When Lisa Page Rosenberg was 40 she decided to start online dating, and set up a profile to meet men who were within five years of her age. But after her fair share of bad dates — the guy who had a full-blown panic attack, the one who was so smitten with his ex-wife he pulled out photos of the former Mrs. during dinner, the one who looked nothing like the handsome man in his profile picture — she accepted a date request from a man 15 years her junior.
“I was absolutely hesitant to go out with him because of the age difference but went anyway," she says. "He wasn't a match for me, but we had fun.” Enough fun, in fact, to redefine her dating parameters — and she has been counting her blessings ever since.
Shortly after, she met 30-year-old Jeff. “My knight-in-shining-mini-van Mr. Rosenberg appeared, met me for sushi, and fast-forwarded my story to happily ever after," she gushes. At ten years her junior, there was something refreshing about Jeff. “Because he was younger, he had less baggage and was less jaded than most of the older men I had met, and certainly less baggage than I had. He had hope and was less life-weary.”
Nine months after they met, Lisa and Jeff eloped in Las Vegas where they vowed to never roll their eyes at each other and to keep faith in God and share it with their family in "whatever half-Catholic, half-Jewish way we can figure out."
For centuries, older men have been marrying much younger women and no one bats an eyelash. But when an older woman dates a younger man, they often get labeled as a "cougar," which clearly has predatory connotations. Perhaps it's time to end the stigma. We see more and more happy couples with women who are ten years (or more) older than their partner everyday.
We all saw Kate Beckinsale strolling hand-in-hand with Pete Davidson, and remember when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were the talk of the town? Sure, these relationships ended, but older women are dating, marrying, and finding their happily ever after with younger men all around us. Did you know that Priyanka Chopra is 11 years older than her new husband, Nick Jonas?
"Age difference is an adolescent worry," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today ($9.13, Amazon). "When you're a teenager, an age difference of 10 or more years makes a vast difference in your experience and your outlook on life. But, as we get older, life experience and emotional growth even things out."
"Some older people feel younger at heart than their contemporaries. Chronological age doesn't always reflect either physical capability or emotional maturity.”
As they say, "age is nothing but a number." Compatible and loving relationships are based on more meaningful internal qualities, such as sharing a sense of humor, emotional intelligence, and interests. "Some older people feel younger at heart than their contemporaries," says Dr. Tessina. "Chronological age doesn't always reflect either physical capability or emotional maturity.”
Gender roles have changed significantly over the years, and the idea that men should marry a younger woman is outdated. “We are so used to images of much older men dating younger women," says Dr. Tessina. "It’s been going on since (upper class) men were the only breadwinners, who took their time getting established before seeking a fertile, young wife to bear and raise their children.” Now many women are building careers, traveling, and gaining independence long before "settling down." They are also having children later in life, which offers them more freedom both professionally and personally.
Finding love is a blessing that it is, sadly, not one of life’s guarantees. Love is to be celebrated and cherished, and those, like the Rosenbergs, should not be judged. "No matter the arbitrary difference in your ages, if you are getting along, you have good communication and problem-solving, and you love each other, that's a precious thing and far more important than any age difference could be," says Dr. Tessina.
When Rosenberg describes her husband, age does not come up. “He embraces me with all of my life-luggage and never tries to change me," she says. "But he is happy to support me when I want to change myself. We are a team and have respect for each other and both feel like we got the better end of the deal in our relationship.”
This is a model we should all strive to follow — a description (and acceptance) of love without predetermined parameters.