martina braun
martina braun


The reason for this article this time is the description of the movie "The Reader" in a TV magazine. Some of you may be familiar with the movie or book, which is in three parts about the relationship between 36-year-old Hanna and Michael, who is 20 years younger. The movie description included the sentence: "Hanna and Michael have a disturbing age difference". Now, anyone familiar with the story knows that the relationship is troubling on many levels, but the 20-year age difference is probably the least troubling thing about the whole thing. In a way, however, this sentence is very emblematic of the opinion that still prevails in our society when it comes to relationships with a large age difference. And then there's an older woman and a younger man - phew - pure overload.

I want to keep it easy to digest here for the time being and dedicate myself to the question of whether love for an older man can work.

A good question, which I answer with a resounding yes. And why? Because I've been in a relationship with a man 20 years older than me for 15 years now. Right, that's not a complete life, but it's definitely longer than I initially expected. And I'm very grateful that we took the plunge!

Committing to such a relationship took courage, which I was sometimes hesitant to have. In this article, I want to shed light on what it takes to summon up exactly this courage and what kind of thoughts are really worthwhile in advance and which are not at all.

The biggest hurdle in this relationship constellation is the prejudices that still exist in our society. Here are my top 5:

  1. He needs a young thing for his midlife crisis
  2. She's only after his money
  3. This is not true love
  4. She has a father complex
  5. Sex is sure to become a problem

Couples with a large age difference are confronted with this and many other opinions. Unfortunately, the people around you rarely express these prejudices directly; instead, they are usually whispered about behind closed doors. You get the feeling that people are pointing the finger at you and you feel like you're running the gauntlet.

However, I do not want to go into the individual prejudices in order to refute them one by one. I wouldn't be able to do that either, because in some cases and under certain circumstances, these views have a certain validity. However, as in other relationship constellations, the motto is: "It can be, but it doesn't have to be!" Quite apart from that, three of the five points listed fit into any relationship, regardless of the age difference.

It is also not my intention to question and analyze the behavior of others, because that would not change your own attitude.

I'm more interested in shedding light on what you or you as a couple should be clear about in advance. This will then automatically make it easier for you to stand up for yourselves to the outside world.

First, let's talk briefly about what exactly a big age difference is. To do this, I'll take a brief detour into the world of statistics from 2018, which says the following about the situation in Switzerland:

36% of couples living in Switzerland have an age difference of less than 5 years

14% of couples have an age difference of between 6 and 9 years

2.6% of couples have an age difference of more than 10 years

This means that around a third of all couples live in a relationship with an age difference of less than 5 years, which is considered "normal" by our society. Everything else is therefore considered large or even abnormally large and these couples belong to a minority per se.

We know from other areas of our interpersonal interactions that minorities or deviations from the norm can unsettle many people because they are initially unknown. And anything that is unsettling is initially rejected and condemned and must first prove itself.

Back to the survey: as can be seen in the chart, it was also determined whether the man or woman is older or younger. It shows that the stereotypical gender combination of older man and younger woman is still more common than the other way around. The older woman with the younger man is still rarer - at least in public.

Another reason why couples who do not conform to our social norm are viewed with suspicion is our imprinting. We grow up in an environment that is characterized by relationships between men and women of a similar age. In order to accept combinations that deviate from this, we have to expand on these preconceptions.

This requires an awareness of the need for change and the willingness to accept something different - contrary to the opinions of the masses. And this is where the difficulty usually lies.

But now to the actual topic. What does it take for you or you as a couple to summon up the courage for your relationship? Some of you may think that it doesn't take much, just do it and see what happens. This can work, but it is more likely to be successful if you deal with a few things first.

#1 What do I like about the other person?

Find out what attracts and inspires you about the other person. What exactly do they do that makes you so happy and makes you feel good? What exactly does this person have that makes them special to you? What do you think about the person and how do you feel and behave in their presence? Do you like the version of yourself when you are with this person?

The curse here is that in the initial phase, the rose-colored glasses pretty much have us under control. The reward hormone dopamine is responsible for this, which is responsible for pleasure - also known as the happiness hormone. It is the hormone of opportunity that is released by the stimulus of something new. It drives us on and promotes our instinct to "want to have".

We are quite strongly influenced by this hormone in the early stages of a relationship, because everything is new and unexpected and anything but ordinary and boring.  This clouds our vision and ensures that we ignore things that would appear rather alarming to us without this hormone influence. The phase of this dopamine intoxication cannot be actively accelerated, but we can only wait until it passes. This usually takes 12 - 18 months, during which we run through the world as if on drugs and find it difficult to be taught by others.

That's why you should answer the questions again and again so as not to deceive yourself. Your answer will probably change over the course of your relationship and only after the intoxication phase will you have a more sober view of your partner. It's also a very good idea not to make any major decisions during this time, such as marriage, children, a house, divorce, etc. - you could regret it when you're sober. So make the initial period relaxed and uncomplicated without any commitments!

# 2 What needs do I have in a relationship?

Another reason why a no-strings-attached start is a good idea is the individual expectations of two people in relation to the relationship. Many of us rarely think in advance about what we are looking for in a relationship. When you're in love and floating on cloud nine, rational thoughts have no place and feel out of place. At this point, you don't usually miss anything, everything is pink and you think you've fallen into cotton candy. Such thoughts usually only creep in when you miss something or there are disagreements between partners. But it makes a lot of sense to have these thoughts at the beginning of a relationship:

How do you want your relationship to feel? How do you want to be treated? What are your dos and don'ts? What do I want in terms of sexuality? What do I want to experience? These don't just have to be selfless and loving aspects, they can also be dirty motives. Things like financial security and a good pension plan are just as legitimate as security and understanding.

Once you have figured this out for yourself, it makes sense to share this knowledge with your partner. Especially those where your partner is directly affected. After all, it is of very little use not to express your expectations and needs out loud, as this will sooner or later lead to disappointment, as few people have the talent to guess what the other person wants. Depending on how long your list of needs is and how your priorities are distributed over the individual points, you shouldn't flood your partner with everything at once. Take your time and don't overwhelm each other as a couple.

# 3 What goals do I have in my life?

This question is closely linked to question #2, because your goals in life color your needs in a relationship. Topics such as family planning, a family that may already exist, the living situation, career, circle of friends, etc. should be discussed, as planning can diverge quite a bit between two people with a large age difference. This doesn't necessarily mean that a relationship won't work. You just need to create awareness of individual goals and jointly determine a course of action that both can live with.

In a relationship with a large age difference, the older partner is at a more advanced stage in life. Logically, she has already experienced more and has already dealt with some things that are still on your list. Each person may have a clear idea of what is important for their future, but here too, no one can see into the minds of others. And needs and goals can only be ignored for as long as the dopamine pretends a rosy world, after which unfulfilled wishes become a point of contention.

Depending on when it comes to a clarifying conversation or perhaps even a bang, the feeling of having wasted your time can arise and sometimes a goal such as family planning is already more difficult or even impossible and leaves scorched earth.

# 4 How do I react when those around me turn away?

Yes, that can happen. Depending on how conservative your environment is, some people may turn away from you. This applies to friends and acquaintances as well as family members. And if they don't obviously turn away from you, then you can expect to have to put up with pointed remarks and teasing at every meeting.

There are several ways to deal with it. First of all, don't be surprised when it happens. And sometimes people turn away from us when we absolutely didn't expect it.

The easiest way in a situation like this would be to ignore it. You can do this with people who don't mean much to you and whose loss doesn't hurt you. You just need a slightly thicker skin to put up with possible comments, because ignoring tends to goad the critics.

You should talk to people who are important to you. Make sure that you don't try to justify yourself during this conversation and try to convince the person that your relationship is just right. Like ignoring them, this usually leads to the other person's attitude becoming even more rigid and you won't achieve anything. What's more, this kind of behavior isn't particularly good for your self-esteem either; you only make yourself look small in front of others because you want their permission. Friends and family members who care about you should respect you and your decision. They don't have to agree with you and are welcome to express their concerns, respect your decision for the relationship and continue to behave like friends. You should never feel like you have to fight against them or be a different person.

Then there will be people who are okay with your relationship, but who can't do anything with your partner. In this case, there is always the option of a separate circle of friends. It's generally a good idea to maintain your own friendships in addition to your mutual circle of friends. This is good for your relationship and also for yourself, as it allows you to retain the feeling of being an independent person. And you can discuss topics that won't immediately end up with your partner in a roundabout way. 

You should also bear in mind that the interests in your partnership will be different than those of a couple of the same age due to the age difference. Having your own circle of friends will help you to continue to pursue your interests and not sit at home feeling frustrated. In any case, try to find a healthy balance between mutual friends and your own.

# 5 Do we both deal with our age difference in the same way?

Do you know how your partner feels about your age difference? How does he or she behave when you are asked about your age difference? Does your partner squirm or make a mockery of the subject? This kind of behavior is very indicative of insecurity in your relationship and you should address this. It's not important that you think the same way about your age difference every minute, that's not possible because you are two different people and every day is different.

But you should have the same basic attitude and deal with it in a similar way and you can support and build each other up if in doubt. And above all, take your partner seriously and listen. You can show your attitude towards your age difference most credibly through your behavior.

If your partner's attitude still seems strange to you, question it early on. Then you should find out what the commitment to your relationship is like.

# 6 Do we talk openly about our concerns?

In a relationship with a large age difference, there are inherently more concerns than in a relationship that is considered normal by society. It's about how much you have in common, whether you want to start a family or whether your circle of friends will accept you. But at some point, it's also about a declining libido or physical dysfunctions during sex, about a professional career when the other person is already planning their retirement and about the sudden visible physical decline of your partner. At some point, the topic of death also takes up space in your relationship.

The perfidious thing is that you are aware of the issues right from the start, but you don't pay any attention to them. At the ages of 25 and 45, these issues are not yet so pressing, you have the feeling of being a normal couple. But the older you get, the clearer the difference becomes, both physically and mentally. And that's when you need to start talking to your partner - openly and honestly. Because talking takes away the insecurity and opens up new, shared possibilities.

If you have dealt with these 6 points, then you will go into your relationship with an older man fairly prepared. It's still no guarantee that things will go smoothly, but you've taken a good first step and are prepared.

Remember, in one respect your functioning relationship with an older man is no different from your relationship with a man of the same age: there is work involved, only the issues are different.

As a couple, focus on your values and don't get caught up in prejudices. You can grow through challenges, you don't have to fail! And if you face up to the challenges, this indicates a strong connection and if you have an equal relationship, then the age difference is secondary.

Oh yes, and what's not worth it at all: worrying about what others think, whether they're whispering or whether they're looking at you strangely as a couple. Trust your gut feeling and hold your head high. And the best thing is always to stand over it and giggle together in such situations.

There is no shame in seeking help for your relationship. Relationship discussions can be challenging. When you add the issue of age to the mix, it doesn't necessarily get any easier. So get support. A coach will accompany you or you as a couple and you can work out the best path for you. Take courage, it's worth it!

You can't think life, you have to live it!

Do you have experience of a relationship with an older man? Do you have any questions or comments? Then write me your story in the comments or by email at

I'm looking forward to seeing you!