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.