What you need to know:
- Marrying an older wife challenges social order. The couple in such a relationship has to agree to relate differently.
- The issue of children, in fact, can be a big deal. The younger man may want children of his own while the woman may no longer be interested.
Harriet came to the Sexology Clinic to seek advice on what she referred to as a crisis of a lifetime. She was 37 years old and a single mother of two. She was dating a 28-year-old man.
“The crisis is not that I am dating a younger man,” she explained, “The challenge is that I have fallen in love with the service man and we are in the brink of tying the knot.”
In Harriet’s own words, a service man is a man who exists in the life of a woman to fulfil her sexual needs and nothing more. The relationship is casual and a secret.
“The rule in having a service man is that you only call him when you feel like having sex and once you are done you tell him to leave your house,” she explained.
The service man enjoys privileges from the woman including financial assistance, access to job opportunities, a car and rent payment. The woman is always aware that the relationship is transactional and that the man will leave at some point to marry a younger woman.
“But in our case, we have fallen in deep love,” Harriet said absent-mindedly, her gaze fixed to the horizon, “I can’t do without him, he has stolen my heart, and I know he cannot do without me.”
And so, Harriet and her service man, Ken, had decided to proceed with civil wedding preparations.
“I however have a thought which keeps bothering me. Can such a marriage work given the age difference?” Harriet asked.
I could figure out Harriet’s dilemma. Any woman marrying a man younger than herself does worry. One of the reasons for such worries is that women mature faster socially and so are likely to find a younger man immature.
Of course, there are a few men who, because of exposure due to privileged lifestyles, their maturity matches that of an agemate or even an older woman. This is the exception rather than the norm.
With age differences also come discordance in libido. A younger man is likely to demand more sex including more variety in the act. A woman may find this exciting and could feel youthful as a result. Chances are however higher that the woman may not cope, and this can be a source of marital conflict.
Further, the generational differences may mean differences in interests. While a younger man may want to enjoy his life, watch football, go partying or start a new course, the mature woman may be focused on investment and creating a better future for her children.
The issue of children, in fact, can be a big deal. The younger man may want children of his own while the woman may no longer be interested. The woman is also limited by nature and may not get babies as menopause approaches.
But socialisation can also be a big deal in these relationships. The African boy grows up with a picture of superiority in his head. They are made to understand that they are the heads of their houses. They are to be the final decision makers in the family.
This understanding is reinforced by common place stereotypes and marketplace jokes such as women being inadequate, hard to please, interested in money and looking for an intelligent, shrewd and wealthy macho man to depend on.
As such, the African man is taken to be a conqueror of his family. He portrays an ego bigger than life to his wife. The wife is taught to be meek and submissive. In fact, it is for this reason that an older man tends to marry a younger woman because it is easier under such circumstances to assume the superiority role.
Marrying an older wife challenges this social order. The man and woman in such a relationship have to agree to relate differently. For a woman who enjoys equal partnership in a relationship this can actually work well but the man has to be ready to defy social order and be an equal partner.
Where the man is unable to adjust, the power dynamics and ego issues can adversely affect him. Mental health issues set in and sexuality also suffers. It is not uncommon for such men to lose erections during sex when confidence wanes during the act.
It is important to note that a man’s sexual performance is closely linked to his perception of self-confidence and big ego. A relationship where powers are reversed can have adverse effects if not managed well.
And so, Harriet needed to go into this marriage well aware of all possibilities. She needed to be aware that an older woman who marries a young man should be prepared for social and sometimes relationship turbulence. A candid discussion about these issues must happen before committing to a marriage.