The heart wants what it wants, right? As hard as we might try, we really can’t help with whom we fall in love. Love doesn’t give AF if you’re older or younger or if she’s still in college and you’re five years into your career, but people certainly do.

There’s a negative stigma surrounding significant age gaps in relationships, which causes people to obsess over it. Remember Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchison? Chances are you do because people had a lot to say about the 16-year-old girl who married the 51-year-old man.

When we develop feelings for someone outside our age brackets, we think those feelings are wrong. But before you give up completely, it’s important to think of your partner’s maturity level. Seriously.

Experiences happen to people at different times, causing some of us to grow up faster or slower than others. You could be a 25-year-old with the mindset of a 45-year-old. Or vice versa. Maybe she’s 20 and you’re 30 but she’s just as unsure about life as you are—or she’s just as secure in life as you are. A 10-year age difference might seem intimidating, but if you’re both going through similar experiences in life, it shouldn’t matter. Granted, you won’t be able to take her out for a cocktail… but you’ll get there.

A study published in “Population and Development Review” suggests that age really isn’t about the number of years you’ve been around. “It also includes characteristics such as health, cognitive function and disability rates,” states researcher Sergei Scherbov.

The next time you question whether your girlfriend is too young for you—or too old—stop for a second and think. Are you uncomfortable with your relationship or is society? If your answer is the latter, give it the middle finger and move on.

Just remember: The line does have to be drawn somewhere… Keep it legal.

Photo: iStock/Juanmonino