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A Most Senior Relationship

June 22, 2011 By:
Rita Charleston, JE Feature
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According to a recent German study, if a man marries a woman 15 to 17 years his junior, his chances of prematurely dying are cut by one-fifth.

The study, conducted by Germany's Max Planck Institute -- which examined deaths between 1900 and 2005 for the entire population of Denmark -- also reveals that men decrease the years of premature death by 11 percent if their wives are seven to nine years younger.

While the study is new, the phenomenon is not. It plays out for legions of women right here in the United States. In fact, according to recent U.S. Census data, 4.1 million wives have husbands who are 10 or more years older than they are.

Additionally, almost 7 million wives have husbands who are six to nine years older.

So how do these relationships actually work? Or do they?

While the German study addresses the older man/younger woman relationship in terms of potential longevity, Laura Grashow's Dating The Older Man: Consider Your Differences and Decide If He's Right For You is a guidebook for women already involved or seriously considering getting involved with an older man.

Beyond the Stereotypes

Dating the Older Man helps women move past the social judgment and stereotypes that come with older/younger unions. Grashow, along with co-author Belisa Vranich, deals with everything younger women coupled with older men go through on a daily basis.

According to Grashow, "Despite the large number of women involved with older men, maneuvering through this dating terrain is not necessarily easy."

And whereas the German study seemed a benefit to men, Grashow adds, "Women, unfortunately, don't receive the same benefits. So our book is written from and for a woman's perspective."

In what is considered a non-scientific yet insightful poll of approximately 200 women, ages 25 to 62, the co-authors looked at the women's opinions regarding older men as partners and spouses with respect to everything from sex, to parenting, to emotional connection, to finances.

"Belisa and I both work with women, and at a certain point it dawned on us that many women dating older men have to deal with a number of roadblocks, including society's stereotypical judgment" that may involve being seen "as gold-diggers, home wreckers, or perhaps nothing more than the object of a mid-life crisis."

In that vein, the authors give readers concrete advice and teach them how to cope with disapproving reactions from family and friends.

They also help younger women learn how to build a healthy relationship with family members and make the transition from outsider to parent-figure when necessary.

The book is a guide for the younger woman looking to make her romance last, complete with case studies, easy-to-reference Q&As, and myths to dispel in living life wisely.

One myth is: "Love will keep us together." No it won't, say the authors.

"If you're a romantic and believe that love will automatically rule over differences in values, personalities, and even age, it likely will not," they write.

Another myth many buy into? "Once you fall in love, that's it, it's always there."

Wrong they say. "This is not true! Love is work. When you love deeply, you invest your time, energy and thoughts. Keeping the love alive involves real effort."

Grashow, a family psychologist and doctoral graduate of Yeshiva University, has been featured on "Good Morning America," in the New York Daily News, and FoxNews.com, and other media.

Vranich, who holds a doctorate degree from New York University is, among other things, the New York Daily News's "Dear Doctor" columnist.

In conclusion, Grashow says that although there are pitfalls in every relationship, "We see lots of real down-to-earth younger women and older men who fall in love and want to make a go of it.

"So our basic message is this: If you feel in your gut that this is someone who makes you happy, and you want to be with this someone you love and who loves you, then go for it!"

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