Saturday, September 10, 2011

On Marrying Young: The Age Gap

When Rachel commented on my original On Marrying Young post, she brought up a great point that I hadn't considered: that a difference in age between husband and wife could mean that one spouse marries "young" while the other spouse is marrying at a more "socially acceptable" age.  How would this difference in age affect the marriage?  Since I don't have any experience in this area (my husband is all of 7 months older than me), I am turning this topic over to Rachel for her to enlighten us herself.  Thanks, Rachel!


Mandi’s posts on marrying young really got me thinking about at what age is “young.” Not only that, but does a marriage where one person is considered young, and the other not so young, play out any differently? My husband and I married after 5.5 long years of dating/engagement. I was a young 22, while my husband was 28. So while I’ve always placed myself in the “young marriage” category, I hadn’t really given much thought to my husband being at the end of his 20s. Usually, the age gap that is between us isn’t noticeable at all (it helps that he looks to be about 25, although he will be 30 in April!) except when we talk about our childhood and memories we have. For example, in discussing the anniversary of 9/11 we recalled that my husband was in his second year of college, while I had just started 9th grade. This got me giggling. Remembering important events in our history often have that affect on us.
Our first photo at 23 & 18 - 2006

But now, with almost one year of marriage under our belt (in less than 2 weeks!), I’ve come to notice other differences our age gap has created, specifically when it comes to marriage.

How the Past Shapes Our Future
First I’d like to preface by saying that I specifically wanted to date/marry an older man. My parents are 7 years apart and my father made it very clear to me that most men were not ready to wed in their early 20s – mostly because they weren’t mature enough to handle that kind of responsibility. It didn’t take me long to figure out that at age 18 (when I started seriously considering dating someone) other boys my age were nowhere near mature. So I naturally looked for someone older than me who was ready to settle down.

I know other women who didn’t have this problem at all, and I’m sure the environment I grew up in (liberal, unreligious Southern California) contributed a lot to the way young men acted. Perhaps if I had grown up in a religious community, say in a church or at a private school, I might have had a different experience. But, at the time, I certainly didn’t run in those circles. Even the idea of “dating to marry” drew raised eyebrows from my friends.

Brian graduating with his Master's - 2007
So, living in the technical age that we are, I went to the Internet. I can’t remember how I found but I did end up on it, joined, and just a few days later got in contact with my husband. He was the first person I messaged. I was the first person he spoke with. We’ve been together ever since.

I digress – the point I’m trying to make here is that my environment (secular, liberal) and what I was raised to believe (young men are immature) ultimately impacted the decision I made to look for (and ultimately marry) someone that was older than me and religious. Everyone has a different situation and I’m not trying to advocate one way or the other.

Our Young Marriage Dynamics
My husband and I dated for almost 5 years before getting engaged – a lot of this had to do with education. Because we were far apart in years I was in the middle of my Bachelor’s degree while my husband was finishing his Master’s. My husband was very firm in that he wanted me to finish my degree before we got engaged. I think he was worried that I might become too distracted in planning a wedding to really dedicate myself, or that I would want to get pregnant right away and that I wouldn’t finish my degree (we’ll never know, but it would have been a possibility). He also had concerns that I was too young to get married, believe it or not. After all, he was a good 6 years older than I was and he was just now really ready to marry. How could I be on the same level as him when I was so much younger and inexperienced?

My 20th Birthday at Disneyland – 2008
Obviously, the age difference was an issue. I think a lot of the feelings he had came from his friends, who were his age, and were extremely curious as to why he was with someone so much younger than him (and who couldn’t go to any bars!). His siblings and mother also showed some concern in those first few years, though it was made less obvious to me. So, after some long talks where we considered eloping (just kidding Dad!), we both decided we would wait until I finished college in May 2009 – he proposed in August 2009 and we wed in September 2010. You can read more about our story here.

Graduate school (my husband is currently in a PhD program) has been both a blessing and a curse for us. While I know that this is an amazing opportunity for my husband to become a Professor at a university, his dream job, it has put a lot of our plans on hold. I am currently working a full-time job to support our family, while my husband dedicates all of his time to the program. I have wanted nothing more than to be a Mommy since I was a little girl, but I have had to put that idea on the backburner until my husband gets closer to finishing his degree (we are almost there!). My husband is often burdened, knowing that if he had chosen a different career path we would have started a family as soon as we married. We are also not as financially stable as a couple that might have married later in life – I’ve only been in the work force for 2 years and have less experience to earn a higher salary. Being young, cautious with what we spend, and not knowing where my husband will find his job means that we cannot put down roots. If we had married in our early 30s we could have avoided a lot of these problems. But then again, we would have missed out on a lot of the benefits.

Our engagement dinner – 2009
Getting married early means you grow together – and because I have known my husband for all of my adult life (our first date was 3 months after I turned 18) we have a lot of shared experiences that have given us the opportunity to work through and address problems that other couples might not have dealt with until after marriage. I was young and willing to learn what it took to be a good wife and homemaker, and although my husband was in his late 20s when we married, he was not set in his ways because we started dating early. In the course of dating we were able to watch two of our close friends (his age) become engaged and marry, and it solidified in our mind that marriage was something to look forward to. Of course, not everyone should run out and start dating at 18, but I was mature enough and truly wanted to settle down, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

A Little Give and Take
Not to simplify the issue, but there are some pluses and minuses that come from marrying with a significant age difference. One of the first things that attracted me to my husband (besides his devilish good looks, of course) was his life experience. He knew where he wanted to be and he knew how he was going to get there. A man who knows what he wants! Not only that, but he had experienced a lot of the world that I hadn’t yet. He had travelled to more than 15 countries across Europe, he had lived abroad for months at a time, was getting his Master’s degree and had plans to become a professor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a smart cookie, but I really looked up to him. After all, I was starting my first year in college, didn’t know what I wanted to major in or where I wanted to end up. He inspired me.

Our Wedding, age 28 & 22 – 2010
The age gap between us contributed to some awkward experiences in the beginning: I didn’t have a lot in common with his friends, especially the girls. They were finished with school; some had even finished graduate school, and were well into their careers. There were a lot of times where I felt left out, even deliberately. For a few years, probably until I turned 20 or 21, I was viewed as the little kid of the group. Somehow my young age made them feel obligated to give me life advice that I felt was unnecessary. I’m sure my husband endured all kinds of comments about being a “cradle robber” when we first got together. While I am a lot closer to his friends now, and consider them my friends also, there were times where our dating life was difficult because of the peer pressures we felt. Now that I’m older and in my mid-twenties this part of our lives seems to be well behind us.

Vacation in Europe – 6/24/2011
Still, at 23 I’m far from the marrying norm. None of the friends I grew up with or work with are married, let alone engaged. In fact, most aren’t even dating seriously. This is probably the biggest difference between my husband and I – while he has a number of friends married, a few starting families and so on, I feel like I’m one in a million. Thank goodness for blogs! :)

P.S. A man's chances of dying early are reduced by 11 percent if they marry a woman seven to nine years younger. So we’ve got that going for us.

You can read more of my quirky, no nonsense (and sometimes a whole lotta nonsense) ramblings at Many Miracles. I promise not to hide the cookies.

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.


  1. Fascinating perspective!! I was just at a wedding where the bride was 28 and the groom was 42.

    My twin sister also married "up" :). She married at 23 - he was 28. Even just a five year difference puts them in different "generations" when it comes to a lot of childhood and pop culture references (also, he is the youngest of his siblings whereas she and I were "first borns").

    On the flip side: I married a man two years younger than me. :)

  2. Thanks for writing this! I'm really glad to come across other couple that have a bit of an age gap. My boyfriend is 5 years older than me, and we really only notice the age gap when we're talking about pop culture.

  3. @Sarah - I hadn't thought about how birth order might affect marriage! I am the first born in my family, while my husband is the baby/only child. His siblings are 13 and 15 years older than him, moved out to college when they were 18, so he spent most of his childhood as the "only" one at home. Interesting huh? I think I'm definitely bossy while he mostly goes along with what I say, BUT I'm more flexible when plans change and he is not. :)

    @Trista - teasing my husband about our age gap is one of my favorite pastimes. "Hey honey - the year you started college, I was in the 8th grade!" Hahahaha, I'm evil.

  4. I was 19 when I married and my husband was 23. If early 20s is considered young nowadays, I guess I was a baby! I had graduated from high school at 16 and been out in the workforce a while, with a little part-time college-no degree- under my belt. Almost 4 years later, I am not a bit sorry we married when we did. I do see that I've matured a lot since our wedding, but not in ways that have negatively affected our marriage. I feel like more of an adult now, and am more comfortable in my role as one, and I think that being married has helped that happen.

    A lot of people probably say this about the age difference in their marriage, but I do think 3-4 years is a great difference (guy being older). My husband didn't graduate from college until the year before we married, so he wasn't even ready before that. I had been hoping and praying to meet my future spouse for several years prior to that. I wasn't in school and I was ready for the rest of my life to begin. My husband considers himself much older than me because he remembers older TV shows and music, and one president further back than I remember. Four years isn't that great of a difference though. He just likes to pretend. I always tease him about remembering Noah's ark when he gets too into how much older he is than me, and point out his grey hairs. :)

    Would we have waited longer if we could do it all over again? I don't know. We talk about that sometimes. If we had stayed engaged longer, we could have bought a house in a nicer neighborhood and perhaps he could have got his Master's. But we're fine as we are; we need neither of those things.

    Anyway, interesting post, Rachel. Once I get my munckins to bed I plan to come back and read Mandi's post-I was on vacation and I missed that one.

  5. Oh, another thought (goodness, my comments are becoming a post of their own!) is that it can be challenging to find friends when you are a very young married couple. This is definitely not a reason to wait if you are ready, but it is a challenge to be aware of. Nine months and a day after our wedding, our daughter was born. So now we were young, married, and we had a breastfed baby who went everywhere with us. Our friends from before our marriage were all either dating or single. We couldnt do things like dinner out on a whim, or a ball game, or a play or the symphony. It made socializing a little awkward to plan sometimes. We met people at church with young children, but the parents were mostly about ten and even twenty years older than us. The kids were a common bond, but all similarities in background stopped there. Now we're a little older so it's more common to find married couples our age.
    Some even have a kid or two! :)

  6. It's nice to see others who are in age gap relationships. My fiance is almost 11 years older than me, but it's never been an issue for us(although others think it's a problem at times).We met while in college, me a full-time student and him a part-time student, at the Catholic club on campus. He is such an amazing man and I don't think I could ever find anyone else like him, whether my age or not. We're in no rush to start a family, but we can't wait to get married. There may be an age gap between us, but we have very similar goals, values, views on life, hobbies, etc. which is what makes it work.

  7. My hubby was 47 and I was 22 when we got married. He was graduating from school when I was graduating from diapers :)

  8. Very inspiring blog. I hope that will also be my experience in the near future. I'm not getting younger as a man and still a single.


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