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Does your partner's age really matter?

Girl Talk
 Photo: Courtesy

Does your partner's age really matter?

Does age factor affect compatibility in relationships especially marriage? Should they be age-mates? What is an acceptable difference in age? These are questions that are often asked. The general age gap is three to five years. Socially, it is more acceptable for an older man to marry a younger woman, however, when it is the other way round, society is less accommodating. It is not uncommon for a man to marry a much younger woman who is half his age or even younger.

Couples with generational age gaps have opportunities and challenges. It is expected that like any other relationship, differences will occur and conflict will ultimately arise from their differences; values, beliefs, traditions and power struggles. The older spouse can dominate, control and want to have their way, causing an in balance and constant conflict.

What is crucial is to ensure that it does not become a parent-child like relationship. An age gap couple in their youthful years may not feel the age difference much in the beginning; however, they eventually feel it when they grow older as it becomes significantly glaring due to possible health challenges, decline of energy and failed expectations. The younger spouse could become intolerant to the demands and failures of their spouse, affecting their intimacy levels dramatically.

Today, women are entering the marriage institutions at an older age, as a result of pursuing career goals. So, when they marry a man twice their age that translates to be in their 60+ years. Someone said that “age is just but a number”. When it comes to cross-generational relationships, with an age difference of at least ten or more years, then numbers don’t lie.

Life is a journey through which individuals go through various significant experiences. Once couples engage in a gap of 20 to 30 years, then the relationship has higher challenge levels. Seasons of life are guided by developmental stages. According to Eric Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development, he has eight distinct stages clearly outlined giving emphasis to adolescent period, being a significant stage of identity. At adolescence (12 to 18) the psychological crisis is ego identity verses inferiority, that is Competency. At young adulthood (18 to 40) it is intimacy verses isolation, that is, Fidelity. At Adulthood (40 to 65) generativist verses stagnation, that is Care. After Maturity 65+ it is ego integrity verses despair, which is Wisdom.

Age is a factor of consideration in relationships. Generally, people define goals, experiences and milestones in life according to their age. When the age difference is big, the goals and aspirations vary significantly and can become potential conflict areas. For example, at the competency stage the woman is focused on education, career, financial goals, and children, while the older man at 60+ is at another stage of life all together, planning for retirement.

Some tips;

• Age difference does have a bearing on biological factors and so if the couple desires to have children then, consideration to this matter and both parties ought to be in mutual agreement.

• Age groups have a way of socializing together and every age has its style and preferences. When the age gap is big, the partners have different associations, denying them of mutual friends. In such situations, an effort will need to be made for inclusion of both parties.

• Parenting styles differ with age and experience, whatever you do ensure that both partners speak with the same voice and remain relevant.

• Energy levels and libidos may be at different levels, so a measure of patience, creativity and tolerance is important.

• Priorities and interests at every developmental stage differ and accommodating one another’s difference is necessary.

Beloved, regardless of age differences, what is important is good communication, unconditional positive regard, patience, and accommodating one another throughout the stages of life.

The writer is a Relationship Coach and Author, |Marriage Built to Last. You can reach her on; www.jenniekarina.co.ke

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