When You Love Someone, Does Age Matter?

If you’re in your 20s and looking for a life partner, you probably have a long list of requirements, pertaining to variables such as religion, education, occupation, height and age. But perhaps you’ve met someone who seems perfect or close-to-perfect in all respects, except one. You’re willing to compromise, but need to find a way to keep your father from suffering a heart attack when you bring home someone who witnessed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

You’re rehearsing what to say to your father and imagining how he’ll respond:

You: “Age is just a number, Dad.”

Father: “Have you seen his birth record? Was it etched in stone?”

You: “He is young at heart, Dad.”

Father: “What about his other organs? Is he young at lungs? Young at kidneys?”

You: “He’s in good shape, Dad. He plays tennis weekly.”

Father: “How weakly? Can he get the ball over the net?”

An age difference of several decades may seem unfathomable, but it certainly happens now and then. The Guinness World Record for age difference between married partners is 63 years. Gertrude Grubb Janeway of Tennessee was only 18 when she married 81-year-old John Janeway, a veteran of the American Civil War, on June 9, 1927.  And Gertrude undoubtedly said to her parents: “We’re backward folk. Just look at his age backward and you get my age.”

Compared to them, the age difference between actress Priyanka Chopra and singer Nick Jonas seems insignificant. She was 36 and he was 26 when they got married in 2019. But the relationship raised some eyebrows because Priyanka was just the right age to marry a Hollywood actor old enough to be Nick’s dad.

Hollywood actors in their 50s and 60s don’t generally marry women in their 50s and 60s. They look for women in their 20s and 30s who make them feel young. Alec Baldwin was 53 when he married 27-year-old Hilaria Thomas. George Clooney was also 53 when he married 36-year-old Amal Alamuddin. And Clint Eastwood was 66 when he married 31-year-old Dina Ruiz.

By marrying an older woman, Nick Jonas broke the rules of celebritydom. And he may have received some angry texts from fellow celebrities.

Tom Cruise: “Nick, you’re setting a bad example. Just the other day, an old woman hit on me. I think she was 50-something!”

Nick: “How old are you, Tom?”

Tom: “I just turned 60. What’s your point?”

Nick, of course, is not the only male celebrity to have an older spouse, but in 99 percent of marriages with large age differences, it’s the man who’s considerably older. If you’re a waiter in a restaurant and an old woman walks in with a young man, you can safely assume that they aren’t a couple. But if an old man walks in with a young woman, it’s probably not wise to take the man’s order and then say, “And what can I get for your daughter?”

The safe approach is to make no assumptions whatsoever. They could be husband and wife, father and daughter or even grandfather and granddaughter. Anything is possible.

When it comes to age differences, perhaps it’s better to allow people to make their own choices, as long as they’re consenting adults who aren’t victims of undue influence. After all, they are the ones who will spend their lives with a spouse who’s 25 years older, enjoying the benefits (financial security, fame, etc.) and enduring the challenges (incompatibility, obsession with playing pickleball, etc.).

If 25 years seems too large a gap, then where do you draw the line? 20 years? 10? Wherever you draw the line, it’s quite arbitrary. One person may say, “I won’t marry someone more than 10 years older than me,” while another person might say, “I won’t marry someone more than 5 years older than my parents.”

When choosing a partner, age shouldn’t be a make-or-break yardstick. That’s how I feel, but if one of my daughters brings home a date who is anywhere near my age, you can bet I’ll be taking out a yardstick – and not for any measuring.

Image courtesy of (Photo credit: Bollywood Hungama) 

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