Even though the social situation of men dating and marrying “cougars” seems to be a relatively new idea, it’s actually been around for quite awhile. Some famous cougar women of the Twentieth Century include Mary Tyler Moore, Dinah Shore, Cher, Lana Turner, and, of course, Demi Moore. All of them were and are very sexy, vibrant women who attracted and sometimes married much younger sexy and virile men. Burt Reynolds, who was Dinah Shore’s love for a number of years, was twenty years her junior.
The older men who marry younger women have been called “sugar daddies” because, generally speaking, older men tend to be financially stable, able to afford a lifestyle for their second or third (or fourth) younger wives that the women would not be privy to with a man their own age.
Why Age Differentiated Couples Get Together
Today, life is both more complicated and simpler for couples with a big age difference. Financial security doesn’t necessarily come with age and the stigma that used to accompany these relationships is no longer as intense as it once was. More of us find ourselves in second and third (or more) committed relationships in the course of our lives. More age differentiated couples are formed due to mutual attraction and chemistry and less as a result of his or her net worth securing another’s youth and beauty.
What all this means is that couples with a big age difference between them are more likely to have formed due to healthy reasons, like falling in love! However, the game these couples play is complex. There are certain rules that help all players involved succeed. That’s what I want to share with you today.
I come to this article a little prejudiced. My husband, Joseph, is seventeen years my senior. Of all the memorable incidents related to our age difference, the most entertaining one to share happened after we’d been married for a number of years. Sitting across from a couple we’d just been introduced to at a luncheon, I watched their faces change expression as they figured out how to label us. At first they thought we were father and daughter. Their faces clearly revealed their discomfort with the apparent incestuous energy between us! When they discovered we were husband and wife, their faces relaxed momentarily only to scrunch up again as they clearly assumed Joseph was my sugar daddy!
How To Make The Age Difference Work For You
Learn to laugh together over those who will judge you. And they will. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your family and friends may be, the age difference will push some buttons. Let that be their problem.
Respect the wisdom that comes with the greater number of years your partner has on you. This doesn’t mean you accept condescension from them. In fact, a good way to avoid being patronized is to appreciate their life experience and what that adds to both your lives.
There will be generation gaps. Accept them. Between Joseph and me it’s pretty harmless. I love situation comedies and he can’t stand them. I like his Rock ‘n Roll favorites from the early decades while he only tolerates the soft rock I prefer from later decades. These likes and dislikes aren’t worth forcing on each other. If there is something about your generation that he or she doesn’t appreciate, you are not being rejected. Let it go.
Respect the tension that might exist between you and your parents, aunts and uncles, and family friends who are the same generation as your lover or spouse. You now operate in their field of influence, so to speak, in a way you never did before. They may or may not be comfortable with this. It isn’t worth trying to fix. Let them work out how they deal with the tension and let them handle it. A 50-year-old referring to a 48-year-old as her “daughter-in-law” isn’t the end of the world, particularly when another parent considers her a good friend. As long as they’re doing their best and not trying to offend, let them off the hook.
Choose Your Battles
There are too many easy battles on this playing field that aren’t worth fighting. You do well to observe first and for a long time, giving yourself a chance to respond later. Similar to dealing with how your parents handle it, you may have his or her grown children in your life who are your peers or even older than you. It is wise to allow all these people their processes around your union while expecting to be respected at the same time.
Making friends as a couple can be a challenge. You may find that your friends are not comfortable with your lover (or spouse) and his or her friends are not comfortable with you (especially if there is an “ex” they are fond of). Getting married doesn’t make it any easier for the old friends to get on board. There’s a risk of becoming isolated but hang in there. Do things you both enjoy that involve other people and you’ll make new friends of a variety of ages who appreciate both of you.
This list isn’t exhaustive but it will get you started in the right direction. The simple version is respect and cherish each other for the unique gifts you each bring to what is still a unique relationship. Play and have fun. Let the good chemistry between you be evident for others to witness and they will eventually release their judgment and embrace your love for each other.