She's Older, He's Not
Age Gap Fallout continued...
Sherven recalls a man who was 15 years younger than his wife
and going through a period of work-related anxiety. "His wife said, 'I
remember when I went through that,'" Sherven says. "She said it with
compassion. She could offer a different perspective by virtue of her
If an older woman offers wisdom and experience, a younger man
offers new ideas, particularly about gender roles, says Diane Smith, 44, a
registered nurse in Urbana, Ill., who is married to a man 14 years her junior.
"I find men my age still looking for the wife that is supposed to take care
of them," she says. "I personally wanted a man who could and would take
care of himself."
Divorced with three daughters who are 20, 13, and 10 years old,
Smith wasn't interested in having more children, and that was fine with her new
husband, so they avoided that potential conflict. But it took her a while to
believe he would choose her 40-year-old body over that of a younger woman.
"The body image thing is really a hot spot," she says.
"Women just can't understand why a man would want an aging woman when there
are all those fit, cutesy young bodies out there. Most men who want an older
woman see those cute girls as young and dumb. They thrive on the
sophistication, experience, and knowledge an older woman brings to the
Sexual Peaks and Perks
Women's sexual energy is said to peak at age 40, and Smith has
found this makes a 40ish woman like herself a perfect sexual match for a
younger man. "There's this thing at 40 where all of a sudden there's more
interest in sex," she says. "There's this feeling of, 'Hey, what did I
miss out on?'"
Unlike younger women who are raising children and are often too
tired for sex, older women, at least those without young children, are often
ready to devote themselves to a vibrant sex life, she says. "They're more
willing to experiment, more relaxed," she says.
And sexual compatibility can endure, says Jack Nussbaum, even
as the woman moves toward old age. "I wouldn't be with Olivia all these
years if I weren't happy in that area," he says. "It's very important
While an older man may look for a younger woman to make him
feel virile and powerful, an older woman doesn't consider a younger man a
status symbol, according to Smith, who hosts an online chat group about age-gap
"It isn't an ego thing with women as it is for men,"
she says. "It is finding someone who will love them and be their best
Coming to Terms
Far from showing off a young mate -- the way an older man might
do -- Olivia Rogers feels so self-conscious about being older than Nussbaum
that she refuses to socialize with his friends. When he published a novel, she
threw him a party at her house and happily invited her friends and her four
children. But when he hosted a publication party in San Francisco for his
friends, she chose not to attend.
"There are compartments in our relationship, but through
the years we've adjusted," Nussbaum says. Chief among the partitions is
that they keep separate residences. "We've never lived together -- for me,
that's been a great frustration," Nussbaum says. "I think she's
concerned that if we live together, I'd end up in the caretaker role and she
couldn't stand that."
Even though women live longer on average than men,
older-woman/younger-man couples, like older-man/younger-woman couples, must
face the question of mortality. "In all probability, I'll lose her rather
than she'll lose me," Nussbaum says. There's no better reason to savor the
experience, he says. "We've had 20 glorious years of 'This will never
work,'" he says.
And what is his reaction to that constant reminder by his
long-term partner? "Let's live every day."