Bridg­ing the gap

Hol­ly­wood is full of mas­sive age dis­par­i­ties, but is dat­ing some­one far older or younger worth it? We ask real cou­ples

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

Alexan­dra HenkelLaPaglia was just 25 years old when she met her now­hus­band, 59­year­old ac­tor An­thony LaPaglia, in a Mel­bourne bar. An­thony was

55 at the time. Hav­ing had re­la­tion­ships with sig­nif­i­cant age gaps in the past, Alexan­dra wasn’t en­tirely scared off by their 30­year dis­tance, but it was a cause for con­cern.

‘We both thought that 30 years was per­haps in­sur­mount­able,’ Alexan­dra tells Cosmo. ‘But we quickly re­alised we could make it work and that we felt strongly enough about each other to make it work.’

The pair ini­tially struck up a friend­ship over email be­fore their re­la­tion­ship veered into ro­man­tic ter­ri­tory and, soon enough, Alexan­dra was re­lo­cat­ing to Los An­ge­les. They were en­gaged in Jan­uary 2017 and mar­ried in a stun­ning Maui cer­e­mony just over a year later.

In the be­gin­ning of their re­la­tion­ship, strangers on­line voiced their dis­ap­proval in com­ments and Alexan­dra found it hard to ig­nore – or un­der­stand.

‘I was sur­prised at how strongly peo­ple re­acted to our re­la­tion­ship when it be­came pub­lic,’ she re­calls. ‘Peo­ple took the time to com­ment on ar­ti­cles and write some re­ally nasty things that I found quite un­ec­es­sary.’

Mean­while, friends and fam­ily ques­tioned Alexan­dra and An­thony about their fu­ture plans.

‘There was a lot of sur­prise and some ques­tions were asked about what we thought the fu­ture would look like,’ she ex­plains.

‘I’m aware that it might [be chal­leng­ing] in the fu­ture, but I’ve promised my fu­ture self I’ll re­mem­ber how in­fin­itely happy An­thony makes me. My ap­proach is that there’s no guar­an­tee that mar­ry­ing a 29­year­old would work out bet­ter,’ she con­tends.

Alexan­dra isn’t alone in her logic. These days, a ma­jor age gap is par for the course, es­pe­cially in Hol­ly­wood. Sofia Richie, 20, and Scott Disick, 35, Priyanka Cho­pra, 36, and Nick Jonas, 26, and Mary­Kate Olsen, 32, and her hus­band, Olivier Sarkozy, 49, have all found love de­spite their gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences.

Hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with some­one far older or younger than you has been a phe­nom­e­non in the dat­ing world for a while, but it feels as though it’s be­come more preva­lent or more ac­cept­able – or both – in re­cent years.

Ac­cord­ing to An­drew King, prac­tice man­ager at Re­la­tion­ships Aus­tralia, around 10 per cent of the re­la­tion­ships he sees have an age gap of 10 years or more.

‘At least 50 per cent of women are in a re­la­tion­ship with an older man be­cause of ma­tu­rity and sta­bil­ity,’ King says, adding that this is likely to change as the gen­der pay gap is closed.

De­spite the glam­orous por­trayal it gets in the me­dia, an age gap of 10 years or more does come with some fairly con­fronting chal­lenges that might not re­veal them­selves un­til fur­ther into the re­la­tion­ship.

Take 26­year­old film pro­ducer Saman­tha. When Saman­tha met hand­some 49­year­old mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive Owen she was im­me­di­ately drawn to him, de­spite the large gap be­tween their ages.

‘He was ba­si­cally twice my age, but it didn’t scare me. He looked 40, not 50. I’ve al­ways had a thing for sil­ver foxes.’ The at­trac­tion part was sim­ple, but telling her fam­ily was a more com­pli­cated af­fair.

‘I have a very sup­port­ive fam­ily, but it was still tough for them to swal­low,’ Saman­tha con­fesses.

‘My dad thought he was the rea­son for my “daddy is­sues” while my mum just thought he’s not a very sta­ble per­son to be with some­one that much younger. Both pretty fair ar­gu­ments.

‘It was a pretty good test to see who truly cared about me. The good friends didn’t even bat an eye be­cause they saw how happy I was, while the not­so­great ones thought they needed to lec­ture me on how in­ap­pro­pri­ate this was.’

Saman­tha even lost a good friend over the is­sue, af­ter the friend said her re­la­tion­ship was ‘dis­gust­ing’.

Owen’s friends were equally crit­i­cal, but for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

‘I don’t like the con­no­ta­tion peo­ple have with this age gap – most of his friends first thought I was a gold dig­ger,’ she ex­plains.

And we have to ask – how was the sex? ‘It was good, like with any­one else,’ Saman­tha says, ‘But he needed a friendly re­minder here and there that I had a vagina be­cause his li­bido was kind of op­tional.’ Not ideal.

Aside from the judg­ment and the sex strug­gles, though, Saman­tha says dat­ing a man in his fifties had more perks than it had down­sides.

‘He wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily keen to do things that younger peo­ple do, like fes­ti­vals and par­ties, but I liked be­ing more of a bal­let and opera girl for a while,’ she says.

‘And he barely pulled the “you’re too young to un­der­stand” ar­gu­ment, which was great.’

While they even­tu­ally split when Saman­tha moved cities – and be­cause she ul­ti­mately ‘couldn’t see a prac­ti­cal fu­ture with him’ – they’re still friends.

Ac­cord­ing to King, while ma­tu­rity and an es­tab­lished life are both perks of dat­ing older, the longer you re­main in a re­la­tion­ship with a ma­jor age dis­par­ity; the more chal­lenges start to emerge.

‘Health is­sues arise when you hit 50, so for the younger per­son the con­tract of what it means to come to­gether is sig­nif­i­cantly changed,’ King says.

‘I sup­pose some of the other chal­leng­ing dy­nam­ics within the cou­ple is which friend­ship group you re­ally sit within – do you hang out on week­ends with the older or younger group?’

Ellen, 24, met her part­ner of five years, Matt, 39, when she was 18 and he was 33. Ini­tially, Matt strug­gled to fit in to Ellen’s group of friends.

‘We kept it very pri­vate for the first few months and af­ter that it was a def­i­nite chal­lenge. I think Matt found it re­ally in­tim­i­dat­ing com­ing in as the older male,’ she says.

‘How­ever, we now have a solid group of mates, mostly my age or a bit older.’

Kids are also a ma­jor stick­ing point for cou­ples who are sev­eral years apart.

‘Ba­bies are kind of the big one,’ Ellen says. ‘We’re both very keen to have

‘[Sex] was good... but his li­bido was kind of op­tional.’

them, but there’s a def­i­nite pres­sure know­ing that he’s al­most 40 and I’m in my mid­twen­ties and not quite ready. I think it will al­ways play on my mind know­ing he’s go­ing to be an older dad.’

And it be­comes es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult when it’s an older woman dat­ing a younger man.

For Siob­han, 37, get­ting to­gether with her younger boyfriend Enoch, 30, came with the req­ui­site cougar jokes, but they were noth­ing com­pared to the time pres­sure hang­ing over her head.

‘When we got to­gether I was 34 and Enoch was 27. I didn’t think about it at the time but now I am get­ting older, our age dif­fer­ence is com­ing into play when it comes to hav­ing kids,’ she says.

‘He is less ready to do it soon but I have the bi­o­log­i­cal clock haunt­ing me with the fact that I don’t have a long time to get my eggs work­ing. He’s chill with the whole idea, but it does make me panic every now and then.’

Given fe­male fer­til­ity starts to de­cline in the early thir­ties, while men’s only be­gins to de­cline in their for­ties, adding an age gap to this al­ready ma­jor dis­crep­ancy can cause ten­sion, stress and dif­fer­ences in pri­or­i­ties. Still, for Siob­han, the perks far out­weigh the down­sides.

‘What are the main ben­e­fits? Hav­ing a hot boyfriend with a smok­ing body!’ she says, laugh­ing.

Ellen ad­mits, de­spite the oc­ca­sional hic­cup, her part­ner’s life ex­pe­ri­ence comes in handy.

‘His crazy days are be­hind him. He knows who he is and he has noth­ing to prove,’ she ex­plains.

Saman­tha agrees that dat­ing out of your de­mo­graphic has ben­e­fits that can make you over­look judg­ment from friends and fam­ily and the po­ten­tial for health con­cerns down the line.

‘Owen made me feel re­ally se­cure and I didn’t feel played like by my younger exes. I felt I could fully trust him and looked up to him since he’s seen it all, ba­si­cally,’ she re­calls.

‘Com­pared to peo­ple I’d dated be­fore, he was more ed­u­cated and had seen the world. There was less bull­shit.’

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