“Age is just a number,” yelled Caroline when her friends asked her why she was marrying a man 20 years her senior. “He’s mature, he loves me and he’s financially stable; everything I want in a man.” Like Caroline, some women are all for the more mature, more financially stable type.
However, there are others who, probably because they make their own money, have decided to go down another route and marry guys so much younger, it is ridiculous.
“And what about guys? How come no one is blaming Caroline’s guy? Why is she the one who looks strange for marrying an older man? Men have no shame. These days they marry their daughters!” shouted a friend of Caroline.
Last week, social media outlets went wild with everyone denouncing and rebuking the death of an eight-year-old girl in the hands of a 40-year-old man in the name of marriage. The child bride reportedly died of internal injuries (as a result of sexual intercourse that tore away her internal organs) on her wedding night. But this is not about child brides and early marriage; this is about the appropriate age between people intending to wed. Is there an actual appropriate gap? Or have the times changed and are people now finally convinced that age is just a number?
Amongst factors that partners consider before saying “I do” is the age difference between them. But still, questions like what is the right age gap or is it okay for the lady to be older have still not found straight answers.
Pastor Maurice Rukimbira of Anglican Church, Kigali diocese, who wrote a thesis on harmony between couples says the church does not have specific age differences for marriage partners. “The church promotes love; it is not up to the church to dictate the age difference between the partners. Biblically, Abraham was 10 years older than Sarah and they were compatible. But it would be good to consider the societal point of view as marriage is a societal act and is subject to review by the community. “
“During premarital counseling, we advise partners that if they feel uncomfortable with the age of their partners, it is good to put off the wedding as you will be building a family on shaky ground. If they feel that they can handle whatever pressures may arise from their parents and society, we urge them to go ahead,” the Pastor says.
Rukimbira also says that the freedom to marry anyone regardless of their age should not be an excuse for those who are attracted to older partners for their financial security. “When younger girls get married to older men for their money, this is a false foundation because they are led by other intentions and not love.”
On the right age for marriage, the man of God says, “There should not be a number but rather maturity. I do not advocate for a right age for marriage, I advocate for maturity of the person. When you put down a number, it could easily cause desperation when they get to that age, forcing them to take on any available person.”
Martin Kasire, also known as MC Tino, a radio personality, says that there should be a difference in ages, though not an exaggerated one. “When there is a slight age difference, there is respect and responsibility between the partners, which comes almost naturally. The age difference makes room for maturity and roles in the relationship. But that does not mean that the older of the two has a green light to mistreat a spouse.”
Kasire adds that the exaggerated age difference will easily frustrate one of the partners and could easily lead to infidelity. “You can imagine a situation where due to age difference, the lady feels sexually unsatisfied or frustrated. She could easily go out to look for younger men. Money is not all a relationship needs. An excessively older man may be able to provide financially but leave his wife unfulfilled in several other ways.”
Pauline Wanjiku, a counselor pursuing a master’s degree in Sociology, says that though age is rarely considered a factor, generational differences between partners tend to experience strain later in life as their sexual needs are not compatible as they grow. “For example, a 20-year old girl married to a 40-year-old man may experience challenges in the future when she is 40 and the husband cannot keep up with her ‘sexual appetite’. At some point she may be tempted to go get younger men. ” Wanjiku adds that compatibility in marriage comes from factors like the interests of both parties which might lack when the age difference between the partners is too significant. “Simple things like what they talk about in their free time are determined by their ages. If they are from different generations, it is hard to call it a conversation; it becomes storytelling. Age mates (people in the same age bracket) mostly have similar interests which bring them closer,” Wanjiku says.
58-year-old Abdul Nsenga, a resident of Nyamirambo, has a 14 year gap between him and his wife. He says that most of his peers and friends have close to a 20 year age gap between them and their wives. “There are more benefits to having a young wife than I can count. She can take care of you better if she is young. A young wife knows her position in the family and does not always have the urge to talk back. When you have a considerable age difference between the two of you, the man provides the much needed guidance.”
Nsenga figures that a big age difference does not promote male chauvinism or demean women. “The main reason as to why there is a high rate of divorce in the country is because when spouses have little or no age difference between them, everyone tries to be the head the family, resulting to lack of respect between them. When there is no age difference, there is no clear distinction on the role or who the provider is.”
Solange Uzamberumwana, a 22-year-old student, sees nothing wrong when partners have no age difference between them. “Most girls my age are turned off by the thought of marrying an older man. A man who is 15 years older could easily be your father’s age mate. Marriage partners should have a slight difference in age if any. That way they will have more in common.”
Debates on the suitability of marriage partners rarely come to an end. 10-year-old gaps don’t really make a partner suitable; it only enables one to cross out a requirement in the list of desired qualifications. An acceptable age difference could be something that the partners are comfortable with.
When you think of it, marrying a man that is about five years older is a smart move. He is experienced and the lady is in safer hands than just marrying a young guy that you will hustle with.
Monica Irere, Business lady
The right age gap was something that was believed in the old tradition. These days even women that are way older than men still get married to them. It’s all about who you think you can live with.
Phionah Kamikazi, Marketing agent
Women develop much faster than men, so it would be wise for a lady to marry a man who is at least five years older. It enhances their understanding together as they grow.
Carine Uwabo, Housewife
Love determines marriage. Age is just a number and its love that guarantees how happy a couple will be. It’s pointless to have the right age gap without happiness.
Peter Kabuga, student
Compiled by Patrick Buchana