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Does Age Count?

Dear Philippa,

Does age count if two people really love each other?

�Candace, Johannesburg, South Africa


Dear Candace,

Yours is one of four letters I received this month from women asking the same question. The circumstances were different, but the bottom line is you all feel uneasy about the age thing. One letter expressed regret at losing an opportunity with a soul mate because she was waiting for him to grow up a little and get established before revealing her true feelings. Another writer said was having an affair with a much younger man and she wanted to know if she was foolish to think she had a future with him.

I also received a letter from a younger man who wanted to know how he could meet older women, much older women.

I liked your question because it sums up the central issue for all the other readers who wrote me. Does age count if two people really love each other? In my opinion, age taken by it self doesn't matter. What does matter is the overall level of compatibility of the couple. The same is true of couples from vastly different cultures. In other words, love alone will not see you through, whatever the differences. And having interests in common is not the key. What couple needs is a strong foundation of common values, goals, styles and beliefs to have a solid, loving, relationship that continues to work over the years.

The tricky part is that compatibility is about having a common view of life and people see life and situations differently at different stages in their life. In our twenties we are exploring boundaries, and learning who we are in the world. In our thirties we are learning how to carve out a career and establish a family. How different these two decades are than when we are in our forties and fifties.

If you meet someone who is in his twenties and you are in your forties, the student teacher kind of relationship can work. This is where the older partner introduces the younger person to the world. Older men frequently fill this role for younger women. When David Letterman was interviewing Rod Stewart about his divorce from model/actress Elle McPherson, Rod said that he was foolish getting married to a woman who was twenty when he was forty. Rod wasn't talking about dating. He was talking about the problems with a long-term relationship with a much younger wife who grew and matured into someone with different goals and expectations.

But then you look at Mary Tyler Moore who married her doctor, a man considerably younger than her, and with whom she appears to have a strong, healthy marriage. Statistics however say that she is the exception not the rule and that marriages between people with large age differences often do not survive well.

Statistics aside, the bottom line is that all couples need to talk frankly to each other about how compatible they really are. You need to explore each other's commonalties, differences, and most importantly how your age difference may effect the relationship over time. Decide what is acceptable, what you can negotiate, and what won't work. Love has nothing to do with age, culture, religion, or social class. Compatibility has everything to do with relationships that will stand the test of time and sustain love.



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