Age-gap relationships are on the rise – with more women choosing to date significantly younger men.
Older women who have previously been married are now more likely to seek out a younger partner, according to a recent study from McGill University in Canada. And these age-difference romances aren't just rebound flings: they last for two years on average.
So what's changed? 'In Western culture, traditionally, it was acceptable for a man to have a relationship with a younger woman, while the opposite was frowned upon,' says life coach Olga Levancuka. 'But with the sexual revolution and women now more inclined to stand their ground, the line between what's acceptable for men and what's acceptable for women is becoming blurred.'
Find out what not to say to a younger date
If it's good enough for Madonna...
The growing number of older female celebrities in age-gap relationships has also helped to highlight and 'normalise' the trend. Some of these high-profile romances have lasted; others have hit the rocks. But age has become less of a talking point, as the likes of Madonna, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Joan Collins, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Sandra Bullock have all fallen for much younger men.
In fact, Levancuka insists, women aren't necessarily deliberately looking for younger men; it's just the way things happen to turn out. 'Two people meet, discover they have shared interests and feel attracted to one another – then they realise there's an age gap,' she says.
'Having a relationship with someone of a similar age simply isn't as important as it once was. So it's not just that it's become acceptable for women to date younger men. It's also the fact that age is no longer the key dating factor it used to be.'
Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson summed it up nicely when asked about her relationship with husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who's 23 years her junior: 'People in love don't see gender, colour or religion. Or age. It's about the other person, the one that you love and who loves you. You don't think of them in terms of a label. You just go with your heart.'
Could a younger lover make you feel younger?
There are other reasons why a woman may find herself attracted to a man who's at least a decade her junior, of course. Someone who's younger is less likely to have been worn down and disillusioned by past relationships and experiences, for instance: youthful optimism can be incredibly alluring. And someone who has fewer commitments and responsibilities will probably be a lot more fun to be around.
He's also likely to have a lot more stamina – both in and out of the bedroom. And ultimately, spending time with someone who has bags of enthusiasm and energy can make women feel younger, happier and more optimistic, too. Remember the old saying: you're only as old as the man you feel!
Need more convincing? Women who are at least a decade older than their partners report more satisfaction and relationship commitment, compared to women who are the same age or younger than their partners, according to a study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly journal.
What's behind the 'Mrs Robinson' effect?
So what's in it for the men? 'The feeling of confidence and freedom that older women exude is often what attracts younger guys to them,' says Levancuka.
'There's also no tension about when you're going to have children or get married – although, obviously, the latter can still happen. It's more about whether you're making one another happy.
And what about between the sheets? 'Sexually, older women are often more adventurous or possess a relaxed attitude to sex.
Even now, younger women still use sex as a negotiating tool – whereas their more mature counterparts simply enjoy sex for the pleasure it brings them.
Contrary to popular belief, it's often the fact that younger men are attracted to confident older women that makes the women realise they can date them, and not that they're deliberately looking to date younger guys.'
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