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Monday, May 4, 2009

Age differences in marriage

So I have a friend who recently moved back to Djibouti after living in the U.S. for about 12 years. He got divorced in 2004 after his wife cheated on him. After less than a week of being home, he sent me an email saying that he had already made maher for a girl in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. I was mostly surprised that he found someone to marry so soon, then I was also surprised by how much younger she is than him.

My friend is close to 40, divorced, with 3 kids ranging in age from 13 to 7. The girl on the other hand is less than 20 and is presumably a virgin, having never been married. He had told me before leaving that he wanted to get settled first and then get to know some women from about the age of 25 and up because he didn't want to marry a younger woman who wasn't educated, and then this happened!

I am close friends with their entire family and found out that I also know this girl's much older half brother (he's around 50). I can understand him wanting to marry within the tribe and family because that is so important to Somali culture, but it just blows my mind to imagine being barely out of high school and marrying a guy who is nearly 20 years older than me.

How can I understand this from the girl's perspective? His mom kept telling me that this is normal over there, but I don't see how this type of marriage is good for either the guy or the girl. I think he would have been happier with a girl who has a comparable level of life experience to him, and that this also makes it harder for younger guys to find suitable wives.

I want to believe that she will give him a chance and eventually learn to love him. He is a kind, thoughtful, and compassionate person and I know that he will treat her like a jewel. He can also teach her a lot from all his life experience.
What does everyone think of the tradition of marrying young girls off to much older men?

10 comments:

Ayan said...

First off, why is this under gay marriage? ... just an observation.

This can be quite normal within my culture at times. However, that does not mean it is the norm today. For example my parents and my parents siblings are married to someone who is not much older then them ... most fall between the 5-12 years age gap. Plus, I notice my generation here in North America and Europe tend to get married to someone within the age group and most never pass the 10 year age gap, just my observation (not that it is a fact). Personally, I would never marry someone 10 years my senior (or junior) let alone 20 years my senior/junior! What could we possibly have in common? But, I guess it works out for others.

I was wondering if the case was reverse would you see it differently? Had it been an older/mature woman marrying a man 20 her junior, would it sit well with you?

Lisa said...

He sounds like a wonderful friend, and an exception to the rule.

I don't have a problem at all with a 10 year age difference, as long as the girl is at least 20 and he is 30 for instance.

Though my husband and I have only a months age difference, (I'm 4 months older), that has't really worked out either.

My major problem with the huge difference is that this girl waited for him, but he didn't wait for her. He likely hopes she will help with the kids, but she shouldn't have to. She waited. And she should relax and enjoy planning her big day. Thinkig of a possible honeymoon baby. Not "raising" a 13 and 7 year old!

Love you.

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

Ayan,
I didn't mean the gay marriage thing. I meant to post it under marriage and it brought up gay in there with it. Stupid Blogger!
I think it would be even more unusual if it was a much older woman marrying a younger man, although it does happen too. My main worries are that they won't have much in common, and that he won't be able to empathize with her being barely out of her teens.

Lisa,
One of the good things is that is ex-wife and the kids live in the US, and they will be living in Africa, so she shouldn't have to worry about raising his older kids. The girls is maybe 20, but may be more like 18. I'm not actually 100% sure as to her age.

Umm Omar said...

I don't think age is a big deal in marriage. Like in all marriages, a successful marriage will depend on the people themselves. There are some people with huge age differences but happy and stable, and others with small or no age differences and are unhappy and unstable. Age is just a number.

NeverEver said...

I would also like to add the fact that women tend to mature more quickly than men do. A younger woman may enjoy being married to an older man because he may be less concerned with running around with friends and more concerned with the family life.

I agree, though, that it would be difficult for a girl/woman just out of high school to be in charge of raising a 13 year old, but obviously this depends on the person and the situation.

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

UmmOmar-I do think its true that you get out of marriage what you put into it. If they both go into it with the right commitment and attitude I do think that she will grow to love him.

NeverEver-That is also true that girls tend to mature earlier and that is also more true in traditional cultures where girls are expected to act like grown women from a young age.

ModestJustice said...

Eh to each her own, but if she agrees and knows what she's getting into then Mazel Tov! Or Mabrook!
For myself however, I would rather, insha'allah, marry a man no older than a year or so older than me. 2 years is the limit. 3 is an exception :]

Jaz said...

Modest Justice: That's a very small age bracket! I'd never marry someone younger than me (not by one day) so I guess I'm just as picky! My husband is 3.5 years older than me and I think that's just perfect. I like that he is older. In fact I wouldn't mind if he was 5 years older than that.

On the original post, I think if that is what's the norm in a given country, then that's just how people live. It's as normal to them as marrying somebody of the same age is to us! I don't think there is anything wrong with it, if that's the tradition and if that's what they were always going to do and if both of them are happy about it and consenting.

Muslim Kid said...

Hey,

Islamically, when you look for a partner you look for a few things: wealth, status, beauty and piety(religiousness). Thats what a male should look for in a female. A female should look for wealth, status and piety, I'm pretty sure Beauty is not in there.

So in relative terms, age would have some affect on wealth and status, older people would have more. Yet age could have a negative affect in terms of beauty; which isn't important.

So I can't see why age should matter.

Nice blog, check out mine sometime if you wish: themuslimkid.blogspot.com

(Oh I'm years old and I'm a boy)

-The Muslim Kid-

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

Muslim Kid,
I think what you said makes sense. From a Western perspective though, I think we like the age difference to fall within a certain range so we feel like we have more life experience in common. I'll def check out your blog.