Love, actually?

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Is age difference a problem in romance?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 25, 2015

It’s not surprising to see an older, wealthier man fall for a younger woman, yet such an occurrence often still reflects a sleaziness that causes our society cringe. The situation is cruder when the man divorces his wife of 26 years to be with this much younger woman. There are many cases to draw examples from, but I’ll point at the most recent one involving my childhood hero and actor, Rowan Atkinson.

Atkinson, famous for Mr. Bean, Blackadder, and his scene-stealer in Christmas classic Love, Actually, was involved in a swift 65-second divorce proceeding, separating on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour.” I always wonder about the complexity of marriage: the leash wives have on their husbands and the secret lives husbands have away from home. It makes me wonder what “unreasonable behaviour” within a marriage even means. Because how can we truly know how two people behave when they are alone? This type of classification makes me look down on people who can’t keep a marriage together. It makes me judge them poorly. How can I trust someone who breaks promises and behaves unreasonably? How can I trust someone who is so easily tempted by what we can only define as lust?

It’s so easy for people at the perimeter to point their fingers at someone like Atkinson, even in 2015, saying that he is just swapping old for new. Who doesn’t want something new? However, when it comes to being in a committed relationship, that type of behaviour is most certainly unreasonable. Then again, what if we look at it from the view of happiness. Over half of all marriages end in divorces today… how unreasonable is that? Should we really be criticizing anyone for the complicated choices they make regarding love? I say no.

It is both an act of courage and cowardice to pursue a romantic endeavour and to leave a committed relationship. It digs deeper into the person. You are not a student, you are not a doctor, you are not a writer, or whatever occupation you have—deep down, you are those you love. I do agree that people make mistakes in the realm of marriages, but I don’t believe people should be judged poorly for them. They took a chance at love and that should be admired.

My problem is the pedestal people put the status of marriage on, as if it’s some kind of achievement. I think it’s that type of perspective that makes it hard for so many people to “love.” Love shouldn’t be like tightrope walking across a skyscraper. Any slip up will be met with death. It should be a journey with many encounters. It should be a journey made with a partner. And should the partnership change, it’s just the way it is. It’s a part of it.

So should age ever be a problem in romance? I don’t think so. When it comes to consenting adults, they should just enjoy each other while they have time. While age is just a number, our time on this world is running out. So share it with the people who matter and leave the ones that don’t. You, just like Mr. Bean, will have to make that decision yourself, no matter how ridiculous and unreasonable it may seem.

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