looks like an Old, but about different life stages, which is why age differences matter less the older a person gets.

BiSian wrote:That being said...50-something dudes on OKC: Do. Not. Message. Me.

Yeah. If you're talking about strangers on the internet, err on the side of caution and respect the person's stated age preferences.

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Post by Artanis_Neravar on Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:54 pm

I stick with 4 years to either side, but that also happens to be the general range for life stages. Any younger and they will be just getting out of college, and any older and they will have already settled into an "adult life" (owning a house and what not)
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Post by Xexyz on Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:01 am

eselle28 wrote:The basic principle behind it seems to be that differences of a few years can be a big deal when people are very young, but that fairly large ones aren't necessarily a signal of a power imbalance if the younger member of the couple is still an established adult. I think there's some truth to that as a general concept, though I think the rule itself makes more sense when it's being applied to relationships where one or both partners isn't completely developmentally mature, which apparently doesn't happen until the early or mid-20s.

I think [way too hard & much] about this in terms of the age of women I should be dating. I'm 35, so my first notion is to focus on women around my age. However, I've also never been in a romantic relationship, so another part of me wonders if I should look to dating younger women who will more likely be on a similar level in terms of relationship experience - especially since I've noticed that women around my age were much more likely to answer [on OKCupid] that they wouldn't date someone who's never been in a relationship before.


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Post by Dr_Goth on Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:18 am

I've been part of a few websites where you can search for people based on age range and I find using the half my age + 7 a good minimum age. To work out upper age limit I tend to do 2 x my age - minimum dating age.

So i'm 27, my minimum dating age would be 20.5 and my upper dating age would be 33.5

This is literally a starting point and by no means an exclusive YOU WILL DATE WITHIN THESE AGE RANGES, but as I don't have a preference for younger and older this is pretty good way for working an average middle ground.
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Post by InkAndComb on Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:21 am

I've usually stayed by the +-4 year rule ,but I just hit 25 and I think it's a pretty fair one in respects to life experience at my age. If you're dating an 18 year old and you're 25, there's nothing technically wrong with it. Butttt that doesn't mean it's "right" either...

As long as both people seem to be in the same areas of life, it doesn't really matter (to me, personally). I do find people dating out of their area of life experience (college dating highschool, retired dating newly graduated) to rub me the wrong way; I can't tell if this is "instinct" or just social impressions I've picked up on. I've yet to see someone be 20 with a 60 year old (locally) where things "seemed alright" (so far it's been affairs, but again, just my two cents).
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:59 pm

Wow, so okay, I guess I've been dating my current boyfriend long enough (six months now) that this went from being a big issue to something that came up sometimes to being something that doesn't really cross my mind anymore at all. I just turned 21 a few days ago, he's 34.

And as weird as it sounds to put that down in writing, it isn't odd for us at all really for a lot of reasons. First is the commonalities in our current stage of life--we're both broke-ass first time undergrads at the same college, studying philosophy and equally nerdy and intellectual and can spend hours and hours discussing comic books and geopolitics. There really isn't any power dynamic there, because its not like he can buy me things or treat me all the time--whoever happens to have any money at the moment is the one who pays. And some college students are going to be living in an apartment, working their way through school, some are going to be living at home with their parents, that's just the nature of college life. Initially we decided to be just friends, and then we realized we were attracted to each other, and decided to be friends with benefits, and then we realized we really loved spending time with each other as much as we possibly could, and both liked the idea of a committed relationship, and decided after a great deal of deliberation, to be girlfriend and boyfriend. Communication is a key part of our relationship, especially around sex--he's very much made it clear that I'm the one setting the pace around that, and I've felt comfortable saying "wait, let's slow down for a bit" and have had that respected, and he's been able to do the same. He's also really sex-positive, and hasn't made me feel at all weird about being a virgin before this, and I've felt safe opening up about and exploring my kinks with him. We're also both coming from a place of having had a major mental breakdown and having to pick up again the pieces of our lives, so we can both really understand where the other is coming from, and when we have the capacity for it, support the other through their moments of depression or anxiety. Finally, we both know what the nature of our relationship is, and how long its going to last. I know I don't want my first relationship to be my last--I'm just not ready for that yet, some people are able to do the first romance for the rest of their lives, but that's not me, I'm only just learning who I am and what I want to do in the world, and who I am and what I like I imagine is going to change over the years. We've agreed that this lasts until we graduate college and one of us likely moves away for grad school, or one of us decides to end it before then. The fact that we know this has an expiration date doesn't make what we have any less valuable--we both hope we remain friends long after this--we just know that we're not ever going to do things like move in together or get engaged. Yes, we do still fight, about things like whether or not the universe is made entirely of physical things, or if there are non-physical things in the universe or if you can have moral praise and blameworthiness in a deterministic universe (philosophers...) or just the minor irritations that can grow between people sometimes when one or both is in a fragile place.

Sure I'd be wary at first if another female friend came up to me and was like "I have a new boyfriend and he's 14 years older than me!" but every relationship is different, and I feel while mine often works for me, I know it wouldn't for a lot of people. Sure, noting larger age gaps might be a useful first judge of whether or not a relationship would be possible or you'd be compatible, but I really don't think it should ever really be an ironclad rule.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:19 pm

WB, Prajna! Grin

I guess I never actually posted my thought, but I basically don't really care for making "hard" rules like this for the purpose of judging other people.

For myself, I wouldn't be grossed out by the idea of dating someone ten to twelve years older, even though by the "rule" they shouldn't be dating me unless they were 29 or younger. On the other hand, I'd feel slightly weird about starting to date a 21-year-old undergrad even though that is theoretically within an "acceptable" range for me. I am in a "works for a living" stage of life and would feel awkward with a partner who didn't start in a similar place.

If hypothetically I had met a college sophomore as a senior and then graduated and become employed, that would be different. Just seems like the commencement of Dating (tm) should (for me) happen when both parties are on even footing.
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Post by PintsizeBro on Fri Feb 13, 2015 5:02 pm

The rule has been around a while (according to Wikipedia it dates back to at least 1903), but at least among nerd circles it probably became better-known after xkcd did a comic about it. The rule is less about what's actually a good idea for a solid relationship and more about whether it meets a minimum standard of social acceptability.

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Post by PlasticFruit on Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:44 am

This is something I've been thinking about recently so it is funny to see it come up on DNL's posts while I have been mulling it over.

I don't like the rule in general. I'm 34 and my age range on OLD has been 25-44. I choose that range mostly as a way to try and find guys who are at a similar point in life as me. Under 25s tend to be studying or living with their parents where I am living. If I was in a smaller town, I might open up that pool more, but being in a major city it isn't necessary. Most of the guys I have dated more than once or twice have been in the 4 or 5 years range either way.

Saying that I'm currently seeing a guy who is 20. We met at a bar and while I could tell he was significantly younger than me; it was fun chatting with him so when he asked for my number I gave it to him. He is great company, but there are more barriers than there would be if he was an average 30 year old. My friends tease me about being a cougar and I do try to be aware to not be condescending or patronizing. He is also at the point in his life where he wants to go to explore the world and I'm working on my career and paying my mortgage. So I see the rule as more of trying to find someone in a similar life stage to yourself and not make a fetish out of age. If you can do that you don't really need the rule.

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