Ex-Etiquette Column

Articles on dealing with the "ex" in your life--anyone's ex--yours, their's, even "ex"tended family.

Big Age Differences Between New Partners

Q. I’m 52 years old and I am involved with a woman a little older than half my age. Oddly enough, I feel very comfortable with her, but my recent divorce due to my ex-wife’s unfaithfulness makes me very leery about starting a new relationship. I currently have no ties, no kids, and a great career. I date quite a bit, but I find my thoughts going back to this young woman who makes me feel completely relaxed and keeps me laughing. We want the same things now, but what is to say, with the  age difference I will not be faced with the same thing I faced with my ex-wife? She was about the same age my new friend is now when we married—and after years of being together, she ran off with someone else. I attribute her behavior to her being so young when we met. In your work, how successful do you see second marriages or even long term relationships when there are big age differences between new partners?

A. Unfortunately, statistics say second marriages have an even smaller chance than first marriages of reaching what is regarded as a long-term marriage–and that stat does not take a large age difference into account. But, we have found that if one or both partners have children, it greatly impacts the success of a second marriage. Since neither of you have kids at this point in your life, that improves your chances of longevity.

We are romantics by nature and feel that it’s hard enough to find someone who “makes you feel completely relaxed and keeps you laughing” than to quibble about “age.” It appears this young woman is over 21. Of course you may get the occasional look from others or the “May/December” comparison or even the “Mid-Life Crisis” comment. You will have to search your own souls to see if your affection for each other is strong enough to withstand such criticism.

We often get letters from divorced women in their 40’s complaining that all the eligible men are dating much younger women—and they are not happy about it. Be prepared–there is an entire generation that will have a very strong opinion about your choice. If that makes a difference to you, don’t go any further. You are wasting both of your time.

We do have an opinion on one topic you mentioned that we would like to share with you. You said that you attribute your ex-wife’s betrayal to her age when you married. We don’t agree. We do not feel that age is an excuse for betrayal.

That says more about your ex-wife’s character than about her young age or inexperience at the time of your marriage. We are not advocates of divorce, but if one does want to end a relationship, one does not have to betray their partner in order to do it. Next time you make your choice for a partner, pay special attention to her character and although we cannot guarantee there will not be a break-up, betrayal will not be at the root of it.

For the record, it is our experience that people who want to make their relationships work, do. People who don’t, bail. If you are committed to one another and take that commitment seriously, then that is what your relationship will be based on and statistics don’t make a difference.

All romantic notions aside, yours is a large age difference and that age difference probably will have an affect on your relationship at some point in your life together–from health issues to simple likes and dislikes. Just remember, your life together, as it is true for all people, will simply be what you make it.

Dr. Jann Blackstone specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, Ex-Etiquette for Weddings, and Ex-Etiquette for Holidays. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.

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