The 'age gap' in today's marriages

Age is not just another number when it comes to marriages. Marrying an older person may be a big mistake.

Ayesha Pervez March 14, 2012

A few weeks ago, I happened to witness the unfortunate crumbling and subsequent break-up of a close friend’s marriage. After hearing both sides of the story, I arrived to a conclusion regarding the main reason behind the failure: The husband was 20 years older than his wife.

Although common in an eastern society where arranged marriages are the norm, such large age-gaps (10 years and more) often have great drawbacks in a relationship as intimate as marriage. In our society, parents are in a rush to marry off their daughters before they hit the twenty-fifth birthday mark (or even earlier), and the foremost attribute they seek is financial stability, even if the candidate is a whole generation ahead in terms of age and experience.

True, such marriages have been surviving for generations, mainly because the wife is a simple woman devoted to her home and children. Moreover, she is completely financially dependent on her husband. The stigma associated with divorce and unmarried life for a woman, is such that they learn to compromise with a man who they have absolutely nothing in common with.

But where there is freedom of choice and financial independence, the general perception is that, the marriage may be doomed. My friend, in her early thirties, wanted to mingle with friends and party frequently, taking it as a means to enjoy her youthful years. Meanwhile her husband, approaching his mid fifties, had already had his share of fun a long time back and now sought a peaceful home life. The constant partying and outings became a huge barrier in their marriage, which ultimately came down in shambles as neither individual was willing to compromise.

With another couple, where the age-gap is once again twenty-years plus, I became aware that the husband was reaching the end of his career whilst his wife was just starting hers. They have young children and the man does not have the energy to take care of the children while the woman pays attention to her career. This played as a major reason of discontent, between the couple who should have ideally been enjoying the same stages of life together.

Another problem I came across was in a distant relative’s marriage. In this case the wife has barely settled into her mid- twenties while the husband is entering his forties. The girl liked a same-aged cousin but was persuaded to marry a much older man because he was financially sound and could provide a good future. However, she is unable to relate to her husband and thus often calls her cousin to chat or discuss her issues. Thus, leading to issues brewing that could explode any day; leaving the tattering marriage on an unsteady hook.

Delving further into what could form a permanent gap in marriages, I observed that many older husbands suffer mistreatment at the hands of their younger wives. Once the wife acquires a certain power and control in the marriage, the husband stands little chance at arguing with her. Some couples, I witnessed, indulged in using the age gap as an insult. One of the wives chose to admit to me that she often rubbed in the age difference when the couple argued or disagreed about something. And although she admitted to feeling guilty afterwards, she said it was something she could not help saying in the heat of the moment.  She also confided in me that she often wishes she had a younger companion with whom she could enjoy life more.

Men are usually quite eager to marry younger women because of a number of reasons; they believe younger women would be beautiful, youthful, more fertile and likely to be more energetic than a woman closer to their own age. Moreover she may make him feel young and perhaps desirable as well. A common ailment suffered by men during mid-life.

Unfortunately, things may not always turn out the way they seem. In fact, men who marry women closer in age may command more respect and intimacy from them. It is more likely that a woman will truly love a husband who is closer to her in age rather than one who is many years older and with whom she may be attached simply for financial dependence.

Age gap is not a factor that should be taken lightly. Age is certainly not just another number when it comes to marriages. One of the key factors needed for a marriage to work is a level of understanding between two people but if they are generations apart, it may be difficult to reach that level because the couple may not agree with one another’s opinions, tastes and likes. Friend circles may clash, while socializing; people may mistake the relationship to be something other than husband and wife, which is an opinion that tends to stay with the couple.

Two of the couples I have mentioned in this article face this problem often, where a waitress or customer service representatives have assumed that the husband is actually the wife’s father, salting the wound further by saying something on the lines of;


“And what will your father have?”

Not only does this severely bruise the husband’s ego and self esteem but also causes him a sense of insecurity.

Although marriage is like a gamble and we never know which one has the capacity to endure the test of time and those of which that won’t, there are certain things we can look for in a partner to avoid the pain of a mismatched marriage.

I hope that all the bachelors and bachelorettes will learn from this article and seek to marry those who are closer to them in age, with whom they can enjoy a lasting companionship, which is -- after all, what a marriage is all about.


Ayesha Pervez Currently pursuing TESL in Canada, Ayesha Pervez is an English Literature graduate from the University of Karachi who has completed courses in short-fiction and journalism from Harvard University.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


alia | 11 years ago | Reply My cousin recently got engaged to a guy who is 13 years her senior. she is 25 and he is 38. I honestly believe that its a marriage of convience, for both of them. He gets a hot, young trophy wife while she gets an old atm machine of a husband. The marriage was arranged, but she had requested my aunt for a rich husband. Age does matter. One should marry based on love not looks and money, two factors which are the most common reasons to get married in Pakistani culture.
Noise | 11 years ago | Reply @muhammad shahzad Its partly the fault of the parents of daughters nowadays. Most of them seem to think that a man below 30 is "too young" for their and not "well established" enough for their daughter. They'd rather their daughters marry a geezer with a house rather than a young man who has has only started his career. Maybe the girls nowadays think this too, I dont know. Anyway this is a foolish thing, happiness is found not in money or houses, it found in the arms of others and people could could at least make sure that those arms are fresh and strong. The most import decision in their daughters lives and they only care about money.
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