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Handling age gap in relationships

Evelyn, a hardworking lady of about 25, works as a front-desk staff of a construction company in Lagos. Well brought-up with undiluted values, her wish is to get married and start a family.  She wanted to start a relationship and nurture it into marriage, not just sex. But to her horror, that is not the way of most think. They want sex first.

She decided to bid her time and pray. Then one morning a contractor, who came for business in the company, set eyes on her and couldn’t take them back. On his way out, he dropped his card and asked for her number, but she politely declined and suggested she was always available on the office line.

Three days later, Demola, called her on the number she refused to give. From his investigation, at about 50-years-old, that was the woman he perhaps had been waiting for, after the crash of two relationships. 

The Evelyn-Demola relationship moved fast. He was handsome‎ and rich, but more importantly he treated her with much respect. 

There was even something more important. Five months into the relationship, he never demanded for sex, even though she visited him at home. That was a huge surprise that made her wonder sometimes if everything was okay with Demola. He was a rare breed she was prepared to marry, a fact she could not hide from her parents. But something bothered her – the 25-year gap between them. Consultations and wide reading about the subject provided conflicting suggestions that left her confused. Ngozi’s case is different. She does not date any man who is much older than her, and she makes it clear to them as they come knocking, despite her single status at 31.

Years after Albert lost his dear wife, he needed to marry again. In his calculation he needed a lady who could bear him children. That meant marrying a lady younger than his age – 62. Many men who go into second marriage think that way. 

What do women want?

The average woman is more concerned about building a relationship into marriage and making it work. She would therefore want to study the man well before falling in love. According to one survey, men take only 88 days to tell their partner they love them, compared to a woman’s languid 134 days. Moreover, 39 percent of men say ‘I love you’ within the first month of seeing someone, compared to 23 percent of women.

If women prefer having relationships to sex, and matured men are ‎more likely to provide better care and understanding, they therefore should be preferable. So how does the age gap become a problem if the man is capable of keeping a good relationship, even if he doesn’t have the virility of a rock star?

In a study, Confused.com questioned over 2,000 adults and found that the respondents put the ideal age gap at 52 months.

Despite just under half of the respondents saying that there is no such thing as the ideal age gap, a further 33 per cent of women said they wouldn’t mind their partner being up to seven years older than them.

In the study published by FemaleFirst, one strict rule that emerged was that the man had to be the older person in the relationship.

Only one in a hundred women said that they think the ideal relationship is with a much younger man.

Despite most women believing that the man had to be older, women admitted to judging other women who dated much older men.

Over a third of women believe that if a woman is dating a much older man, he must be very rich and 18 per cent believe that the relationship won’t last.

Maybe not so unbelievably, a quarter of women said that if they saw a younger woman with a much older man, they would tarnish them a gold digger.

Women admitted that they are more financially dependent on men, with 55 per cent saying that they couldn’t afford to pay rent or a mortgage if they were on their own, compared to only 24 per cent of men.

This financial stability was one of the biggest reasons that women often went for older man when choosing a partner.

Other reasons for women choosing older men are that you can learn a different perspective from your partner, as well as your youth rubbing off on the older partner.

Best age gap?

According to another study, the best age gap for marital satisfaction is…none at all because, in the long run, couples who are mismatched in age tend to be less satisfied, even if they are better off at first.

Professor Terra McKinnish, who co-authored the study, said: “We find that men who are married to younger wives are the most satisfied, and men who are married to older wives are the least satisfied.

Women are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands.”

However, after around 6-10 years of marriage this gap disappears.

Professor McKinnish said: “Over time, the people who are married to a much older or younger spouse tend to have larger declines in marital satisfaction over time compared to those who are married to spouses who are similar in age.”

Reasons: Professor McKinnish said: “We looked at how couples respond to negative shocks and in particular, if they have a major bad economic shock or worsening of their household finances.

We find that when couples have a large age difference, that they tend to have a much larger decline in marital satisfaction when faced with an economic shock than couples that have a very small age difference.”

The more difference in people’s ages, the more differing views they have on important issues like having children and spending habits. Over time, these are bound to create flash points in the relationship.

The love issue

These days we hear people say, “love is not enough” for relationships to work, but would people marry where there is no love in the first place if they were not forced to do so.

In a recent study, 88 per cent of the respondents cited love as a very important reason to get married, ahead of making a lifelong commitment (81 per cent) and companionship (76 per cent). Fewer (28 per cent) said financial stability was a very important reason to marry.

But while financial stability may not be an important reason to marry, it is an important factor in what people are looking for in a spouse.

No easy relationship/marriage

So long as all marriages and relationships have their peculiar issues, so long will marriage remain hard, very hard work, and lots of sacrifice! It looks like it, but it is never a walk in the park. From what we know about him, US President Donald Trump is not an easy man to deal with, at least in the White House. The age gap between him and his wife, Melania, is 24 years. In France, the reverse is the case. President Macron is 39, his wife is 64.

So although big gap relationships have issues, many of them work. According Colleen Crawford, a relationship with a big age gap can work and there are many examples of couples who are not similar in age ending up very happy together. Of course everybody is different, and every relationship is different, and what works for one person isn’t necessarily what will work for another.

•NEXT WEEK: Issues in the age gap and proper handling

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