A recent US study analyzed the marriage satisfaction of 20,000 Australians to find out if an age-gap could destroy a relationship
Have you ever considered entering into a marriage with someone with whom you share a large age-gap? If so, you may have wondered if the age difference could eventually destroy the relationship. Well, a recent study published in the Journal of Population Economics revealed which is the optimal age gap for a successful marriage.
Researchers at Deakin University in Australia and the University of Colorado in the USA discovered exactly what type of marriage dynamics satisfy most people. According to the study, men are more satisfied with younger wives and feel dissatisfied with older wives. Similarly, women are more satisfied with younger husbands and feel dissatisfied with older husbands.
What the stats suggest
In other words, an older spouse’s happiness seems to come at the expense of a younger spouse’s happiness! Further to this, within six to ten years, these marriages with age gaps decline in satisfaction for both couples. Furthermore, in a separate study run by Emory University in Atlanta, researchers showed that an age-gap of even five years makes it 18% more likely that the couple will divorce.
Shockingly, divorce rates increased to 39% for couples with a ten-year age difference. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the separation rate for couples with an age gap of 20 years is a whopping 95%!
The closer in age the better!
The statistical chance of a marriage staying together when the couples are the same age is excellent. With just a single year age gap, the chance of separation is only 3%. It obviously is better to marry someone your own age!
Researchers suggest that this is because we have more in common with someone our own age. The context of the lives of those who were born within the same couple of years as ourselves is so similar, and it acts like a bond. A same-age marriage grows in sync with the natural changes of life. Additionally, couples the same age are on a level playing field, with no power imbalances.
Are age-gap marriages doomed to fail?
With an attitude that the cup is half full, rather than half empty, some may turn the above statistics on their head. It is true, while 39% of couples with a ten year age gap will split up, 61% of those relationships will succeed. Indeed, in the city where celeb divorce is rampant, there are miraculous marriages between age-gapped Hollywood stars that stand the test of time.
For example, Catherine Zeta-Jones is 25 years younger than her husband, Michael Douglas. Both of them are still together in wedded bliss, despite having a brief split in 2013. So they tell the press, anyway. Joan Collins is currently 84 and has been married for 15 years to Percy Gibson, who is 32 years her junior. Again, all reports suggest they are still happily married.
Clearly, an age-gap needn’t mean that your marriage is doomed to fail! So the question remains, what is the secret ingredient that makes a marriage work? Also, what can a couple in an age-gap relationship do in order to make it last? Lastly, it is important for both parties to ask – what does marriage mean to me?
Origins of marriage
Modern marriage bears little connection to the reason ancient people’s invented marriage in the first place, around 4,350 years ago. DNA tests to ascertain paternity only came into existence in extremely recent history. Essentially, once upon a time, a marriage contract was a way to ensure that the offspring of a couple belonged to the father. In ancient Greece, when a father gave his wife in marriage to a man, he ritualistically pronounced “I pledge my daughter for the purpose of producing legitimate offspring.”
Without marriage, if a woman had many partners, there would be no way to know who initiated any pregnancies she would develop. Additionally, marriage was a way to protect a woman during the vulnerable state of pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. Also, with a marriage contract, a man could confidently pass on an inheritance to a child. The marriage contract assured him that only he had had sex with the child’s mother.
Love in a relationship did not really become a focus of marriage until the time of the Enlightenment
It’s not to say marriages weren’t loving. However, when a couple decided to marry, being in love was not essential. As well as this, those who decided to marry only because they were in love had many skeptics and critics.
During history, aristocracy used marriage to seal allegiances between clans and countries. Many saw love as a hindrance to marriage satisfaction. The Countess of Champagne once said, “love cannot exert its powers between two people who are married to each other.”
Clearly then, unhappiness in a marriage comes down to the sketchy and ever changeable modern definitions of what it should be. Some believe it is a religious rite. Other’s believe it is essential when having children. Yet, others believe it is just a way to prove you are in love with someone. It appears that each generation has their own different definition of what marriage should be. And this could be the key to why age-gap marriages are so difficult to hold together.
When you marry someone of the same generation, your definitions of what marriage means will more likely match. In this way, you know where you stand. Clearly, you wish to travel down the same path. When you marry someone older or younger, those definitions could clash. The members of the age-gap couple will therefore not have similar goals for the relationship.
Sadly, according to the study, they appear to end up wanting to follow different paths
Likely because they were never on the same path, to begin with.
In order to make an age-gap marriage work, clearly it is necessary to ascertain various things right from the very beginning. It is imperative to be clear and distinct about what your beliefs about marriage are, and what are the goals of the relationship.
A clear red flag is if you both see things differently. At the end of the day, entering into a marriage with that person would likely be a terrible idea.