Although in the past older women who date younger men have been stigmatised, their increased visibility is forcing change. The French president’s wife, Brigitte Macron, is 66 and her husband, Emmanuel, is 42. The film-maker Sam Taylor-Johnson is 52 and her husband, the actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is 29.
The stability and credibility of these relationships has helped to negate culturally loaded portrayals of older women as predatory “cougars”. And, of course, the more socially accepted an idea is, the more prevalent it becomes. Research carried out in 2016 at McGill University in Montreal found that about 13% of sexually active women aged 35 to 44 had slept with a man who was at least five years younger than them in the previous 12 months. The research also revealed that the majority of age-hypogamous sexual relationships (pairings in which the woman is the older partner) last at least two years, and a sizeable proportion of older women are married to their younger partners.
As is often the case, however, when it comes to age-gap relationships, there is one rule for women and another for men. Older men have traditionally sought partners who were much younger. This discrepancy, coupled with the fact that most older men are married or in relationships, illustrates how difficult it is for a middle-aged woman to find a partner in her age range.
Faced with a choice between dating a much older man, or dating a younger man, women who have been married are more likely to opt for the latter. There are advantages for both parties. He gets an experienced lover who is potentially economically independent and unlikely to want more children. She gets a partner in his sexual prime who has fewer responsibilities and is therefore better positioned to work around her schedule.
It’s not all roses, though. The downside of any age-gap relationship is that you don’t share the same cultural reference points. However life-affirming it is to have sex with a man half your age, there is something indescribably comforting about cuddling up to a man who remembers The Clangers. It’s likely you’ll have different energy levels too.
From a demographic perspective, finding someone closer to you in age may be challenging, but connecting to people has never been simpler. Dating apps aren’t the only place to meet people — websites and shared-interest online communities are a fantastic way to broaden your circle.
Finally, a word of caution as you are re-entering the dating world. Dating apps have, as you already know, made it easier to access casual sex, and one of the effects of this has been an increase in sexually transmitted infections in the over-fifties, so don’t conflate maturity with responsibility. Artificial intelligence may be able to locate a blue-eyed 55-year-old male within a five-mile radius, but the condom is still the only way to stop him giving you a sexually transmitted infection.