When does the Age difference in a Relationship become Predatory?

Bella Naija

For the past few days, one of the most controversial discussions on social media is the predatory nature of relationships where one of the partners is a teenager and the other is an “older adult.”

When it comes to romantic relationships, people say age is just a number. In today’s world, a 30-year-old woman can fall in love with a 50-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman can be in a relationship with a 41-year-old man. The most important thing is that they are both consenting adults and they love each other enough to be together, yea?

The world no longer frowns at relationships where the age difference is quite noticeable. But at what point does the age difference in a relationship become predatory? At what point do you realise, as an older person, that people of certain demographics are off limits, even though they are legally adults?

As a 79-year-old woman, do you date a 20-year-old man because he’s “legally an adult” and not expect people to react to it? As a 79-year-old man, would you date a 20-year-old woman and expect a pat on the back? The age difference doesn’t even have to be so huge. It could be a man or woman in their thirties constantly being in romantic relationships with teenagers. 

This issue is one that has garnered diverse opinions. Some people are claiming that as long as you are 18 and above, anyone can decide to ask to be in a relationship with you. The onus now falls on you to determine if you want to be in that relationship or not. Others are insisting that a relationship where one partner is “barely an adult” has the tendency to be manipulative and predatory. The onus should fall on the older adult to know that teenagers – albeit legal adults – should be off limits.

Power dynamics and imbalance in a relationship is beyond the age difference. Sometimes, it is about the wealth of experience one party has amassed over time, or the level of exposure one person has gotten through the years. Anything one party can leverage over the other. A 28-year-old who has never had any formal education, has lived in a rural area all through, has little access to basic infrastructure and has no form of exposure is different from a 28-year-old Ivy League graduate who has lived in the city all through, read a lot of books and been in certain rooms. When these two meet, the power dynamics would be different and such a relationship has the tendency to be manipulative. Power imbalance could also be financial. In a home where one party is at the mercy of the other financially, there is no financial balance. 

This also applies to age. When one partner is more naive and has consi…

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