Challenges are unique in May-December marriages

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

Challenges are unique in May-December marriages

C: On marrying a much-older man: My husband was 36 years older than I. There was no question that our marriage was a partnership with interdependence and mutuality. It is possible.

But there are challenges. Our daughter was sometimes mistaken for his granddaughter. She actually developed her own self-confident way of dealing with that. I never saw him as old; I saw him as my husband and treated him that way.

You must be prepared to be a young widow (though life may happen in a different way). You might also face other problems of aging and the debilities that come with it.

And what about children? Does he want to parent when most men are grandparents? Will he have the energy to cope with the noise and energy of small children? That varies greatly among men. Will his parents be available as grandparents, and how important is that?

Friendships can be challenging. One has to be prepared to like and socialize with a lot of people his age. And will your friends have the maturity to be able to join in socializing with him?

And finally, what about jobs and careers? He will be at retirement age earlier than you will. How important are your career goals? Will he support them at the cost of his retirement goals, or will this be a problem for the marriage?

I am a widow now after a wonderful marriage. We raised a daughter together, but her children are missing a grandparent. None of this is a surprise to me; it was a cost I was willing to pay for marriage to an extraordinary man. But we also imposed that cost on our daughter — though she does not resent it. She misses her father.

Staying together after betrayal can be rewarding

C: On choosing not to divorce a spouse who cheated: It was a rough road for us for a couple of years, but when my husband finally died after 35 years of marriage, I was so thankful we worked it out. I guess the biggest help to me was when I realized that his cheating wasn't about sex (our sex life was great); it was about filling a need where he was lacking, and sex was the solution he chose.

I eventually came to realize what the real problem was. I, too, still loved my husband, although never the same way as before the affair, but I know I would have never been happy with anyone else.

One of the things I would change if I could is this: I deliberately held a part of myself back from him for the rest of our married life. He knew it and accepted it; however, the year before he died (he had cancer), I knew there was nothing he could do that would hurt me more than his dying, and so I let myself love him 100 percent. It was the happiest, most wonderful feeling I have ever had. All those years when I was subconsciously punishing him, I was also punishing myself.

It will be the hardest work you will ever do, but if you hang in there and you both work at it, it will be worth it.

Challenges are unique in May-December marriages 03/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 4:15pm]

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