By Kate Halim
They are pretty and can hold their shoulders high anywhere, any day. They are married to men younger than they are, something that the African society sometimes frowns at. But, as far as they are concerned, age is just in the mind.
Two prominent Nigerian women that are older than their husbands and are hugely successful in their careers are the Ekiti State First Lady, Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, who is a year and eight months older than her husband, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State Governor and Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum, and the First Lady of Ondo State, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, who is about three years older than her governor-husband, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu.
Agboola’s Prince Charming
Mrs. Patience Agboola, a businesswoman, is one of such ladies. She is married to a man 10 years her junior, and together they have two children. They have been married for almost seven years but as far as she and her spouse are concerned, the age difference means nothing.
But it was not so at the beginning of their relationship, she admitted. Agboola, who refers to her husband as her Prince Charming told Saturday Sun that she almost called it quits the first time she learnt about her husband’s true age. She felt he was too young and immature for her.
“We met nine years ago and started a relationship,” she recounted. “It was going on smoothly until he mentioned his age. I asked him if he was joking but he said no, that he was real. I started withdrawing from him.”
But her Prince Charming persisted. He told her that as far as he was concerned, age has nothing to do with the true feelings of love for a partner. He insisted that he wanted to be with her. He promised not to allow the age difference interfere in their relationship. And, over the years, that is exactly what has happened.
Agboola, who was raised in a traditional family, revealed that although she got all the assurances she could get on the matter, all the same, she felt uncomfortable dating a younger man. When he formally proposed, she started looking for an opportunity to break up with him.
“Never in my wildest dream would I have imagined dating a younger man not to talk of marrying him. Because of this, I hid my relationship with him from my friends because I didn’t want them to notice anything. But when he kept assuring me that we were good, I gave in.”
She said she later realised that he was everything she wanted in a man. According to her, he was kind, generous, attentive, loving, affectionate, hardworking and supportive of her dreams. It was then she knew she had struck gold. They got their family members involved and later got married.
But their union didn’t come without challenges, she said. She recalled some of her husband’s family members kicking against it just because of that: age difference. They didn’t hide their displeasure from her. They accused her of using some charm on her husband, to tie him to her apron strings.
“One of his aunties told me that she was sure I wouldn’t have children because I must have aborted all the children in my belly. It wasn’t a good experience but my husband’s love and support kept me going,” she added.
But after giving birth to her children, some of those that were initially against the marriage began to mellow down, and to accept the fact of what they saw as a done deal. They became nicer to her. Today, she said she is happy that she didn’t miss a good man because of the age difference. Her husband, she said, treats her like a princess and they have been living happily with their children. She’s thankful to God who didn’t allow the age bias to rob her of a good husband. And, she is encouraging women to go for it, not minding the age difference between them and their beaus.
Mrs. Dorcas Tekenah informed Saturday Sun that she is amused whenever people call her a cougar. According to her, she laughs whenever she hears them saying that her husband must be suffering at home for the fact that she’s 13 years older than he is. To her, people who try to dictate for men the age of women they should move with do not know what to do with their own lives. They are close-minded and need to unlearn some societal assumptions, she insisted.
She told Saturday Sun that she met her husband when he was 30. At the time, she was 43. She wasn’t looking for any serious relationship to ensue because, according to her, she already had a child from a previous marriage. They met at a bar and started talking. She didn’t pay attention to him at first because she felt he just wanted sex.
But it took her two months to know everything about him and what he wanted out of life, and out of the relationship. When she saw that they were going beyond dating, she told him about her daughter. But he told her that he didn’t mind. He acted calmly and told her that the three of them could be a family. At first, she couldn’t believe that it was for real, she told the reporter.
“I have always been unconventional in my beliefs,” she explained. “Growing up, I didn’t understand why people would insist that a husband must be older than his wife. I always thought things could be different and it happened to me. I wasn’t spooked when my husband asked me to marry him.”
But her husband’s family strongly objected. They asked their son to choose between them and her. And, he chose her. At the end of the day, only his parents attended their court wedding. “His uncles and aunties refused to give their blessings but we went ahead regardless,” she recalled.
Tekenah said that although they have been married for four years, it has been blissful. Her husband doesn’t feel disrespected or emasculated in any way and she loves and adores him for choosing her and her daughter.
“Some people say I’m lucky but I don’t think so,” she said. “It’s not luck. I live my life deliberately and with an open mind. I don’t disrespect my husband because I’m older than he is, and he doesn’t feel less of a man because of my age. We are expecting a baby through a surrogate and we are happy.”
The Amehs and Bankoles’ narratives
Another lady, Eunice Ameh, 44, and her husband, Christopher Ameh, 38, got married, last year, and are hoping to have children to make their family complete. She told Saturday Sun that their relationship is unique because it’s not built on attraction and sex but on love, trust, respect and mutual understanding. They have a lot of things in common, and have vowed to each other not to allow society’s fascination with age difference to destroy the common values they share.
“In my opinion, age has nothing to do with our relationship,” she lectured. “Since we met, we have been happy. We understand each other. We value each other’s opinions. We respect each other and we don’t allow outsiders to have an opinion about our relationship.”
She recalled an occasion when her husband’s family member wanted to age-shame her and how her husband quickly rose to her defence. He warned the offending relative not to disrespect her and openly told his family members that he has made his choice and they have no choice than to live with it. Since then, they backed off, and started relating with her respectfully.
“My husband is very special,” she announced enthusiastically. “He has a wonderful sense of humour. The ability to talk about anything with him is refreshing and engaging. When I first met him, I didn’t know I would be attracted to a younger man. He’s my best friend.”
Josephine Bankole too is attracted to younger men. She likes those of them who are confident, daring and unconventional. She likes the stimulation of a sharp intellect and being in the company of a man who is engaging even if he’s younger.
She told the reporter that she was not too focused on starting a family when she met her husband. They were friends at first. But one thing led to another and they started dating. When she told him her age, she found out that he didn’t mind. He told her that he admired how she carries herself. He confessed that he had always had relationships with older women because they know themselves and have much more to offer a man.
“We have been married for five years now and have normal couple fights but they are not because of the age difference. We respect each other and carry each other along with our personal plans”, she noted.
She added that her husband kept her age to himself and didn’t reveal it to his family. He said it was his own way of protecting her from unnecessary family feud and drama. Even though they are yet to have children, he treats her with love and respect while they wait on God to start answering their prayers.