Love knows no age
Can relationships really last when the age difference is extreme?
Remember the teasing when you were a teenager, that the boy or girl you had a crush on was older than you? The bigging up by male friends for being a toy boy?
Now imagine you are older and you are on the prowl for your serious, long term relationship. You have sown your seeds, played the field, fooled around and you are finally ready to settle down. Is being a toy boy still something you are looking for? Is having a man who is older than you on your checklist? When thinking of Catherine Zeta-Jones being married to Michael Douglas, with a 25 year age difference does this excite you or make you question the dynamics of the connection?
According to the Conversation, around 8% of married couples have an age gap of ten or more years in the Western world. Only 1% of these marriages have an older woman with a younger man.
It is estimated that relationships with age differences between same-sex men are as high as 25% and 15% of female ones. This means that the seventeen years between Amal and George Clooney is nothing to write home about right? I mean, there is a decent percentage of marriages in this situation. It certainly isn’t unheard of. It must be agreeable for society.
Various studies have shown otherwise, that people tend to disapprove of relationships with large age differences. This social stigma can negatively affect how long the liaison lasts.
The stereotypes that are attached to these labels are very unkind and this can have damaging effects. For example, when a woman is more than 8 years the senior, they are known as cougars and face judgments around preying on innocent young men.
Destined for failure?
Women who date older men apparently have daddy or mummy issues. The possibility of love denied as a child. Especially if he is a rich older man, then the name ‘sugar daddy’ begins to be thrown around.
When faced with such harsh discourses, can a marriage survive? Some research has found that the age difference is less important depending on the era and that it is based more on life stages than on numbers. For example, is one half still out partying while the other stays at home and funds the activities? Are there any commonalities between partners?
According to researchers at Emroy University, age differences within a marriage can predict the chances of divorce. They concluded that couples who were born within a year of each other only had a 3% chance of divorce. The percentage increased significantly at each milestone until those with a twenty-year gap had a 95% divorce rate. That is a very scary figure.
The future of Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor, with their enormous 32-year gap is hopefully within the 5% that will continue to stay strong.
So with such devastating figures why do people search for the older partner?
Having myself gone for the older woman and refused until recently to consider a younger lady in my life, I can agree with the men who spoke to Psychology Today.
I was tempted by the idea of mature women due to the belief that they generally have more life experience, emotional stability, and different perspectives. My experience suggests, along with these beliefs, that with these attributes, they are often more self-assured, confident, and great conversationalists. I can confirm, however, that older does not always mean wiser, nor does it mean stable!
When searchers are looking at an older woman, the reasons appear to be personality traits. Looking for older men seems to have alternative motivations. According to Paired Life some of the reasons that women are attracted to older men are because they are financially stable, better at pleasing women, live a healthier lifestyle, and have more sophisticated taste. Again, I can confirm that half of these features are not always found when married to an older man.
Some scientists emphasise the role of breeding in innate attraction. As women get older their ability to become pregnant reduces whereas a man remains fertile. In fact, as a man gets older he is expected to have the financial resources to take care of his family and provide the stability that a woman of breeding age may want to ensure the survival of her offspring.
This would fit with Jeff Goldblum who had his first child in 2015, when he was aged 62, with his wife who is 30 years younger. It also corresponds with Steve Martin becoming a father at the grand age of 67 in 2012, with his wife who was 27 years younger.
As men are reaching a later age before having children and women are holding steady with their early thirties, it is understandable that the age gap could match the evolution cycle.
Not all nuptials fit in with this scenario as Nick Jonas is the youngest in his relationship with Priyanka Chopra.
There are alternative views to the maximum age difference and one that appears to be acceptable is the half your age add 7 rule. According to this rule Steve Martin, now aged 75 can be married to someone as young as 44 in a socially acceptable position. Holland Taylor can rest assured that having a relationship with Sarah is totally acceptable.
Does it also mean that at 37, I can have a relationship with someone as young as 25? This does not sit comfortably with me as it feels too close to the age of my eldest child. So if it is okay for Steve Martin, why is it not for me?
Theresa DiDonato pointed out in her article that the rule is more acceptable as people age and that the minimum age of the youngest partner affects the overall social acceptability. She noted that the younger the person is, the more important it is to be close in age. Thus giving support to acceptability being dependent on life stages.
Currently, I am in a relationship with a woman who is 7 years younger than me. At first, I was unsure and it was enough to make me doubt my intentions. As I got to know her more and began to unravel the myriad of thoughts within her mind it did not take me long to realise that in numbers she may be younger than I am but in maturity, she outdoes me every time.
Therefore, as long as it is legal and consent is clearly given, should age only be relevant according to your own feelings. Many people are born in the wrong era and their maturity, their likes, their morals can be highly compatible with a whole different time.
About the author
Janine thrives on bringing into awareness the inequalities and misconceptions of society. Janine hopes of a more tolerant and understanding future for the world. Giving a voice to those less privileged, ignored and forgotten about.