Wednesday , September 27 2023

After Phillip Schofield toyboy affair, here’s the maximum age gap experts advise

A 2005 research paper by Máire Ni Bhrolcháin found that during the 20th century, the average difference in age at marriage in Britain fluctuated between two and three years, notably “without exhibiting any long-run trend.”

But relationship norms have come a long way in just the last 20 years. With widespread societal acceptance of all sexual preferences, plunging marriage rates and the surging popularity of data apps, it’s hard not to think that anything goes when it comes to love these days.

Evidence suggests that Mr Schofield is correct in his statement that age gaps aren’t uncommon. Ieva Kubiliute, a psychologist and sex and relationships advisor, said: “The notion that love knows no boundaries, including age, has gained momentum in recent years. As our understanding of relationships deepens and evolves, the focus has shifted from numbers to compatibility, shared values, and emotional connection.”

One need look no further than the array of famous celebrity pairings. The 83-year-old American actor Al Pacino was revealed to be expecting a child with his 29-year-old girlfriend Noor Alfallah on Thursday – 54 years separate them.

Meanwhile his Godfather co-star Robert De Niro, 79, recently bore his seventh baby with 45-year-old girlfriend Tiffany Chen, 34 years his junior.

Back in 2000, Catherine Zeta-Jones shocked fans when the then-31-year-old announced she was marrying 56-year-old Michael Douglas, but their union endures to this day in spite of the 25-year age gap.

Many theories have emerged on calculating what constitutes an acceptable age gap. One strange yet commonly-cited rule suggests the minimum age of your partner should be half of your own plus seven. 

Dating coach Hayley Quinn told that one generation’s difference, or between ten and 15 years, was more appropriate. She said: “In reality, some age gap relationships flourish, at least until old age, when a significant age gap can feel more pronounced.

“Whilst other people may look back on a romance with someone far older with regret once they too are more mature.

“This is a reason why a lot of matchmaking agencies only match up to an age difference of 10 years, and whilst people on dating apps tend to cut off their search at a round number (30, 40, 50…) and filter our partners who don’t meet that criteria.”

Ms Quinn added: “Of course, there are benefits to age gap relationships too, with many people enjoying being with a partner who is more worldly, or more youthful than themselves. Some may feel like ‘old souls’ or ‘young at heart’ who are simply out of kilter with partners in their own age bracket.

“Whilst on paper there’s no legal issue with dating someone far younger than you (provided they are above the age of consent) dating someone of a different generation remains a social taboo. This is largely because there’s an assumed power imbalance: Has one party taken advantage of the other’s inexperience?”

Mr Schofield’s admission raised such questions, especially given the former presenter had personally secured the young man an interview with ITV. Speaking in the BBC interview, he said: “I understand that, and it’s a very valid question to put to me,” but claimed that it “wasn’t how it felt at the time.”

Looking at relationships in general – not just married couples – research shows the average age difference for couples in the UK is between three and five years. A number of studies have found women tend to fall for older men, while men are generally attracted to younger women.

This is not always the case, however. President of France Emmanuel Macron, 45, married his former French and Latin teacher Brigitte Trogneux, almost 25-years his senior. Actress Demi Moore, 60, also had an eight-year marriage with Ashton Kutcher, 45.

Ms Quinn said: “For relationships to work long run, support of family and friends is also necessary, that’s why when we take our marriage vows most people do them in front of their nearest and dearest.

“This can be more problematic when there’s a social taboo surrounding an age-gap relationship. So if you are in an age-gap relationship, building that social support network and understanding will also be important to making sure your relationship stands the test of time.”

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