Relationship Tips for Married Couples with a Large Age Gap

Couples with large age gaps are common in every culture throughout the world and throughout history. And while there are obvious challenges and disadvantages, most couples with large age differences have successful relationships. Conflicts often arise from power imbalances and having different values, yet these problems do not have to be any more intense than the problems that coeval (same age) couples face. Sometimes a big age difference can actually be a benefit, since it lessens the competitiveness that plagues equal-age marriages. Here are some tips to help your May-December romance thrive.

(1) Realize that the age gap becomes smaller and smaller in comparison to your age as years go by. Fifteen years might seem huge when the couple is 25 and 40 years old, but it's not so strange when the couple is 50 and 65. And no one thinks twice about a couple who is 75 and 90.

(2) Be mindful that your marriage or relationship can easily devolve into a parent-child relationship if you aren't conscious of the warning signs. It can start when the younger partner assumes the older is smarter and better at making decisions and taking care of problems because of age and experience. The older partner is forced to take on the role of parent, and then feels justified in setting rules for the child-partner. This arrangement works well until the rebellion starts, when the younger partner feels too old to be treated like a child.

To avoid this scenario, the older partner must treat the younger partner as an equal, never patronize or make big decisions without the younger partner's input, even if the younger partner is reluctant to take on responsibility. The younger partner must develop self-reliance, as well as make friends with people of the same age or younger. This helps younger partners view themselves as adults.

(3) Don't be unsettled by divorce statistics. On average, couples with large age differences do divorce at higher rates, but this average is taken across all segments of the population. Certain subgroups of the population skew the national divorce statistics, particularly those with low levels of education, those with several divorces in their past, and those who marry under age 22.

(4) The desire to have or not have children can determine the fate of a marriage with a large age difference. It doesn't matter what the decision is, so long as both parties agree.

In some cases, the older partner hears the clock ticking, while the younger partner feels no rush since he or she is young. Other times, it's the younger partner wants to start a family soon, and the older partner who is burnt out from having children in previous relationships. Have the conversation about children before getting married.

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No matter what the age difference, the key to maintaining a healthy relationship or marriage is open communication and compassion.

© Had2Know 2010

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