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Health & Sex

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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.

Illness continued...

"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.

Don't Blame Age

Being in a committed relationship is not always a bed of roses -- at any age.

"If you look at problems you are having as being due to the age gap, it can very likely hang you up," Luster says. "Age is the only thing in a relationship that you can't change."

Remember, many couples who are close in age are dealing with the same issues. There's often more to it than age.

Address your issues -- with professional help from a counselor, if needed -- but also focus on the positive. What's great about your relationship? Remember all the good things you both bring to the relationship, whether it's the older partner's knowledge and life experience or the younger partner's energy and vigor.

"When you fall in love with someone, age does not really matter," Fisher says. "I always tell people that it's great to date someone older. Our culture may be somewhat uncomfortable with it, but life in the home won't be uncomfortable at all."

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Reviewed on April 12, 2012

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