The paradox of older husband

Please, pardon me for this submission which is gender-biased, though rightly so. Either because they are weaker, or because we have made them assume feeble roles, women are more often than not at the receiving end of domestic violence. Hence the feminine persuasions of this write-up. If you’re a man you need not panic. You have sisters. You have friends. And you may as well think twice, before negotiating that age-hypergamous relationship.

One of the causal associations that have kept intimate partner violence in perpetuity, despite agitations against it in some circles, is our collective idea of what an ideal marriage should be. What we see when we think of marriage is a union between a man – an established man, and his domestic appendage. This is because we rarely believe a woman can be a whole. We see them as part of a whole. After all, a woman’s call in marriage is to support her husband.

A successful man close to midlife takes possession of a wife. He has toiled. He has laboured. Such years of hard work should come with a prize. Now is the time to smile to church with a beautiful woman. Some sort of reward. Some sort of possession to be acquired. Such arrangements are born of a good intention – the desire for social security. Many a time, financial stability and the ability to shoulder responsibilities come with age. So it is only natural that a lady would want an older husband. He would at least be able to care for her and treat her like a baby.

What is however often ignored, is the discord such age-disparate relationships can bring. Marriage is supposed to be a bridge-builder between people of different classes and strata. But the more the divide, the more the resources that will be needed to build a link. When a woman marries a man outside of her peer group, there is a higher chance the two will have opposing perspectives to the world. There easily will be more arguments. There easily will be more conflicts, because of their divergent world views.

A trivial example would be that of information sourcing. For an older husband, he has always listened to NTA network news at 9 p.m. That is how he gets updates. That was how he was trained. The 9 p.m. news was family ritual. But a millennial wife will rather watch Africa Magic. She is of the jet age. She will struggle to understand why anyone would devote an hour to listen to the news, when they were not training to be journalists and when the same information could be sourced online.

This is not to insinuate that age-disparate relationships cannot be seamless. They can work well. But more commitment and effort will be needed from both partners. This is even more so when things are viewed in the context of our patriarchal society. Our traditional and religious beliefs already allow the lordship of a man over his wife. Wide age gap on the side of the man only helps affirm this authority further. Inequality will be enhanced.

The older husband has an increased sense of entitlement. His wife is his baby. But as babies are to be pampered, they equally should be given clear instructions and not be taken too seriously. Whenever they misbehave one should not hesitate to rein them in.

It is within this kind of structure that marital violence is perpetrated. In the scenario above, the millennial wife may one day confront her information-seeking husband. If he is provoked enough, he would think to himself: ‘Look at me, see my life.’ ‘This woman is quite rude.’ ‘She is not even as old as my sister.’ ‘How can she talk to me this way?’ He may instinctively land her a slap or two, just like he did his kid sister in the days of childhood.

Unfortunately some ladies themselves hope for age-disparate relationships. ‘I cannot marry my mate’. ‘I will not respect him’. The very equality such minds are terrified of, is what the institution of marriage seeks to espouse. Why get into marriage and then start trying to find a common ground with an older man, when you can easily match into the future with your peer? Or is marriage now supposed to be a union of the served and his servant?

During the build-up to this write up, I did some literature search. I did not want to share an uninformed opinion considering the sensitive nature of this topic. From my search, I found conflicting results as regards the association between age-disparate relationships and domestic violence. While some studies reported associations, many did not. It is however important to note that age-disparate relationships are associated with more adverse health outcomes and they are positively correlated with decreased longevity.

While there should be no barrier to love, it is important that risk factors of intimate partner violence are avoided when identified.

That the older husband who was sought in early life, because of his seeming maturity and relative financial buoyancy, would later become a machine of fist massage; that the home which would have been envisioned to be tender, caring and loving, because of his sheer age and wealth of experience, would eventually become a garrison – where only cries and terror hold sway, is the paradox in this case.

Adeyoose wrote from Ibadan.

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