Steph & Dom: After 18 years, our age-gap seems bigger than ever

Steph & Dom solve your sex, love & life troubles: After 18 years, our age-gap seems bigger than ever

  • Woman asked for advice about 18-year age gap between her and her husband
  • Anonymously asked British TV’s Steph and Dom for advice with her situation
  • Steph advised woman to step back and find what is really making her unhappy

TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 53 and 56, draw on their 23 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .

Q My husband and I have been married for 18 years. Initially we were very happy, but the last few years have been difficult. I’m 55 and he’s 71.

When we got together, the age gap didn’t matter — we had a wonderful time together. If I’m honest, I enjoyed the fact that he was more secure than my previous boyfriends and he was keen to commit. We married after a year of dating.

Now, the differences between us really show. I’m still full of energy, keen to have a social life and busy at work, whereas he is retired and doesn’t do anything apart from watch TV.

I don’t know how I’ll get through another lockdown with him just sitting there. He won’t come for a walk or join in a Pilates class. As a result, there’s nothing to talk about. It’s driving me mad.

TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 53 and 56, were asked by an anonymous British woman for advice after she felt that the age gap between her and her husband seemed to grow with each year that passed (stock image)

STEPH SAYS:

I am saddened by your letter, if not a little disappointed by it. Lockdown is not easy for any of us, so while I can hear the frustration behind your words, I would advise you to take a step back and consider what is really making you unhappy.

We marry for love, not for attention or for the lure of a perceived lifestyle 20 years down the line! The age gap wasn’t an issue when you met, but I suspect you rather ignored the reality, as it is apparent that it is very much an issue now.

It is clear that you love your husband or you wouldn’t have stayed married all these years.

The problem is one that we’ve seen time and again since the pandemic struck. The reality is that, in lockdown, you look far more closely at your partner because you’re spending more time with them — and you get to see them as they are, without other people and distractions coming into the relationship.

Steph (left) told the anonymous woman to take a step back and reconsider what is actually making her upset

The lucky ones among us have grown closer and enjoyed the intimacy this time has afforded us. But sadly, for many, the restrictions have revealed the cracks their busy lives once papered over.

At 71, your husband is starting to seem old to you. But 71 is no age at all these days: with a fair wind, you have many years left together. He is clearly a happy man, and happy being with you. And, frankly, I, of all people, think there is nothing wrong with watching TV all day!

Your list of daily activities (in your longer letter) makes me feel exhausted just reading it. But I assume that if you took no pleasure from your frantic schedule, you wouldn’t follow it. It sounds to me like you’re missing spending time with your husband and feel lonely.

So I would advise you to enjoy having the best of both worlds. I think you should take a walk down memory lane and work out at what point this feeling of separation from him began — and work backwards from then.

Ask yourself what it is that you are really mourning. Your husband is still the man you married, perhaps just less enthusiastic about certain aspects of his life. He is perfectly entitled to slow down, with no feelings of guilt.

I suggest you have a long conversation and decide what it is you both want in the coming years. Give him a chance to tell you his thoughts on the subject, rather than being cross with him for not being a mind-reader!

Please don’t waste one more day festering with irritation when you could be laughing and loving each other while you still have the time.

DOM SAYS: 

Well, this is a sad letter to receive. What an awful situation you find yourself in — and one I imagine you never considered would happen. At 16 years, yours is not a massive age gap. I know a couple with a 30-year age gap who were very happy until he passed away at 86.

Your husband is 71, which is no great age at all. I know people in their mid to late-80s who are super-sprightly and both interested and interesting.

That said, I’m concerned about your husband and his health. I wonder if he might be slightly depressed — perhaps feeling a bit redundant? And there’s no point in pretending that other serious illnesses aren’t a possibility: they are.

So, first things first, get your husband to get himself checked out by his GP. If he takes umbridge, well, so be it. Tell him he’s sitting around like a sloth, and it’s not acceptable.

Assuming all is well on the health front, he has a duty to your marriage. This is not what you signed up for. He married someone 16 years younger and he still has a responsibility to pay you attention, to look after you and to make sure you’re all right. I think this is a very poor show from him.

Dom (pictured) advised that the woman should take her husband to a GP to be checked out in case he is feeling depressed

If he doesn’t change his ways, then the only way for you to get his attention is to completely ignore him and carry on with your life. If he’s going to pretend you’re not there, then you should pretend he’s not there, too.

Make your own plans. Go for a run or a walk, have your online social life, FaceTime your family.

If he doesn’t want to join in, then that is his problem not yours. When you’re in a relationship with a younger partner, it tends to keep you more on the ball. So he’s going against the grain here.

I’m sure it’s not his intention to ignore you, but he needs to apologise and stop doing it. Bluntly put, he needs a kick up the backside.

It’s sad that you say you can’t bear the thought of this new lockdown with your partner. Many people are looking forward to spending more time with their other halves. Honestly, it can be great fun!

If you’re dreading it and he’s ignoring you, then it’s just not good enough. This is both selfish and lazy of your husband, and he needs to know what the consequences are.

To be frank, he needs to pay more attention to his wife or he might well lose her.

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