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Older Men, Younger Women

Will It Work?

The intolerance factor

While couples often work out the age gap, their families and friends may still not be very accepting. Zuckowski's age is a problem, for instance, with his soon-to-be in-laws: he's older than they are. The three have not yet met, although the couple is engaged.

 

Tamara Latorre also has been on the receiving end of social disapproval. When she and her boyfriend are at the movie theater, they often run into couples who knew him when he was married. Some of these couples are friendly to her, while others clearly disapprove.

 

"The husband walks over and the wife stands there glaring," says Latorre.

Working it out

While these social snubs can be painful, they often can be shrugged off. More difficult are conflicts at home. Younger women may expect their mate to be their best friend, while older men may not be up to the psychological task, says Charles D. Hill, PhD, professor of psychology at Whittier College in Southern California. In lieu of verbal intimacy, sex may be a couple's bond, but with age and illness, the man's sexual performance may suffer, he says. It is imperative that the couple find other means of sexual pleasure and other common interests as well, he says.

 

At its best, the end of life can be another path for intimacy. The couple accept that part of the deal of being of different generations is caring for each other, come what may. Some couples rise to the challenge and experience new intimacy. "Life brings its ups and downs," says Ian Alger at Cornell University. "Many people shoulder this burden and are partners for better or for worse."

 

These are the partners who have truly bridged the two or three decade gap in ages -- and met in the middle.

 

Jane Meredith Adams has been a staff writer for The Boston Globe and has written for numerous other publications. She is based in San Francisco.

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