Does age matter in a relationship?

Linda Ramaribela, a house-wife, states that her children make faces and feel it is gross when she tells them that she was in college when her husband, their step-father, was at cambridge.

She is six years older than him. If there is one thing that she has tried to explain to her two daughters, it is convincing them that age gap seems bigger when you are younger, but that as you get older, it gets smaller and becomes relatively inconsequential. At least she believes that.  Katlego Molosiwa’s friend is dating a man 17 years her senior. She has never been married and is in her early 30s. He is divorced with two children. She says that they have really connected and enjoy spending time together, and it is getting serious.

According to a local psychologist, Nelson Morudi, the age difference between couples has two sides to it. He says that statistical evidence has shown that the older party is likely to die first, which he also questions as there are no guarantees about when one’s time is up. He further says that some people believe that in most cases, wanting to have children is a challenge, which can be a deal-breaker. He has talked to couples where one spouse is 10-15 years older than the other. “I have never heard any of these husbands or wives say anything about wishing they had done things differently and married someone closer to their age,” he says.

It is a commonly accepted idea that men prefer the company of younger women, while women prefer men who are older. This is also in keeping with Parental Investment Theory, which maintains that men are attracted to women who advertise signs of fertility — that is, youth. Conversely, women are drawn to older men since they typically have greater resources. This phenomenon of men preferring younger mates and vice versa is technically known as the age differential effect, and it has been well-documented by American psychologist David Buss. In a classic study of human mating from 1989, Buss surveyed 37 cultures across six continents and found that in every culture in question, men preferred to marry younger women - two years younger on average - and women preferred to marry older men, that is, three years older on average. In addition, Buss collected actual age differences at marriage for 27 of the 37 cultures, and across the board men normally married women who were younger.

Similarly, in his 1994 study using a nationally representative sample of single Americans younger than 35, the results revealed that women were significantly more willing than men to marry someone older by five years; conversely, men were significantly more willing than women to marry someone who was younger by five years. In another study from 2001, researchers asked Dutch men and women between the ages of 20 and 60 about their age gap preferences for various types of intimate situations, ranging from sexual fantasies to marriage. They, too, found that men predictably preferred younger partners than did women.
“It’s the love that matters most and if you love an older man or woman, go ahead,” says Khumo Morekwa, a university graduate. Morekwa is going to stick to her positive outlook and go with ‘Love conquers all’ belief. She explains that all relationships have hurdles that have to be overcome and that they all take hard work and attention. “The issues that two people who are married and roughly the same age face may be similar or may be different from the issues that couples with vast age differences face. It is love that counts,” she says. 

In most parts of the world, it is not uncommon for young women to marry older men. Everyone has their own opinions as to why a girl would marry an older man, especially one that is much older than her. Some suffer the shame of being labelled gold-diggers or trophy-brides.  Some women believe that older men know how to treat a lady and that a younger man would not be as patient and is more likely to stray. They believe that an older man would not bed everything with a pulse in a skirt. Some older men believe, on the other hand, that having a young woman makes them feel young and fulfils sexually. “If I’m 49 and single, I would choose a mid-30s woman,” says Lungi Mochoma. However, men who also marry older women get to be called toy-boys and instruments of sexual gratification for sugar mamas.

The debate goes on and on, and it will go on for a long time. Does age really matter? Surely, the answer has to be that it should only matter to the couple concerned.

Last modified on Friday, 13 September 2013 11:12

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