Marriage Counseling: Age is Just a Number… or Is It?
We don’t call them May/December romances anymore. In today’s society, a large age difference between two people in love doesn’t seem as much of an issue as it once did.
In the age of gender fluidity, acceptance of same sex unions, interracial love and all the combinations and ways that people find and fall in love, age difference is really no big deal.
I always say that we love whom we love. You may have an expectation that you will fall in love with a certain type of person, that looks a certain way (a type) , has a level of education and intelligence that matches yours, is politically and socially matched with you; someone that moves in the same social realm that you do and has interests in common with you. Then, out of the blue you meet someone that doesn’t fit into your expectations at all, and Bam! You fall in love with them. It’s not something that you can control, love is funny that way. You see them, speak to them and somehow they get inside your head and your heart and it’s all over. It doesn’t matter their age difference at this point. Age is just a number, right?
This goes beyond an affair with a younger partner, I’m talking about a deep and true emotional connection. Falling in love with a person is that special connection that we all crave. If you find it, age difference makes no difference. Love is love. We all know those people whom we refer to as “old souls”, young people who are mature beyond their years and have a level of insight and openness that you don’t often encounter with their generation. This closes the gap of the age difference in the one on one aspect of relating to one another and makes it possible for two people to have an authentic connection in spite of the age difference. Finding that person is such a gift! How did we get so lucky in this big wide world to meet someone that has us feeling so special and loved?
It’s dealing with the outside pressures of friends, family and society in general where complications arise in relationships with age differences. The older partner may have been married before, even have children that are close to the younger partner’s age. What if the older partner is close to the age of their younger partner’s parents? This can be awkward at best and very difficult to overcome when those closest to you (friends and family) are unwilling to look past the age difference and welcome your partner.This creates a tendency to cocoon yourselves into an insular world of your own which is great for the couple, but unhealthy for the individuals overall.
The challenges within the couple with a large age difference can be met with communication, forward thinking, planning and tolerance. The two partners must work to bridge the age difference by studying each other’s generational differences and being open minded about cultural differences. Communication styles vary between generations and that can be a stumbling block if both partners don’t work to understand each other’s way of expressing themselves. They have to also find those things they enjoy in common and celebrate them.
Planning for the end of life is a sad necessity for long term couples that have a great age difference. When so many years separate you, eventually the elder partner will face their end of life. In fairness to the families and any adult children, estate planning should be done well in advance to avoid conflict or misunderstandings. Arrangements for end of life care need to be considered, as well as plans for the younger spouse to carry on after their partner passes away. This is the sad reality of love with an age difference. Even though typically women live longer than men, and barring illness or accident, one of you will be outliving the other. It’s simple math. Remember though, it’s the quality of the relationship not the quantity of the years that matters most.
So make the most of this time. This great love that you’ve found together is unique and special and comes around but once in a lifetime. Don’t let fear of the age difference and the reaction of friends and family dissuade you. Learn and study each other’s background, likes and dislikes and share yourselves vulnerably and authentically with one another. Be smart about the future and your age difference doesn’t need to be anything but a number between you.
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Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.His weekend workshop, Two Days: Seven Conversations has become a popular venue for many to set off on their journey of connectedness. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channeland by subscription in Stuart’s Daily Notes.Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. He lives and works in Scottsdale, Arizona.