Falling in love with an older spouse: a choice or a problem?
Falling in love with an older spouse; He is smart, funny and deep, you have great communication and common interests, and you have not felt this way for a long time to a man.
The only problem, it seems, is that he is twenty years older than you and your dreams of marriage and children no longer really speak to him. If this is not the first time you have found yourself in this situation, you may have already had time to ask yourself what the pattern of falling in love with men older than you is and whether or not there is cause for concern.
In this article, we will describe the causes of a recurring pattern of falling in love with older partners, and we will offer signs that will help you identify whether you are in the right and good relationship for you.
Falling in love with older spouse: Why does this happen?
When asked why we fell in love with our partner, we tend to point to the conscious factors that played a role in falling in love: the humor, the wisdom, the external appearance, the couple connection formed and so on.
But most psychologists and those involved in the study of infatuation will grin at this answer and will strongly argue that in the process of infatuation the hidden is greater than the visible, and that unconscious factors affect our marital choice much more than conscious factors.
Unconscious factors that influence marital choice usually relate to our early experiences in interpersonal relationships. Our early relationships with parents drown in each of us a “relationship pattern” that shapes the way we perceive meaningful relationships.
Since the relationship with our parents is the first love relationship we experience in our lives, in our adulthood we tend to enter into relationships that reproduce this initial love pattern or alternatively – constitute an attempt to avoid reconstruction through choosing a spouse who is in sharp contrast to the parent.
The more difficult and complex the relationship with the parent is, and the less processed it is, the less the couple’s freedom of choice decreases and the person tends to choose partners that match / oppose the parent’s relationship pattern, even at the cost of a problematic relationship.
In these senses, falling in love with older spouse is no different from other falling in love: Most lovers fall in love with partners who are many years older than they are driven by emotional needs and unconscious factors that are related to early relationship patterns.
For example, a recurring pattern of falling in love with older spouses may result from significant deprivation in a relationship with an adult who provides warmth, concern, protection and confidence.
This type of deprivation in childhood may lead to the choice of an adult couple partner who provides these aspects. Similarly, sometimes “survival needs” not met in childhood, such as economic security, high social status and positive environmental feedback that strengthens self-image – lead to the choice of an older partner who has a high potential to “upgrade” in these aspects.
In other cases, the choice of a significant older spouse can be a protection against marital aspects that the person has difficulty dealing with in a marital relationship with his or her peers.
Thus, for example, a young woman’s infatuation with a significantly older man whose sexual needs are limited and has no desire for marriage or cohabitation may result from a woman’s difficulty coping with sexuality and emotional commitment to which she is required in marital relationships with peers.
Sometimes the choice of an older partner even constitutes protection against dealing with life demands unrelated to the marital field such as bringing up children and career development: when there are significant conflicts in these aspects, choosing a wealthy older man who meets the economic needs and does not want children may provide “exemption” from dealing with them.
How will you know if falling in love with an older spouse is good for you?
So far we have discussed the unconscious factors that influence falling in love with a significantly older spouse. But does the fact that unconscious emotional needs and factors affect falling in love really testify to the existence of a “problem”?
And if all infatuation also stems from unconscious factors, why exactly does falling in love with older spouses be perceived as problematic? This is because many relationships in which there is a significant age gap encounter significant difficulties resulting from each spouse being in a different place in life and engaged in different developmental and emotional tasks.
In these situations, each spouse is faced with a painful choice between maintaining the marital relationship at the cost of giving up significant aspects of life (entertainment, career, children, etc.), and maintaining personal development at the cost of the marital relationship.
This choice often produces friction, frustration and disappointment, or attempts to change the partner and impose on him a lifestyle that does not suit him.
At the same time, even couples with a significant age gap enjoy a good and satisfying relationship. How, then, can you know if your relationship with a partner older than you is really good for you? Around this issue, it is worth paying attention to a number of aspects.
Needs Gaps: Are there significant gaps in the needs and directions of life of each of you, and are these gaps a source of friction, frustration, or dissatisfaction? If there are significant gaps (e.g., only one of you wants to live together or have children), there is a reasonable chance that the relationship will eventually come to a dead end.
Personal Development: Does the relationship with your older partner prevent you from developing yourself and progressing in important life directions for you? For example, does the economic convenience that the relationship provides deter you from studying or working?
Does the relationship come at the expense of social ties? Are you giving up “for now” on having children even though you would like to become a parent?
Dependence or exploitation: Are there elements of dependence and exploitation in your relationship? For example, do you have a feeling that you cannot manage without the financial / emotional support of the older partner, or that you are manipulatively extorting money or benefits from it?
Overall Satisfaction: Does the relationship satisfy you in aspects that are important to you, or does it involve giving up sexuality, emotional intimacy, or the ability to enjoy aspects of life that are important to you?
Using denial: Do you often find yourself using statements like “he will eventually change”, “I will be able to convince him in the end”, “our love will win everything”, “he just does not understand yet that you have brought a child / cohabitation / wedding will do him good “?
If so, there is a reasonable chance that you are expecting significant changes that will not necessarily occur.
But I love her! Dealing with a recurring pattern of falling in love with older partners…
Even if you have come to the conclusion that a relationship with partners older than you is not right for you and is accompanied by heavy prices, you have probably already discovered that it is not easy to control the heart.
You may also have tried, dated again and again with your peers and really given a chance – but his heart is ripe, moving away from your peers and being attracted only to the older ones than you.
Situations of this kind usually indicate the intensity of the unconscious emotional factors influencing the marital choice, and the difficulty in breaking free from them. Accordingly, in these situations it is advisable to turn to psychological treatment which will allow an in-depth investigation of the unconscious factors relevant to the marital choice.
Understanding these factors and processing the underlying early relationships usually leads to a reduction in the emotional needs and shortcomings that lead to the choice of unsatisfactory relationships, thus expanding the freedom of choice and enabling falling in love and bonding with more suitable partners.
Thus, for example, a deep understanding of the effects of deprivation in a relationship with a benevolent and caring parent, and processing of childhood experiences associated with this deprivation, may reduce the constant unconscious search for a “better parent” and allow choice of a spouse rather than a parent.
Tell us your experience in the comments please!