Why do we still have a taboo regarding May-December Relationships? Nikki Thomas gives us an honest and loving insight into what makes it work.
When you see a younger woman with an older man, do you have stereotypical thoughts running through your head? Maybe you think he has a fat wallet and is providing for her because she couldn’t do it for herself, or maybe you think she has daddy issues and needs someone to fill that void. Maybe that’s what you think when you see me and my husband walking together, holding hands, and at school events.
My husband is 14 years older than me. Being married to someone that’s a decade plus older subjects me to a lot of these stereotypical judgments and assumptions. Marriages with large age gaps are associated with gloomy statistics that almost guarantee you’ll end up in divorce. It’s just like other judgmental stares and opinions people form when they see couples together from different religions, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
I met my husband right before my 22nd birthday.
At first, his friends and coworkers would make comments like you “cradle snatcher” or “you’re really robbing the cradle with this one.” People say these things as innocent jokes, but they certainly aren’t complimentary terms.
But then things got serious between us quickly. We decided we wanted to get married just a couple of months after dating, and we weren’t going to have some long drawn out engagement either.
Not a shotgun wedding
Now our May-December romance turned into what everyone thought was a shotgun wedding, and then we got some serious questions, slanted looks, and not so friendly responses. At this point, his family and close friends were starting to get concerned, and, of course, thought I was pregnant. Others thought he was just rebounding from his previous relationship that lasted eight years but never ended in marriage.
Then came my family. My mother was concerned and wanted to know why I “had” to get married so quickly. She liked him but didn’t see any reason to get married, at least not that soon. Well I didn’t have a reason, except for the fact that I wanted to. Isn’t that a reason?
At that time in my life, marriage, kids, and some white picket fence in the suburbs weren’t on my radar. I’d recently been promoted, was working my way through college, and had just bought my first house. I was finally on my own and living with a brand new roommate.
But then I fell in love.
That changed everything for me.
I continued to get more push back from my coworkers, mainly the ones that were older than me and had been divorced before, some more than once.
But none of it stopped us. We got married four months after we had our first date. In the end, right before we left to get married, my co-workers gave me a party, my parents flew out to see us get married, and his family welcomed us home with a wedding cake and decorations.
I think the main reason age didn’t bother either of us is because even though we were in different decades, we weren’t in various stages of life. We both had good careers, both of us had just purchased a house, neither of us had ever been married or had any children, and we were just enjoying this part of our lives, and now we wanted to enjoy it together.
When the age difference does matter
But, the different decade part does become evident at times. Like when he listens to music that I’ve never heard of before or when he talks about TV shows and old commercials or even slang sayings that use to be popular. He and my mom have fun with this all the time. They’re closer in age than my husband and me, and they have a lot of that kind of stuff in common.
We also have lots of fun when we think about how I was in preschool the same year he was graduating high school. I’m sure my husband never thought that his future wife was being potty trained when he was learning how to drive. Then there are those fleeting moments where I’m concerned that I’ll spend one or even two decades of my life alone. But I realize how lucky I am to have found a partner to walk through life with.
Today, we’ve been married for 14 years and have two children ages 11 and 8.
So the judgments, jokes, and predictions about how long our marriage would last, and reasons we got married were nothing compared to the challenges we’ve faced raising a family. We’ve certainly experienced the full spectrum of the marriage vowels.
The “in health and sickness” part came in waves. First it was our son who couldn’t breathe on his own when he was born. We can’t believe he’s the tallest kid in his class now and couldn’t be more grateful. Then it was my turn. Shortly after I had our second child, I got sick for 18 months. It took the doctors 12 months to figure out what was wrong and then another six months and three surgeries to fix it. That drained us emotionally, physically, and financially.
Life doesn’t stand still when you’re sick and bills just keep accumulating. Financial issues certainly do add insult to injury when you’re already down for the count.
Then we endured two suicides, one on each side of the family, arguments with in-laws, and major business blunders.
We fought, cried, and talked a lot. Sometimes not so gracefully. But, we’re still in love and still learning from each other.
When one of us is feeling down or doubtful the other one seems to be feeling motivated and upbeat. Or if one of us is running out of patience with the kids the other one seems to have more. I love how we act as each other’s life vests in those moments.
I don’t think a 14 year age difference is a big deal at all. My parents are 12 years apart, and my father-in-law and his wife are 24 years apart.
So next time you see a couple that has a big age difference it doesn’t mean she’s a cougar or he’s a sugar daddy. The bigger deal is your negative comments that create insecurities, which then lead to vulnerabilities that put unnecessary strain on a marriage. Marriages are strained enough. So I encourage you to be mindful of your words and leave the judgments to God. Also, don’t let a decade and statistics stop you from allowing yourself to fall in love with someone. Neither of those things will determine your inevitable future together, and you’ll find them to be minuscule in the things that are truly significant.
—Photo: Patrick Emerson/Flickr