Is there an ideal age difference between partners?
It's an old cliché that men tend to prefer younger women, while women feel more secure in the arms of an older man. While this is by no means a rule, it is certainly true for a large part of society. However, when it comes to compatibility and parenthood, there seems to be no clear-cut guide as to what the ideal age difference is.
Older societies, such as Ancient Greece where marriage was more about financial stability and forging alliances, saw nothing unusual in a man having a wife 15-20 years his junior. A study of the Sami (Lap) people of preindustrial Finland suggests that for a man to have the most biological chance of siring the largest number of offspring an age difference of 14 years was ideal.
Today a Swedish study reports that number to be 6 years. One reason for this somewhat bum deal is that while fertility in women decreases markedly from age 35, in men it is thought to come around 10 years later.
Age differences Vs. social Activity
So while there are no concrete biological reasons not to marry an older man, there are some aspects to the large age difference which the mothers-in-law may be right to worry about. A fundamental part of growing into an emotionally mature woman involves the process of being a young person in love, and finding ways of making that relationship work long-term. This requires social interaction with other couples of similar age where situations and problems can be debated and worked through.
However in a situation where the husband has already reached emotional maturity this important relationship-building process will be omitted, especially if the couple are having trouble finding suitable company due to their differences in age. This can lead to tension and frustration later in the relationship.
The secret to the perfect relationship
But is there really such a thing as the ideal couple? According to a study by the Geneva Business School, the secret recipe for the perfect relationship is for the female partner to be 5 years younger than hubby, 27% more intelligent, but under no circumstances should they earn more money. So once again it turns out that our grandmothers knew the trick all along: everything will work perfectly as long as he thinks it was all his idea!