The course of true love never did run smooth — and especially not for men, it seems. New research suggests that, when it comes to the minimum and maximum ages that men and women consider acceptable for a new sexual partner, women tend to opt for someone of similar maturity; men, however, are less willing to restrict themselves. So as a man grows older, while the upper age limit of his prospective partners rises, his lower limit hardly changes. And this could be a problem — for him, at least.
While the likes of Mick Jagger, Hugh Grant and Leonardo DiCaprio appear to have little trouble attracting younger women, these men may well be the exception, rather than the rule: the study of more than 2500 people by researchers at Abo Akademi University in Finland suggested that older men interested in younger women might be condemned to a life of unrequited love.
"Their potential interest in younger women is not likely [to be] converted into sexual activity," the authors write delicately.
However, in the same way that youth fades, so too does a middle-aged man's impression of his attractiveness to women young enough to be his daughter. As a man hits his 50s he is more likely to consider a woman of his own vintage worthy of pursuit.
It is a conclusion that Ed, 46, arrived at a few years early — that, having tried for some time, dating younger women was a non-starter. Having separated from the mother of his two teenage sons in his mid-40s, the IT manager was keen to get back on to the dating scene. He was, however, unprepared for what he found there.
"After a 20-year relationship, I began online dating," he says. "I was talking to girls in their 20s because those were the ones I felt most attracted to. But none seemed interested. All they wanted to do was send me titillating pictures of themselves. When I tried to take things further, they 'ghosted' me. I hadn't expected them to be so immature."
Trial and error eventually taught Ed that women his own age were a better bet.
For other older men, it's the technology that throws them. Dating a "digital native" — part of the generation born or brought up with digital technology — when you are anything but, is no easy proposition.
Andy, 38, hinted at just this: "I'm a bit old-school. I prefer getting to know someone, as opposed to the human Argos catalogue of swiping left and right."
Jonathan, 68, divorced, has chosen a different route, becoming a client of dating agency Drawing Down the Moon instead of turning to Tinder. But with four adult daughters — and a sensible approach to the practicalities of relationships — he has his sights set on a woman his own age.
"If you are with someone 20 years younger, they've probably got a different life experience," he says. "When you get to a certain age, you start to creak at the seams. If you're dating someone younger, there may well be a mismatch in your pace of life."
According to Gillian McCallum, CEO of Drawing Down the Moon, Jonathan's view is typical of the approach her clients take to dating. "The men might be attracted to younger women, but when they want a relationship, they want it with another adult," she says. "Men are not coming to us and asking for a much younger model."
Finding the right age match is not the only challenge that men on today's fast-paced, often cut-throat dating scene must contend with, however. Many men seem to struggle when it comes to emotional intimacy. The cultural expectation that men don't share their feelings can make this incredibly tough.
Andy, who grew up in a post-industrial community where men traditionally hide their emotions, agrees. "As a male of my generation, you don't have the tools; you don't want to admit to people you're suffering," he says.
Outwardly chipper, he suppressed his depression for years before speaking out.
"I didn't talk to anyone. That's not something you do. I have a way of acting like everything's fine, but one day I talked to two of my best mates in the pub. I was the loneliest person in that crowded room. I built up to it and had a few drinks, then we spoke for about 20 seconds and they said: 'Come on, mate, have another drink,' so we got another beer and watched the football."