While men and women both tend to experience marital satisfaction with younger spouses, the satisfaction is likely to fade over time if there is a significant age gap between the partners, researchers have found.
The findings showed that for the couples with a big age gap between the partners, the initial satisfaction tends to erode rapidly after six to ten years of marriage.
However, when paired with a younger spouse, men and women both showed greater marital satisfaction.
“We find that men who are married to younger wives are the most satisfied and men who are married to older wives are the least satisfied,” said Terra McKinnish, Professor at University of Colorado Boulder.
“Women are also particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands,” McKinnish added.
One reason for this decline could be how the age difference between spouses affects the couple’s ability to respond to negative economic shocks such as a job loss.
The study found that marriages with large age gap between partners are also less resilient in the face of economic downturns relative to their similarly-aged counterparts.
Similarly-aged couples are more in sync on life decisions that affect both partners (having children, general spending habits) and thus may be better equipped to adjust to a negative financial shock.
By contrast, an unexpected financial shake-up could expose underlying tensions and mismatches in couples with a larger age gap, McKinnish said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Population Economics, the team examined 13 years’ worth of longitudinal data from 2001.
The sample initially comprised of 7,682 households containing 19,914 individuals and participants are re-surveyed every year with questions that measure various aspects of life satisfaction.