Expert Answers: Age concern proving to be a headache

I am 30 and my husband is 55. People keep going on about the age difference between us and how will I feel when I am 50 and he is 75?I explain to people that it really doesn't matter but I am getting fed up with having to justify our relationship.

Celebrities such as Joan Collins, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have gone some way to changing the way we consider age gap relationships.

As have Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas and Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes, plus many more both in the public eye and in the community generally.

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Official statistics show that, generally, women in the UK marry men older than themselves; in 2000, the average age gap was just over two years.

Many people think that a gap of 10 years is ok either way, but anything beyond this tends to raise a few eyebrows.

However, couples where there is an age difference don't appear to have the same doubts and concerns, believing that it is a problem for friends and family not the couple.

The couple themselves don't consider the age difference but do sometimes feel they have to justify and explain themselves, to reassure others that their love is based on nothing more than a wish to be together, mutual respect and a want to make one another happy.

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However, there are some things that perhaps require more consideration in relationships where there is an age gap of some note – such as having children, different life stages and expectations and health, different levels of fitness and social interests/attitudes. There are probably many more that are unique to the couple, and we mustn't forget personal age sensitivities. What matters is the couple's level of contentment.

It is also important to remember that as people get older, so the age gap seems to matter less – a woman of 25 years with a partner of 45 years may get some strange looks, but when they are 45 years and 65 years respectively, somehow the gap doesn't sound so big.

A study, published on found that the happiest group of husbands had wives 12 or more years younger, but the happiest wives were from four to 10 years older than their husbands. Yet the happiest couples were those in which the husband was from three to five years older.

As long as the couple have the same goals for the relationship, then it can, and does, work... age should not be a deterrent to exploring an adult, healthy, respectful and loving relationship.

Paul Charlson, GP from Brough

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I do not know why you have to justify your relationship but you clearly feel that you do. I would stop doing it.

Most people who go on about such things are just boring busy-bodies and probably do not have anything interesting to think about. It sounds as if you enjoy your relationship, so just focus on that; who knows what life holds for you or anybody else.

If someone mentions it in the future, either ignore them or tell them that it is not their concern. Alternatively, you can make some joke about it.

Beyond that, I cannot give any advice except you are old enough to make your own decisions and that is the right thing to do; what other people think in this instance is irrelevant.

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Elaine Douglas, A chartered psychologist who specialises in family and child relationships

Why are the remarks of others getting to you so much?

Of course you don't have to justify your decision. No-one would think of making those kind of observations if we were looking at a few years difference in age.

Accept that some people may find it unusual or different, but tell them that you love your husband and that you find these kind of comments hurtful and a little insulting.

If, on the other hand, what people are saying to you is making you rethink your decision, then that is a very different matter.

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Twenty-five years is a big difference age wise and that can sometimes create problems. You are of different generations in a sense, and, realistically, your husband is old enough to be your father.

As time goes on he will slow down, especially physically in terms of energy levels. The lifestyle that you have together may suit you both and, if so, that is fine.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University

Stop justifying your relationship. If you are not bothered, don't let others make you feel worried.

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Life is about living now, not worrying about what might happen in 20 years time. I would question why "these people" are constantly highlight the age gap; what is their motivation?

I always remember a wonderful quote from Mark Twain – "keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great".

Your real friends will accept you and your husband as a loving couple. Why others create doubt is anybody's guess.

Dr Carol Burniston, Consultant Clinical Child Psychologist

If the age difference has not bothered you before, I wonder why it is starting to do so now?

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Have you noticed any changes in your husband or yourself which are making the age difference more apparent? Does he have any health concerns, is he worried about job security or is he starting to plan an early retirement?

If you feel happy in your relationship you do not have to justify it to anyone.

People often feel able to comment on personal issues with friends and family out of curiosity or concern. It might be the same if your husband was of a different religion or race.

I would recommend dealing with this type of comment briefly by stating that you are happy and wouldn't dream of questioning the choices that other people make and would appreciate it if the person commenting saw you both as just people who love each other.