‘My husband is my father’s age…’

Published: March 14, 2012

Age is not just a number.

A few weeks ago, I happened to witness the unfortunate crumbling and subsequent break-up of a close friend’s marriage. After hearing both sides of the story, I arrived to a conclusion regarding the main reason behind the failure: The husband was 20 years older than his wife.

Although common in an eastern society where arranged marriages are the norm, such large age-gaps (10 years and more) often have great drawbacks in a relationship as intimate as marriage. In our society, parents are in a rush to marry off their daughters before they hit the twenty-fifth birthday mark (or even earlier), and the foremost attribute they seek is financial stability, even if the candidate is a whole generation ahead in terms of age and experience.

True, such marriages have been surviving for generations, mainly because the wife is a simple woman devoted to her home and children. Moreover, she is completely financially dependent on her husband. The stigma associated with divorce and unmarried life for a woman, is such that they learn to compromise with a man who they have absolutely nothing in common with.

But where there is freedom of choice and financial independence, the general perception is that, the marriage may be doomed. My friend, in her early thirties, wanted to mingle with friends and party frequently, taking it as a means to enjoy her youthful years. Meanwhile her husband, approaching his mid fifties, had already had his share of fun a long time back and now sought a peaceful home life. The constant partying and outings became a huge barrier in their marriage, which ultimately came down in shambles as neither individual was willing to compromise.

With another couple, where the age-gap is once again twenty-years plus, I became aware that the husband was reaching the end of his career whilst his wife was just starting hers. They have young children and the man does not have the energy to take care of the children while the woman pays attention to her career. This played as a major reason of discontent, between the couple who should have ideally been enjoying the same stages of life together.

Another problem I came across was in a distant relative’s marriage. In this case the wife has barely settled into her mid- twenties while the husband is entering his forties. The girl liked a same-aged cousin but was persuaded to marry a much older man because he was financially sound and could provide a good future. However, she is unable to relate to her husband and thus often calls her cousin to chat or discuss her issues. Thus, leading to issues brewing that could explode any day; leaving the tattering marriage on an unsteady hook.

Delving further into what could form a permanent gap in marriages, I observed that many older husbands suffer mistreatment at the hands of their younger wives. Once the wife acquires a certain power and control in the marriage, the husband stands little chance at arguing with her. Some couples, I witnessed, indulged in using the age gap as an insult. One of the wives chose to admit to me that she often rubbed in the age difference when the couple argued or disagreed about something. And although she admitted to feeling guilty afterwards, she said it was something she could not help saying in the heat of the moment.  She also confided in me that she often wishes she had a younger companion with whom she could enjoy life more.

Men are usually quite eager to marry younger women because of a number of reasons; they believe younger women would be beautiful, youthful, more fertile and likely to be more energetic than a woman closer to their own age. Moreover she may make him feel young and perhaps desirable as well. A common ailment suffered by men during mid-life.

Unfortunately, things may not always turn out the way they seem. In fact, men who marry women closer in age may command more respect and intimacy from them. It is more likely that a woman will truly love a husband who is closer to her in age rather than one who is many years older and with whom she may be attached simply for financial dependence.

Age gap is not a factor that should be taken lightly. Age is certainly not just another number when it comes to marriages. One of the key factors needed for a marriage to work is a level of understanding between two people but if they are generations apart, it may be difficult to reach that level because the couple may not agree with one another’s opinions, tastes and likes. Friend circles may clash, while socializing; people may mistake the relationship to be something other than husband and wife, which is an opinion that tends to stay with the couple.

Two of the couples I have mentioned in this article face this problem often, where a waitress or customer service representatives have assumed that the husband is actually the wife’s father, salting the wound further by saying something on the lines of;

“And what will your father have?”

Not only does this severely bruise the husband’s ego and self esteem but also causes him a sense of insecurity.

Although marriage is like a gamble and we never know which one has the capacity to endure the test of time and those of which that won’t, there are certain things we can look for in a partner to avoid the pain of a mismatched marriage.

I hope that all the bachelors and bachelorettes will learn from this article and seek to marry those who are closer to them in age, with whom they can enjoy a lasting companionship, which is — after all, what a marriage is all about.

Ayesha Pervez

Ayesha Pervez

Currently pursuing TESL in Canada, Ayesha Pervez is an English Literature graduate from the University of Karachi who has completed courses in short-fiction and journalism from Harvard University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Vikram

    @Awais Ch: You are a true Muslim. What do you think about a 43 year old Imam marrying a 12 year old virgin?A wealthy Indonesian 43 year old Muslim clericmarried tim through a contest.to become Pujiono’s second wife judged by his first wife, 26, and followers, the Jakarta Post reported. The girl’s parents admitted that financial difficulties led them to marry their daughter to Pujiono and said the marriage is valid in the eyes of their religion.
    News id on the Internet.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Anaa: “I am a 20 yr old single girl and I would not want to marry someone who is more than 5 years older than me… it gross me out to see young woman married to someone 12-20 yrs older…. I asked my all friends this question and they all said that they only wanna marry someone who is max 5 yrs older…. all peoplz who r disagrreeing with this are the men who are married to younger woman n dere wives dont love dem.

    Let me ask you a question. Can some one force you or your friends to marry a 12-20 years older guy? Do you think womn should marry young guys? Why it gorsses you out when you see a young girl with an older man? Prophet Mohammed married a very very young girl when he was 50+ years old. How do you feel about that. Why younger women marry older guys if they don’t want to love dem? Do you think gilrs love dere money?Recommend

  • leila rage

    @SMA: that is the wrong perception that our society prepetuates. Marriage should NEVER be a compromise. Yes there must be respect, affection/love, care, kindness—-and wanting to share your life with someone, not making a compromise. The very spirit of marriage has been murdered by the concept of compromise and settling for something rather than actually wanting to be with someone.

    @the writer: In your article, you basically just talked about women who wanted to party and men who didnt. Age differences also affect expectations of married life, expectations of each other, one’s way of thinking, ones interests etc. Recommend

  • Farah Kamal

    Great topic, we are forgetting mostly young wives are the demands of boys family specifically moms. They think younger daughter in laws can be moulded as she wants her to be. The myth is younger girls can be easily handled. That is another story that it does not work any more in the 21st century. I dintinctly remember from late 80d when many boys’ mom would ask my mom to look for a match for their sons having masters degree but not more then 17;-) totally wishful thinking but shows the crazy state of minds of our families.Recommend

  • syed hussain

    The age gap is not a reason of break up by itself but the reason is the absence of harmony and understanding among the couples. The reason is the way, they perceive the things around them. Different mind set ups and brought up also play a vital role in break up. Only women don’t compromise but on many stages men are also seen compromising with such women who they have nothing in common with but unfortunately the act of compromise has been circumscribed to women only and in this seemingly misogynous society men stand as a usurper. . Recommend

  • leila rage

    @ all those of you quoting the example of the Prophet’s (SAW) marriage to Hazrat Khadija, let me just say the Prophet was not an ordinary person. He was an EXEMPLARY human being. Now if every man were an exemplary human being comparisons would make sense, but since they are not such comparisons are useless.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @leila Says “all those of you quoting the example of the Prophet’s (SAW) marriage to Hazrat Khadija”. Are not Muslims suppose to follow the way prophet Mohammed .lived his life (Sunnah)? If I am not wrong Prophet Mohammed also married a very young girl when he was 50+ years old. So marrying a yooung girl should not be a big deal for older Muslim men following prophet in his footsteps. Please correct me if i am wrong.Recommend

  • leila rage

    @Vikram: It is a problem because the men who marry these young girls are creepy paedophiles. You completely misread my point. Of course Muslims MUST follow the example of the Prophet (SAW). The only point i was making was, that rather than just following his actions in a hollow manner, one must also follow the SPIRIT and INTENTIONS of those actions.

    I see you have referred to his marriage with Hazrat Ayesha. Yes, he married her—-mainly to cement ties with his companion and friend Hazrat Abu Bakr. You must remember that we ARE talking about 7th century Arabia, where the social set up and rules were very different. Additionally, he always treated her well, with kindness, consideration and affection (I could quote instances, but apparently the tribune doesnt like printing quoted hadith/sunnah etc).

    The point I’m making is that she was SAFE with him and that they were HAPPILY married.

    Do you think the men marrying 7 to 12 year old girls TODAY in Pakistani rural and urban areas are actually going to treat them well, give them shelter, love and care and follow the example of the Prophet (SAW). The answer is a big No. They are going to abuse them because they are sick twisted perverts.

    Thats why you cannot just take the Prophet’s (SAW) actions out of context. Next you’ll be saying why does Islam limit the number of wives to 4, the Prophet (SAW) married more times than that, so if we do the same we are following his example.

    Even God recognises man’s limitations and advises him NOT to marry multiple times if he cannot treat EACH wife exactly the same way.

    So please try to understand what I’m saying rather than taking out meaning from my posts that are not even there.Recommend

  • Bakhtiar Agha

    * In my openion it isthe game adjustments,we often see couples of the same age departed*Recommend

  • mik

    The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) married Hazrat Khadija (May Allah be pleased with Her) when He was 25 years old and Her wife was 40 years old. 15 years age gap yet a wonderful Love, arrange marriage that took place centuries ago. An example to follow….Good article anyway.Recommend

  • Khalid

    Ayesha,

    You definately seem to be hanging around the wrong crowd. Get some friends whose parents are more concerned about the happiness of their girls rather their financial stability. :D Recommend

  • Irfan

    Biased Blog. The author did not consider the mans perspective. Women also want to marry an older more established man. What about that?Recommend

  • http://www.somethingawesome.org Serina Slaugh

    Great read! Thanks!Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Awais Ch:
    “At the age of 23 our Holy Prophet P.B.U.H married Hazrat Khadija R.A who was 40 at the time of marriage, Our Prophet MUHAMMAD P.B.U.H also married with the daughter of his best friend Hazrat Abu Baqr R.A when Hazrat Aisha R.A was far more elder that Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H.”

    How many Muslims you know who are married to women who are much older then them? Would you marry an older wonen? Where did you get this information “Our Prophet MUHAMMAD P.B.U.H also married with the daughter of his best friend Hazrat Abu Baqr R.A when Hazrat Aisha R.A was far more elder that Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H.” Every one knows Ayesha was a young girl and prophet Mohammed was over 50 when they were married.Recommend

  • Anaa

    @ Awais Ch: Totally against Islamic Values? Where in the Quraan does it “recommend” or “encourage” men to marry women half their age? Kindly provide me with an Ayat or Hadith with a source. Thank youRecommend

  • Vikram

    @Anaa: Older men marriages with teen girls are common in many Muslim countries. I read a news where a 38 year old imam married a 12 year old girl choosen in a contest. Imams 26 year old wife chose a 12 yr old girl as imam’s 2nd wife. This happened in Indonesia. Another thing that happens in some places is marrying a girl to her rapist. A girl was convicted for (I think) 12 years for getting raped in Afghanistan. Her sentence was reduced after she agreed to marry her rapists. I just saw the next news.

    Teen forced to marry rapist, commits suicide. Man agreed to marry her to escape prison. By. Staff. Published Sunday, March 18, 2012. A 16-year old http://www.emirates247.com/crime/world/teen-forced-to-marry-rapist-commits-suicide...Recommend

  • Diddly poo

    @Vikram:
    That’s not an ayaa or a hadith. Point?Recommend

  • Neelam Agha

    I am not saying that you guys are wrong . It’s a wonderful article , but my mom was 35 years younger to my daddy and it was a love marriage , and they lived so happily together . Lots of understanding , love and care for each other . And no one ever raised a question about the substantial age gap between them … But may be then again , it could have been a GOOD KARMA ..Recommend

  • Noise

    @muhammad shahzad
    Its partly the fault of the parents of daughters nowadays. Most of them seem to think that a man below 30 is “too young” for their and not “well established” enough for their daughter. They’d rather their daughters marry a geezer with a house rather than a young man who has has only started his career. Maybe the girls nowadays think this too, I dont know.

    Anyway this is a foolish thing, happiness is found not in money or houses, it found in the arms of others and people could could at least make sure that those arms are fresh and strong. The most import decision in their daughters lives and they only care about money. Recommend

  • alia

    My cousin recently got engaged to a guy who is 13 years her senior. she is 25 and he is 38. I honestly believe that its a marriage of convience, for both of them. He gets a hot, young trophy wife while she gets an old atm machine of a husband. The marriage was arranged, but she had requested my aunt for a rich husband. Age does matter. One should marry based on love not looks and money, two factors which are the most common reasons to get married in Pakistani culture.Recommend