When considering marriage: Is an age gap (10-15 years) a bad idea (specifically for a girl being the younger)?
You have probably heard that a physician shouldn’t treat members of his own family and that a lawyer must recuse herself from cases that strike too close to home.
On that basis, we admit up front that we are not objective observers on this question since a bit more than ten years separates the two of us. It is with that awareness of some potential bias that we approach your question.
There is a big difference between factors that imperil a relationship and those factors that can complicate a relationship but which can be overcome. For example, if two people have different religions, then no matter how compatible they are on other issues, we would heartily warn them against marriage. We’d warn against marriage if they are committed to different value systems, which in today’s climate might be revealed by different political preferences. These kinds of differences will become bigger problem as years go by, not smaller.
On the other hand, when two people come from different economic backgrounds, ethnic groups, countries, social strata, emotionally different homes or a host of other factors, they can have a wonderfully successful marriage. However, it is prudent to be aware of potential issues.
When it comes to age, what are these issues? The positive side of marrying a man who is older by a number of years is that a woman has a better idea of who he is. He has had time to establish a track record in terms of community involvement, job success and personal behavior. There is more clarity about who he is than when the future is only speculation. His ability to have already put away a few dollars can help a couple start off on a more secure economic footing.
What issues should be addressed? Other than wanting to listen to music from different decades on long car rides ((Now we may be getting a bit personal-RDL), which is minor in the scheme of things, there are questions worth asking. Does the man respect the woman or is his attitude towards her more paternalistic in nature? Is she looking for a spouse, partner and head of household or for a father figure? Are there any major issues concerning how the two may have been raised with decidedly different attitudes as times changed—the world is moving faster than it used to.
We are less sanguine about an age difference when the woman is older. For a variety of reasons, marital stability is more likely to be imperiled with a noticeable age gap in favor of the woman.
The bottom line is that there are many issues that should be discussed as a couple contemplates marriage. How those discussions go and how conflicts are resolved is more important than a gap of ten or fifteen years.
May whatever decision you make put you on the path to a bright future.
Coping just fine with our age difference,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin