“I am a 48 year old woman. I have a very satisfying, loving relationship with a 35 year old man,” writes an anonymous woman from rural Colorado. “[We] have recently been discussing marriage, but I am concerned about a long term commitment. Have you any direct knowledge of the success of such relationships?”
There is no reason why an older woman/younger man relationship could not work long term. The dynamics are similar to older men/younger women relationships, with the exception that older men/younger women relationships are more common and are less likely to elicit judgment from other people.
In 1987, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics out of Hyattsville, Maryland, 41.2% of women age 35 to 44 marry men younger than themselves, as does 35.6% of women age 45 to 54. There are no figures that I am aware of that attest to what the divorce rate is for such marriages, but let us acknowledge that such relationships are rather common.
It gets stickier, however, the more the age gap increases between the two of you. A 13 year gap means that you come from somewhat different generations. There will be many differences, especially in outlook and viewpoints, all of which could be overcome with persistence and work.
There are some questions that can help you clarify how you feel about this relationship, and can assist you in deciding how you may wish to proceed.
- Do you have trouble with him being less experienced and mature than you?
- Do you view him lacking in traits you define as manly?
- Are you prone to acting superior, parental, or with an “I know best” attitude around him?
- Who is the more critical and judgmental person between the two of you, and about which subjects or issues?
- How would you respond if someone were to mistake you for his mother?
- How similar are your tastes in music, entertainment, recreation, vacations, sexual appetite and physical fitness? How similar are your longer range goals, values, outlooks and lifestyles?
- Do you respect each other? How is respect shown?
- How well does your family accept him? Your friends? How well does his family and friends accept you? Do you have friends in common? How do the two of you socialize together?
- Do you suppose he will be extra tempted by younger women when, say, you are 60 and he is still in his 40’s?
- Are you in agreement on the subject of children?
- How well do the two of you communicate, negotiate and resolve conflict?
- How secure do you feel about his long range ability to bond and commit? Since you mentioned feeling insecure about a long term commitment, I’d recommend you pay close attention to exactly what you are agreeing to concerning the future.
- Do you feel he is choosing you or settling for you? How sure are you of your answer? It is important to feel wanted and chosen.
- Are you choosing him or settling for him?
- How is your childhood influencing this choice? Are you playing a role similar to the role your mother or father played with you? Is he?
- Are there any warning signs you are avoiding because they would be uncomfortable to face?
- How attracted are you to him? How attracted would you guess he is to you?
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