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Page last updated at 06:43 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 07:43 UK
Age gap relationships: Good or bad?
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones (File pic: 2005)
Hollywood actor Michael Douglas married Catherine Zeta Jones in 2000

Older men dating younger women is certainly nothing new, particularly in the celebrity world.

There is 12 years between Jay-Z and Beyonce, and a staggering 25 years between Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Official statistics show that generally, women in the UK marry men older than themselves, and in 2000 the average age gap was just over two years.

But it is the bigger age gaps which cause the stir.

Cassie Massey is often mistaken for Darren Smith's daughter.

She is 19, while he is a 40 year-old divorced father of two. They have been together for two years and have plans to marry.

Darren was her manager and the pair, who live in Southend, simply hit it off.

"When you just get on with someone it doesn't matter about the age gap," said Darren.

Generation gentlemen

Cassie said they have all the normal relationship worries and nothing specific to their ages.

"He is more grounded, more secure in himself," she said.

"I think he is more of a gentleman. I don't think you find many gentlemen in my generation."

The biggest pitfall in an age gap relationship is the jealousy and insecurity that often occurs
Paula Hall, relationship expert

Cassie said they met at a troubled time - she had quit sixth form college and Darren's father had just died - and they "saved each other".

Cassie will soon be heading off to university but they have concerns.

"It is going to be difficult because we are both quite insecure, jealous and possessive," she said. "Those are flaws we both have but we are going to have to deal with it."

The couple agree that their age difference does attract attention but they try not to react to it because it "sends the message that it is wrong".

"It really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks," said Darren. "It is not their relationship."

'Wonderful trappings'

Paula Hall is a relationship psychotherapist and she says there are pros and cons to age gap relationships.

Jay-Z and Beyonce
This musical couple have been together for about six years

Older partners have more life experiences which the younger partner can learn from, she said, while the younger partner can bring a new outlook.

She said women mature faster and are often fascinated by the "wonderful trappings" of older men, such as a car and money.

Younger men often get kudos from dating older women, she said, whereby they are seen to satisfy all their needs.

But she warned age gap relationships often do not work in the long term.

When you say toyboy it immediately means it is not a real relationship, just a fling
Phats & Small singer Ben Ofoedu

"What we often see in the celebrity area is that they're short-term romances, they work for a while but then they move on," she said.

"The biggest pitfall in an age gap relationship is the jealousy and insecurity that often occurs."

She added that while we are used to seeing older men with younger women, the reverse is "still a little bit new".

'Toyboy lover'

Demi Moore's relationship with Ashton Kutcher, who is 15 years her junior, certainly made the headlines.

Closer to home, Phats & Small singer Ben Ofoedu has been dating TV and radio presenter Vanessa Feltz for two years. He is 10 years younger than her and he says the "toyboy" label undermines their relationship.

Ben Ofoedu and Vanessa Feltz
Ben Ofoedu says older women know what they want

"I don't think the age gap has caused us any particular problems," he said.

"It's not nice for Vanessa to read her 'toyboy lover'. When you say toyboy it immediately means it is not a real relationship, just a fling."

He said being with Vanessa has changed him for the better.

"I think with a woman who's a little bit older, she knows what she wants," he said.

"There is more of a direction. And men are quite simple, we just like to know we are going left, then we're going right, then left again."

Paula Hall said there has to be more to the relationship than the "number of years they have been on this planet".

"If you have lots in common, you really click, really get on, you can chat open and honestly, then to hell with age gap."

Her top tip is to talk and acknowledge the age gap. Cassie agrees.

"Don't be afraid to talk to each other about how you feel even if it might bring up the age," she said.

"Ignore everyone else and if you have found what you are looking for, then go for it because there is nothing better."

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