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I’m going out with someone who’s much older than me. What is the big deal?

There are examples of healthy relationships with big age differences, but it can get tricky when a teen is involved with someone who is much older than they are. Without realizing it, there can be an imbalance of power in the relationship when there are differences in maturity levels and one person has more life experience than the other. There may also be some legal issues.

We can all have attractions to people in our lives, sometimes regardless of age. However, you can be attracted to someone and not act on that feeling. These feelings can help you learn about yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner without getting you into a situation that you’re not ready for.
Because older partners tend to have more experience and possibly more freedom, this can give them an unfair advantage over younger teens that have less experience and freedom. This can affect things like where you hang out, who drives and what you do sexually. It can also place pressure on the younger partner to try things they’re not ready for, simply because the older partner makes it seem like it’s no big deal.

Problems also crop up if the older person stops you from hanging out with friends your own age or doing things at school. This can get in the way of the normal process of growing from a teen to an adult.

If you are having sex in your relationship, check the laws in your state. Depending on your ages, your partner could be breaking the law. In all but two states, it is illegal for anyone over 18—of any sex or gender—to have sex with someone under 16. These laws are meant to protect young people from being exploited by people who are older.

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