Older Woman, Younger Man

Reader’s Question

I recently went through a divorce after 30 years of marriage. My wife got involved with a youth member of our church — teaching him to read and write. She was 50 and he was 20. Of late, there seems to be more news of older women and younger males. While this was the toughest thing I have gone through, I am much better and moving on. Has any research been done on this topic? Thank you.

Psychologist’s Reply

There’s research on just about everything anymore. In this situation three themes may apply. First, romantic relationships are often directly related to opportunities and those may involve the situations, personalities, emotional vulnerabilities of each person, etc. Second, emotional affairs often happen at work, church, in the neighborhood, etc. — anywhere that folks have an opportunity to share feelings. Some of these develop into sexual relationships and some do not. Lastly, we are many times attracted to people due to the way they make us feel. Younger partners often make us “feel” younger while older partners (when we’re young) make us feel more mature. Attractive partners make us feel more desirable.

Keep in mind that a divorce is very emotionally and socially difficult and with the exception of a death of a family member, is about the toughest thing we can go though as an adult. In any divorce that has a degree of social interest/curiosity, I recommend using a “press release”. Memorize a paragraph to use when people ask about your situation, your ex, or what happened. A press release keeps the emotional distress and memories down when in public. Something like “Well, half of marriages end in divorce and I guess I’m in a certain half now. I’m making the adjustment and doing pretty well. How is your family doing?”

Keep your head up and if possible, your mouth shut. Try not to bad-mouth your ex-wife. The way you handle the situation in the community tells people what kind of a man, or gentleman, you are in this difficult situation.

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