The practice of men preferring to marry younger women and women preferring older men has been in existence since time immemorial―since the concept of matrimonial alliance itself came into existence in most likelihood. What has changed over the years though, is the age difference between husband and wife. Whether this difference in age actually affects a person's marriage or not, has become one of the most debated questions in recent times.
A look at the statistical data compiled over the last century or so, suggests that the age difference in a matrimonial alliance has been constantly changing owing to several underlying factors. It came down from 29 years for men and 26 for women at the beginning of the 20th century to 26 for men and 23 for women by the mid-20th century. The drastic fall was attributed to the emergence of nuclear families in the society.
By the end of the 20th century, though, the difference was back to what it was in the beginning. This reversal was attributed to several factors, including education, women becoming more and more independent, better contraception, etc. Come today, things have changed considerably, as both men and women are giving their career first priority, thus making marriage take a back seat.
Does Age Difference Really Matter in a Marriage?
Of late, new trends have started to emerge suggesting a drastic age difference in married couples; at times, as much as 15 years. This is aptly reflected in the rising number of celebrity couples who are getting into matrimonial alliances despite the significant difference in their age. If we are to go by the age-old adage, love triumphs everything, we are safe to assume that the difference in age doesn't really matter in a marriage; not even when the wife is older, in which case the difference usually comes across as inflated.
On the flip side, however, it can result in a wide range of marital problems. Some of the most common problems include lack of understanding, infidelity, sex drive disparity, financial problems, etc. A closer look and one would realize that all these problems are related to each other, either directly or indirectly. For instance, generation gap can result in lack of understanding between the two partners and this, in turn, may lead either one of them trying to find solace with a third person, thus leading to infidelity.
So What Should be the Ideal Difference?
Ideally, the age difference between two people getting into a matrimonial alliance should be somewhere between 3 - 5 years. One has to take into consideration the fact that men attain maturity late as compared to women, which implies that men need more time to get accustomed to the responsibilities associated with a family. Marrying late also gives men enough time to put their career on the right track. Of late, this has become all the more important as women folk seem to prefer well-settled men over those who are yet to make a comfortable living.
Even women nowadays seem to prefer getting married late so that they get enough time to fulfill their ambitions on the career front. However, both men and women need to be careful about this, as opting for marriage too late can affect the biological cycle and result in medical complications when planning children in the future.
While there do exist examples of happily married couples with a significant age difference, they are very few, and therefore, the ideal age difference―as they say―should be no more than 3 - 5 years. Interestingly, the same rule applies in a situation where a woman marries a man who is younger to her. In the end, however, these are mere numbers, and for make any marriage work, what the couple needs is to put in genuine efforts.