Relationships: Partners with Large Age Gaps Fight About Money, Sex and More
When then 40-year old Demi Moore stepped out with 25-year old Ashton Kutcher as her boyfriend in 2003, she made headlines. Could an older woman date a younger man? What about remarrying to one, which she did two years later in 2005?
Remarrying to someone who is much older or younger is as shocking in culture for average Americans as it is for movie stars.Sheila Goodwin, a therapist in Bellingham, Washington, said the generation gap can be a problem.”I think generally, just the fact that if there are many generations between you and your spouse, one: there’s a lack of commonality and experience,” she said. “You refer to things that your partner doesn’t understand. That’s part of the experience problem. You don’t share things together.”
Goodwin said things like pop culture references to historical and political events will slide by the younger person.”For example, one person might bring up The Beatles, and the other person might not understand because they didn’t live through that,” she said.
“What happens is when you have people who are at different developmental states in their lives. They have different needs,” said Michael Semon, a therapist in Birmingham, Alabama.
Another problem is children. A younger wife might want to have children, while someone getting remarried might not like the idea.”You have to decide if you’re going to introduce your children or have children together. One person might have already gone through that,” said Goodwin.
“If he’s older, his level of parental adequacy can be limited, because he’s maybe raised his own children, or he is invested in other areas of his life, because he’s with friends, or his rigidness to participate in raising children who are much younger,” Semon said.
People might also fight problems sexually. “People might have different sexual appetites and power struggles. That’s problems with age experience, again,” Goodwin said.
“Finances is another area,” said Semon. “Men who are older may have established themselves financially, so that’s going to present some challenges to working out differences between who takes responsibility of the checkbook, who pays the bills. Those are always issues of power in a relationship.”
AOL.com’s personal section paneled six Baby Boomers to hear their thoughts about dating younger men or women. Dr. Judsen Colbreth, a member of the panel, said there is a biological reason why someone would prefer to date a younger man or women instead of an older person.”People generally don’t want to be saddled with someone unhealthy – -and most of us subconsciously associate getting older with mounting health problems,” he said.”Genetically, we’re wired to pick mates who are good ”specimens.” It’s a primal urge.”
“People generally don’t want to be saddled with someone unhealthy – -and most of us subconsciously associate getting older with mounting health problems,” he said.”Genetically, we’re wired to pick mates who are good ”specimens.’ It’s a primal urge.”
But there are reasons why someone might be attracted to an older person…Generally, men are going through a mid-life crisis, and rather than making changes to their current marriage, they choose someone younger, who is easier to manipulate, and in ten years, the relationship goes bad, because they have to deal with the same things again,” said Goodwin.”Younger girls often like older men, because they’re established and powerful. That’s very attractive. And sometimes, you just fall in love with an older or younger person.”
Susan Bernit, in a blog on BlogHer.com, cautions people who date older partners. “Be open to the idea that the ‘right person’ may not be the one you expected. Accept you don’t have to be equal economically, socially or athletically,” she writes. “Make sure you are equal in terms of values, outlook, ability to communicate and what you want out of the relationship. Don’t talk down or be ageist. Find someone who is thrilled with you, regardless of age, but accepts you as the age you are.”
Michael Semon thinks it’s tougher for divorced women looking for new love — so they may have to consider other options, like dating much older men. “Developmentally, he’s going to have different needs, and that can present a problem. Women with children need that man to invest in the children, invest in her, participate actively in their lives as a family,” he said.
However, an older-younger couple will always make the news — whether a tabloid or area gossip. And the gossip is likely to be worse when, like Moore and Kutcher, the women is the older partner. “I don’t think there’s any way to deal with public gossip. If you’re marrying someone of a different color, it’s the same. People will talk about it. I think that picking a mate is always difficult,” Goodwin said. “If you’re an older woman, you’re just going to deal with it. That’s what society believes.”
Semon said couples should work on their problems, not the age difference. “Each person has to change the way they’re thinking about how to have a relationship. In other words, many people come to a relationship with the assumption of what a relationship should be,” he said.”Relationships are never 50-50. They’re never 60-40, or 30-70. Relationships that are successful are 100-100. People should assume full responsibility for themselves.”
The only test of measuring the relationship is time, he said.
Krystle Russin is a freelance journalist in Austin, Texas. She has been involved in journalism for seven years, hosting a PBS show and contributing to different print and online publications. She graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in government (pre-law), and minors in journalism and history.