Most people are looking for their Mr./Mrs. Right to spend the rest of their lives with. And, unfortunately, this process can be full of pressure, doubt, and insecurity waiting for the “right” person to come along.
Many people do end up falling in love with someone, and choosing to “do life” with them until death do they part. Unfortunately, unending marital bliss often isn’t a reality for most couples, and factors such as work, school, children, finances, and other stressors often come into play.
Many of these stressors are often predictable to couples. However, it appears there’s one stressor that many couples don’t expect when entering into a marriage. And this factor can cause BIG marital issues down the road.
According to Medical News Today:
Researchers found that while both men and women initially report greater marital satisfaction with a significantly younger spouse, this satisfaction may soon dwindle.
Study authors Wang-Sheng Lee, of the Department of Economics at Deakin University in Australia, and Terra McKinnish, of the Department of Economics at the University of Colorado in Denver, recently published their results in the Journal of Population Economics.
As per a 2013 report from the United States Census Bureau, around 10 percent of heterosexual couples and 21 percent of same-sex couples in the U.S. have a partner who is at least 10 years older.
Talking to Medical News Today, Lee said that there has been little research conducted on how large age gaps between married couples influence marital satisfaction.
He said, “When we found a longitudinal data set that allowed us to examine the evolution of marital satisfaction over time for both men and women in the same marriage, we thought it would be very interesting to do the analysis to see what we find.”
Younger vs. older spouses
The team’s findings came from an analysis of 19,914 individuals from more than 7,600 households in Australia, all of whom completed the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia survey.
The researchers analyzed 13 years of data from married couples, assessing how age gaps between spouses affected their marital satisfaction over time.
In the early years of marriage, the data revealed that men with younger spouses reported greater marital satisfaction, while marital satisfaction was lower for men with older spouses.
“We were not very surprised to find men being more satisfied with younger wives, given the popular ‘half your age plus seven’ rule that often comes up in male conversation,” Lee told MNT.
However, the researchers say that they were surprised to find that women also reported greater marital satisfaction with younger spouses in the early years of marriage, compared with women whose spouses were older.
Lee said, “This is contrary to what previous studies using data on preferences from speed dating studies have found. However, with more gender equality and ‘toyboy’ relationships on the increase since the 1980s, this was also not completely unexpected. It is just that women have been strategic and not been more explicit in stating their preferences.”
Marital satisfaction fades in 6 to 10 years
On further analysis, however, the researchers found that the greater marital satisfaction among couples with a large age gap is short-lived.
The study revealed that the higher levels of marital satisfaction experienced by spouses with younger partners were almost completely eradicated within 6 to 10 years of getting married.
Lee noted that previous studies have indicated that differently aged married couples are more likely to divorce than couples of a similar age, so they were not necessarily surprised by the finding itself.
However, Lee told us that the team was surprised to find just how fast a marriage can start to decline among couples with larger age gaps.
The researchers suggest that negative economic factors, such as job loss, may help to explain their results.
“Similarly aged couples are likely to be more resilient to shocks because they are more in sync on life decisions that affect both partners,” Lee explained to MNT. “Couples at similar life stages are more likely to discuss financial issues and financial plans for the future.
“The data also suggest that couples with a larger age gap are less likely to have both partners working and this could make them financially more vulnerable,” he added.
According to the article, the researchers conducting this study do not plan on trying to expand on their results. However, they may eventually think about evaluating how specific and common life events have an impact on the satisfaction in a marriage through the years.
Lee (one of the researchers in the study) states that many theoretical models show that satisfaction can sometimes move from one person in the couple to the other. For instance, sometimes one partner is experiencing a surplus of positive satisfaction, while the other is experiencing low levels of satisfaction.
In certain instances, the first spouse can “redistribute” the satisfaction supply in order to level out the emotions and maintain a healthy marriage. However, researchers are unsure how well this model portrays actual working relationships.