AGE GAP – Should It Matter?
-By Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.
The following article was prompted by a letter we received here at Marriage Missions. We have edited the letter and changed the name to protect the identity of this writer. (Following this letter and my response, we will include a few web site links to additional articles with differing approaches:
I have an issue on my mind that bothers me about marriages. I have found lately that couples tend to use the differences in ages as a barrier to keep them apart, which I personally feel is looking into the flesh, rather than what God has planned for them together. Our marriages are supposed to fulfill the purposes God has for us together and I believe that God chooses us as human beings put together to fulfill His purposes.
It’s sad that couples that have the same desire to serve the Lord, are God-fearing, compatible, and have many other healthy ingredients to have a successful marriage, stay apart because of what society thinks of them differing in ages —more so if the man is younger that the woman.
I really look forward to hearing about this from you. There are many people that could benefit from reading about this aspect of marriage especially when choosing a partner.
A Concerned Reader
You make several excellent points in your letter about the barrier that age differences cause. Age differences and the role it plays in marriage can definitely be used in a “fleshly” manner in emotionally separating married couples more than it looks like it should when you view it from a spiritual standpoint.
But unfortunately, we live in the day and age where divorce is becoming such a common way for couples to resolve differences that seem too difficult to bridge. For that reason we have to be all the more cautious when we advise couples who are entering into marriage. That’s probably why it’s almost impossible to find articles for couples considering marriage (where there is a big age difference which will put a positive spin on it because too often it eventually causes divisive problems in marital relationships. (Not in all cases but in enough of them that it’s something to be concerned about.)
The age differences aren’t as much of a problem when the couple is younger. It’s amazing how young love can seem to conquer all! But later on in life when the couple gets progressively older it becomes more of a problem because the older spouse eventually gets into health and energy issues that the younger spouse often finds too troublesome to deal with in their own stage in life.
And in all fairness though, it really can be a problem. I look at the energy and desire that our sons have to do certain things (because of their younger stage of life) and I can’t even imagine having to do those things at this stage in my life. If I had a younger spouse (or if it was my husband who had a younger spouse) this would have to be dealt with—and it would definitely cause its share of problems.
Years ago when Biblical commitment in marriage was more steadfast, this was something that couples would deal with and not allow to separate them. But that’s not as common in today’s world. It’s tragically sad but true. As a result, there may be some couples (with large age gaps) that God would want to work in and through, to show how His grace is sufficient to sustain unconditional loving, that He’s not able to, because of the choices we decide to make. I’m sure this grieves His heart!
But to be truthful, because of the influence of today’s world on harming marriages, I would greatly caution any couple that is contemplating marriage (where there is a large age gap). They need to look very carefully and prayerfully at the reality of what the upcoming years could most likely bring to challenge their love and commitment to live out the rest of their lives with each other (and still “finish well” as Marriage Message #191 discusses).
Deciding during the courtship stage, not to marry because of the stress their age gap would bring into their marriage, can be a wise decision to make. They have to be sure beyond a shadow of doubt that they both have the commitment it would take to overcome the huge obstacles they may encounter because of the differences in their ages.
I have seen a few good marriages where the large age gap worked out fine and they have very good marriages. But I’ve seen more where they end up disastrous. That’s why I would counsel couples to be very, VERY sure they’re considering marriage for more reasons than the emotional rush and that they’ve considered the possible “costs” involved up front so they’re willing to work extra hard in their commitment to each other when difficulties come up. (That goes for ALL marriage, but especially for marriages in this type of situation.)
Love can be very romantic to be involved in before marrying but true love is “patient, and kind” (as 1 Corinthians 13 talks of) even when your partner doesn’t have the desire or energy to participate in doing activities that you crave to do (as a person who is much younger). They may have done those things earlier in their life together, but their progressing age may change that.
According to 1 Corinthians 13, love “does not envy” others (who do more youthful activities together or have more things in common than you may have). The interests of a 40 or a 50 year old most often is different than those of a 60 or 70+ year old. Progressing age brings different “problems” with it. When you grow old together, being close to the same age at each stage, it can be somewhat easier to take. But when a 25 year old marries a 45 year old, the gap physically and emotionally grows wider with each passing year. That’s just a reality of life that you need to face!
Love also, is “not rude” (when you see the sags and bags that your spouse may be developing a lot sooner than you are). It also is “not self-seeking”, especially when you realize that your spouse may not be able to “keep up” so many things (because of the complications their age may bring with it) when you feel a need that they do so.
Love also “is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs” (and is supportive when your spouse is no longer as exciting as they used to be). To see them nodding off to sleep in the next chair when you want to go off dancing or socializing together can happen to even younger couples, but it can be even more of a reality as our ages progress. (Of course, we want to note here that there are always exceptions to this. Some 70 year olds lead more vigorous lives than some 30 year olds. But that isn’t usually the norm.)
As the Bible says, love “always perseveres.” Those who marry need to deal with the reality of what they may be getting themselves into later in their marital relationship. If they aren’t sure they could persevere through these (and other trials) then they need to reconsider BEFORE marrying. That would be the honorable thing to do.
The Bible talks about “considering the cost” before you do something. In Luke 14, it talks of the person who wants to “build a tower” and how important it is for them to make sure they have enough money to complete it otherwise they set themselves up for ridicule when they begin to build something they aren’t able to finish to completion. It also talks of a king who is about to go out to war who needs to “consider” if he is able to fight with the soldiers he has against all obstacles because if he can’t he needs to reconsider.
Marriage can be put into the same context. Make sure you and the person you are marrying have considered “the cost” of what you are about to do and if not, the honorable thing to do would be to back away before the marriage —not afterward.
Marriage is meant by God to be a commitment for life even when difficulties develop that deeply stress one or the other marital partner and strains their “happiness” together. If you don’t both go into marriage with the same steadfast commitment to God to make every marital situation that could come into your lives together work to the glory of God, I’d really advise the couple not to marry. It’s too important to God and should be too important of a fact for us to ignore as well, in what marriage is supposed to be all about from God’s kingdom standpoint!
As Dr Emerson Eggerichs states (which we agree with),
“Marriage is a tool and a test to deepen your love and reverence, trust, and obedience for Jesus Christ. This is not about you. It’s about Christ—becoming as Christ in your character as to how you relate to each other.”
I hope my answer to you will give you some kind of insight into this type of situation. I wish I could paint a different picture of this situation but this is the way that I see it from a marriage education standpoint —even as a Bible-living Christian.
PLEASE NOTE: Since writing this original article it has been pointed out to us that some marriages, where there is a large difference in ages, DO work out well. And that is a great point that I should have stated stronger originally. We don’t ever want those who are in this type of situation who are considering marrying to back away because a marriage like this would be hopeless in working — because that would be untrue. It would not give God the elbow-room to work miracles in situations He has ordained to work this way. And we definitely serve a miracle-working God!
But rather, we want those who are considering entering into this type of marriage to be prepared for the possible problems that could await them. If you’re taking a long journey and you have the opportunity to be better prepared ahead of time because you were fore-warned, it could definitely work to your benefit. That’s how we hope to help you. If you plan to climb Mount Everest and you didn’t take the proper equipment or you didn’t know to take along certain gear that you’d need, you’d be glad to know that ahead of time.
But on the other hand, if you’re planning on climbing Mount Everest and you (or your partner) really aren’t the type person who could withstand the rigors this type of “journey” could thrust upon you in the long-run, you would be foolish to proceed. We want you to prayerfully consider if you’re in one type of situation or the other because a wrong decision could bring devastating results.
Thoughts of marrying someone can be very romantic. It’s easy to think that we can climb over any type of mountain, as long as we’re together. But we need to make sure that we’ve considered ahead of time all we need to so we go into this very important commitment prepared as best we can —or stop from proceeding any further if that would be best. We hope the above article has done that for you.
For additional information, below are links to articles that may help you in the prayerful decision-making process. Please click onto the links below to read: