Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Dr. B-P: Love is not limited by age
avatar
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
Hollywood is once again abuzz with relationship gossip: Elizabeth Taylor, 78, was rumored to be engaged to 49-year-old Jason Winters — though the latest is that she denies this. The age difference in this couple is significant; but, if you have followed this Exchange, you might be aware that an age difference in couples is not unusual. A number of discussions on the Exchange have highlighted relationships with big age differences. And, an implicit (and sometimes explicit) question has been whether or not this is a problem.


The simple answer is that age is not a significant determining factor in the success of relationships. Relationships are about friendship, caring, commitment, communication, and love. As long as these elements are strong, people of any age can enjoy a happy, healthy relationship.


But this is not to say that age is irrelevant in relationships. The age of each person affects how they engage with each other. When there is a significant age difference, there are consequences— these can be positive and negative. So, when you are in such a relationship, an important question is; how does it affect your relationship now, and how might it affect it in years to come?

For instance, there might be differences in each person's knowledge base or attitudes that relate to their age difference. These might add interest to a relationship or cause a disconnect — or both. The partners might relate as equals, or one might be more of a mentor. If the latter is the case, then the partners need to ask themselves whether this is a problem or a good thing.


Then there is the issue of physical appearance. The younger partner needs to honestly ask him- or herself whether they are okay with their partner's aging looks, especially given that they are still youthful (if this is the case). It is sometimes too easy to say this isn't important (because it shouldn't be) without truly considering whether this is an honest statement for that individual. The older partner might ask him- or herself how much age is part of the attraction. Are they seeking to regain youth through this relationship?


On a more pragmatic level, age differences can be important when considering the decision of whether to have children. And, it's important to ask yourself whether you are on the same page with this. If you do both want children, have you considered when you would have them and how you feel about this? For instance, having a child when you are 50 can be very different than having one when you are 25.


There is also the issue of declining health that comes with aging. The younger partner needs to ask him- or herself about their willingness to be there for their aging partner. Of course, there is the chance that the younger partner could become seriously ill or have an injury that requires caretaking, but this does not absolve the younger partner from needing to be honest about the likelihood that they will be a caretaker.


All this said, age is still not even remotely the most important factor in successful relationships. Couples must also assess how they match on values, compatibility in their style of communication, how they handle conflict, sexual compatibility, and how well they relate as friends with mutual respect. As for Elizabeth Taylor, her legendary history of eight marriages and divorces no doubt has lessons for her that speak to issues more basic to marital success than age.


I realize I've written a lot here. But those are just my thoughts on the subject. I'd be interested to hear more about yours.
Reply
 
avatar
baasleim responded:
Dear Dr. Phelps
I am a new joinee who is seeking your advice and Dr. Copland's advice simultaneuosly as the issue is a related one. I firstly want to thank you for being there to help those in need inspite of your busy schedule.
I know all about the value of companionship, communication and making one feel loved in a marital relationship. But what do I do when my spouse not only doesn't know it but also makes no effort at all to do do inspite of all my efforts to help him and us in the process? I am having major issues with his low libido, lack of a sexual life (inspite of being a sexually active female), his pemature ejaculation and even the low sperm count and low motility that we learnt about 2 months ago. I haven't conceived in 2 years and my gynaec inferred from his semen analysis report that natural conception was almost impossible given the zero motility factor.
Dr. Phelps, I can take all that in my stride because I know those are factors beyond his control. You know, we had intercourse last month and I am ovulating today and he has not even shown interest so far. What I cant understand and what depresses me ever so often that has made me lose interest in life is his indifferent attitude.He just doesn't do anything about it. What's worse is we have major communication issues. He just doesn't understand the need to share and talk things out. Other than this side of him, he is caring and loving and a faithful husband. But our relationship and my life is taking the hit here. He is an adult, I just cannot drag him to a therapist. How do I make him want to see a sex therapist? I have no family members who could talk him into it and I want to help him. What do I do doctor?
I've tried everything morally possible from a wife's end. I don't know what to do but I do know that this is not how I want to live.I don't think I could live long this way.
Do advise me.
 
avatar
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to baasleim's response:
Baasleim, unfortunately there are no easy solutions for your situation. It is great that you are really trying to get him to understand your concerns because, as you no doubt know, he needs to work on this with you if your relationship is to survive and even thrive. I find myself wondering about your communication problems and their relationship to your sexual issues. Has he always been uncommunicative-- and with all issues, not just sex? Or, has this really been a problem since your difficulty conceiving, his struggling with premature ejaculation, or his difficulty with low libido start? More succinctly put, I'm wondering whether you are specifically dealing with his struggling with sexually related problems or whether your communication issues are bigger than this.

I have the impression that you have larger communication issues that are being heightened by the sexual issues. If this is the case, you might start by talking things in the marriage that make you happy. See if this positive approach will open communication. Then you might talk about troublesome aspects of the marriage other than sexual issues, which can be more difficult to talk about and are often related to other problems. If he seems unhappy about certain things, tell him this and see if you can get him to talk about it. If he won't talk, explain how it affects you (i.e. sad) to see him unhappy, angry, or whatever it is you are seeing. Tell him that you'd like to understand the problem more. If he doesn't respond to this (or for whatever reason you'd rather not start there), you can explain what you are not happy with, or maybe things that you think make you both less than happy (focusing on your feelings, not on what he is doing wrong). The main idea is to get started talking, beginning with easier topics. If conversation does open up, then you can begin to deal with the more difficult problems, such as the sexual problems and what they mean to him (i.e. do they make him feel less of a man?).

All of what I have written are just suggestions that very well could change if I knew even more about your situation-- so please take them this way, not as directions to be followed exactly. And, I imagine these topics unfolding over many conversations-- how many conversations depends on your relationship.

Also, please remember that you cannot do this alone. If he really doesn't want to talk, you cannot make him. If you really feel at your wit's end, you might explain this to him and suggest couples therapy (or sex therapy for the two of you). You are right, you cannot force him into therapy; but he might be willing to go if he really understood how unhappy you are or that he is at risk of losing you. (It's okay if he agrees to go just to make you happy.)

As I said before, I have no magic bullet for you, but I hope my suggestions are at least of some help to you.
 
avatar
baasleim replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Dr. Phelps, I was so happy to find your reply, I really appreciate your quick response.
What you said is right, after two years and such similar episodes in the past of assurances and broken promises, I am at my wit's end.
To answer your question, communication issues and sexual issues have been there since the start of my marriage.Without developing a communicative framework within marriage, how is it possible doctor to address sexual issues? Its the communication gap which is worsening our sexual issues as you said. It was a gradual discovery during the first few months and a shock to me that he never really communicated much with me,never had pretty much anything to talk to me about in spite of my efforts and I felt this growing rejection when weeks after weeks he would continue without having sex with me until I had to remind him, which was very embarrassing and frustrating for me.
I've made several attempts to open him up in a soft good way but now it's reached to a point that I cannot take it anymore and we end up fighting over it.There are some topics which he when I start speaking about say just are out-of-bounds for me. That does not make any sense to me doctor.I have told him so many times that I needed a friend in him before I needed a husband, but he just doesn't open up about anything much. I wonder why he married in the first place.He is a good person in other ways, pious and caring, but he also has an huge anger management problem, is insulting and sarcastic in speech and manipulative and egoistic. I am not trying to call names here but that how he comes across to many sometimes.
We just had a row today morning before he left for work about seeing a therapist. Even though I hadn't read your reply then, what I told him was similar to your advice. I told him that I was really depressed, did not want to get hurt anymore, needed professional help, wanted to save my marriage and so was going to see a marriage therapist. (In fact I am waiting for the appointment to materialize.) I asked him to come with me too if he was serious about his apologies to which not only did he say no he commanded me not to go and said that we would talk things out. I told him if not he, then I needed my depression treated and he insisted that I not go to a counsellor or I would have to face consequences.I don't even understand what he meant by that. He now knows that he is at risk of losing me but yet said no. I don't know why. Everywhere I turn I am faced by a wall.
Doctor, I am doing so much for my marriage, why is it that he does not want to help when I know he would not want to lose me? What's the point in having an emotionally dead wife beause that's how I'll end up in a few years if I go on enduring like this.I know myself, I am too sensitive to not be affected by such episodes. My whole life since childhood has been an emotional roller coaster ride and I now for a fact that I would lose my sanity if I were to go on like this.I have come close.
Doctor it's one thing to know your husband has an incurable sexual problem and still live with it happily having made the choice of marriage. Its another thing to know that your husband has a curable sexual problem but not knowing why he would not do anything about it and why he continuously rejects her in bed and worse why he would never talk about it or any other issue for that matter. What do I do with such a husband other than seek professional help for myself as a last resort to save my marriage?
I have no relatives here or women who can support me or be there with me or come with me, its a lone fight doctor. My only hope is in God. I do love my husband and want to save my marriage. I do not want to go through the pain of divorce and the bleak prospects of a lonely future.I would never make the mistake of a second marriage.But I do know I do not want to live this way either.
 
avatar
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to baasleim's response:
I know this is really hard on you, but hang in there. If you think there's any chance of it helping, try talking with him when you are both calm. However, if that doesn't work, you will then need to make some choices. You can continue to try to talk with him, live with things as they are without anymore discussion, leave, or seek counseling (with or without him). If you are both religious and you know of a clergy person who might be of help, you might try reaching out there. I think that's about it-- I hate to make it sound so cold (like choosing which pasta to buy from the grocery shelf), but it can help to at least know your options. My best to you in finding your way through this difficulty to a better place in your life.
 
avatar
baasleim replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Thanks again Dr. Phelps

Its been a few weeks now and I have started accepting him for what he is and seeking strength from God to go ahead with the life that He has drafted for me.
At times its hard, but when people like you are ready to help, I feel stronger.
He is a caring and a loving husband, he just is not wired in a way so as to express it.
 
avatar
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to baasleim's response:
I hope that with time, love, and continued efforts at communication (perhaps in ways yet to be found) that you will both find happiness in your marriage.
 
avatar
yungLady responded:
I am 19 yrs old and my partner is 34yrs old. In the begining, we txted,email and talk for about four months before i was comfortable enough to meet him at his home. He ask me multiple times and i declined. well he challenged me saying that i was too scared to go over his house, and that day i did. He was very respectful in keeping his distance and giving me space. From then on now we have been seeing each other. it has been nearly a yr now(just a month shy). He actual was my first. Not just in sex but, pretty much everything that goes in a relationship( i have never had a real relationship) so this is pretty deep for me. But he did take it slow once i explained about myslef. I have noticed alot of things different concerning our age. like sex he is 34 so much more experience and he wants it alot more than i do and he gets flustrated with me when i say no and he expects me to understand and i really don't or he puts me on a level of seeing things as a more person experienced in life(i am very mature for my age) he says that is the main reason why he is attracted to me but most things he says i don't think i have experienced or live enough to have an opinon or thought about, He tells me things and expects me not to just take in consideration( which i do) but to follow it kause he knows(he is diffinatly the mentor) he tells me he puts me up on his level of age and i have said that (i am only 19 i still might not know or i don't understand where you are coming from) when i look at him i don't see age but, now when we have our serious talks about issues or problems or topics i see it and sometimes he is like don't use age(i should know or understand) What should i do?
 
avatar
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to yungLady's response:
YungLady, I think it is wonderful that you've found someone who you care so much about. However, it is always important to respect what you think and feel. You are mature in some ways, but also recognize that you have much to learn in life-- respect that. If you have opinions about things, respect those opinions-- even though you might change your mind as you learn more. And, also, do not let someone else (anyone else) cause you to doubt yourself. If you do have doubts, let them be your doubts, not imposed on you from someone else. Although your boyfriend might get frustrated with your inexperience in sex or other matters, he should still treat you, your thoughts, your feelings (even confusion or fear due to inexperience), and your values with respect-- at least, that's what people do in healthy relationships. If he does not do this, he is not respecting you for who you are (that includes the mature parts of you and the inexperienced parts). And, if you want a healthy relationship, the two of you need to talk about this issue. You might also want to think about whether he is the right person for you at this point-- perhaps, in a way, you have outgrown him (needing someone who you can be with as equals, not as a mentor).

This is a lot to think about. Take time to do that. Talk to others who you respect and consider their feedback. If you want more support or have more questions, please feel free to come back here, to this exchange, for help.
 
avatar
cle123 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Im sorry if you have already replied to this in another message but I am trying every way to get this question answered so Ill post it here: Okay so I am a 19 year old young male, I would say that this is not a problem I should be having now. There are several different instances. One is that I cant keep an erection during sex, like I will be fine when we are having sex but then when we go to switch positions( say do it doggy style) I am limp by the time we switch. Another instance is that I cant get hard enough to penetrate the vagina, I am "semi-hard" but not a full erection. One other instance is that I am hard, but when I go to put the condom on I go soft. Why am I having this problem doctor? One reason I think is because of the amount of times I masturbated over the years, I would say that if there was a way to count the number of times, it would average out to at least once a day. I really think that it is the problem. Also, I seen substance called Yohimbe in Rite Aid pharmacy store and was wondering if it would help me. Please try and get to my question(s), which are
1. Is masturbation my problem for weak erections and not being able to stay up?
2. Is there anything I can do to cure it, such as Yohimbe?Poll: Does excessive masturbation cause erection problems? Does excessive masturbation cause erection problems?|Doe Yohimbe work for erection problems?|
 
avatar
Emma_WebMD_Staff replied to cle123's response:
Hi Cle123,

Dr. Becker-Phelps speciality is on relationships so this isn't really a question she could answer for you. However, I did find a few of our articles, hopefully these plus the advice you got from other members in the thread you started on this topic will help you.

Please feel free to check out the following articles:

Erection Problems, past ED

Erection Problems: Topic Overview


Erection Problem Check List

Good luck to you!
Emma
 
avatar
eusticia responded:
Dr. B-P,

My boyfriend of seven years, whom I love deeply and unconditionally, and I are having serious communication problems. I am 30, and he is 43, but we have resolved the age-difference issues we initially experienced in our relationship years ago (I think so anyway). We are going through a stressful time financially and both feel like we're in a transitional space, but, again, those are issues I feel we've worked through before and experienced positive, relationship-strengthening results. However, for a little over a week now, he has not spoken to me or even looked at me unless he's had to, and everyday I feel sad and lonely. This is what happened: last week I was getting ready for my routine hair appt. (which I always look forward to); I put on make-up and fussed a little over what to wear. Just as I was leaving, my boyfriend said, rather curtly, to me, "Are you planning on running into Adam while your in town?" So, Adam is a mutual friend who flirts with me and hits on me, and my boyfriend feels really threatened by him even though I have never even thought about cheating on him, not with Adam or anyone else. Though, to be fair, my boyfriend did talk to me once about how I made "flirty eyes" at Adam, and he would not let me deny it, so I just gave in and apologized and bought him flowers. Anyway, back to the conflict, I was really appalled and saddened that my boyfriend said this to me; I immediately felt like he was accusing me of cheating on him. Unfortunately, I got really frustrated and angry, told him off and stormed out of the house. When I got back home, I was cold and distant toward him, and he was toward me. After a few days, I let him know that I was ready to talk about this issue, saying that after all the years we've been together and how much we love each other, we should be kind to one another and communicate with open hearts. He said he didn't want to talk about it just then. That was a few days ago, and he still avoids and ignores me 24/7. I guess my main question is: how can I get him to talk to me when he is obviously really upset with me? Sometimes it seems like he really believes I've been out cheating on him, and whenever I've denied it, I am so frustrated and upset that he takes my feelings to mean I'm guilty and defensive over having done something wrong. Another possibility that's been nagging at me is that he's clinging to this "I don't trust you" thing as a reason to split up. Geez, I could go on and on I'm sure, and of course there are other contributing factors to our problem, but I'd do anything to work through this like rational, caring partners. What do you think?
 
avatar
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to eusticia's response:
eusticia, it's great that you want to work things through 'like rational, caring partners.' However, the key word is 'partners' -- with an 's'. You obviously can't really know what is going on in his head unless he tells you. What you are faced with is a balancing act between giving him his time and encouraging him to talk. You might want to -again- let him know how upset you are, how much you value your relationship, and how you very much want to hear what is going on for him. Hopefully, if he really believes that you are open to listening to him, he will eventually (sooner rather than later) talk. If he doesn't respond, try again. If you feel or later get angry, share that, too. Unless he has really written off your relationship (which doesn't sound likely given how you describe your relationship), your persistence will pay off.

I wish I could offer a way to make him talk, but I can't-- and that would backfire anyway because he'd feel forced and angry about that. While you wait, it might help to focus on the love you have for him and how you want him to be happy, just as you want yourself to be happy.

I hope he does open up and that the two of you weather that storm well-- maybe even be better for having gone through it.


Helpful Tips

Difficulty having an orgasm?Expert
Try reading Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women by Julia Heiman , Joseph Ph.D. LoPiccolo and David ... More
Was this Helpful?
5 of 7 found this helpful

Related Drug Reviews

  • Drug Name User Reviews

Report Problems to the
Food and Drug Administration

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

For more information, visit Dr. Becker-Phelps' website