If you and your spouse have been married for a while now, you may not let the little things phase you—including your age difference. Whether you’re two or 12 years apart, you may see it as a completely irrelevant factor in your relationship. Certainly, age doesn’t define happiness, but studies have found that it may impact how likely a marriage is to last. Men most often turn away from relationships if they’re the younger ones. In fact, when a woman is a specific number of years older than her husband, the chance of him initiating the divorce can skyrocket. To see what this age gap is, read on.
While an age gap between spouses doesn’t 100 percent determine if a marriage will be successful or not, it can often play a role in whether or not it lasts. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, researchers set out to discover how age difference can affect the likelihood of divorce.
Researcher and New York University professor, Paula England, and her team looked at data from 3,622 couples interviewed for the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) from 1987 to 1988, 1992 to 1994, and 2001 to 2002. At some point during 1987 to 2002, 747 of those couples got divorced or separated. These participants were asked who initiated the divorce and how big of an age gap there was between spouses.
Results found that men who are married to older women are most likely to call it quits. If a man has a wife who’s three or more years older than he is, his odds of asking for a divorce can increase up to 87 percent; while a wife’s chances of initiating a divorce can go down by 23 percent.
Throughout the study, researchers noticed that a woman’s risk of wanting a divorce can increase due to an age gap. Results explained that when a wife is three or more years younger than her husband, her odds of initiating a divorce can go up by 38 percent. But if a husband has a wife who is the younger one, his chances of asking for a divorce can go down by 50 percent.
Although age can only say so much about a relationship, this study also found that too big of an age gap may be a bad sign. More specifically, for each additional year that a wife is older than her husband, the risk of him asking to separate can go up by eight percent.
Research has shown that men most often prefer to be older than their spouse. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Population Economics, researchers looked at how an age gap between partners can can affect marriage over time. These findings consisted of data form the 2001 to 2013 Household, Income, and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), which annually surveyed 19,914 individuals from 7,682 households. Respondents reported on a variety of categories, including how satisfied they were with their relationship and partner on a scale of zero to 10.
Results indicated that for every year that a husband is older than his wife, the man’s marital satisfaction can increase. This wasn’t the case for women, however.
“We find that men who are married to younger wives are the most satisfied, and men who are married to older wives are the least satisfied,” said Terra McKinnish, a professor of economics at CU Boulder and a co-author of the study said in a press release. “Women are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands.”
The study also saw that men with younger wives weren’t always happy in their marriages. In fact, men’s high level of satisfaction faded away quite quickly.
“These results indicate that there is a higher level of marital satisfaction for men with much younger wives at the beginning of the marriage, this higher level of satisfaction dissipates rather rapidly and is erased after 6 to 10 years of marriage,” McKinnish explained. “Over time, the people who are married to a much older or younger spouse tend to have larger declines in marital satisfaction over time compared to those who are married to spouses who are similar in age.”
In terms of why partners appeared to be less satisfied in their marriages, McKinnish noted that it could be due to circumstances like the loss of a job or a decrease in household finances. “We find that when couples have a large age difference, that they tend to have a much larger decline in marital satisfaction when faced with an economic shock than couples that have a very small age difference,” she explained.