A is for Age Difference

The AOW A-Z of Getting Married is a resource for brides (and grooms) to be.  It’s a welcome piece of sanity in an industry-saturated world where people are bombarded with what weddings they should have, what they should act like, and how a bride should feel.  Created by the team behind Any Other Woman, this A-Z is the first collaboration of its kind, bringing together posts from readers across the AOW community filled with advice, wisdom and experience from sane, smart, real women, many of whom have been there.  From wedding planning to family trials to breaking taboos, no topic is out of bounds.  We are honoured and excited to run each and every post, and we learn from each and every one of our readers.

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A is for Age Difference, by Sara, Editor & Chief Features Writer, at www.underthevintageveil.com

When John and I first met at work (as corny as it sounds) there was an instant spark. He piped up in a friendly debate about politics. I called him an idiot and he walked away with a big, annoying self-satisfied grin on his face. Despite an eight-year age gap, I was smitten.

It didn’t take me long, however, to notice the potential issues our age difference could throw our way. On paper, eight years is nothing – and had we met in ten years’ time I doubt I even would have noticed it. However, working at the same company put a much larger emphasis on the age difference than we would have initially thought about if we’d met in a different context.

Being a young and idealistic graduate in her first job, John being a manager at the business (thankfully not in my department) with ten years’ experience and far more gravitas seemed to widen the gap. Comforting me over a drink with some friendly words of advice after a particularly stressful day in the office he called me “a good kid”. He later explained this away as “just something I said because I was trying to be nice” but at the time I was convinced he saw our age difference as a problem – me as a kid to be mentored and him as the adult.

Once I finally plucked up the courage to follow him around with an inane grin on my face until he figured out he was my boyfriend (throw away the rulebook, ladies) the age difference threw a whole other curveball my way. John, being eight years my senior, had been in an eight-year, live-in relationship. Me, being in my very early twenties and just having graduated university, had never come close to that level of commitment. I was used to visiting student boyfriends in grotty digs and sneaking around at parents’ houses. John had his own house – a home and pets he had shared with someone else.

That’s when the green-eyed monster came out. Somehow his ex being older glamorised her. It wasn’t fair – if I were only a few years older I could have been “the one” from the start and there would never have been another “one” for him. This feeling was only exacerbated when I moved in. I began obsessively redesigning, replacing the furniture – I didn’t want to feel like I’d moved into another woman’s house. John, being the amazing and understand man I married this week, was exceptionally kind about the whole thing and we redecorated together, slowly making it into our home, our nest ready for our married life together.

Coming from a liberal, feminist mindset I was also initially uncomfortable about the disparity in our earnings. Being ten years ahead of me in his career, it goes without saying that he earned a lot more than me – and I was always so conscious to pay my way, even when I couldn’t quite afford it and despite his protests. It took me a year and a half to come around to the idea of sharing money and that, as long as we were both working hard, it didn’t matter to him – or to me – who earned more. The day we joined our bank accounts was a terrifying step for me. I felt, in some ways, a failure – but as John pointed out, how else were we to start a life, let alone a marriage, together? After all, with one of us earning comfortably and the other struggling, how were we meant to build a future in which we were both happy and secure? How would it work when it came to raising kids?

Then there are the minor things. When John reminisces about a song he used to listen to in university and I have to remind him that I was eleven when it came out – or when he references a TV show or film that was before my time and it has to be explained to me. And of course, the age difference accounts for his Jurassic taste in music (sorry John) and shameless embarrassing dad dancing (you haven’t seen air guitar quite like John’s. Seriously.).

On the other hand, the age difference has its benefits. He’s far less squeamish than me about the icky things in life, like cleaning kitty litters and such. He’s also a much more experienced and accomplished cook – which means I’ve learned so much about cooking from him and that I have my own , personal, gourmet chef after a long day of blogging!

From what I’ve written, you’d be forgiven for thinking our age difference brought up a plethora of problems. Don’t get me wrong, as you can see, it got me thinking, but that was just it – I was overthinking. None of the feelings that came bubbling up for me on a gut reaction were actual issues. Yes, John was more senior at work, but we got over that pretty quickly and for unrelated reasons I moved jobs anyway. Yes, John had been in a long relationship and trying to live up to his past was painful and scary – but the ex in question was no longer in his life. He was ready to move on with the lessons he’d learned from that relationship and that made it so much easier for me to accept his past as his past. Plus, we all know women mature faster in relationships (wink) so the fact that he had an eight-year head start probably put us on even footing! Finally, our finances were only a problem because of my pride and stubbornness. How could I expect to be earning the same as him after such a short time? It was an unrealistic and unfounded expectation. In short, all of these problems were ones I created in my head – they never came from him and they never will.

Our age difference, all things considered, is no big deal. We share the same ideals, the same passions and a strong bond of friendship. We laugh together, talk, cry and everything in between. As cheesy as it sounds, when you find your soulmate, all the small problems that an issue like age can bring up are totally surmountable as long as you talk about them and work through them together.

Categories: A-Z of Getting Married
19 interesting thoughts on this

19 Comments

  1. Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Ah this is a lovely first entry to the A-Z! Also, congratulations for your wedding last Saturday Sara :D

    L x

  2. Frances
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    What a brilliant start to the series – thank you.It also brings up the thorny issue of equality in relationships and how it can sometimes feel awkward if you aren’t both bringing exactly the same skills or finances to a partnership, even though the awkwardness isn’t founded on any real issue. Congratulations for your recent wedding too!

  3. Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    This could be about my life. Apart form the fact that I didn’t meet Gareth at work, this is so similar to my situation, we have a 9 year age gap, and have experienced all the same problems.

    Absolutely with the jealousy. I hate admitting to it because it implies insecurity in our love, which it isn’t, as such. I know he loves me, it was just the feeling that she had a part of him that I could never have have, because she watched him grow into the man I love, and I missed that. I felt that she knew him better because she knew him at a more formative age. Because she has known him longer. But in the end, he chose me. I love the man he is, and I will be with him to see him grow and change for the rest of forever.

    And again, the earning issue. God, I hated it that he earns more than me. I felt like a failure for so long, which is entirely insane given that he has been working for 10 years more than me (I had a gap year), so I can’t be grumpy that I earn less until I’m 35. And even then, do I really think that my only value to our lives together is financial? I know that isn’t true, so who earns the money is incidental, as long as we both work hard and work together.

    As you say, being with an older man has its advantages too, he has lived alone, therefore he can fend for himself. He’s a good cook. He’s a wiser, better person. He can has better taste in wine. And above all, I will never ever feel old because he will always be older. Mwahaha.

    K x

    PS: Haven’t stopped LOVING that banner. God, the banner is beautiful.

    • Roz
      Posted August 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      I actually snorted my tea at your ‘he will always be older’ comment, I do this with my man too. Great minds :D x

  4. Abi
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    There is a 7 year age gap in our relationship, we married at 21 and 28. Honestly, the age thing never really entered my head. The only aspect that potentially could have been a problem would be deciding when we want children, but I am keen to (hopefully) start our family whilst I’m in my 20’s rather than 30’s, so again it’s not really an issue for us, as my husband won’t be an “old dad” – something he really doesn’t want.
    Congrats on your wedding :)

  5. Zan
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant first post! It’s not something I’ve ever had as an issue in any of my relationships, but I have a friend whose partner is (wait for it) 25 years older than her. It was a bit of a surprise at first, esp for her parents who are pretty much the same age as him! But he’s a lovely guy and the age difference hasn’t been anywhere near the issue we (as her friendss) thought it might be. They’ve been together for nearly 10 years now and are still blissfully happy :)

  6. Jo S
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    What a way to start I can totally relate to this. My husband is 17 years older so I get where you are coming from, past wife, older children, earnings etc..
    The music tastes and young person speak can be quite comical getting lost in translation but he is young at heart.
    I find his experience of life comforting though and he really doesn’t sweat the small stuff and it is rubbing off on me.
    I find the age difference bother other people more than it does us “there has to be an alterior motive surely” well yes there is we both in love with one another :-)

  7. Vivienne
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Fab first post – I know this series is going to rock already!

    There’s a 15 year age gap between me and my husband *gasp*. He has a divorce under his belt, although thankfully the ex-wife is a distant memory of over a decade ago so her skeleton doesn’t rattle in any of our cupboards. We were lucky that there was no children involved either – and it does make me extra happy that we are having our first child together.

    I had similar issues over him earning so much more money than me as well, but it is something you just have to ‘suck up’ – he’s worked 26 years so of course he will. And I hear you on the jealousy thing – especially when it came to wedding planning.

    But as Katie says – we may get old, but we will never be as old as them!

  8. Kate Q
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never had a much older (or younger) boyfriend, but even with our modest 2 year age gap I’ve experienced a couple of these problems so age really isn’t everything.

    My brother’s wife is 10 years older than him and when the age gap is this way round it seems to raise more eyebrows, maybe for the same reasons that a man being older can actually make relationships easier, the maturity aspect for example. I think the thing that might be hardest to deal with is being ready to start a family at the same time…this may be easier when the man is older too as there isn’t a biological clock ticking in the same way so there’s no rush.

    Anyone out there got a younger man?

    • Hannah
      Posted August 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Well, Kate Q, it’s funny you should ask that…. ;)

      My husband is about five years younger than me and we also met at work. He was only 19. Shock horror! At roughly the same time, another couple got together, similar age gap but the other way around. There was a definite sense that their relationship was more ‘normal’ and more likely to last.

      Although, nine years on, they are no longer together and we’re the ones who are married (can I be the second on this thread to do a maniacal laugh…? Mwahahaha!)

      In our relationship, despite being younger, my husband is definitely the ‘grown up’ so I’m not sure its always the case that men mature later (although rumour has it that The Boy came out of the womb with a pipe and slippers…) – I guess it just goes to show that everyone is different

      Having said this, I can SO sympathise with the “I was at school when this was at number 1″ conversations and I’m not sure that he’ll ever really understand my early 90s obsession with the Wonder Stuff!

      • Carly
        Posted August 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

        My fiancé is two years younger than me. He didn’t go to Uni and got a job straightaway, so when we met at 18 & 20 he was well ahead of me on the grown up stuff like actually working for a living!

  9. Vicki T
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Great post, my husband is also 8 years older than me but our experiences are quite different from yours. It’s interesting when you say about your musical tastes varying, funnily enough ours don’t. I think I am 8 years older mentally when it comes to music. At least!
    He does earn more than me. This is good because this is probably the area his extra years really count. The job situation in our area has never been as diverse as other areas, because we are in a very rural community, but with hindsight when he was entering full time work he had so many more opportunities than we did in my day. Mentally though we are the same, same sense of humour, I think 8 years is the perfect age gap.

  10. Mahj
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    What a brilliant start to the A – Z. This was a lovely and honest read.

    xoxo

  11. Posted August 22, 2012 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    What a great post to kick off this amazing series. I’m stupidly excited by this series, and that banner really is beautiful.

    Honest, funny & generally lovely – thanks Sara!

  12. Posted August 22, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    WOW! Just come out of my post-wedding high to see all of these lovely comments! So interesting to read how different everyone’s experiences are. Thank you so much for the lovely wedding wishes too! I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a younger man. I have friends and family where the woman is significantly older and, while it can present issues, they’re no more intense than if it were the other way around. Plus, women are great leaders and teachers – and it takes a very secure and mature younger man to realise that :) xxx

  13. Mrs Jones
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Brilliant first post. I’ve never actually been with anyone my own ages, I’ve always gone for the older man ;)

    But I think if you meet the right one none of it really matters.. Yes there may be comments (depending on the age gap) and people may wonder WHY you are together but the proof is in the pudding. I’ve not got any experience outside the older man but I’ve always found them to be on my level a bit more so either they’re immature or I’m advanced for my age :D

    I also agree with never feeling old… that’s one of many perks!

  14. Peridot
    Posted August 22, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    My fiance is 12 years older than me. It was a big deal at first, but after 17 years together it hardly seems relevant! He thought me being conscious of it was hilarious – in shops together in the early days he used to press his change into my hand and tell me to “go and buy yourself some sweets” whilst I blushed in mortification (and laughed). He’s actually closer to my mum’s age than mine (which he totally plays on “your mother and I think…”) but I will never see them of a generation. It’s just him and me and me and him and that’s all that matters.

  15. Posted August 24, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I love this post, and my husband is two and a half years younger than me so the age gap is smaller and different but I think he fees it sometimes in the areas you suggested about earning. I have a three year head start on him in my career and in your twenties that is HUGE so reading this was useful as it helped me see that from his perspective as I don’t see it as an issue but now I think I can see why he does.

  16. Rach M
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    M is three years younger than me, even younger than my little brother, which took some getting used to at first. I was a conscious of it when we started out, but never think about it now. Great kick-off piece Sara! And with everyone else on the banner love. It’s is FAB-U-LOUS. x

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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