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May-December Couples: 5 Challenges, Solutions

What to prepare for if there's a big age gap between you and your partner.

Blending Families continued...

She says it is important to be respectful of the children -- they didn't ask for a step-parent, much less one who may be near their age.

It can help to spend time alone with your child. Just make sure they know your partner is there to stay.

Helen Fisher, PhD, an author and biological anthropologist with Rutgers University, married a man 21 years older. She says it's important not to try to win the children over by acting their age. She seemed to take on a role more like an aunt or older sister with her husband's children.

"It was a nice position in the family," Fisher says. "There were times when I understood his kids better than he did and I was able to work between them."

Illness

Another major challenge can be dealing with health issues an older partner might have. But again, there are ways to work through this.

"It just changes how you have to operate as a couple," Luster says. "If you are planning to be in something for a long time, those things happen."

If the health issues are minor, Luster has some tips for coping:

  • Let your partner keep doing what he or she enjoys, without making him or her feel guilty if you can't.
  • If you can no longer do something with your partner, support him or her. For instance, if your partner is running a race and you can't join, cheer your partner on and be there at the finish line.
  • If you're younger, don't judge your partner for his or her health challenges.

Major health issues -- such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's diseases -- can't be predicted in advance, but Sears says to have these discussions before you get married.

Talk about what you would each do if one were to get sick. What resources will the other person have to deal with it? How would you both handle it if someone is disabled in some manner? Are your wills up to date?

Every couple, young or old, may eventually face health challenges. But the timeline is different for May-December couples. A big age gap puts the health discussion on a faster track, because those issues may become reality sooner than they would for a younger couple.

Sexual Problems

For some people, age can bring changes in their sex drive or sexual performance.

This is one of the things most people don't like to talk about, but it doesn't hurt to talk about it. "Just because you don't think you will ever have erectile dysfunction doesn't mean you will never have it -- even if you are the most potent man alive," Luster says.

If sexual issues happen, don't ignore it. Look for a solution, talk openly about it, and get help, if you need it. And stick with it; it may take some time to work things out, Luster says.

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