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For Love or Money?

Date: 2007-01-08

The 'love' story of 39-year-old American ex-Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith and entrepreneur J Howard Marshall, a man 63 years her senior, was heavily played out in the US media after Marshall's death and the ongoing lengthy legal battle over his estate. Smith married the oil billionaire in 1994 when she was 26 and he 89, and within weeks of his death a year later, she was battling with his son for half of his US$1.6-billion estate.

Smith claimed that she loved the billonaire, took care of him, and that Marshall orally promised her half his estate if she married him.

The case is ongoing in court.
While older, rich men marrying or taking into their possession younger women is an act that's as old as time, another - becoming more popular even though society still frowns at it - is where older women take on younger men as their husbands and boyfriends.

There are various names given to them. The Americans have dubbed them cougars - older women who sexually pursue younger men; in Jamaica they're more commonly known as sugar mamas - rich, usually older women who offer money or gifts to less rich, usually younger men in return for companionship or sexual favours.

Though some tout love as their reason for entering these relationships, somewhere, the question about whether it's actually true love, or a monetary lure usually pops up.

In yesterday's Sunday Observer, David Gordon told the story of himself and the late Christine Hewitt, a story of a couple who fell in love, even though he was 19 years her junior.

He was adamant that he didn't know if Hewitt had any riches and doesn't know what became of the assets he was told she had. He said the feelings of love grew despite an initial disinterest on his part, and that the attraction had more to do with her personality.

But in most other cases, is it love that sets the sparks flying in such unions or is it the handouts that the men surely get? Why would they get involved with women who are sometimes old enough to be their mother?

"It was definitely not for the money," a 30-year-old communications expert who at age 21, started dating a 35-year-old woman, admitted. "I guess it was for the sex and the experience, even though they do tend to give you things," he said. "I guess some feel a sense of maternal need to look after you and it gives them a sense of belonging."

He added that older women are clearly more experienced, more discreet, will listen and facilitate better conversation. They are also more understanding and easy to talk to.
"In general they are more willing to compromise and more flexible," he said.

He noted too that he finds that older women will allow you space and freedom and aren't too clingy. They offer advice and have the power to foresee based on their level of experience.

He said his experience was exciting as they did different things together. However, after a few months, they simply drifted apart.

For Kevon, a St Elizabeth man who briefly dated a 49-year-old woman about 10 years ago when he was 19, it was definitely about the things she could give him.

"She didn't really have any money, because her husband and her had five children in school," he said. "But they had a shop, and I'd go there every day and get free Guinness, and on Friday evenings I would go and she would give me grocery for the week. I was living on my own then, so I really appreciated the help. She acted like a mother to me, with other benefits of course."

Another young man, an accountant now 24, who met his 40-year 'mentor' while in sixth form, said that the relationship was based more on what she did for him financially.

"She would drive me to school and pick me up, she paid my school fees and she helped me find my first job," he said. "We're not really a couple, and I have a girlfriend, but she still calls me now and then to meet up and I have to make her feel good."

Kevin Bailey, family therapist and associate at Family Life Ministries, says that the normal age gap in a relationship should be eight years, outside of this there tends to be problems.

"The history has not been good for relationships that have more than an eight-year span between the couple," he said. "So we recommend that women stick closer to their age in order to have a better, workable relationship."

However, Bailey added, "a good relationship will cherish the difference, as relationships are really about togetherness."
A mother of five, now 59 and married to a man 10 years her junior agrees.

"I love him, and the age difference didn't matter when we got married," she said. "That was 12 years ago. We're still married, and we will stay married."

She said that as in all marriages, there were problems, including where he gave her a venereal disease, and where he constantly cheated, but each time she forgave him.
"I wanted another child and I thought he could give me that," she said. "We didn't actually have one of our own though, but he had two outside, and the years just passed by, and I said to hell with it, I'm too old to go through a divorce, so I kept him."

Bailey said that the main problem that can occur because of the age gap is that the couple may grow apart as their needs become different.

"As you grow older, your number one need may switch. And you find that the younger person fosters the same need," he said. "Relationships are about meeting each other's needs, especially emotional ones."

For some of the women interviewed, it was all about meeting these needs.

A 33-year-old civil servant, who is currently dating a 21-year-old, admits that she is in a good job, but as far as money goes, she is on the bottom end of the stick. And she says, she is not one to 'mind nuh man', but sees their relationship as a mutual affair. "If he thinks he is after my money then he has a next guess coming 'cause there is none to get!" she said amused. "If I am short on cash, he helps me, if he is short, I help him. I am very much aware that sometimes young men will want to get involved for monetary reasons and so I make sure everything is half-and-half."
They do not live together, but she says she sees him just about every day.

And she believes that she is in love with him despite the age difference.

"I like to think that our relationship is based on true feelings. I have exposed him to many firsts and that in itself is fulfilling. We go places and do things he has never done before," she said. "In fact, he treats me with love and respect, that is more than many of the guys my age have ever done. They always want to control you. With this guy it's a matter of guiding each other," she said.

And yes, every now and then she feels a bit uncomfortable, but not enough to let him go. She says even though their relationship is not based on money, neither is it based on her getting sexual satisfaction as many people tend to believe once they hear about older women's involvement with younger guys.

She said they have discussed plans for the future and are looking into living together and starting a family.

"Sometimes, I think about our relationship and feel that someday down the road, he may lose interest in me and decide to get involved with some younger girl, but I try not to let that be a major problem. He has not given me reason to doubt him," she said.

Bailey explained that there are different reasons why a woman would get involved with a younger man and visa versa.

Some of these are:

. The younger guy may simply prefer older women because he thinks she is mature;

. He or she may have had a bad relationship in the past with someone in their age group;

. At her age, she may now be characterising passion, romance and sexual fulfilment and feels a younger guy can give this, as the older man has slowed down;

. She may feel inhibited as the older man may be set in his ways and not be willing to try anything new, while the younger man is more adventurous.

The therapist explained that men have five emotional needs that must be filled - sexual fulfilment; attractive partner (men are interested in what they see); recreational companionship (wants someone who is flexible and is able to move with them); domestic support (help in taking care of the home) and admiration (this includes encouragement and affirmation).
"You can also find love in the mix," he said.
He pointed out that once, women wanted security from their relationships. Now, since women have grown independent and are working and taking care of their financial needs, security is no longer a priority. Therefore, they now desire that their emotional needs be met. These emotional needs are affection and conversation.

"Women want to feel treasured and have somebody listen to them, someone to validate their feelings and touch their soul," Bailey said.

And as one interviewee pointed out, young men will go the extra mile to please the woman and make sure she is happy - as long as she is treating him right!

Of the partnership between older women, and younger men, Bailey said, "It is not a new thing, it has been happening a long time."

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