Benefits dating older women

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Many couples have conquered this barrier, remaining happily married, or committed, for decades.

Perhaps the best known are 68-year-old Michael Douglas and 43-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones, who have bridged their quarter-century age gap to stand by each other through a long partnership (and some recent serious health scares).

Could it be that men prize youth and beauty more highly than women do?

Maybe, but I suspect another dynamic is at work: Women don't want to feel maternal about a lover, nor do they want to see themselves as a mother figure in a lover's eyes.

To be fair, your friends may have a point: It is sexy to be with someone different, and there is a certain pride in attracting the interest of a younger mate.

But there's more than that to your new relationship, as you know, so you could do without the nudges and winks.

Pepper Schwartz is AARP's love and relationships ambassador.

"True love can be ageless," declared actor Doug Hutchison, 51, an actor who starred in the television series "Lost," when he announced his May marriage to Courtney Alexis Stodden, a 16-year-old beauty pageant queen turned aspiring country star. Kelly's rumored romance with 15-year-old singer Aaliyah to rocker Ted Nugent falling for 17-year-old Pele Massa in 1978 -- and becoming her legal guardian because she was too young to marry him -- relationships between older men and younger girls never fail to make us squirm. states, a person can't legally consent to sex until age 17, and individuals under 18 years old must have a parent's permission to marry in all states except Nebraska, where the legal marriage age is 19. Lou Ann Brizendine, who has written about brain development in males and females, says that girls' brains are as much as two years ahead of boys' during puberty and that boys may not even catch up to girls until late adolescence or their early 20s, so a few year between partners can -- and often does -- make for a compatible match.

A few weeks later, ' June 16th Vows column featured the wedding of Christopher Cox, 32, the grandson of Richard Nixon and former campaign aid to John Mc Cain, to Andrea Catsimatidis, whom he met when she was a senior at an Upper East Side high school. This squeamishness is understandable: Hutchison is nearly old enough to be Stodden's grandfather. Of course, men have paired up with younger women -- often much younger women -- for all of human history. Marriage aside, the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that a significant number of girls lose their virginity to older partners.

"Based on 29 years of practice," Lee added, "I don't think you could be that mature at 17. Mani Pavuluri, director of the Pediatric Brain Research and Intervention Center and professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois Chicago, teenage brains are still in the process of developing until age 19 or 20.

Before that, teens' "ability to consider and use judgment is still maturing," Pavuluri said, adding that peer pressure can further impact the impulsiveness of teenagers' choices.

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