Bridging the gap
Hollywood is full of massive age disparities, but is dating someone far older or younger worth it? We ask real couples
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.’
Sign us up.
BEYONCÉ, 37, AND JAY-Z, 48