Jay Garrison was in middle school in 1978 when his wife, Cherie, was born.
The North Augusta couple is 11 years and nine months apart, but it doesn’t matter to them. They’ve been married 10 years and have four children and one on the way.
The Garrisons met in a fitness class. Jay, 45, was the instructor and Cherie, 33, was taking the class with her mother. They started out as friends who enjoyed talking about their faith in God. They also both enjoyed playing sports.
“We were friends for quite a while. We always bonded around our beliefs,” Jay said. “I feel like that was a big part of our relationship. I think that’s why age wasn’t really that big of a deal. It’s definitely been a blessing.”
Their age gap gives them each a different perspective on life, but it’s never caused any problems, Jay said.
“You’re looking at over 10 years. That’s a whole decade of things that she doesn’t know I experienced. Just a different era almost,” Jay said. “I always used to tease her that I had to find someone with the same maturity level as me. I’m pretty young at heart, I guess you can say.”
When it comes to age gaps, online dating service Match.com has found that relationships usually work best when men date younger women, said Whitney Casey, one of the company’s relationship experts.
Typically, men date women who are up to 10 years younger or only a few years older. Women date men who are older, sometimes 15 to 20 years older, or only five years younger at the most, she said.
There’s a debate, though, about whether couples with age gaps of a decade or more can have successful relationships.
“The research has certainly gone both ways,” said Dr. Mirsad Serdarevic, a psychologist at Georgia Health Sciences University. “Some of the research is saying that age-discrepant relationships are more unselfish, there’s more sacrificing love and less jealousy compared to age-similar relationships.”
OVERALL, STUDIES show there isn’t much difference between couples in age-discrepant relationships and those who aren’t, Serdarevic said.
In a 2006 study where wives were at least 10 years older, the couples had very positive attitudes about their marriage. They did say, though, that they experienced stigmas imposed by society about aging and women.
On the other hand, research has found that the younger partners in age-discrepant relationships are less satisfied, partly because “they feel that they are underbenefitting.”
Because Cherie is younger, Jay didn’t immediately think that she was the woman he would marry.
“But to her credit, in a lot of ways, she was a lot more mature for her age. I had seen people in their 20s, and she definitely carried herself a lot differently,” he said.
It’s beneficial that Cherie is younger, particularly in their ability to have children.
“We’re going on our fifth child here. It would be tough if she was 45,” Jay said.
As they get older, Jay isn’t sure whether their age difference will affect anything, but he’s optimistic. Cherie doesn’t seem to mind that he has lost his hair, he said.
Cherie said she never considered the age difference. She simply enjoyed being around Jay.
“He had a lot of energy. He had a lot of life in him and was very interesting to be around,” Cherie said.
The age gap has also been enriching. Jay has introduced her to older movies and television shows, such as It’s a Wonderful Life and The Lawrence Welk Show, in addition to older music.
“He always cuts up, ‘When you were in kindergarten, I was graduating high school,’ That’s when it sounds like such a big gap … but the age that we met and time in our life was just right. It just didn’t seem like a gap. We’re very happy and thankful that God brought us together,” Cherie said.
CHRISTIAN AND VALERIE Shepard, of North Augusta, are 10 years apart. They met while hanging out with mutual friends at Allie Katz Bar and Grill and married in February.
Christian, 24, said he knew he wanted to marry Valerie, 34, a few months into the relationship.
“She brings out the better in me. I notice that when I get away from her I’d be going downhill,” he said.
Most of the time, the Shepards don’t notice the age gap. They share a love for business.
Christians owns a financial marketing organization and a retirement- and insurance-planning firm. Valerie previously owned a commercial interior design firm and now designs and furnishes health care facilities and other commercial spaces.
“We can sit in our office and work until midnight, both of us on our computers working,” Christian said.
Occasionally, the age gap does create some challenges. People in their early 20s are traditionally more social and like to hang out, rather than stay at home, he said.
“It becomes an issue every now and then,” Christian said.
Also, when they’re out together, Valerie said that people give them “funny looks.”
“He’s been called my brother and my son because he looks really young. A lot of people wouldn’t guess that we were married,” she said.