“It’s just a number” “Age doesn’t matter” “You’re only as young as you feel”
You hear comments like this all the time.
But when it comes to two people in a romantic relationship, apparently age does matter. Specifically the difference in ages between the two people in the relationship. According to a recent study by Emory University in Atlanta, the wider the age gap in partners, the lower their chances are of relationship success. They polled 3000 married and recently divorced couples and found that a one year discrepancy in a couple’s ages makes them 3% more likely to divorce when compared to their same-aged counterparts. A five-year age gap makes them 18% more likely to split up. A ten-year difference makes them 39% more likely and when the gap is over ten years, the odds of divorce are huge! Uh-oh…In my latest contemporary romance Second Guessing, songwriter Jill is fourteen years older than boyband singer turned solo artist Ben. Despite the sizzling hot chemistry between them, did I set their romance up for failure? In my ‘happy ever after’ view, I pictured them together forever.
What about in real life? My oldest friend was married to a man thirteen years younger than her. Note that the marriage is in the past tense. According to her, age was not a factor in their breakup, but when you really start to think about it, issues like whether or not to have children, how to balance and manage careers and figuring out finances would seem to be even more challenging when there is a wide gap in age. A 30 year old might not be in a hurry to start a family or a retirement fund, but what about their 45 year old partner? Our needs and priorities change over time. Is it reasonable to assume that we’ll be in sync with our partner if we are in truly different stages in our lives?
Emory University didn’t indicate if same sex couples were included in the study or if the majority of the couples with the wide gap tended to be of the older man/younger woman variety. Society appears to continue to have a double standard when it comes to a difference in age between romantic partners. It seems perfectly acceptable for an older man to date and marry younger women, but the reverse? Not so much. Otherwise the term ‘cougar’ wouldn’t exist. I mean what do you call a man who dates younger women, besides ‘lucky’ that is?
In my wild twenties, I dated a few men significantly older than me but married a man born just 3 ½ years before me. It’s been 35 years, so I’m thinking that we’ve beaten the odds. How about you? Do you think a gap is an issue or not? Would love to hear your comments. The best responses will win a free kindle copy of Second Guessing.