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Older Men, Younger Women

Will It Work?

The challenge of May-December

While these pairings can bring great joy, they often carry unique challenges, experts say. First among them is that the average life expectancy for men is now 73.6 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, compared to a life expectancy for women of 79.4 years. An age difference of 15 or 20 or 35 years early in life may seem insignificant, but over time the age gap can mean that the younger woman is nursing an ill or dying husband just when she's in midlife and eager to be active. "We're dealing with two people in different stages of the life cycle," says Harvey Rubin, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry and director of continuing education at the Yale School of Medicine.

 

Trying to merge these cycles may involve reconciling to the fact that the woman will be left to raise a child by herself. One couple Rubin saw in private practice met when she was in her early 20s and he was in his late 50s, a dashing and successful businessman and musician. "She promised him she'd never want children," reports Rubin. "Well, he became a father at 82." Because of heart trouble, he's not able to help much with the child, who is now 3. "Their marital relationship is really nil," says Rubin. "He's been ill and needs her help."

The stability factor

Despite the problems the age difference can bring, the gap often does have perks for the younger partner, including financial stability. While a younger woman may end up being the caretaker of her older husband, the relationship may have begun with the premise that an older, more financially successful man will provide status, safety, and security for a young woman.

 

Christopher Zuckowski, 48, a federal employee in Maryland, has no problem with this. He clearly states that, in addition to love, what he offers is stability for his 22-year-old fiancée and her two children. "My primary goal is that she and her kids have a good life," he says. Much of this stability comes from the fact that he is old enough to be established in his career.

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