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Marriage, Unsuitable Age Gap and Its Outcome

Time and again we are faced with the dilemma of the desirable age gap between a husband and a wife. The implicit suggestion concerning the significance of a suitable age gap and its pros and cons differ and depends greatly on the individual characteristics of prospective spouses. We hardly need to emphasize that while the number of happy and tranquil marriages among spouses who have a significant age gap are not few, evidently the number of troubled marriages among the mentioned group out weight the happy ones. Hence suggesting cautious and the avoidance of significantly marked age gaps.

 Experience indicates that while 3 to 4 years age gap between a husband and a wife seems to be sensible enough, this doesn’t declare that near margins of above suggested boarder presents any obstacle in finding mutual ground necessary for a warm and healthy union. In present article we will focus on negative implications and consequences of unsuitable age gap in a marriage.

1-  Lack of Adequate Understanding

Implications of an unsuitable age gap between respective partners manifests itself in the absence of vary basic understanding of either partner’s feelings and behavior and thus becomes a major obstacle in marital affairs.

In the significant age gap - such as 20 years - at face value could be interpreted as a source of deep experience, but it may, just as well, indicate an older but not wiser adult. We need not discuss the commonly acknowledged reality that in the majority of cases the older partner irrespective of the actual reality and fact of the matter, enjoys a sense of superiority in wisdom and experience. Thus the argument suggests that the above mentioned attitude irrespective of actual reality of the matter, prompts circumstances and creates misconceptions which seriously endanger marriage. On the whole respective spouses of such marriages suffer greatly from psychological factors and, implications which lead to the absence of very basic understanding necessary for a healthy union. Naturally it should be kept in mind that personal thoughts, ideas and attitudes of each individual are also influential in marriage.1

2-  Physical Incompatibility

The firm family union could be influenced greatly by unsuitable age gap between respective spouses because due to this age gap both of the spouses are at different stages of their lives. Consequently a 30 year old woman who is at peak of her youth and has a 55 year old husband, who is approaching middle age, are bound to find fundamental problems in their marital affairs. Because while one of them is reaching his/her physical and emotional peak, the other partner is approaching his/her decline. When one of them is energetic and vigorous, the other one tires easily and even at times is inactive. The lack of adequate experience on the part of the younger partner leads to misunderstanding of attitudes and behaviors of the older partner.

Hence it paves the way for problems. She mistakes his lack of energy and enthusiasm for irresponsibility and a wayward attitude which naturally negatively influences the other partner who feels betrayed and misunderstood. Thus a negative atmosphere envelopes their union and provokes further problems which are very dangerous. Because while the older man has every intention of safeguarding his family and honoring his duty, his ailing physical condition doesn’t allow him to perform his duty as he should. Thus any accusation of negligence prompts him to react in a hostile manner. So in a matter of time all these become transferred and develop into problematic issues in the marriage.

3-  Inflexibility of the Older Partner

In principal, young people are more adaptable than older adults, especially if they feel secure. They show a great deal of unforeseen flexibility. So much like young plants and trees which can be bent in any desirable direction. Hence the essence of youth leaves a vast room to grow and adjust which reminds us of the Holy Prophet’s (SAW) remark which says: “Most of those who believed in me were youth”.

4- Anxiety and Apprehension of the Older Partner

Older men are constantly worried about loosing their young wives. They suffer from anxiety that one day their young wives will leave them and shatter their lives.

5-  Suspicion

One of the implications of unsuitable age gap is suspicion. At times the emotional insecurity in older men lead to unfounded suspicion which may rock the marriage.  Paranoia (a mental disorder) is very common among men who have young wives. Suspicion towards one’s wife is one of the symptoms of paranoia. A person who suffers from paranoia doesn’t trust any body. So he becomes hyper sensitive and unduly suspicious, and thus, quite easily questions his wife’s loyalty.2

6-  Sexual Incompatibility

One of the important aims of marriage is recognition of human sexual needs and accomplishment of love. Regulation of this inborn instinct and natural desires are essential in safeguarding the family union. In principle older men who are approaching late middle age have different sexual aptitudes in comparison to their much younger wives.  Consequently, any misconception in this regard can easily lead to an ignorance of the need for maintaining mutual concern and pave the way for problem causing circumstances. The above-mentioned problem may lead to depression in the young woman and in the case of a lack of personal restraint and piety in the woman may lead to sinful indulgence and lustful activities and overall chaos in the family.

7- Persistent Ordering and Prohibition of the

Older Partner towards the Younger Partner

It is a common practice in the mentioned respective spouses, that the older partner due to his personal experience, believes himself wiser. Thus, he feels free not only to give advice and inform, but also to instruct and educate his younger partner and in most cases the manner of the so-called advice or in reality his instruction is such that the younger partner finds it offensive because she has married in order to find a partner in life and not to obtain an additional parent. Of course, it should be noted that this isn’t suggestion that a husband and a wife refrain from perfecting and exalting each other. On the contrary, they are obliged to enjoin good and forbid evil to one other, but only as a partner and not a parent.

8- Formality and Embarrassment with Spouse

The other important implication of the mentioned respective spouses is undue embarrassment or bashfulness with each other. As a negative consequence of unsuitable age gap, the younger partner doesn’t feel at ease with her husband. So she suffers in silence and refrains from revealing her private thoughts to her husband. Thus, on the family union a heavy air of unmentioned thoughts sets in, which ultimately leaks out and creates misconceptions and misunderstanding between the spouses because she is forced to seek a hearing and understanding ear outside her home to find a way to think aloud and reflect on her impression of a matter; while her older husband feels betrayed and hurt.  Therefore, the value of speaking out shouldn’t be underestimated because it helps the man to come to some understanding of the situation and secures the mental health of the family.

9-  Unreasonable Privileges

In some cases, the older partner in order to satisfy and please the younger wife, offers her a great deal of privileges. But naturally, no one can go on pleasing his partner forever and feel content himself, at the same time, after a while either the privileges get out of proportion or the older partner looses heart in such a give and take relationship.  Therefore, sooner or later, a sense of insecurity falls on the family and chaos sets in. It is noteworthy that such an attitude in a family is very harmful and unhealthy for children.

10- Other Unpleasant Factors

Unsuitable age gap has other consequences and implications which become apparent or transparent at the later years of the union such as:

a) Regret: In the majority of cases a sense of deep regret due to numerous problems of such marriages isn’t uncommon.

b) Unforeseen problems: Unforeseen problems are among recognized hazards of these marriages.

c) Troubled or Misdemeanor Children: the number of problems which arise for children in families which belong to the mentioned groups, is significantly higher than in normal families. Studies done on the subject and literature in criminology indicate the fact that one of the main and common factors causing problems is that children lose one or both parents. In one parent families, the number of problematic children are much higher than in normal families. Reaffirming that in a family which suffers from an unsuitable age gap, early death of a parent is more likely. On another note it has been quoted from Allamah Tabatabai, the great contemporary translator and exegesis of the Holy Qur’an, that one of the main hazards of a marriage between an old man and a young woman becomes apparent in the early demise of the husband who leaves behind a young widow.

The last point refers to the limitations of old fathers in educating their children because of their early demise which prevents them from properly educating their offspring.

Aristotle’s Views

The scholar and philosopher, Aristotle says: “One of the points that should be observed in marriage is the suitable age gap between a husband and a wife.”4

 Finally it should be noted that while providing a solution for such problems which face the mentioned families, it is essential to inform the young and prospective boys and girls, and properly in time about the importance of the discussed matter and advise them that a suitable age gap in a marriage is 3 to 4 years and should not exceed 7 years. There is no need to mention here that the observance of this condition is subject to the careful consideration of all matters concerning marriage.

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