Is it okay to date a much older person?

Sometimes, who you date, how long you date and what you do in your relationship can get complicated – because liking or loving someone isn’t always as easy as we would think. When it comes to the age of the person you date, it can be especially difficult, especially if the person is much older. What makes it even trickier is if you’re in your teens and the person is not. The question that always comes up is: Is my relationship wrong? That could depend on a number of factors, so here’s a bit of advice on that:

Is your relationship legal?

Whether the law agrees with your relationship is a big deciding factor around whether you should date an older person or not.

The legal age of consent in South Africa is 16 years old. So this means that anyone who is 18 or older is not allowed to date or have a sexual relationship with someone below the age of 16. A sexual relationship includes kissing, so even if you are not having sex and are just making out, it is still illegal. 

If you’re under the legal age of consent for dating and you’re dating someone who is way above the legal age of consent (meaning there is quite a number of years between the two of you) – then you should not be dating, period.

Read more about what statutory rape is here.

Do your levels of experience match?

I’m not going to say that your level of maturity is important in deciding whether you and your partner should be together or not, because you might say: “But Choma I am mature. People always tell me that I am very level-headed for my age”. The truth is Choma, most young people feel that way – and that’s fine. It’s good to feel like you’re able to make good decisions for yourself on your own. But you have to look at your level of experience versus your partner’s. If your partner is much older than you, they would probably have more experience with certain things than you do. This might cause complications in your relationship because you’ll feel pressured to do more for your partner’s sake. Dating someone closer to your age means that you get to have experiences together and therefore don’t pressure each other to do more too soon.

Read here about why you should date someone closer to your own age.

Risk of STIs

This one is unfortunate but true Choma. A lot of the time, dating someone older than you actually puts you more at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – especially HIV. This is especially true with so-called “sugar daddy” relationships because older men are more likely to have more sexual partners (either presently or from their past) and therefore make it more likely for them to have a STI (and for you to contract one).  

At the end of the day Choma, you will make your own decisions about who you date. But it is important to think about your own wellbeing and to give yourself the time and space you need to be able to grow within a relationship. Dating a much older person may not only be illegal (landing that person in jail if you’re underage) but it may not be the healthiest choice for you (even if you’re of legal age and the person is just much older and more experienced). Give yourself the chance to enjoy being young and to be with someone who gets that.

Remember, if you or someone you know needs help or advice, you can message me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).