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Health & Sex

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Older Men, Younger Women

Will It Work?

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.

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."

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