I read a very interesting study recently that clearly showed the odds of a marriage lasting based on the age differences of your spouse. They were very compelling statistics, stating at 2 years or under age difference this is when your marriage has by far the best odds of succeeding. Then the bigger the difference in age the higher the chances of divorce, so by 20 year age difference 95% increase in divorce rates by 30 years difference an astonishing 172% increase in divorce. As DreamsRecycled founder I have listened to thousand of divorce stories many involving age difference, many of the factors I heard over and over, but first let us examine why people are attracted to each other with large age differential.
Older man, younger woman is a staple dynamic in the celebrity world and among successful men, it’s not rocket science when you see a beautiful young woman with an older maybe unattractive, but wealthy man to figure out money is the key attraction, in these relationships. A lady I know described her marriage to a man 20 yrs older as a kind of weighing up of options, at 22 she could date other hot 22 year olds, who could take her for a beer and a taco, or she could date 40 something men who could take her on a cruise with champagne. Women by nature focus less on looks, and more on lifestyle and assets and advantages of dating older men. An older man as he ages and has becoming successful from a life time of work, work that often is a factor in the demise of their first marriages, end up divorced wealthy and perhaps a little ego battered, so they see the young, new wife as a cliche trophy or badge of virility that even at 50-60-70 they still need too prove that they can get a young beautiful women, and with money like most anything else they can. I sometimes ask the men I talk to after their divorce from these much younger women, if they think the young women would have married them if they were not wealthy and I am often shocked when some of them answer yes. I feel this is more of a self preservation of ego thing, that the men need to feel that their worth isn’t all based on their income, but men I hate to tell you I ask the same question to the women, most of them laugh or say that it isn’t a fair question, because they wouldn’t have even accept first dates from these men, with out knowing the size of their wallets. Before I continue with the list of factors that contribute to failed May to December marriages I need to acknowledge that like everything else in the world their are always the exception, people who just fall in love with much older or younger men and women with no agenda or financial gain, these marriages although not cited separately in the study, I would guess have a higher percentage success rate.
Factor 1. Generational differences. If you grew up listening to the Beatles, know what an 8 tracks and albums are, you can discuss the cold war and foreign policy of Reagan and Thatcher then how can you really connect long term and have proper conversations in depth with someone who grew up listening to Brittany Spears, and Pit Bull, never had anything but a cell phone internet and youtube, only knows perhaps Obama and Bush at the most, it’s a very different way to have been bought up a very different set of memories and knowledge. Both parties over time just give up bringing up anything that they automatically know the other won’t be able to relate to, which doesn’t breed long term compatibility.
Factor 2. Genetics. You can run from aging but it will catch up with you eventually, women will discuss with me how they were OK being attracted to men 20 years older at 25 and 45 but fast forward to 40 an 60 and people really start to go from being a dad like age to a grandpa like age, complete with wrinkles, sagging skin, balding, maybe weight gain, where as a woman if she has looked after herself at 40 can still look like a super model of sorts. I have also heard stories where women just say all of a sudden they realize just how much older this is, and no longer find their spouse attractive, which can make men their age start to look an awful lot better even without money.
Factor 3. Daddy/Mommy Issues. Deceased and absentee parents can create a hole within a person that they try and fill by marrying men or women old enough to actually be their parent. These relationships are rampant and women who marry younger men will line up to tell you that at times they feel their husband is their additional child, doing almost everything for them. For the young women they often have a kind of more paternal relationship, with these older men, they are dependent on them financially but also for all their daily needs, and the older husband is often a substitute father to these young women. I had a man explain his wife to me once as “like” one of his children “only” they have sex, quite disturbing when you think about it. Psychologists agree that mommy and daddy issues are best healed by therapy and not by trying to fill your paternal/ maternal needs with older sex partners.When you don’t have true full equality in a relationship how can it ever truly work? After a while men will feel they adopted another child instead of entered into a equal marriage, having someone take a lot from them but barely give back, and women will tire of having an overgrown additional child to tend to.
Factor 4. Biological Clock. This I think is one of the big issues and why I personally won’t date younger men, I always feel that if I dated a 35-40 year old man and he had no children and wanted to get married no matter how much you loved each other it would be a very personally selfish thing to do. I know I do not want children and by marrying these much younger people you already having children and often biologically not even being able to reproduce, you are stopping them ever becoming mothers or fathers. Which perhaps is the ultimate selfishness. and I think any parent will tell you parenting has untold trials but also immense joy and I would never let my selfishness stop another person becoming a parent. I would even go as far as to say if you a man willing to have children at 50-60-70 you are bringing children into the world knowing they will spend most their life fatherless. Which I am not sure is such a great thing for a child. My daughters friend often laments, “I hate having a dad who every thinks is my grandpa”.
Factor 5. Sex. A man and woman sexual peak is often looked at as a factor in these failed marriages, in fact biologically a relationship between a younger man and older women sometimes sexually works better, but if you are looking at a 45 year old women with a 65 year year old man the women may enjoy sex often, and intensely where as the man often has lost some of his sex drive and may have sexual functioning issues, which is why Viagra is a billion dollar industry. If women marry these older men they tell me that they will or have gone out of the marriage for sex, and sometimes even their husbands they say will turn a blind eye, so the lining up of sexual compatibility is misaligned also. The other sexual irony I hear is even with these much hotter younger wives the older man will still often cheat with other women he finds more overall compatibly and closer to their age, which I presume is just another of the many symptoms marrying people who just aren’t a good overall match for each other.
Factor 6. Lifestyle. As marriages settle and the honeymoon phases end, sometimes you are left with a lifestyle incompatibility based on age, maybe the younger spouse wants to go out every night and drink or party, or maybe they enjoy a very active sporty lifestyle one that as one spouse ages they can’t keep up with, but also don’t enjoy these kind of activities and prefer a more low key or leisurely life, so maybe they agree to disagree and drift further apart living two separate lives while under one roof. Alternatively you are compromising to the point neither is truly happy.
Factor 7. Death. Knowing that there is no growing old and dying together, this romantic notion can’t even exist, I speak to women who clearly see their older husband as cross between a stop gap and a gravy train, planning and waiting til the older spouse is deceased to start the next phase relationship or marriage. I love seeing older couples together pottering through the produce aisle together whether they have a bickering grumpy disposition or a holding hand loving one I still get teary eyed at how beautiful it must be to grow old together, living the same life chapters in unison.
Statistics are pretty clear but if nothing else logic should tell you marriages and relationships are always about two people coming together to fill as many of the needs as possible in each other. If two people are misaligned in their life stage and have gaping holes in compatibility areas, chances of a marriage failing will be very high anyway. I think at times people marry people who are just not right for them, if you have liked blondes all your life and marry a brunette odds not in your favor, or you marry a sports nut hating sports how long will it be until the lack of commonality draw you apart or more likely you fall across someone else who is a better fit and can fill more of your emotional, and relationship needs. So if you are a May chances are December will seem like a poorer decision the longer into the marriages they get.