EG: Talking About Age Gaps

Some of my fellow bloggers have been discussing age gaps in marriage lately, which is something that I have a lot of personal experience with. I’d like to talk about my experiences, maybe dispel a few qualms, and give people an idea of what it is actually like to be in a marriage with a substantial age gap. Of course, except for one study brought to my attention by femininebutnotfeminist, all the information will be anecdotal. I’m mostly going to explore this in the context of concerns voiced either to me or in general about a young woman marrying an older man. Some of these apply to a young woman getting married period, since there is a general resistance against women marrying young. Before that though, I would like to open with this statement to my fellow young women who are considering marrying an older man.

Things will be different for you than for women marrying men their own age. However, it will only be harder for you if you let it become that way. Part of my reason for wanting to write this is to extend my hand to women like you and give you the tools you will need to handle those differences. I also want to give you pause and consider whether you can shoulder this particular cross. Deciding to marry is always a big decision, one that must be carefully and prayerfully considered. With that, let’s move to the concerns.

He’s been a bachelor so long he won’t be able to adjust to being married.

I got this one quite a bit. For those who don’t know NSR and I have an age gap of roughly 22 years. The idea with this is that he’s had his own space and own way of living for so long, that he can’t hope to adapt to caring for someone else and sharing space. Well firstly, you have to look at the individual man. Has he lived alone all this time or has he had roommates? Has he had pets or had to care for a relative? Just because he had been a bachelor all this time doesn’t mean he has been living as a selfish loner. NSR has adjusted just fine to being married. There are things he had to give up, but he has been more than happy to trade those for the various benefits of being married. Of course, no concern expressed for me having trouble adjusting to being married and having to give up certain freedoms. Not that there was any need, I took to marriage like a duck to water.

You should live alone for awhile before getting married, decide whether it is what you really want.

This one always baffles me. How is living alone going to prepare me for being married? Also, living alone is not going to magically make my desire to be a wife and mother vanish. Neither is it going to help me remain chaste. It’s inviting more evil than it could ever hope to prevent. In the long run it would hurt my chances of reaching marriage a virgin and only make my adjustment to married life more difficult.

You need to get a job/work experience just in case he leaves you/divorces you/dies/gets sick.

Now, NSR did tell me to get a job just in case one of the latter two happens. However, I wish people would think for a few seconds before saying the first two. Human beings have personalities and free will, divorces and spousal abandonment don’t just happen by chance. I will note that no one ever mentioned these concerns when NSR was in the room. Probably because they knew they were being decidedly unfair. They also have no knowledge of how toxic divorce courts are to men. If anything, based on the fact that most divorces are initiated by women, they should have been warning him off of me. This also tells me that the people giving this particular advice will offer no help if any of those things do happen, other than to say “I told you so”. If they have legitimate reasons for thinking the man in question is flaky, they should warn the woman away from the man altogether, not tell her to construct a safety net. Same goes for if they think the woman is flaky. Warn the man away altogether.

That said, this is something that women marrying older men must prepare for. Especially if he has additional health concerns. A man of any age can die in an accident or of a disease, but obviously older men are more likely to die sooner. A woman needs to discuss this with her prospective husband and decide what they want to do to mitigate risk and financial burderns should something happen to him. That said, the man being older does not guarantee that he will die first. This study, brought to my attention in this comment by FBNF, indicates that a woman’s life expectancy suffers when she marries a man of a different age, older or younger. This is another thing to consider. Knowing this before I married NSR would not have altered my decision to marry him, but for some this may be too much of a risk/sacrifice.

You’re too young/full of promise/haven’t lived enough life yet to make a big decision like this.

I didn’t get this, but it is common enough in churches and elsewhere. If I hadn’t been so “mature” one of my (secular) professors would have taken this line, but he made an exception for me (which irked some of my also-soon-to-be-married classmates).  This one has quite a number of erroneous assumptions packed into it. Young people are too inexperienced to make good decisions; people can be less mature than their age, but not more; careers are more important than families; you can’t mature or gain life experience once you get married; fun things are less fun when you are married; life experience is a necessity for marriage, etc. And people will say these things even when the situation suggests that marrying young is the prudent choice. In BF’s situation, now may be the only time she has to be married. In my situation, being a wife and mother is what I want out of life (and my math skills are so cripplingly bad that it would cause me no end of issues trying to live solo for ten years).

What really needs to happen is a discussion on what the couple wants out of life. Does the woman want a graduate degree and a career or does she want to have a part time job and keep a home? Does she make good decisions in other circumstances? Taking age completely out of the consideration, will this man be a good husband? Take a look at the actual situation before making a blanket statement.

The age gap will cause conflict.

No, the age gap will not cause conflict. A massive gap in maturity will cause conflict. Some people live more life in fewer years than other people do. Part of my enjoyment for NSR’s company came from the fact that I didn’t have to hide from him, dumb things down for him, or avoid talking about certain things because it would gross him out. He’s old enough and lived enough life that he can handle what I need and want to talk about. Likewise, he likes to talk to me because I’m intelligent and mature enough to relate to or at least understand what he wants to talk about. If I was a teenybopper, giggling headcase it wouldn’t matter if I was born the same hour he was, he wouldn’t be here. Likewise, if he was immature and whiny I wouldn’t have married him.

In many ways the age gap has been rewarding because he gives me a perspective on the past a man of my same age could not give me. We had a lengthy discussion about Ender’s Game, Nirvana, and Generation X awhile back. Without the age gap we couldn’t have had that conversation. It comes down to compatibility of personalities, values, and to some degree, interests.

Here,  more or less verbatim and with context is the only “conflict” we have had on account of the age difference:

Me: *looking at pictures of NSR aged 28-30* I still would have married you back then.

NSR: *pauses* Unfortunately I can’t say the same for you.

That’s it. Seriously. Seven months of marriage, a single, two sentence conversation.

————————————————————————————————————————–

Now I want to talk about a few things that I wish people could have/would have asked if I was prepared to handle.

Can you deal with the fact that people will stare at you and make uncomplimentary assumptions about the two of you?

A friend of mine recently asked me “Do people still stare at you?”, to which I answered, entirely seriously, “Yes, especially when we go into lingerie shops”. Our age gap is substantial and is exacerbated by the fact that he looks a bit older than he is and I look a fair bit younger than I am. At first, people don’t assume we are married, then as they see us get affectionate, they begin to get concerned looks. Is she a golddigger or have daddy issues? Is he a pedo or a kidnapper who brainwashed her? People stare. People get uncomfortable.

That dissipates as soon as they get to know us, and many find us to be a charming, lovely couple. We don’t get to talk to everyone who sees us though, so we just have to live with there being people who make extremely unfair and untrue assessments of us.

Can you deal with carrying your ID everywhere with you?

In this age of kidnapping hysteria, widespread knowledge of Stockholm syndrome, and just general helicoptering and nosiness, you need to carry your ID with you. I would also say that you need to change your last name to match his. You should to begin with, but it becomes even more necessary the larger the age gap gets. You need to do it to protect your husband from having the cops called on him or even arrested due to suspicion or misidentification. I pay more attention to missing persons alerts than I used to, because I want to check and make sure I don’t resemble the missing woman and that NSR doesn’t match the description of the alleged kidnapper. You have to realize that we live in a world full of paranoia and hatred of men in particular. There are certain professions that look for signs of abuse or abnormality in marriages and report it to the police, men can be arrested for no substantial reason. Keeping your ID with you and being known to people around you as a healthy individual and couple will help prevent this.

And I just get carded a lot.

Can you accept his sexual history if he has one? Does he test clean for STDs?

One of the more realistic concerns about older men (which I’ve only heard voiced by red pill men BTW) is their (almost) inevitable sexual history. You need to find out, accept whatever facts you find out, and either forgive him for it or leave him. Have this conversation as soon as is reasonable and in private. Don’t share after you find out and respect him and thank him for his willingness to come clean. Same for any other sinful history. Likewise be open with him. Starting your marriage with secrets like that is a bad idea.

Can you accept the fact that your time together will be shorter than most other successful marriages?

This is perhaps the most important question and it feeds into two other important questions: Are you prepared to care for him in his old age and are you prepared to limit your childbirthing years to try and ensure he is around to see all of them reach adulthood?

If you cannot handle these things, don’t marry an older man. Full stop.

A wife leaving her husband for stupid reasons is always sinful and always hurtful to the man, but leaving him because you can’t handle caring for him or don’t want to stop having kids is even more hurtful.

————————————————————————————————————————–

Marrying an older man is not for every woman. Marrying an older man is neither better nor worse than marrying a man your own age from a Biblical point of view. Or most other points of view really. It boils down to individual circumstances and people. Consider it carefully and prayerfully.

I think I will wrap up here. However, if anyone has questions or has heard other age gap based concerns please feel free to leave a comment. If you wish to contact me privately, you can find my email address on my About page.

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21 responses to “EG: Talking About Age Gaps

  • donalgraeme

    Thanks for writing this post Alla.

    One thing that is often mentioned, from my experience, is that an age gap will result in a married couple not having common interests. They won’t be able to relate to each other, and will not really “click.”

    Another thing is that their friends will be of different age, and that will be just awkward and weird.

    Your thoughts on those complaints/problems?

    • allamagoosa

      Good questions.

      I suppose an age gap makes it more likely that relatability will be more difficult, but it doesn’t guarantee it. I mean, no one gets along with and successfully relates to everyone their own age. Closeness in age doesn’t guarantee similarity of interest. That said, I think this question/objection only really applies in the context of “should I pursue someone older/younger” not “should I marry this older/younger person I love”. People who get along better with people outside their age range are more likely to end up in these kinds of relationships, so it becomes a non-issue. They already relate better to those kinds of people. That and it’s not like in “normal” relationships there isn’t a cross pollination of interests.

      It can be awkward, but then again, younger people these days are so staunchly for “free love” and all that jazz, that they can’t really voice any complaints even if they have them. The older ladies at our church are very supportive. As for NSR’s friends and acquaintances, it’s less awkwardness as much as maybe, um, cursing his good fortune? I guess it depends on the area overall, but if people care about you, they will learn to like or at least accept your spouse. The awkwardness comes more from strangers, as I mentioned in the post.

      I suppose it bears mentioning that some of the people most supportive of me marrying an older man were liberal women my own age. I think this has partly to do with their “personal happiness above all” mindset AND their unconscious realization that this means their pool of potential mates remains unchanged, while I cease to be competition. So they see it as a positive, meaning they will bend over backwards to make me feel comfortable in my choice.

  • Butterfly Flower

    This post is very interesting.

    You have to realize that we live in a world full of paranoia and hatred of men in particular. There are certain professions that look for signs of abuse or abnormality in marriages and report it to the police, men can be arrested for no substantial reason.

    My medications lower my blood counts, so I develop large, nasty bruises with ease. (I’m also a klutz; so that means there’s at least 1 or 2 bruises on my body on any given day). When I am getting medical tests, my husband and I are treated with suspicion by nurses until they open my medical file (low blood platelets in bold letters).

    I suppose it bears mentioning that some of the people most supportive of me marrying an older man were liberal women my own age. I think this has partly to do with their “personal happiness above all” mindset AND their unconscious realization that this means their pool of potential mates remains unchanged, while I cease to be competition. So they see it as a positive, meaning they will bend over backwards to make me feel comfortable in my choice.

    Interesting observation. I also found that secular/liberal/nonChristian women were the most supportive. At least more so than Christian women my age. (Who were all “you should at least go on one overseas mission before considering marriage.”) I assumed it was because, as non-Christians, they don’t believe in the whole “Mission ’till you’re in your 30’s” nonsense.

    • allamagoosa

      “I assumed it was because, as non-Christians, they don’t believe in the whole “Mission ’till you’re in your 30’s” nonsense.”

      That could also be true, but I guess I got that a little less because my old church realized that not everyone is meant for missions and they taught that some are meant to send. As for our new church, we’re both youngsters as far as most of them are concerned and they think we’re just adorable. We’re very blessed to have found the church we have.

      It’s good to see you around again BF, welcome to my blog.

  • Alte

    I’m glad you wrote this post, even if I think you strongly downplayed the negative aspects of marrying an older man. You touched on a few topics I probably have to deal with to a lesser extent than you do (we’re “only” seven years apart).

    The things that affect me the most:

    — People think the age gap is much wider than it is because he’s over 40 and I look about 22. So, he gets teased a lot because they assume he picked me out from a foreign bride catalog, or something, especially when they find out we’ve been together for over a decade. And he tends to treat me like I’m very young because of my appearance. I look like a little kid to him.

    — I live surrounded by older people, so I feel older. Not more mature, just old. I think of myself as middle aged and feel like most of my life (and all of my youth) flew by while I wasn’t paying attention. I never had any carefree moments and I suspect I really will die younger than is the norm for someone my age because of the psychological effect on my metabolism.

    This does make me sad sometimes, especially when my husband starts talking with his college friends about “the good ole days”. I just listen and imagine, and try not to feel envious. I also never had the chance to develop female friendships (younger women hadn’t yet married and older women didn’t want me around) so I’ve been very lonely.

    — I didn’t go to college or formally learn a trade. I was too restless for it after high school. I started to go back later, but I got married instead, and now I’m the “bizarrely uneducated chick” (in addition to being the “bizarrely young chick”) everywhere we go. People openly wonder why he married such an obvious idiot, and then the jokes about my age start up again. He obviously didn’t marry me for my brain! This will also make it harder for my children to marry because people think ignorance is genetic.

    — Sex is different with an older man. Not necessarily worse, just different. And there’s sometimes not enough of it (even if he “can”, he won’t, because he has himself under tight control and would rather be fishing), which is humiliating and depressing for a young woman. He’ll be completely underwhelmed by your beauty and he’s dumped all of his romantic notions and become jaded about women by the time you showed up, so don’t expect much.

    — You’ll be pregnant right away (so, no newlywed phase), but he probably won’t want many children and will cut you off reproductively while you’re in prime childbearing age. This is the single most common complaint from younger wives.

    — He’ll never really take you seriously, will probably talk down to you (even in public), and the older women around him will become more attractive to him as he ages because they “really understand him”. Generally, when you see a man develop the habit of talking to his wife like she’s an idiot, she’s probably much younger than he is. She was “young and dumb” when he married her, then she grew up, and he doesn’t notice because she’s still younger and dumber.

    These all don’t affect all women married to an older man, but all of those I know are affected by at least some, and most are affected by most.

    In short, I hope my own daughter marries someone closer to her own age. I wouldn’t freak out if she brought home someone older, but it would sadden me. Her life will probably shorter and more miserable than that of her peers, so it’s hardly ideal.

    On the other hand, I don’t regret marrying an older man because I never really got along with men my age because of my intellect. Older men aren’t smarter, but they are wiser and more experienced, which made them more interesting to talk to. It’s only recently that younger men have taken any interest in me, actually, so it’s not like I had a choice anyway.

    • allamagoosa

      I can’t say I intentionally downplayed anything, but then again we haven’t been married for terribly long yet. I also have little comparison since he’s my first and only.

      He is very protective of me, but he never treats me as being “young and dumb” because in person I am much too aggressively intelligent to be treated that way. I just have one of those personalities that is extremely suitable for a “First Officer” position and once my shyness wears off it is obvious to everyone.

      Good point about the sex being different. I don’t know from personal experience, but based on what I hear other people say I understand the dynamic is different. Then again, I’m more than happy to have to be a bit more aggressive in exchange for him not being squeamish about certain things. Things that I know a man my own age would be very squeamish about.

      I think him never taking you seriously may be more likely in a relationship with an age gap, but I don’t believe it is a given. That same dynamic could exist in a relationship with no age gap if the woman is sufficiently airheaded or if the man is sufficiently arrogant. There is a man I know where this dynamic would exist in any relationship he had, regardless of the woman’s age, because he is just like that.

      You have to consider the man in front of you and your relationship with him specifically. Which is another reason why I tried to only give the most concrete of cautions. Obviously your relationship will change over the years, all of them do, but certain things will hold. If certain dynamics bother you, you need to consider if you can tolerate them. That is true of any relationship, age gap or no.

      I agree with you that I’m not sure I would actively encourage my daughters, or any woman to specifically pursue an older man. If they decide to I would tell them to consider very carefully as I have here. They need to have a lot of heartfelt discussions with their potential husband and make sure they are on the same page with what they want. Especially (as we both mentioned) in regards to kids.

      Thank you for the extensive comment, additional perspectives are always good, and welcome to my blog.

      • Alte

        Thanks.

        I’m not generally negative about The Gap, as there are people and situations where such a marriage benefits both parties, but I can easily think of reasons why most parents don’t see it as a first choice for their children (male or female).

        I haven’t even listed the ones that come up later, like early widowhood, spending your youth as a nursemaid, his lack of virility and the increase in autism rates in the children, possible previous wives and children, and inheritence battles where you’re made out to be a gold-digger.

        It’s a big deal and women need to think long and hard about it before signing up.

        • allamagoosa

          I did touch on some of those. Although as for autism, an older father has considerably less impact than an older mother as far as that and similar birth defects are concerned.

          As a Catholic I don’t support marrying a divorced person, and as far as the age gap is concerned, I know people who at the age of 22 already have previous spouses. The problem can arise at quite a young age these days.

          Marriage is always a big deal and both parties need to think about it very hard. There are no guarantees. A woman may decide to marry a man her age and still end up being his nursemaid. A woman may marry and older man and she may still die before him.

          What is most important is that the marriage is God honoring.

          (I’m not trying to be argumentative or anything. I’m just very happy to have someone to talk to. I don’t get a lot of comments.)

          • donalgraeme

            Geez, its like I’m not even here….

            (Just kidding Alla!)

          • Alte

            I don’t mind if you argue with me.

            There are no guarantees, but my point is that risk should not be dismissed out of hand. We always accuse women of being irrational, but if someone comes along with a logical or statistical argument, they do tend to fall back on “But it’s true love!”

            The fact that not every such marriage ends up a certain way is not an argument against the general trend of such marriages ending up a certain way.

            • allamagoosa

              You are right, the risk shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

              What I’m trying to do is keep people from breaking up relationships solely because of an age gap. I’m also trying to give people a more realistic set of things to think about, rather than the dumb excuses that are usually trotted out.

              It’s good to have your perspective, as a woman who has been married longer than I have you’ve gotten to see how it develops.

              Perhaps I will encounter some of the things you have mentioned down the line and because you told me about them I won’t be as surprised.

              Between the two of us I think we’ve provided enough information for women who read this to be able to make a good decision.

  • Clarifying The Lesson | Donal Graeme

    […] [Update: Allamagoosa has written a post in response to this one, you can find it here.] […]

  • Chris

    Wow, just wow.

    And when you are 53 and you know that the woman in the gym hitting on you is under 30? And you like her?

    You leave the flirting in the gym. If I am lucky, I have another 30 years on thsi planet, That is 20 less than a younger partner.

    Alte, male part.

    1. Young looking women are more attractive, you should know, because you are one.

    2. Wisdom trumps age. [Having once heard a published audion chat of half the TC ladies, it’s a chirpy voice in contrast with the content: I would have to keep my giggles under very tight control]

    3. The limit of families is socially driven. Daughter (who is also under 30) had three kids — and when she had #3 (married, husband employed, even German) her ma-in-law was asking if they knew what proplyloxis was. People used to want 4 kids, now over two and they think you are the Duggars (yes I know half of the audience don’t believe it).

    4. All men, by the time they are 30, have learned to keep their lust under control. To survive at work, if nothing else, And, with two teenage boys in the house, they divert into video games because going out with a girl is too risky — the Julian Assange syndrome.

    5. Belng alone sucks. Yes, I know that it is a consequence of divorce, and that the kids are better, but it still sucks.

  • Chris

    Alla, Alte’s husband is and was among other things a good athlete, a muso, an enterpreneur, and an engineer. Most recently he was jousting in a re enactment faire.

    In short, he’s cool.

  • mdavid

    Human beings have personalities and free will, divorces and spousal abandonment don’t just happen by chance. I will note that no one ever mentioned these concerns when NSR was in the room.

    Classic. Wisdom if I’ve ever heard it. You husband is a lucky man.

    I suppose it bears mentioning that some of the people most supportive of me marrying an older man were liberal women my own age.

    I think this may be merely that conservatives are, well, conservative and thus suspicious of all things unusual. Especially things that involve sex. Meanwhile liberals pride themselves on loving the exotic, the unusual, being different. Once a person becomes traditional enough they no longer fit into their current era, they start to have strange things in common with liberals. At least that’s been my experience.

    • donalgraeme

      Once a person becomes traditional enough they no longer fit into their current era, they start to have strange things in common with liberals. At least that’s been my experience.

      There is a great deal of wisdom in this quote. I’ve noticed it in myself as well. As I’ve embraced Tradition (the capital T kind), I’ve found myself sharing some (but only) some beliefs with people I used to vehemently oppose.

  • Random Musings And Links- #3 | Donal Graeme

    […] wrote a post on Age Gaps which some might find […]

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