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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.
By Tammy Worth
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

So-called May-December relationships, in which there's a big age gap between the partners, can be rewarding -- and also challenging.

The good news is those issues can be handled, just like any other relationship issue -- regardless of age. You just have to know how. Here are five common problems that can happen, and how to address them.

Family Acceptance

One of the first barriers you may face is the reaction of your family and friends. For instance, they may say stereotypical things about "cougars," if the woman is the older partner, or "trophy wives," if the man is the older partner.

"This certainly is one of many kinds of pairings that may look odd to others, but when you start to know them it makes sense," says Rebecca Sears, LPC, a couple's counselor at The Imago Center of DC in Washington, D.C. "There is something about every couple that makes sense once you get to know them."

The trick is to help others understand why you "make sense." Some tactics Sears recommends are:

  • Don't force your partner on your family, but make sure your family knows he or she can't be excluded from family functions.
  • Realize that your partner may want to be connected with his or her parents even if they aren't accepting of you.

Gayle Luster, MA, a licensed counselor in Irving, Texas, adds:

  • Tell your family you understand their concerns, but don't get caught constantly defending your partner.
  • Be a team. When you're with family, don't leave your partner alone for long periods of time if you're concerned about avoiding uncomfortable situations.
  • If all else fails, keep family visits short.

 

To Have, or Not Have, Kids

For May-December couples, having children can be an issue. If a woman is older, she may not want, or be able, to have kids. A man may not want to start over when he's older.

This doesn't have to be a deal breaker, but it's wise to address it early on in the relationship.

"The clock tends to tick faster for this couple -- one that marries at 27 has some time to be together before they start a family," says Sandra Caron, PhD, a professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine. "This couple won't have that luxury (especially) when she is older."

There are some obvious solutions, such as adoption, surrogacy, or being a foster parent, if an older woman can't have children.

If one partner wants kids and the other doesn't, Luster says you may be able to work through the issue with counseling and acceptance that your idea of a family may have to change.

Blending Families

If you're the older partner, you may already have children from a previous relationship. Luster, who is married to a man 15 years her senior, experienced this.

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