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 fiancÃ©e 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
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."