An Exploration of Age-Gap Relationships in the United States (May to December Romances)
This paper examines the age gap relationship from a multidimensional perspective asserting the reasons for and against the issue in the United States of America. The consequences of such relationships are also analysed with special consideration of the May to December romances in which young men are romantically entwined with older women. The question is, is a considerable and acceptable age difference the key to a successful relationship even or does the ultimate choice lies in their interests, compatibility, and similarity of goals?
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For centuries age gap has been one of the most fundamental issues and considerations for the success of relationships and marriages world over. There is a multicultural view of the appropriate age gap giving the issue a controversial angle of perspectives. Romantic relationships with a big age gap between the partners often raise eyebrows and social disapproval by members of the society. This introduces the concept of the age gap phenomenon that is used to judge most marriages not only in the United States but all over the world. May to December relationships usually have an age difference of 10 years or more. This paper examines the age gap relationship from a multidimensional perspective, asserting the reasons for and against this issue in the United States.
The evolutionary perspective for heterosexual relationships is that human beings seeks out relationships with similar age or a small age gap. Women have preference for older men and vice versa. Statistics in America support this fact (Warren et al. :). Research states that about 70% of all the heterosexual marriages involve men that are slightly older than women in the range of three to ten years. 8% of the married couples having a large age gap have a preference for older men compared to women. In common society this is often viewed with social disapproval (Chadwick and Brent 47). According to the evolutionary explanation of this phenomena, men prefer women who are younger because of their reproductive fitness (Warren et al. :). Age is an important indicator of the fertility of a woman which further improves the chances of sexual reproduction within the union. This is because women only can reproduce from the puberty stage to menopause that currently stands at 52 in the United States (Warren et al. :). On the hand, women prefer older men with a considerable age gap because they poses resources or demonstrate such potential to ensure sustenance and survival of the union (Chadwick and Brent 47). In contemporary society, men accumulate these types of resources when they are aging. Younger men are not as valued by the women because they do not portray the possession of resources yet. For this reason, relationships or marriages between older men and younger women are considered an evolutionally perfect match which enhances not only productivity but also unity in the harnessing of resources for livelihood.
Women who do seek out younger men do this because they find them more active, reproductive and energetic compared to their counterparts (Warren et al. :). Morphologically men are naturally muscular but, as they age, their vigour, vibrancy, and activity gradually reduce. Most men in their waning days are more concerned with their own community and growth issues compared to their female counterparts (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce, 4. The modern woman needs love, sex, care and ultimately attention. They require someone ready to go out of the norm to provide them with the utmost care (Chadwick and Brent 45).
Second, older women prefer younger men for power and maximum social exchange compared to the normative relationships (Gerry et all:). In the ancient society equitable exchanges are necessary for a successful union (Gerry et all:). For this reason, there was the exchange of sex for the concept of resources to maintain harmony and satisfaction within the union (Chadwick and Brent 45). Hence, women typically have less power and status compared to the male counterparts. A woman is observed to be a lesser contribute to the betterment of the union which was not true. Now the modern woman is empowered and competitive. She is powerful and demands respect as well as attention from her male counterpart (Chadwick and Brent 47). For that reason, women resort to relationships with younger men because they are assured of power and equal redefinition of social exchange. (Gerry et all:). In most of these relationships, research conducted in the United States shows that marriage with a younger man and older woman, brings more satisfaction and commitment since equality paves the way to the achievement of the desired goals of the relationship (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce, 4). With the empowerment of the woman and her ability to confront the modern-day challenges, there is considerable opportunity to provide the leadership role in the family which is adequately provided for by marriage.
Thirdly, advancement of life goals and ambitions is another reason for the choice of marriage between older women and young men (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce, 4). Research shows that 60% of women in a heterosexual relationship with the man being slightly older than the woman does not fully provide an opportunity for a woman to maximize her potential career prospects fully. The research shows that even though men offer support to most of the career and live goals of the woman, they rarely entertain professional development to outdo their own ego in life. (Gerry et all:). Older men still want the women to assume their initial reproductive and homemaker roles. However, this isn’t the mindset of the women belonging to the millennial generation (Villines, et all:). These women are go-getter’s who are willing to move beyond their comfort zone and explore other territories of professional and personal development (Villines, et all:). Marrying a young equally ambitious man provides an opportunity for joint personal development where they are both supporting each other’s dreams and life ambitions. This is, therefore, one of the core reasons for the preference of marriages with a younger age difference (Villines, et all:).
There are consequences to these large age gaps. Both positive and negative ones. First and foremost, large age gap relationships between an older woman and a younger man are still considered abnormal and suffer social disapproval (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce, 4). The larger community of people in the United States still disapprove and condemn marriages between such couples with an age gap (Gerry et all:). Opponents of this union argue that people who are getting married should be of similar age. People in such unions firmly believe that their friends family and the community at large disapprove of their union and are fighting to finish the same (Gerry et all:). In such scenarios, the commitment to such relationship between the partners is adversely affected, and this may lead to breaking up of the couples (Salisbury 12). This effect is both evident in the heterosexuals and the homosexuals. A close analysis of this trend shows that the negative outcome of this marriage does not emanate from within but emanates from the outside. This is one of the greatest negative challenges that these relationships have to go through every day (Gerry et all:).
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Another negative consequence is the difference in life stages and life tasks to be performed. Different tasks are scheduled for different seasons in the life of humankind (Salisbury 12). These stages have their specific timing in the context of the age that they should be performed. In a relationship, a woman will tend to reach different stages of life growth and development compared to her male partner (Salisbury 14). According to Erikson these life stages take place in different years. For example, between the ages of between 20 and 45 years, the young adults in the marriage may be fighting between intimacy and isolation (Chadwick and Brent 44). During the middle ages 45 -55, human beings undertake the battle between the common middle-age generativity and self-absorption. Over the age of fifty, the individuals are battling between integrity and despair (Chadwick and Brent 44). A marital relationship with the older woman is means she is likely to transition to the next stage alone. Transitioning to the next stage means new individual behaviour and perception about certain things in life,their needs and preferences (Warren et al. :). Therefore many professionals and the traditional setting articulate for marriage and relationships with people within similar age brackets (Warren et al. :). Such people are more understanding of each other and compatible in age (Warren et al. :). They know the values to accommodate in each cycle and attitudes towards each other. Accommodating and reconciling the life goals and needs becomes an increasingly difficult task within the marriage. These issues can then hamper a successful marriage vested on the understanding of each other’s needs at different life stages.
On the positive side, large age gap relationships in marriages report greater satisfaction, equality, trust, and commitment. Most of the similar age relationships are marred with conflicts and differences due to preferences of each partner and life issues (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce, 4). However, May to December relationships provide a good avenue for trust between the individual partners and satisfaction of the individual emotional and sexual needs. Research studies conducted in the United States shows that over 70% of the marriages with the woman being older than the man have reported higher chances of success, trust and satisfaction in intimacy compared to their counterparts (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce 5). The reports also indicate that the chances of jealousy and cheating within the relationship are reduced by 30% since both partners develop trust with each other. With these social factors at play, the millennial generation is engrossed in the search for happiness, trust and commitment in their relationships and marriages (Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce 5).
In conclusion, age gap relationships involving May to December romances are still one of the most controversial points of discussion in current society. So many diverse opinions and contradictions are generated around the subject matter. Relationships where the women are older than the men thrive because it offers satisfaction and commitment of the partners, there is equality and chance for the development of personal goals and the sole purpose of female empowerment. On the other hand, it suffers consequences such as general disapproval from the family friends and the community, incompatibility and misunderstandings during the transition from one developmental stage to another. However, the success of any relationship depends on the sacrifice and the sharing of common values, goals ideologies and dreams with one’s partner. With such in mind, it can become increasingly easy for partners to promote relationship commitment, intimacy, and trust which ultimately leads to the success of a marriage. This concludes that all the approaches of age gap relationships can be based on the shared values and vision of the marriage which can make a successful union at any age.
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- Collison, Brian, and Luciana Ponce. “Perceived inequity predicts prejudice towards age-gap relationships.” Current Psychology (2018): 1-8. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12144-018-9895-6
- Price, Taryn, and Been. “Figuring Out the Age Gap”: Youth Reflections on a Youth-Adult Partnership.” Journal of Park & Recreation Administration 36.2 (2018).
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- Lynch Carmen: “Patterns of Relationships”. Sonoma State University. http://www.sonoma.edu/people/daniels/lynch.html
- Salisbury S.M: A Sociological Analysis of Age- Disparate. Longfield, K. 2016
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- Zawn Villines: “5 Considerations for relationships with big age difference “. Good therapy. Org. September 13, 2013. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/five-considerations-for-relationships-with-big-age-difference-0910138
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