“Does ten years’ difference in age make happiness in marriage difficult? I am twenty years old and I have been going with a man who is thirty.
My parents are furious about this, saying that I cannot possibly be happy with a man so much older than myself.
He wants to marry me, and I am in love with him, but I am all confused because of my parents’ attitude.
They read The Liguorian like I do, and if you answer my question in it, maybe it will do some good. I know I will surely consider what you have to say.
All other things being favorable to a happy marriage, ten years of difference in age, especially at your particular ages and when the man is the older person need not be an obstacle to your happiness in marriage.
We know of many happy marriages with as much and more difference in age between the man and the woman.
Note the condition, however, that all other things must be favorable to a happy marriage. Are you quite sure that the only objection your parents have to this marriage is based on age?
I can think of some circumstances that could make the age difference important
For example, if the man is not of your faith, I would be very slow to tell you that age makes no difference. You are young enough not to need to rush into this marriage as if it were your last chance; indeed, if the age difference were even less, I could give you many arguments against the possibility of happiness in such a marriage.
If this man is ten years older than you are, he will almost certainly be very uninclined to take seriously your religion, as you must want any prospective husband to take your religion seriously; he may even be inclined to dictate to you about religion. ‘if there were any evidence of such a possibility, and your parents may be able to see that better than you can, I know that any responsible Catholic would advise you against the marriage.
Another example: If your thirty year old friend has succeeded in drawing you into habits of sin, you have a very poor chance of happiness in marriage with him.
This would be a sign that he has grown to thirty without acquiring habits of virtue and self-control, and it is not likely that he will acquire these things after you marry him.
But if you are both Catholics, truly in love, and both eager to avoid sin and aware of the serious responsibilities of marriage, I would say that you may, with excellent prospects of happiness, think of marriage.
May this statement convince your parents of what their attitude should be.
Approval of Divorce Before Marriage
“I am engaged to a non-Catholic man, and the other day he mentioned (for the first time) the fact that he believes in divorce.
He said that he did not expect our marriage ever to break up, but that he was convinced that when any marriage did not turn out to be happy, the persons should be allowed to separate and made free to try marriage with someone else.
As a Catholic, I know that true marriage has to be permanent, and that there can be no such thing as a valid marriage after a divorce.
My question is: Do you think I can take a chance on marrying a man with the views expressed above?”
The chance you take in marrying such a man is very great.
As a matter of fact, if he were to apply his thought about divorce directly to your own marriage, and expressly to state that he was not entering into a permanent and indissoluble union, but into one that could be dissolved by divorce if and when he wished to have it dissolved, your very marriage would be invalid.
His very consent to marriage in that case would be vitiated.
However, if he did not expressly apply his approval of divorce to your marriage, but actually consented to take you as his wife “till death”, the marriage would be valid.
But it would still be one in which your chances of happiness and security would be very meager.
There is nothing more essential to happiness in marriage than an exclusion of even a theoretical approval of divorce.
The man who approves of divorce for unhappy marriages can, after a few years of married life, think of a hundred reasons for saying that his marriage is unhappy.
He can be attracted to a new face. He can rebel against the expense of raising his own children. He can accuse his wife of having faults he never knew of before marriage. He can get into a rage over some fancied grievance and stalk out of the house forever.
Also, a man who approves in general of divorce, will almost surely approve of other things (birth-control, for example) that are contrary to God’s laws and to the conscience of a Catholic.
My advice would, therefore, be that if you cannot succeed in changing his general attitude about divorce, you should not take a chance on marrying this man.
The natural law concerning divorce and remarriage, and concerning other crimes against marriage, is not too difficult to explain, and many non-Catholics accept the explanation and agree with it once it is given.
But if your boy friend does not accept the explanation or refuses to agree with it, don’t take a chance with him.
It is the wife who pays most, in a marriage in which the husband has doubts about indissolubility.
On Drinking on Dates
“I go around with a group of young people (we are all in our late teens), and most of them like to take a drink.
So far I have held out against this because my mother doesn’t want me to drink.
But my boy friend, and the other couples we go with, keep urging me to join them. They say that they don’t over-do it, and that there is no danger of my over-doing it in their company.
They tell me that if I am afraid of it, I am just the one who may become an alcoholic some day.
What do you think of drinking on dates? Most of the time they drink beer, but sometimes one of the boys brings a pint of whiskey along when we go out together.”
You could do nothing better than to continue to solve this problem for yourself on the basis of the wishes and commands of your mother.
Certainly, apart from everything else, you are right in thinking more of the importance of your mother’s wishes than of the arguments offered you by your drinking friends.
Apart from the angle of obedience, there is no doubt that it is exceedingly dangerous for teen-agers to drink on their dates.
First of all, because you are at an age when such stimulants to good feeling and a good time are least necessary.
If you acquire the habit of drinking now, when you could have such a wonderful time without it, you may find that a little later in life, when problems and responsibilities face you, you may not be able to get along without it.
It is not necessary to over-do drinking in your youth to become dependent on it. And the chances of your becoming an alcoholic are far greater if you drink in your teens than if you were to wait until you reached a greater degree of maturity.
It is also dangerous to make drinking a part of your dates because there is a definite connection between the effects of alcohol even in moderate quantities, and the relaxing of your moral convictions.
By usually going out with other couples, you are warding off some of the dangers that attend company-keeping.
But you will not always go out with a group. If you drink with the group you will probably drink with your boy-friend when you are on a date alone with him.
On every date you need clear vision of good and evil and undeviating control of your will.
Drink lessens both.
It has been responsible for many a girl’s grief in the past.
Don’t let it hurt you, by not letting it touch you.