May 18, 2010

Maybe you ought to marry someone who is in your age range.

A study shows that women who marry much older men or much younger men are more likely to die than women who marry men who are around their age. You can speculate about the reasons for that. Assuming the study is accurate, I wonder whether something about a husband who's not your age tends somehow to wear us out or whether women who are in better condition in the first place are drawn to men who are close to their age. I'm going to guess it's the latter — i.e., correlation, not causation. And I confess prejudice: I prefer to be with someone who's my age. I wouldn't want a marriage that had any kind of a parent-and-child feeling to it. It's great to be parents together or to feel like 2 kids sometimes, but who wants to always be the elder or always the junior? People who die more easily, apparently.

47 comments:

campy said...

I thought the death rate was fixed at 1 per person.

AllenS said...

The problem that I find myself in, at 63 years of age, is that I have to date somebody's grandmother. It just seems so wrong.

campy said...

Maybe you should go for 3 21-year-olds instead.

HDHouse said...

Well there is sex with an older man and then there is SEX with an older man.

Cause of death unknown?

Adam said...

The next great social-justice cause, Cougar Rights:

“In essence, women are dying earlier because society invalidates their choice of partner. So maybe it is the limited social construct that kills, not the mate’s age.”

Christy said...

Ruth Gordon (1896 – 1985) - Garson Kanin. She had 17 years on him when they married in 1942 and still managed 89 years.

TMink said...

After I divorced, there were the snide comments from women who thought I had traded my wife in for a younger model. Well, technically I did. My current wife is 13 months younger than my former.

I would keep a photo of her in the "Trophy Wife" shirt I got for her and watch their faces fall as they saw she was my age.


Trey

reader_iam said...

Whew! It seems I'm within the safe range of "older."

I suspect I'll still die younger, though, but on account of other factors (none of which can be laid at society's door, either, but rather strictly my own).

Paul Zrimsek said...

So you're saying I should ditch Tiffany and look for someone named Deborah?

Joe said...

I was going to add a sarcastic comment, but then it occurred to me that many women who marry older men insist on having babies with them, even if they are already pushing the save pregnancy envelope.

***

Ah, couldn't resist: when you're over thirty, twenty-somethings are made for fucking, not marrying.

John Stodder said...

After my wife died, and I began dealing with the fact that I was now single, I started giving off signals, but consciously and unconsciously, that I was available and interested. One attractive woman in my office picked up on these signals -- someone I wasn't interested in but who I thought might have a friend she'd like me to meet. And she did. Her mom.

It was depressing at the time to realize that she viewed me as too old for her age peers. But after I dated someone else who was 13 years younger than I for about a year, I realized why, for anything that was going to be serious, a big age difference was probably a dealbreaker. It had nothing to do with our compatibility, and everything to do with the phases of life we were each in. To be with me, she would have had to make herself, in effect, 10 years older. Making myself 10 years younger wasn't really possible, and the stress of trying to do so would've eventually caused me to resent her. But the reverse was clearly true for her. She was still looking forward to having kids; I had no interest in extending my parental servitude an additional 10 years. So, she would have had to toss aside an important passage in her life, or I would have been forced to relive a passage I thought I was done with and that, psychologically, I was done with.

Not like we were ever serious enough where marriage was a prospect -- in fact I think she liked going out with me precisely because I was off-limits for anything more than an affair due to our religious differences. And it was flattering and stimulating to have a sexy young woman in my life, especially after what I'd been through. But after that relationship ended, it was clearer to me that if I was going to have a serious relationship or marry again, it was going to have to be with someone close to my age. I ended up marrying someone born the same year as me. The fact that we are contemporaries has been a positive thing at every turn and in every way.

My experience makes me wonder if the women who marry older guys are suffering in part because their men don't look at them as real contemporaries. The men love these women, I assume, and also I assume part of the ongoing attraction is based on her youthful appearance. So the woman probably feels desired for many years, and that's good.

But at some level, she must feel a little bereft, emotionally, because she really doesn't have a partner in the journeys of life. Everything she's discovering is old news to him. Everything he's discovering, he can't really convey to her -- in part because he doesn't want to seem "old." They both probably feel a bit lonely, which takes away one of the prime benefits of marriage -- a benefit with health implications.

(cont.)

Larry J said...

A study shows that women who marry much older men or much younger men are more likely to die than women who marry men who are around their age.

Stupid statement as campy pointed out. They (and we) are all going to die. Marrying someone older or younger isn't going to change that.

John Stodder said...

(part 2)

My recently-widowed mother has a neighbor who was the classic second wife of a successful man, a hot-looking former secretary for whom he dumped the woman he married while his career was still on the launching pad. Now she's 65 and still vital and attractive, but he's 80-something and suffering from dementia. It's almost cruel, what she's going through. She got to enjoy the money he made and to admire his success, but now she's taking care of an old man who doesn't care how attractive she still is, because half the time he can't remember her name. He was done with having children when they married, so she doesn't have kids of her own to help her with him. And his kids, who are close to her age, still kind of resent her and resent him for ditching their mother, so they don't come in and help much. She must pray for him to die soon, and yet fear it because then what? Who's she going to grow old with? She reached out to my Mom after my Dad died last year, because she related to her as having survived the care and feeding of an old man. What an irony. The guy's first husband was probably about my Mom's age.

I think it's the loneliness built into these May-December marriages that makes them hazardous. Loneliness, and the younger person's sense that they were cheated out of something that should have been experienced.

(Sorry for the oversharing! This just struck a chord.)

GMay said...

"...women who marry much older men or much younger men are more likely to die than women who marry men who are around their age."

So women who marry men around their age are less likely to die? Something tells me this should be bigger news! ;)

Tibore said...

"campy said...
Maybe you should go for 3 21-year-olds instead. "


A.K.A. The "Hugh Hefner Method of Dating".

Ralph L said...

The guy's first husband was probably about my Mom's age.
Then it's a good thing he divorced him.

For years, my step mother constantly reminded everyone that my Dad was 18 years older than she, and I barely refrained from strangling her. Now she's 65 and thoroughly enjoying ill health (all her pain pills ruined her colon and lungs) and my Dad has to do everything for her. I just hope she dies before she bankrupts him.

Trooper York said...

HDHouse said...
Well there is sex with an older man and then there is SEX with an older man.

hd we really don't want to hear about your sexual preferances pal.

Don't ask and don't tell.

Not that there's anything wrong with that of course.

Tibore said...

And on a more serious note: That article doesn't really do much as far as reporting the actual science. The fact that a demographic trend was identified is reported, and then the writer goes on and on about what various researchers speculate it means. And heck, were any of the researchers quoted even involved with the study that's supposedly the subject of the article? I don't think there was a single bit of speculation that actually was derived from the data gathered. That may make for interesting news reporting, but it's poor science reporting. The fact remains that the reasons for the trend are unreported and may even be unindentified. Which doesn't stop the article from presuming causality in the correlation, a logically fallacious leap to make in the absence of identified causal factors. Sure, the age differences may indeed be the causal factor in the trend. But the point is that nothing in the article actually quotes data demonstrating this, only professional speculation.

The reporting of the actual science here is simply not all that good.

John Stodder said...

The guy's first husband was probably about my Mom's age.
Then it's a good thing he divorced him.


Oops. Damn.

edutcher said...

The Blonde and I are 1 year, 4 days apart, so we can talk about something without having to explain it. Things like that probably count more than we might think. Even friends in their middle fifties has no idea of a lot of the pop cultural to which we refer.

As for taking care of someone older, it does shorten your life. I took care of my mom and Aunt Mary when I was a lot younger and it was all I could do. In the last 10 years, The Blonde and I took in her mom, who had Alzheimer's, and we still needed help from her three brothers.

In the end, it's probably as true for men as it is for women, but women are supposed to have longer life expectancy, so it's treated as something of a revelation.

Night2night said...

Perhaps a little bit of freedom from Woody Allen's not-so-sage observation that "the heart desires what the heart desires" is not such a bad thing. We resent the constraints social norms place on us, but the outcomes associated with relationships enabled by elevated social standing, large cash flow, or simple ego, and unconstrained by social norms seem to, on average, yield worse results than societal norms. Of course that might mean admitting we're not as special as we think (i.e. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it).

c3 said...

Is there some foundation out there (i.e. the US Weekly Foundation) that funds crap studies like this?

former law student said...

No one's mentioned the obvious -- marrying Meade added years to the professor's life.

Night2night said...

@ FLS, well it seems to agree with her, but reaching that conclusion with any degree of certainty would make us very special (which could leave us in the same situation she might have saved herself from).

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The advantage of being married to someone the same age as you is that you both share cultural references and common experiences of youth. Growing up separately but at the same time.

If you are with someone much younger or older, often the memories of your own youth are met with blank stares.

Commonality.

Try explaining the joyous and wonderful experience of going to the drive in theater as a child with your parents in the front seat and you and your siblings in your jammies in the back area of the 1958 station wagon to a thirty something year old spouse.

Jeff said...

Everyone seems to have a story of older relatives with an age gap. I wonder how much modern "perpetual adolescence" - that is, the ability to constantly put off growing up and joining the real world by staying in college or mooching off your parents - has decreased the acceptance of age differences in relationships.

A century ago, people didn't spend a decade "discovering themselves" or whatever. At age 18, you were grown up, and expected to have a job or a baby.

prairie wind said...

Try explaining the joyous and wonderful experience of going to the drive in theater as a child with your parents in the front seat and you and your siblings in your jammies in the back area of the 1958 station wagon to a thirty something year old spouse.

If my 12-yr-older husband explains something from his childhood that i didn't experience myself, I try something revolutionary: I listen. He does the same when I talk about something from my childhood that he experienced differently. It works out pretty well. As for me caring for him as an old man? Maybe I'll break a hip at 55 and he'll need to take care of me.

No guarantees in this life. Not even if you married someone your own age.

roesch-voltaire said...

I have been with my wife, who is twenty years younger, for twenty years sharing experiences from watching Dr. Martin on PBS to camping and hiking the Sierra Nevada mountains.These are mutual discoveries we take delight in and they form the core of our relationship as friends, partners and lover in life's adventure.Yes we each have our own careers, our friends span the generations and include children from my previous marriage to a woman my age. And yes we have our own existential areas that can never be quite known by the other, but I would not say I feel more lonely because of the difference-- if anything the differences between us keeps life interesting. This survey seems to miss the important issue which I think is how you live you life together moment by moment-- hopefully with love and compassion, because then the dying, which happens to us all, leaves no bitterness.

EDH said...

I refuse to discuss an article about the effects of marrying someone "much older" that makes no attempt to identify or define "much older," either in years or percentage terms.

Journalistic fail.

Night2night said...

As with solutions of partial differential equations, I think preferrable outcomes for married couples (I'm satisfied and happy with my life) can be seen as a general solution/special solution situation. I took Ann's original comment to be on the general solution (although, then again, it's also intended to draw comments with a tease it in some way reflects on her personal life). More specifically, if you had to predict a long term outcome for a marriage, do you think certain common factors would lead to a higher probability of a good outcome for both parties (e.g. socioeconomic factors, religion, age, expectations on having children)?

The higher probability for a good outcome associated with the general solution does not invalidate a special solution. It just means those utilizing the special solution may not have as high a probability of success as those using the general solution (all other factors being equal).

Of course most of us want to claim we are special (who wants to be ordinary?). My observation of the risk here is some individuals treasure their specialness over almost everything else. Case in point; I've known some highly intelligent individuals who seemed to go to ridiculous lengths to prove they're not their parents.

Ann Althouse said...

"Stupid statement as campy pointed out. They (and we) are all going to die. Marrying someone older or younger isn't going to change that."

No, it's not stupid. If you play Russian roulette with bullets in 4 chambers, you are more likely to die than if you have only 1 bullet. Eventually, everyone will die, and all can die only once, but if your chances are worse at any given time, you are more likely to die. Maybe you enjoy making a word game out of this, but I think *that* is stupid. You know the point is more likely in the next time segment.

Paul Zrimsek said...

What is it about Roach's post that made me want to go out and pick up a couple of teenage hookers?

Bruce Hayden said...

I wonder whether they control for different cultures. The problem is that there are cultures in this world where men routinely marry women 10+ years younger than they are. They wait until they are established and have something to bring to the marriage.

Trooper York said...

"former law student said...
No one's mentioned the obvious -- marrying Meade added years to the professor's life."

I don't know. Something about this mushroom fixation seems fishy to me. Just sayn'

Penny said...

Outliving someone that I was completely and totally in love with is not on my bucket list of things to do in this lifetime.

That would mean I am safe to marry either a younger or older man, or a man close to my age who had a significantly healthier lifestyle than my own, given men have shorter life expectancy than women their own age.

For those of you who are in a genuinely happy marriage, if given one of two choices...die first or die last, what would it be? For the sake of this discussion, can we assume your children are fully grown.

Be said...

The closest I've ever been to peace is in finding my own Mister Rochester. We argue about Politics, History, etc like there's no tomorrow. Figure that the risk of losing him due to age is maybe proportionate to his risk of losing me over the Atlantic. Dunno. Totally feels like a Mexican Standoff with Death or Something, but, well, seems to work.

David said...

"If she dies, she dies."

Penny said...

"If she dies, she dies."

No chit, David, but you haven't answered the question as presented.

Would you wish to go first or last?

Eric said...

I wonder if there might be quite a bit of selection bias here. About half the women I know who married significantly older men were quite large and/or unhealthy. Presumably they would have more difficulty attracting a husband in their own age range.

In other words, the assumption women will live longer if married to men the same age may be based on an incorrect understanding of causality.

dick said...

Makes me wonder about my grandfather. He married for the first time when he was 62 and my mother was born 2 years later. His wife was 21 when they married. He lived to see my mother graduate from college.

Kirk Parker said...

"For those of you who are in a genuinely happy marriage, if given one of two choices...die first or die last, what would it be?"

It's a darn good thing we aren't really given the responsibility for choosing that!

jamboree said...

Agree. Don't get the marrying a rich old guy or the cougar thing. I'd always be miserable that I had to do that.

howzerdo said...

My maternal grandparents got married in 1924 when he was 50 and she was 20. He had been married once before, briefly, as a young man, but did not have children. My grandparents had three, born when he was 52, 59, and 60.

My grandmother told me that people whispered, "you're crazy, he'll never live to see those kids grown." (She also told me men her age routinely hit on her, thinking she was "lonely" being married to such an old man, but that is another story.)

Anyway, he died in 1971, when he was 97. My grandmother was 67, my aunt was 40, my mother was 38 and my uncle was 37 at the time (I was 10). My grandmother was a widow for 22 years, and died in 1993, when she was 89.

They had political differences (he was straight ticket Republican, she was straight ticket Democrat), religious differences (he was Methodist, she was Catholic), ethnic differences (he was Dutch/Palatine/Indigenous descent, she was Irish descent), personality differences (he was easy going as the day is long, she had a temper).

He was born in 1874, was the son of a Civil War veteran and was only 10 years younger than her father; she was a child of the 20th Century, a modern, independent thinker, had fun during the roaring '20s.

Financially, his family background was better than hers, but he was a generous soul who lost his general store during the Depression, and they became caretakers/tenant farmers who never owned a house again.

I once asked her how she managed being married to someone so much older. She said that she always acted, thought and looked older, and he always acted, thought and looked younger, so eventually they met in the middle as she caught up to him.

I'd say the biggest impact on my grandmother of marrying an older man was that she had to work outside the home much more than most women of her generation.

My grandfather was in fantastic health until he was 96, and worked into his 80s, but he was too old for social security (he was never grandfathered in, despite living until 1971) and as a caretaker/tenant farmer, income was low, and he didn't have any pension or savings. So she was the sole support for about the last 15 years of his life.

amba said...

Women who marry older men often end up being caregivers (case in point here), which notoriously can kill you. "He got sick and she died" is one laconic formulation of that.

My own cynical formulation: "Girls! Marry an older man! He'll be to old to dump you at menopause, and in return, you'll still be young enough to take care of him in his decrepitude."

Lotta black humor among caregivers.

VW: gaugh

amba said...

Now she's 65 and still vital and attractive, but he's 80-something and suffering from dementia. It's almost cruel, what she's going through. She got to enjoy the money he made and to admire his success, but now she's taking care of an old man

My situation, minus the money and success. I am 64 and taking care of a husband with dementia who's 82, who was taken prisoner by the Red Army from a well-to-do family at 16 and did two years of slave labor in the Gulag, escaping in winter to avoid amputation of his gangrenous legs from a coal mine cave-in; he was prepared by his interrupted life to do only two things--inherit or survive--neither of which was relevant or useful here in America. When we met, he was 44 and I was 26. Our age difference at that point was the least of the differences between us.

amba said...

But then, I am bored by people too much like myself. I've already got one of me (one too many, at times). If I hadn't married this gnarly older survivor it probably would've been a Tibetan or something.

amba said...

I mean, pop culture references?? Who CARES?

WV: trangst (what one feels before a sex-change operation)