{Poll} Cougar couples… delightful or doomed?

Cougar, Mrs. Robinson, Cradle Robber … the nicknames may make you laugh, but FOFs dating younger men is a serious trend. A 2003 study by AARP revealed that 34 percent of women over 40 were dating younger men, and 35 percent preferred it to dating older men. “This generation of over-50 women has more energy. They want to go out, travel, exercise and have fabulous careers,” says FOF dating coach Cheryl Savage. “Men in their 30s and 40s are a better match for their energy.”  Read about 4 FOF celebs and their significantly younger beaus. Then, share what you think: Are “cougar” romances delightful. . . .or doomed?

Was Lance Armstrong FOF Sheryl Crow’s favorite mistake? Maybe… and more likely, her youngest. Sheryl is nine years Lance’s senior. The Grammy-award winning singer and the pro-cyclist met at a charity event in 2003 and fell fast for each other. “I’ve never had anybody be so completely positive that I’m the person that they want to be with,” said Sheryl in an interview with ABC News.  “I can be myself with Sheryl, she can be herself with me, so we relieve each other of pressure.” Lance told Oprah in 2005. But, ultimately it was pressure that tore them apart. That same year, the two were engaged and shortly after broke it off. It was just two weeks before Sheryl’s 44th birthday. “She wanted marriage, she wanted children; and not that I didn’t want that, but I didn’t want that at that time because I had just gotten out of a marriage, I’d just had kids,” Armstrong, reveals in his biography Lance. “Yet we’re up against her biological clock — that pressure is what cracked it.”

Cheryl says: “A lot of time when a woman gets to that age, it puts pressure on the relationship. Lance had been married and had children, Sheryl hadn’t. That is a discussion that needs to happen up front because it could break a relationship. I’m not talking the first, second or third date, but early on in the relationship that conversation needs to happen.”

FOF newscaster Katie Couric made news when she began dating a man 17 years her junior. “I was reading the New York Times and I look up and there are six paparazzi,” she says in a People magazine article. “All I could think was, Where is Britney Spears?” The paparazzi were actually snapping shots of Katie, 54, and her boyfriend, Brooks Perlin, the 37-year-old CFO of Eco Supply Center on a recent trip to Florida. The two met at a fundraising event in 2006, according to People, but Katie has only spoken about the relationship recently. “I thought he was really cute,” says Katie of their meeting. “He asked me if I wanted to have dinner sometime, and I liked that it was so direct and natural.” She confessed that she considered canceling the date when she found out his age. “I knew he was younger but I didn’t think he was that much younger!” Luckily, she didn’t back out…and the two have been together ever since. “I’ve been called all kinds of things. I’ve been ‘cougared,’ which was just obnoxious. But if its good enough for Demi right?” says Katie who takes the criticism in stride. “He’s incredibly kind, caring and sensitive,” she says of Brooks. “He challenges me in ways I wouldn’t be challenged otherwise.”

Cheryl says: “I’ve been in that situation. I was on a date with a man seventeen years younger and I started judging myself. I was like “Ohmigod, why am I here? I was seventeen when he was born.” I calmed myself down and asked myself the four questions I encourage all women to ask themselves when they are unsure on a date. Do I like him? Is he interesting? What can I learn about him? How do I feel when I’m with him?” I felt good, and I just let myself have a good time. Thank goodness Katie went out on the date with Brooks and didn’t judge herself. Katie says Brooks challenges her. I get the impression he challenges her physically as well. A younger love interest can push us to take better care of ourselves.

“I never thought I’d be the marrying type, really,” said New York socialite and Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell, who “once declared marriage a male institution that leaves women alone and unhappy,” according to The New York Times. But, even she got struck by cupid’s arrow. Candace met her hubby Charles Askegard, a principal dancer for the New York Ballet, at a $3,000-a-plate benefit in 2002. Candace was 43 and Charles was 33 at the time. “At first he seemed too young,” says Candace. “But then I looked into his eyes and it was like. ‘Whoa!'” The couple tied the knot just two months later, barefoot on the beach in Nantucket. ”It’s the end of an era, definitely,” said Candace’s longtime friend Jay McInerney. “Candace Bushnell gets married — it’s like Johnny Carson retiring.” Perhaps it was the end of an era, but for Candace and a whole generation of Sex and the City fans, it started a revelation — true love can strike at any age. “I waited for the right person, and I encourage other women to do the same,” says Candace. And to those who call her a “cougar”: “[It’s] a derogatory term used to make a woman feel uncomfortable because she’s not keeping up the status quo,” says Candace. “When have I kept up the status quo?”

Cheryl says: Candace found love because she went to the charity dinner with no expectations. Her mind wasn’t on finding a husband. She was also in tune enough with her emotions to realize that there was a connection between her and Charles. So many women don’t get dates because they are not paying attention to the men who are out there interested in them. I constantly teach women how to go to a function, get rid of all the judgment and be open. One woman asked me why her hands get sweaty when she talks to certain men. I said, “that’s chemistry!” If you are in a room and feel something, always, go towards that chemistry.


Married…with Children star Katey Segal has had far from traditional experiences with marriage and children. Three times married, the 57-year-old actress had multiple complications with fertility. During her second marriage, to musician Jack White, she was able to conceive two children but only after multiple miscarriages. Katey and Jack divorced in 2000, and four years later, Katey was introduced by a friend to her third and final hubby, director and producer Kurt Sutter. She was 50, he was 44. “He asked me if I would have coffee with him sometime, and I said yes, and then I was kind of out of touch,” said Katey in an interview with E! Online. “And then he called me like a couple months later and asked me to coffee, and we went and kind of never left each other after that.” The couple welcomed their daughter Esmé, born via surrogacy, in 2007. “My thing about having another child was, time’s-a-wasting!” said Katey in an interview with People Magazine. “I was unable to carry a child, so we were always looking at alternative approaches. Our surrogacy situation just fell into place really easily….I held Esmé, and Kurt cut the cord. It was a beautiful experience.”

Cheryl says: It sounds like Kurt pursued Katey, which is good. I always suggest to women that when you are asked out, go! It doesn’t matter if you think he is too old, too young, too short, too tall or has a hole in his jeans. When Katey met Kurt she was probably thinking “I don’t know, I was unsuccessful at marriage two times….” But, bless her, she finally gave him a chance. They probably had a conversation very early in the relationship that he wanted children and they had to figure out how to do it and they did. Again, with an older woman and younger man, that discussion about children should come up at some point early on.”

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Images via Zimbio { Sheryl / Katie / Candace / Katey }

Sources: ABC News / Oprah.com / DailyMail / New York Daily News / People / New York Post / New York Times / E! Online / People

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  10. wrdwrkr says:

    Based on personal experience, delightful. I much prefer younger men; my ex-husband was younger than me and my current special partner is 11 years younger. But “cougar” is an awful term. It has come to mean a sexually voracious woman who preys on men far younger than herself. In fact, a cougar is a woman who is confident, sure of her place in the world, and who doesn’t need a man to complete her but to accept her as she is and as she lives.

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  11. Lydia says:

    There can always be a power dynamic in a relationship where ages are widely disparate, whether the woman or the man is older. The older person has to be aware of that and nip behavior oozing towards a need for control in the bud. Come to think of it, every couple needs to be wary of that!

    As for your examples, is a 6 year difference really a cougar relationship? I don’t think so. 17 years is quite an age spread but 6 to 10 seems hardly worth mentioning.

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  12. JustD says:

    Love can be a black hole or a shooting star, no matter what age we are. I’ve learned as many here have shared, that the confidence, maturity, and acceptance that two people share is what makes the bonds of love grow deeper, stronger and last longer. Age has nothing to do with it loving someone. Love, in and of itself, has limitless boundaries and inexhaustible possibilities…the only off switch to it is Us.

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  13. Lisbeth says:

    I totally agree with Laurab and would like to see an end to these crude labels.

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  14. andy says:

    What a GREAT trend! Wouldn’t slow me down at all. Older men are usually complaining something and younger men just want to have fun! Since I’m having such a wonderful life and have no complaints whatsoever, it sounds like a match to me.

    Of course I’ve been married forever and will probably never need to make this decision 🙂

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  15. Melin says:

    This is a silly question. These couples have the same chance of lasting as any couple… it depends on the individuals. I’ve been married to a guy who’s 9 years younger for 19 years. He’s my 3rd husband. My first was older, my second was younger by 3 years and now my 3rd (last & forever!). I ended the first 2 marriages just ‘cuz I wasn’t happy. With this marriage, we just connect way better in all the “usual” ways. Has nothing to do with age. (just fyi – my m.o. was always that the guy does the pursuing. I didn’t make the phone calls, I didn’t ask for dates… the guy does the ALL of the pursuing. That way he wants you more and more and more…)

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  16. colleen gilgenbach says:

    At 35 the 16 year difference didn’t matter. Now that he is 70 it does. I’m thinking about long term care, IRAs running out and other issues no one else my age is. Except my friend who’s husband is twenty six years older.
    But then who knows if a relationship will last thirty years, so have fun!

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  17. Norma Byrd says:

    I don’t give a flying fig what anybody wants to call it! I’m 75 (will be 76 in October) and in the last 22 years have never dated or had a relationship with anyone less than 21 years my junior, some more. I tried dating men closer to my age but they were couch potatoes, uninterested in any music later than the 50’s or 60’s, new design of any kind, and couldn’t handle anything “different” (and seriously were intimidated by me apparently—THEY weren’t interested in a match!) Once I had one tell me “You like to bike, hike, canoe, camp, go out a lot. I don’t like any of those things. WHAT WOULD WE DO?” I responded “Good question!!” I’ve been in my current relationship for ten years with a man who is 20 years younger and neither of us has lost interest yet. I am not in this mode to impress anyone else or for any reason other than that younger men appeal to me in every way. I could care less about others’ perceptions or criticisms, nor will I allow myself to be dictated by so-called convention. It’s MY life and I love it!

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  18. Susan says:

    I think relationships can’t be judged by age. There’s a lot that goes into them and age can only be a problem if you make it one. My sister married a man 7 years younger. He was a great guy but it didn’t work out. My brother married a woman with two children and was 7 years older than him. They weren’t compatible. Several of my friends married younger men and it’s worked out perfectly. My daughter married a man almost my age. He’s a great guy and my daughter says she as a fairy tale marriage. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Age isn’t the culprit in which relationships or not in my opinion.

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  19. Cynthia says:

    Monica, you rock!!

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  20. islegirl74 says:

    My husband is ten years younger than me, never was a cougar just worked out that I feel in love with someone younger. He always loved older women.
    Age is for wine not for people!

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  21. Billie PAtterson says:

    I married a man 16 yrs younger and we are very happy, celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary on July 17, ’11.
    We are going on a cruise in Oct to celebrate. I make him happy and he makes me happy. He says if people don’t like it, they can look the other way, and if they really don’t like it, they can leave!

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  22. Kaye says:

    I’m 49 and my bf is 30. He’s 9 days younger than my daughter. He makes me laugh, he’s gorgeous, and he thinks I’m sexy. That’s all I need. He isn’t bothered with the age difference so why should I be. If anyone else is, that’s their issue. He knows I don’t want anymore children and he’s okay with that. I just take it one day at a time.

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  23. BlueBear says:

    You cannot dictate who you fall in love with! That being said, there is also something very comforting about growing old with a partner who is experiencing what you are. As is said, this growing old stuff isn’t for sissies. There are aches & pains, body changes, etc., that cannot be experienced by someone who is much younger that you are. Sympathy is one thing but empathy goes a lot farther.

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  24. Victoria says:

    I am 57 and 11 years older than my partner. I am so pleased with his emotional openness and his creative ways of showing me how much he cares. He treats me like I’m a goddess. It’s by far the best relationship I’ve ever been in. Yes, sometimes I feel insecure because of my age, despite his reassurances. I have found myself stepping up my beauty routine like never before! I think these relationships can work out beautifully, if the love and compatibility are right. But I feel as though I am obligated not to “let myself go” at any point in time. He may be happy hanging around in sloppy clothes, but I try to look my best every single day, hoping that, as we both age, the bond between us will get stronger.

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    • Young guy says:

      Our age differences is the same as yours and it works great! Strange thing about the insecurity though, I’ve always felt the opposite with older and more resourceful women. I always aim to look great for my wife and to be honest I care a lot more about my own looks than hers and I’ve never exercised so much before in my life or been doing diets as hard as now. I go to the gym 5-6 times a week and diet to maintain a ripped body.

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  25. TuKute says:

    I think it is awesome! (As long as they are on the same playing field) These days most relationships are doomed and a girl should at least have fun before they crumble. Accept the fact that you share the same interests and it makes you feel good. No one can predict the end of the game even with a good hand. We are supposed to be smarter and grown up enough to say “NEXT” when it’s necessary.

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  26. Monica says:

    I’ve been dating younger men my entire life. I am 53. My ex-husband was 10 years younger than I, we had two great kids, and split 9 years later. It had nothing to do with age — he was a jerk. Second relationship lasted 10 years. He was 20 years younger than I. There the kid issue did come up. He wanted some, I didn’t, but that still didn’t exactly break it. He developed some substance abuse issues after some very tragic things happened in his family. He still has the substance issues, and has not found a new partner. Now, at 53, I am seeing a wonderful guy who is 36. There are no kids issues involved here, he already has 3 — doesn’t want anymore. They are younger, mine are older — all get along wonderfully. He does bring out wonderful things in me, and vise versa. We have a lot of fun and I am more open and myself with him than any other ever. He’s not judgemental as the others, more free spirited, knows I’m a great mother, and appreciates me for who I am. It’s absolutely the best.

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  27. Ruth says:

    Love is a strong affection for another person. It is also a virtue representing human kindness. So when the feelings of affection at times wears thin one must make the decision too be kind to their loved one in order for true love (is there any other kind ?) to last, AT ANY AGE..

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  28. Laurab says:

    I hate the term cougar, a man dates a younger woman he’s a stud or it’s all cool. A woman dates an older man she’s a gold digger or has “daddy issues”. A woman dates a younger man and she’s a cougar or cradle robber. We can’t win no matter who we date!

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