Four Potential Problems with May-December Relationships

posted in: Various Musings | 4
Photo via VisualHunt
Photo via VisualHunt

If you would have asked me five years ago if I would consider writing a book that revolved around a May-December romance, I probably would have laughed. At the time, my main characters were in their twenties and thirties and the couples were close in age.

There’s nothing new under the sun, and that includes May-December romances. They don’t happen very often, and I think that’s why some of us find them strange. But something I discovered a long time ago is that, once we become adults, age doesn’t matter as much, does it?

And yet it seems to. No one comments about the ages of famous couples who have a slight age gap, but I’ll bet you did know that there was a huge age difference between former couples Ashton and Demi, Johnny and Amber, and Angelina and Billy Bob. There are some of those types of couples whose relationships have lasted—Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, and the aforementioned Angelina Jolie and current partner Brad Pitt. And, of all these couples and more, I’d guess that you have an opinion. Why do you think the terms cougar and dirty old man exist? But, in terms of couples, the feeling is mutual. These two people have fallen in love, and age hasn’t mattered, so it’s doubtful that a younger woman considers her love interest to be said dirty old man.

Now that I’ve been inspired to actually write about a May-December romance, I’ve given much thought to the problems these couples might encounter. No offense to Hollywood, but I’m sure the couples I mentioned above fared just fine. It’s the rest of the world (“normal” folk) that I’m more concerned about.

The May-December Couples’ Old Friendships Might Feel Awkward

Think about it. Usually (though not always), our friends are close in age to us, although that’s not always the case. It’s oftentimes easier to “relate” to people in the same generation because we have similar life experiences and similar shared histories.

So, even though each other’s friends might seem to be quite different, I think that might not be entirely true. After all, what attracted the couple to each other in the first place? Perhaps the older person always felt more youthful and, therefore, more comfortable around younger people…so his soulmate’s friends might simply feel like an extension of her. Or, in another example, maybe the younger person in the relationship has always felt like an old soul and has never been able to relate to people his own age.

All couples experience a transition phase with their friends, and a May-December romance would be no different.

Their Bodies are in Different Phases of Sexuality

No, I’m not talking about the difference between sexes, but about sexual development. While all people are different, there are certain age ranges where things happen. Our bodies gear up to be able to procreate while in our teens and we go through puberty. Then, of course, are our childbearing years, followed by menopause, and men go through phases similar to those of women. The bottom line is we change over time. Not only do we wrinkle and sag and feel differently in different parts of our bodies, the insides themselves go through many changes. There comes a time when a woman can no longer have children. I can name all kinds of things that change with a woman’s body over time, simply because I have lived it. I had my first child at 27 and my last child at 35 and the way my body felt during those pregnancies—a mere eight years apart—changed. So an obvious problem this couple might experience would be, perhaps, that one needs to worry about birth control while the other hasn’t had to for a while…or, if one of them wants children and the other doesn’t, they’ll need to find a way to work through it.

Which brings me to the next problem…

Family Issues with Age-gap Couples

Imagine how the young wife, age 25, who married a man thirty years old than she, feels when she meets his son—the same age as she—for the first time? My current work in progress, December Lust [the book was published in November 2016 with the title To Save Him], deals with a similar issue. Kimberly’s love interest is only two years older than her oldest son would have been…which means that if their relationship progresses, there are some strange family “issues.” Imagine how a 27-year-old man would feel playing stepfather to a 23-year-old girl. Or how a 45-year-old woman would feel when meeting her mother-in-law…who happens to be one year younger than herself?

Awkward.

These are most certainly the types of uncomfortable situations a May-December couple would have to work through.

Goals and Wants Might be Miles Apart with May-December Romances

Think about it. What were your goals at 18? 25? 35? 42? What were your goals before you had children and how did they change afterward? Did your wants evolve as you grew into adulthood? I think about young, idealistic me. I know I’d still like her, but I’d want to make her try different things. I’d try to change her mind about a lot of other pursuits. But, bottom line, I know how I was, and I would have told myself nicely to go away. I wanted to live my own life, make my own mistakes, and do what I was compelled to. Fortunately, my partner and I (approximately the same age) saw eye to eye. Sure, we had disagreements like all couples do, but our view of life was similar, so we understood where the other was coming from. We have grown and changed together. People twenty years younger or twenty years older than I am? Yes, I can still love them, be friends with them, want to spend time with them, but our goals are different. My friends fifteen to twenty years older than I am are getting ready to retire and looking forward to drawing Social Security in the very near future, whereas friends my age are instead planning their kids’ high school and college graduations, marriages, or expecting their first grandchild. On the other end of the spectrum, friends who are fifteen to twenty years younger than I are pondering if they want to further their education or just work and party for a while; they’re trying to decide if they want to move in with their bestie or their boyfriend. They’re just starting out on their journey.

So, while I love all my friends, the ones I can most closely relate to are the ones my age. They’re the ones who understand where I am in life and what I’m having to deal with. That doesn’t mean I love them more but very often it means we understand each other better. I think of that in the context of a romantic relationship…and it can be exhausting just considering it!

The couple in my book, older woman Kimberly Cooper and younger man Brandon Abbott, have lots bigger mountains to climb than what most May-December couples have to go through to achieve balance and happiness—first, he was her dead son’s best friend and, if that wasn’t hard enough, Brandon’s dealing with PTSD and a questionable past. But that’s the beauty of fiction—all that beloved conflict! Maybe once they make it through all the danger, intrigue, and heart wrenching emotions, they’ll be able to deal with these other couple problems. I can’t wait to write my way to that point!

Have you ever personally known a couple who has a big age gap? Are you in a May-December relationship? Are there any other difficulties I haven’t considered? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

4 Responses

  1. My, um, former uncle, in his third marriage – first to my aunt (they had 2 kids, and they were within a few years of each other in age.) His second marriage was to a woman considerably older than him, and she passed away from cancer after just a few years; I believe between the years his kids graduated from high school. When he married his third and current wife, she was in her 20’s and he was in his late 50’s. She was right around his youngest child’s age. I believe he turns 80 this year, and they are still together….

    I have a couple of girlfriends who thoroughly enjoy cougar status. My husband is 7 years older than me, but seems to be a good mix for us, since I was 21 and he was 28, but it did take us almost 16 years to get married.
    When I was 16 I met a guy who was 28 and we stayed together off and on for a number of years, and I still considered him one of my best friends when he passed away at 36. But I really should mention that he was a musician, (okay, in many ways he was my Ethan, but we did mend fences several years before he passed, with only a strong friendship remaining) which makes a huge difference in the maturity level compared to, say, a stock broker. He had a wonderful soul and I will always love and miss him on some level, but none of our friends and family were particularly overjoyed at the age difference…his friends eventually accepted me for the most part, and I remain in touch with a number of them. I was really never interested in younger than me – I think because I was the old soul who had grown up too quickly (and then there was the whole attraction to musicians, who usually didn’t.)

    • LaDonna,

      You seem to have a long and varied (and interesting!) history with the subject, whereas I mostly use my imagination. 😀 You’ll have to let me know if my book rings true. I try to tap into my heart when I write of things I’m not intimately familiar with. Usually, it doesn’t let me down, but you never know…

      <3 ya!

  2. Im 21 years older than my girlfriend. She is 10 years older than my youngest child. We have the same interests and get along very well, she is my best friend, we do most everything together. We can tell what each other is thinking. Sometimes I have to go do things with her that are boring to me, because I’ve already done it so many times. But its new to her and she haves fun, so I’ll continue going until shes bored of it too. She admits she likes the finincial security and the fact that I come home to her unstead of going to a bar or hanging with the boys. She is mature for her age. We have only been dating for a few years, so its hard to say what will happen. So far its been the best relationship I’ve ever had. I dont believe age matters. Its the friendship, and there is physical attraction. I’ve already had my ex girlfriends and wife, I know the mistakes I made, maybe it gives me an advantage?

    • It definitely sounds like it gives you an advantage. When I was writing the book and exploring those questions, I ultimately came to that conclusion too–that age only matters when we make it matter. Like you said, there is some adjusting (doing things boring to you), but I think that’s natural–and obviously the pros outweigh the cons. It sounds like your relationship is meant to last!

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