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Sep 25, 2008

In the quest to find the perfect mate, does age difference really matter? FLYP’s Sarah Bernier explores.

By Sarah Bernier

We all know the scene: a distinguished older gentleman with a lovely (and younger) woman on his arm. The scenario is hardly status quo, but it certainly isn’t uncommon. Although the initial eyebrow may raise or snide comment may be made, it will generally pass without a response.
It seems a new dating trend is all the rage: older women hooking up with younger men. There’s even a term used to describe these ladies who prey on, er, date younger partners: cougars.

Fishing in Another Dating Pool
This new scenario is common enough that last year’s movie, Cougar Club, which includes appearances by elder actresses Faye Dunaway and Carrie Fisher, focuses on the dynamics of this type of involvement and—in the case of the film—the hijinks that can ensue.
Not that this type of relationship can’t or shouldn’t be taken seriously. “Age-gap relationships aren’t always flings,” claims author Susan Winter, who interviewed more than 200 couples for her book Older Women, Younger Men. In fact, according to Winter, the average age-gap relationship lasts 13 years. Some experts say that sexually, this is an ideal pairing: men’s sex drives typically peak when they’re in their 20s, while women don’t begin to reach their sexual apexes until they pass 30.
Nevertheless, age-gap couples face substantial social stigmatization. In her research, Winter found that many people feel they “should” be in a relationship with a person who isn’t any more than two or three years different in age. And when these traditional patterns are broken, misunderstanding—and in some cases, harsh judgments—often arise.
However, Winter found that the most common presumptions—that this type relationship can’t last and that the older women are the aggressors—don’t hold up. In her experience, quite the opposite is true. Specifically, many of the couples in her study reported being together for 25 years or more, and it was often the younger man who initiated conversation with the older woman.
For the participants in age-gap relationships, love is love. If the relationship is healthy and positive, age isn’t a concern, and if both members of the couple are happy, then why not simply let love rule?

Watch our on-the-street video: Is it OK to date outside of your age bracket? Sarah investigates.

Celebrity Love Game
Just like the rest of us, celebrities are known to date outside of their age bracket—and sometimes get flack for doing so.

Play our “Celebrity Love Game:” match up each older star with their younger lover, and find out some really fun facts about their (sometimes) scandalous relationship.


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