dilemmas; Generation gap

Divorced, 43 and with two teenagers, Clem is in love with a devoted, kind young man of 25 who virtually lives with her and is very anxious to marry her. They've been together for 18 months and he says it doesn't matter if they can't have children. But when he's 50, Clem will be over 70. Would he still care, she asks? And would this be the right move for him?

Is it really still true that while it's acceptable for a man of 43 to marry a w oman of 25, the reverse is still thought to be a trifle weird? A man might be old enough to be his wife's father and everyone's quite indulgent, but isn't there something a little funny about a woman being old enough to be her husband's mother?

Despite the eager exhortations of American psycho-gurus that partnerships should consist of two equal people with their own rights and own space who meet now and again with mutual affection, love and trust, there is a great deal more nurturing that goes on in most relationships than we like to think. Some of us may cringe to think about it, but there are couples who even call each other mummy and daddy, for heaven's sake. And Clem's letter, short as it is, reeks of nurture. I wonder if she knows quite what a mum she is. She's already a mother, of course, to her own children, but it's interesting that her boyfriend is not that sold on the idea of being a father - and it's certainly unlikely at her age that Clem would be able to conceive anyway. Small wonder that she asks in a completely understandably childish way: "Will he will care for me when I'm old?" If he loves her as a mother, might it not be more difficult for him to love her when she became more feeble and dependent? Then there is her most poignant query, in which it's revealed just how very mumsy the relationship is: "Would marriage be right for him?" (my italics, as they say). If she wants to play that's fine, but I do think she might just have considered whether marriage is right for her, as well.

Some people would recommend the marriage wholeheartedly. Lucky Clem with her toyboy, they will say; he'll keep her young. But if young men are boys and not men, they can also make you feel terribly old. Clem may feel like a glamorous mum now, but she may eventually feel more like a grannie if she maintains her current maternal view of the relationship. But perhaps there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps this is a relationship in which Clem is more mum than daughter or equal; perhaps she likes it like that. But then, I wonder, why does she ask the question about marriage at all? Why, too, this obsession with marriage anyway? Marriage is fantastically easy to get into and fantastically difficult to get out of. Were they to fall out later, Clem's then husband would have rights to her home and money. I notice he lives with her, not vice versa. Does he indeed have a home of his own, or is he a gorgeous, sweet-singing cuckoo who has found a comfortable nest?

I don't doubt everyone's sincerity, but I feel very strongly that Clem should wait a long time before thinking of marriage. She has never known what a relationship is like with her lover on his own. The two teenage children are huge factors in the whole relationship, factors who will suddenly disappear to lead their own lives, leaving Clem and her lover on their own - a place where they have never been before.

If, when the children have fled the nest, Clem and her boyfriend still want to marry I'd be the first to be jumping up and down outside the church yelling: "Go for it!" at them down the aisle. But until then I can see that marriage offers Clem nothing that continuing to live together wouldn't offer just as well for the time being.

Forget the age difference, have no regrets

My wife and I got together when she was 40 (with teenage children) and I was 26. Our friends told us (separately) "just enjoy your affair, but don't think of anything permanent". However, we did make it permanent and had one daughter when she was 43 and another at 45 and many happy years together until she died suddenly two years ago from a heart attack at 77.

Of course, there is a downside. I'm suffering it now. The younger partner is always more likely to be left alone, but that's life. Better to live with happy memories than with regrets for what might have been. So, Clem, forget the age difference and try for children if that's what you both want.

A young and active father who loves them and you can be a real partner and parent.


London SW11

Get on with it - there are no certainties

Well, it needs to be good for you, too, and I'm assuming you know your man and are confident of his integrity.

We have to move forward and there are no certainties. But your relationship as you describe it, and the goodwill surrounding it, are as promising a foundation as anyone could wish for to a new marriage.

Moving forward means change, through maturity, sexual need, the effects of adversity. Awareness of the age gap will take a back seat, given a chance. Respect and affection, kept in good repair, are your best assurance. I'd get on with it if I were you.



I've been there too, and there's no room for fear

First of all Clem should stop worrying about what is "right for him". He has obviously made up his own mind what is best for him and considers the age difference no problem. As someone who went through the same agonies when I fell in love with a man much younger than myself I found the best advice came from my own 15-year-old daughter, who said: "So what, isn't your age just on a piece of paper? It's who you are that counts."

Go for it Clem, you love him and he loves you. Don't let fear for the future, which may never become realities, cloud the present. Take this opportunity for happiness - I did, and neither my husband, I, nor my teenage children have regretted it.


St Albans

Take our advice, don't listen the doubters

Dear Virginia,

We are a married couple but wanted to write to you independently ...

In 1977, at 43, I married a man of 22. We had known each other three years and, when asked to marry, I had all the same misgivings as Clem.

I had four children, and it was they who helped me make the choice. They appreciated a mother who, with someone to share the responsibilities and chores, had more time for them in a loving home. Our only sadness is not to have a child together. However, we are enjoying our five grandchildren enormously!

Now at 62 and 41 respectively, our love has ripened and matured. Romantic love may have dimmed a little, but mutual respect and loving companionship are the things that last.

I hope that Clem's future will be as joyful as our married life has been.



Any 1996 marriage has a one in three chance of failure - but that is no reason not to try. If you don't bet, you can't win.

There are three possible outcomes for you in 20 years' time - one: you are still happily married; two: you were happily married for a time, but it went wrong; and three: you are cursing yourself for not taking the chance when you had it.

I was born in 1955 and my wife in 1933, and we've been married for 20 years. The age difference truly is immaterial. There are much greater gulfs of class, of temperament, or of culture. We are still deeply in love, and thank Providence that we were not dissuaded by well-meaning friends who said it wouldn't work.



Suggested Topics
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 5 Teacher

    £80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past