The term "May-December," which describes a relationship where one person is significantly older than the other, may be outdated, but it's still a topic people are buzzing about. The phrase suggests that one partner is in the spring of his or her life. And the other? Well, "December" is a more palatable word than "winter" (or "end"). Besides, "May-December" isn't as relevant today because so many people are living longer, healthier lives.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have changed the way we look at these pairings, although, admittedly, our immediate image of a May-December relationship is an older man with a hot young trophy wife. (Think Donald Trump or Michael Douglas.) But is the "average" May-December relationship as socially acceptable as the red carpet version? I think yes.
What's the Attraction?
Although these relationships inevitably encounter judgments or criticism, let's explore what makes them appealing. Younger women may be attracted to older men because the men are more stable, more likely to commit and more experienced sexually than a younger woman's male peers. (And, yes, it would be remiss not to mention the financial benefits of an older partner.) Emotionally, women develop earlier than men, so a relationship with an older man may be more fulfilling in that way, as well.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that older women are attracted to younger men. As women age, they learn more about their bodies, feel more comfortable and confident with their sexuality and don't need to rely on a man for all their emotional and financial needs. A younger man may come with less emotional baggage and may appreciate a woman for who she really is and not just what she looks like. And as far as sex drives go, an older man may not be able to compare to a young man who is always "ready to play."
The Generation Gap
A generational difference can complicate a relationship simply because our experiences — and even our values — are shaped by the world in which we grew up. Imagine trying to text message a partner who is still figuring out how to use a cell phone. Granted, that is a fairly simplistic example, but there are bigger issues, as well. Think about biological changes that take place while we age: lower libido, menopause, possible erectile dysfunction and hormonal depletion. Our peers may understand these changes, but a partner who is significantly younger may not be prepared to face them at that point in time.
4 Tips for Successful May-December Couples
- A good relationship is about equality, with both partners contributing equally and being respected equally. One partner should never have power over another. Partners can contribute to relationships in different ways, but balance is essential in a strong relationship.
- Communication is essential for couples where there is an age disparity. If you don't understand your partner's experiences or values, you need to speak up.
- Biologically, the role of sex changes in a relationship and with age. Partners need to be clear with each other about their desires, needs and ability to meet those needs.
- People may talk and try to decode the motivation behind why you and your partner are together. Stay strong and remember that you don't have to justify your relationship to anyone.
Every relationship is unique and it would be silly to judge a couple's success based on their ages. Perhaps we should start by redefining beauty and love and recognizing that men and women don't peak just during youth. Relationships are about more than physical attraction, and it is unfair to think that a May-December romance can't survive. Love exists in all different forms and among all different ages.
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