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Younger man + older woman = Happy marriage?
Shilpa Shet
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January 23, 2007

What would a star couple have in common with the Iyers?

Like Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, Gitanjali and Subodh Iyer, bank professionals from Mumbai, also have an age difference of three years.

Gitanjali is older than Subodh.

Talk to them about this and they laugh. "It doesn't matter any more," says Gitanjali, "We had almost forgotten about these small things."

But was it a 'small thing' when they got married? "It wasn't," she admits.

Both of them came from traditional families. Gitanjali is a Sindhi and Subodh a South Indian. They met in State Bank of India and fell in love. When the couple decided to get married, they realised it was not going to be an easy journey.

They had to decide on a strategy to tackle their respective parents. "We sat and discussed how we are going to go about it," says Subodh, "It was not a conventional marriage. Firstly, it was an intercaste match. And then, I was younger than the bride."

Dealing with the family

The Iyers adopted a simple strategy. They each picked one senior and relatively compassionate member of the family. In Gitanjali's case it was her mother and in Subodh's it was his uncle. "We told these people to talk to our parents while we were away on a business trip. We knew all hell will break loose. But our champions somehow managed to get the point across that we were serious. That it would be good if the parents accept our relationship," recollects Gitanjali.

When the duo returned home, there was practically no communication for a week. Eventually they started talking and a marriage date was fixed. Nevertheless, Gitanjali's parents did not come for the wedding. "It was quite filmi. My father relented only when my son was born� after two years," she remembers.

Things thus fell into place. What about society itself? "We never faced any problem there. In fact, the best thing we did was to openly admit to people that I was older than Subodh," she remembers. "Once people realized how comfortable we were despite the age difference, no one really thought twice about it."

Maturity levels

The maturity levels of both the partners can make or break a marriage. That was the case with Ernest and Yasmin Remedios. Yasmin, a writer and yoga teacher, met Ernest, who works for E-serve, an IT company, while on a hiking trip.

The romance blossomed despite the age difference. "Our age was never a problem," says Yasmin. "Ernest is more mature when it comes to finance, home, and I don't think I would be able to manage without his support," she feels.

It also helped that they got the support of their respective families. She says their ethnic backgrounds are close (Yasmin is a Parsi and Ernest is Christian), as such both their parents were ok with the relationship.

Not everyone is lucky, though. Priya (name changed) was dating her friend, who was four years younger than her. "We were truly in love with each other to begin with," she says, "As time went by I realised that the enthusiasm that I had fallen for was actually childishness. I continued with the relationship in the hope that maturity would creep in."

Unfortunately, she recollects, that did not happen. Though both their families had accepted their relationship, Priya eventually broke up with him.

According to her, different women have different tolerance levels. "Younger men generally get attracted to older women because they see a more mature and responsible person in her," says Priya. "When a woman accepts this responsibility, the relationship works fine. But when a woman cannot be a mother-figure all the time, that's when the problems begin."

Career and money

One of the reasons why younger men end up with older women is because of the financial stability she offers. Rita Pandey, a psychiatrist from Pune, recounts the story of her cousin, a gazetted officer, who married her office assistant.

The girl, 30, married her 26-year old subordinate after putting him through night school to improve his English. Since he came from a modest background, she helped him apply for loans that would help them live independently. "She also makes him take exams regularly to further his career," Rita says.

Expert speak

Marriage counsellor Ratna Khemani says, "We've grown up with the traditional idea of a husband protecting the wife, caring for her, earning for her after they are married. That has changed today because both are qualified and earning." However, Ratna cautions that a big age disparity has led many couples to separate.

"If there is an eight to nine-year gap, the chance of it working out seems less bright. The first few years of bliss will be replaced by tension resulting from the insecurities that often creep up in a woman's mind," she says. Something as common as friends too can widen the rift between couples, as both sets have different mindset.

Stress too plays a role in the breakdown of these marriages.

"Today marriages between older women and younger men don't often work because of stress in everyday life. Criticism over expectations, fears and a suspicious nature add to the problems," she says. Financial disparity also plays a very key role, she adds.

Surprisingly, child bearing is never considered a problem because many high-powered couples do not even think of having a child these days.

Despite all these disparities, however, Ratna says these marriages can work if:



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