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Being in a relationship with someone older

Many young people, especially young women, are in relationships with people who are much older than them, but these age-gap relationships have certain pressures and challenges.  

Who you have a relationship with is (or should be) your choice. But it’s a good idea to think about how much say you have in any relationship – particularly over sex and using protection.  

In a healthy relationship both partners have equal say – being in a relationship with someone older can sometimes mean you are less able to make decisions.  

There can also be health risks – someone who is older than you is more likely to have been sexually active for a longer period of time, which means they have a higher risk of having HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  

What is a relationship with someone older like?

This will depend on the people involved. But a common challenge of being in a romantic relationship with someone older is that they may have more say than you in making decisions, and you might feel less able to be honest with them about how you feel.  

You may think you are ready to be with someone older, but their expectations about sex and other things could be very different from yours. Remember, it is always your right to say no to sex if you want to. And if you are being forced to be in a relationship, or even marry, someone older, this is not ok. You have the right to say no to a relationship if you want to. 

My friends are dating older people, so why shouldn’t I?

Everyone has the right to be in the relationship they want. But if some friends your age are dating older men or women, it doesn’t mean you have to. 

If you are thinking of dating someone older, it is a good idea to be aware of the risks. It is likely they will have been sexually active for a longer period of time, which means they are more likely to have HIV or other STIs. But it might be difficult to insist on using condoms, which puts your health at risk. 

Is it ok to date a sugar daddy or blesser?

‘Blessers’ and ‘sugar daddies’ are the names used to describe older men who are in relationships with teenage girls or young women. ‘Sugar mammas’ and ‘Ben-10s’ are names for older women are in relationships with teenage boys or young men. 

In these relationships the older partner will give gifts or money to the younger one. This can create difficulties because: 

  • they are likely to demand sex in return for the gifts or money they give you 

  • they might make you feel you owe them something, which can make it hard for you to have your say  

  • it’s more likely they could have HIV or another STI, but it can be hard to insist on using condoms 

  • they may be married or having sex with other people, which puts you even more at risk of HIV and STIs. 

What does having a relationship with someone older have to do with HIV?

With less power to decide whether you want to have sex, the kind of sex you want, or whether you use condoms, your risk of getting HIV increases.  

The best thing you can do if you are having sex with someone older is to use condoms. This might feel like a difficult thing to do, but you have the right to protect your health and prevent unwanted pregnancy. If you feel too worried or scared to talk to your partner about condoms, it could be a sign that you are in an unhealthy relationship. 

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What advice should I give to someone who is in a relationship with someone older?

These situations can be complicated. You don't have to have all the answers, but it's important that the person knows that you are there to support them, and won’t judge.  

When the time feels right, try speaking to them about the challenges and risks of being a young person in a relationship with someone who is older, which you can find on the ‘Basics’ tab. 

It is also worth helping them to think about whether they are in a healthy relationship or not. For example, you could try asking: 

  • do they feel comfortable around their partner?  

  • can they be themselves around them? 

  • can they say no to something their partner is asking them to do? 

  • can they have a different opinion from their partner, without it leading to an argument? 

  • does their partner pressure them to do things they don’t want to do?  

  • does their partner make them feel guilty or bad? 

  • do they trust their partner when they are not with them? 

Whatever they say, it is important not to tell them what to do, or to put pressure on them to end their relationship. Whatever they choose to do must be their decision.  

It is also important to understand whether they have been forced into the relationship. The support a young person in this situation may need is likely to be different from someone who feels free to end their relationship if they want to.  

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  • Last updated: 11 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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