I met my husband Jason when I was 21 and he was 31. My flatmates were suspicious about what kind of white-haired, elderly man I would be bringing home, until he showed up and drank them under the table.
Ten years isn't a scandalous age gap but it's enough to make people around you raise their eyebrows. Several years, a marriage, a baby, two cats and a dog down the track, we've proven it's more than just a passing phase.
It's never created any issues in how we relate to each other, but it has its practical disadvantages. When we met, I was happily living with half a dozen other people in a crumbling flat, while Jason liked things a bit more organised (read: clean). Later, when we bought a house, I had to face the fact it probably ruled out going on the classic OE, as he had done several years earlier.
Most couples I know met at university, or more recently via the closely-controlled age ranges of Tinder, so they're more or less the same age. As a result, I've always paid special attention to couples who have a larger age gap, to see how they're making it work. Three couples from different stages of life talk about their experiences.
Connie Everest, 48Josh Jago, 27Together 4 years
I broke up with my partner of 16 years, lived with my dad, then moved into the same flat as Josh. He came home one night, it was the first time I'd met him. I just looked into his eyes and knew straight away. I felt he was interested. I didn't realise how old he was - just young.
I wasn't really thinking about the future, I was just more like, we'll just have a nice time together and see what happens. We caught up every now and then, and then starting seeing more of each other. It kind of evolved, really. We're both from really different worlds.
Josh's family has been great. I'm the same age as his father, and his mother's younger than me. We get on really well. It was an issue a while back because Josh's dad would ring up and he would spend more time talking to me than Josh, so Josh put a stop to that. Weird, isn't it. But yeah, I could chat to him for ages.
We don't go out socially together unless we have to go out for a work do, or go out for dinner. Josh has his friends over and they have beers and barbecues and what-not. I can easily socialise with younger groups of people, and Josh can vice-versa, and it's getting easier as we get to know each other's friends better.
What I'm concerned about with the age-gap is I don't want to deprive Josh of finding someone he might want to have a family with. I'm way too old. I've got a child who's 25 - well, she's not a child, she's an adult. That always swirls around in my head. He's not worried about that at the moment, but I always think of the future.
I used to have a major issue with going out in public. I was self conscious of it, that I was an older woman and he was a younger man. It's taken me a few years to get over that. I think I created it in my head, I don't think people were actually that worried, it's not like we're cuddling and kissing in the grocery store or anything like that.
For me personally it would be the social standing (that's the biggest issue), the financial gap. He hasn't got his shit together, I have. At his age, I was a mother, and also studying for my diploma of early childhood teaching. He doesn't work much, he's just temping at the moment. It works with a lot of patience on my behalf, and encouragement. I just love him and support him, at the end of the day it's his life.
I do think about the future, and that's what concerns me about being with Josh. I'm not going to be as gorgeous as I am now in so many years time, I just won't be desirable anymore. I may be slowing down, and he'll just be starting his life. That's where I feel it will probably break us. He may continue on doing his young drinking, bingey music thing, and I've had a gutsful of that now. I'm winding down and he's still winding up. But I've read a lot about it and the advice is to just stop thinking about what if, and just live for today.
I met Connie through a flat. I wasn't into her like that at first, but I'm always looking out for birds. Well, I was back then when I was a little bit younger. We just gradually hooked up. It started out a bit casual to begin with, but then we started seeing each other. Connie is awesome. She's like-minded, we get along. She gets into the same kind of stuff I do music-wise, she likes to have a good old time. She's just compatible with me.
My friends were like good on ya mate, it was no big deal to them. My mates will come around and they'll talk to Connie, just like everybody else. It's not weird or anything. Connie's my partner, and that's how it is.
My family were surprised but they took it pretty well; they weren't surprised for long. They were like "it's Josh, he does what he does". Connie and my family get along well, they have good old yarns.
I wouldn't say she's older. She'd be a cougar now, for sure. I never say that kind of thing to Connie though, it's disrespectful to her. She knows it. She used to bring the age gap up quite a bit, and I'd tell her to get over it, it doesn't matter.
I'm searching for work at the moment. I've been temping for a while. It creates a problem, it's very frustrating for me because she's achieved in her career, and I haven't really. I was doing my diploma in TV production (when the Christchurch quake hit). Going back to it crosses my mind all the time, but it's easier said than done.
We have talked about having kids, but she's at an age where it's not really going to work. I don't know if it bothers me, I kind of see it as a bit of a bonus. Maybe someday, we'll see what the world's got. Getting married has crossed my mind a few times, but at this stage in my life, I don't know if that's possible. I've got so much ahead of me and she's pretty much done all her stuff.
I have thought about (Connie retiring) before, too, but I'm not that kind of guy. I take every day as it comes, and live life how it is. I'm one of those guys. Take it as it comes, and everything works out in the end.
Mark Evitts 47Victoria Evitts 30Together 8 years
We met in Abu Dhabi, at a networking event for the construction industry. I was working there as a consultant. Victoria had told her boyfriend at the time she would be home by 8pm. As it was, we got thrown out of the bar at 1am. Nothing happened, we spent the rest of the night just talking. It was quite cathartic, and the age thing didn't come into it at all. I won't lie, I was instantly attracted to her, and I kind of got the impression that maybe there was a bit of subtle flirting. I used to send her messages every month for a few months afterwards saying "Hi, do you fancy meeting up for coffee?". After six months I stopped messaging. Maybe a bit less than a year later she sent me a message out of the blue saying "How about that drink?".
We had our very first date before Christmas 2011 before going home separately to the UK for the holidays. When we first met, I don't think we even discussed age, but it was clear she was younger than me. We started dating seriously in February 2012, got engaged in April and married in July. The night we met, we talked about how we were both commitment-phobes and relationships weren't for us; it almost as if fate was saying "screw you".
My mum was initially shocked, not that Victoria was younger, but that there was anyone at all. I think she'd given up all hope. I told her about the age difference and she said "So long as you're happy and in love, who cares?"
The Middle East is a transient place. There were certain things we were hankering after, like seasons and being able to hold hands in public. So we put a map on the wall and started thinking. In this part of the world, we were looking at Sydney or Melbourne, but because of my age, Australia was going to be difficult with visas and things. It's possibly when it first hit home that while the world is our oyster, there might be limitations because of my age. So an Australian friend said we might want to go to New Zealand. From the moment that seed was planted.
I suppose the only thing was, my body clock was ticking louder than Victoria's - well, hers wasn't ticking at all. I think we brought having our daughter Evie, who's now a year old, forward a bit when we felt settled in New Zealand. It was potentially me driving it then, and me driving it now to have a second one before I get even older. Before Victoria, I'd come to the conclusion that there was a distinct possibility I may never have a family. I never wanted to go "well I'm desperate to have a family and I don't know if you're the right woman for me, but let's do it anyway". Evie is the icing on the cake.
I tell Victoria that one of the great things about getting older is the confidence that comes from realising that nothing really matters that much. You spend all your time in your 20s and 30s worrying what everybody thinks and what decision to make. Once the lightbulb comes on, you realise people probably aren't thinking about you, anyway.
If you're attracted to somebody and you feel strongly, and so do they - the chances of that happening in the world are a million to one, so you've got to grab hold of it with both hands and don't worry about what anybody says.
I went to Abu Dhabi in 2008. I'd just finished uni, the GFC meant there were no jobs in the UK, and it seemed like a good enough place to go. I met Mark at a ridiculous business networking do. I'd told my boyfriend I was only going to be half an hour because I didn't really want to go. That was at about 7 o'clock at night, and I think I rolled in at about half past two in the morning. I climbed into bed and said "I've just met the most amazing guy", which was totally the wrong thing to say.
I think I said it because it's just how I felt, we just really clicked when we met and I don't think I'd ever had a conversation with somewhere where I hadn't at any point worried about how I was coming across.
I realised when he was sending emails that he liked me but I knew even if I'd just gone along for coffee, it would be cheating. Then, I lost my boyfriend and job within a week and had this realisation moment. Mark came up on my LinkedIn feed - how romantic - and I thought I'd get in touch with him.
I knew he was older, but I didn't really think how much older. I was out with some girlfriends, one of whom is German, and Mark always tries to show off his German. She asked him how old he was, thinking I wouldn't understand. When he answered I thought, okay, that's quite a bit older than I thought but I can't act like I heard that. I think he was about 10 years older than I thought. I always used to fancy Sean Connery, so I think my friends just thought, "oh well, that figures".
I had a little breakdown on our wedding day. I tried to imagine not spending the rest of my life with him and it would make me upset so I knew then that it was right to marry him. But there were all these niggling feelings and it was generally about what other people thought. He's basically old enough to be my father - he's closer to my mum's age than mine - he's got all these good friends, all of whom have done double takes when they found out how young I am. You just have to realise that if it's worth it, then it's worth it, but I don't necessarily think I was confident enough to know that, without having a little meltdown first.
You do constantly wonder what other people think about it. When we move into new houses or new suburbs, the neighbours always comment on it, and you have just got to let it wash over you. It's normally the guys. It's little remarks, just to let us know they know. Or , they're high-fiving Mark when they've found out how old I am. If anything, they should be high-fiving me.
Colin Hastie 71Bev Dyson 52
I came to New Zealand in 1969, because I wanted to be away from England for a while. I lived in Henderson with some friends of my elder brother. Those friends had two small children at the time, a boy and a girl. That little boy grew up to become Beverly's intended (her first husband).
Years later, I was living in the north of England, and I got a letter in the mail saying Bev was coming to the UK, and would I be kind enough to look after her? One night, the doorbell went, and Bev and her friend were at the door. We spent a week together, showing them around. Bev was 19, I was 38.
When I moved back to New Zealand, I learned Bev was working in real estate. She arranged for me to buy a family home and two rental properties. I had retired, but she insisted I was too young and why didn't I work in real estate? So I took the tickets. I had a buzz (about Bev) immediately, as soon as I got back to New Zealand.
I was working in real estate in Te Atatu, and Bev was working in Mt Albert for the same company. One day I got a phone call from Bev saying she had a listing in Waterview, would I mind working with her? So we did, and it just developed from there. Bev was maybe around 40, and 61 for me.
It all happened here in New Zealand obviously, so when I took Bev kicking and screaming over to the UK the first time, 10 or 11 years ago, I was introducing her to people who were friends and family, and I know of no one who had any problem whatsoever [with the age-gap]. I have two children by a former marriage, a son and a daughter [42 and 40], and Beverly has a daughter , and each of us has two grandchildren. There's only six months difference between Bev's mum and me, so she gets really pissed-off when I call her "mother-in-law".
I'm retired now, so I'm the chief cook and bottle washer. I do 99 per cent of the cooking around the place. I do all the shopping and so on. That keeps me going, while Bev's working as a sales manager in a retirement village.
At the risk of embarrassing Bev, if I was forced into a corner and had to give advice (to younger age-gap couples) it would be to make absolutely certain that whatever relationship you want to establish is based on more than one tenet. I mean she is my buddy, she's my soulmate, she's my wife, a number of difference facets. We have a twisted sense of humour, we understand and laugh at the same things. She keeps me in check and I'm grateful. And that's the strength. She's not just an attractive woman, I mean she's a very attractive woman, but that's not the be-all and end-all. We have very similar likes and dislikes. Make certain your relationship's based on very solid foundations.
We were always great friends. It was how most people got together, you have that friendship, you just sort of talk a lot. We always managed to talk to each other very easily, and then started dating.
We didn't live together for a good couple of years because my daughter was younger. The age difference wasn't ever a problem but it was more her going through her teens, whereas Colin's children were older and they were very accepting.
All my friends were really good. Put it this way - there probably might have been things said, but it was never to our faces and had there been any resistance, we were so in love and still are, we wouldn't have cared.
My mother and Colin are about the same age so there's a lot of laughter around the two of them. I think my father might have had a little bit of resistance, but then once he got to know Colin he could see how happy we were. But he never said anything.
A year ago, Colin had a health scare, he's fine now. I had my first feeling of being gripped with panic, thinking "oh my god I will be on my own at some stage". But then to rationalise that in my head I think about my father, who died too young from cancer. Nobody knows how long their partner's going to live, and that's just part of life isn't it? You just adjust to that. I've told Colin I'll probably be an eccentric older woman when I do eventually get to the point where he passes away, and he'll be replaced by two Maine Coon cats.
As Colin is aging, I want him to keep healthy so he does live longer. I think if you've married a younger woman, you've got to keep yourself healthy, keep yourself in fairly good shape, and have yourself looking presentable. He knows he can't step out the door with tracksuit pants and sandals on. I don't mind him looking older than me, but I don't want him looking like my grandfather.
There was a couple at work who had quite a big age gap. When they first came into the village I thought "gosh, that'll be Colin and me one day". But the nice thing about it was you could see how much they still loved each other.
Colin's now retired and I'm still working, and if we were the same age we'd have all that time together. I'd love to be with him at home doing more stuff together. Even though financially we are comfortable, with the cost of living there still needs to be money coming in. Part-time would be nice later on, otherwise if I wait, he'll be dead, and what's the point then?
I know Colin will age, and there will probably become a point where I'm helping him out as he's aging. But that's how aging goes. It's like when my father was ill and I helped nurse him, you do it out of love. So if you're younger and you're dating someone who's older, that love has to be really, really strong. There are so many relationships that don't last the distance where there is an age gap, when they're not based on that real, strong love. You've got to be best friends and be able to have great conversations, that's what's going to see you right through.
HOW TO NAVIGATE AN AGE GAP
So what advice do the experts have for couples with a large age gap?
Don't be afraid of extra baggage. Psychotherapist Isabella Van Hoye says an older person may be more wary thanks to previous heartbreak, "but they're also likely to be more savvy. They will make really sure their partner is the person they want to be with because they know themselves a bit more. Then the other partner can feel more secure with someone who's had a bit more experience."
Talk about how you feel about having kids. For Van Hoye, it's just about hearing each other out. "It's not about who is right or wrong, but about being able to hear where each other is at. For example, she may want to have children in 10 years time, and in 10 years time he'll be 50, can he wait that long?"
The big danger zone for men is retirement. Specialist relationship counsellor Steven Dromgool says, typically, the biggest problem facing couples with a large age gap is one party retiring earlier than the other. "For older men, it's important to establish activities that will keep the testosterone pumping in retirement - it's what will literally keep them alive."
For the older woman, problems tend to come earlier. Dromgool says the issue is not retirement. "The crisis with older women comes when say their partner is about 35 and they're 45, and they may struggle feeling sexy and desirable."
It doesn't have to be forever. Dromgool has spoken to men in their mid-60s looking at relationships with women in their 40s. "I asked one of them how they see that working out long term. He said 'at my age you don't necessarily think relationships are going to last forever'."
You're too different. "I think it's great that people are different," says Van Hoye. It's not about being different, it's about being able to hear each other. No relationship is perfect but if you're in there really wanting to connect with the other person, then there's no reason why it can't work."
FAMOUS COUPLES WITH A BIG GAP
Elton John, 69 and David Furnish, 54.
Mick Jagger, 73 and Melanie Hamrick, 30.
Ellen DeGeneres, 59 and Portia de Rossi, 43.
Donald and Melania Trump, 70 and 46.
Wendi Deng, 48 and Bertold Zahoran, 21.
Rosie Huntington-Whitely, 29 and Jason Statham, 49.
Hugh Jackman, 48 and Deborra-Lee Furness, 61.
Anna Pacquin, 34 and Steven Moyer, 47.