Celebrities in love: Is age really just a number?
We were lost in the midst of the General Election mayhem and then, from left of centre, came the news that teen heart-throb Liam Payne, of One Direction fame, was loved up with Cheryl Fernandez-Versini.
Social-media accounts were trawled through, calculators were pulled out and it was established that the pair were in fact an item. At 32 years of age, Cheryl is 10 years Liam's (22) senior.
In the grand scheme of things, 10 years is nothing, so why all the shock?
We watched a 14-year-old Liam audition in front of a 24-year-old Cheryl for X Factor in 2008. We watched him do the same in 2010, when he was 16, and Cheryl was 26.
So while 10 years isn't the greatest of age differences, first impressions count. We got to know Liam as a teenaged boy on the cusp of a lofty dream, and we really got to know Cheryl as she went through her first divorce at the age of 26.
In terms of stereotypical gender roles, it's more often than not the case, that the man is older than the woman. In dating culture, the man is judged by income and by being 'established', whereas the woman is judged on her beauty and youth. Cheryl and Liam have flipped this stereotype on its head. Both parties are wealthy and established, but in this equation, it's Liam who has age on his side.
It is only 10 years after all, but even that statistic is rare. The average age difference between couples is approximately two years. With the male, in a heterosexual relationship, being the older party.
According to Australian research, only 1pc of married men's wives are 20 years younger than them. And as for married women, only 0.3pc of their husbands are 20 years their junior.
Joanna Fortune, clinical psychotherapist who specialises in adolescent psychotherapy, says that in modern times, the stereotype and statistics have definitely shifted.
"In modern times, 'age is just a number' is often said as women do not rely on men for resources and gender roles have evolved in society. Perhaps younger men even admire and are drawn to a more independent, self-sufficient partner that the older woman may represent. Chronological age is much less relevant than emotional age (once everyone is above the age of legal consent, of course).
"We need to move away from predatory language of 'cougar' or 'robbing the cradle' and accept that relationship formation has evolved as society has evolved," she told The Herald.
Comedian and TV host Stephen Fry (57) married writer Elliot Spencer (27) in January 2015. With 30 years in the difference, this couple carry the crown the biggest age gap. They dated for three years before marrying and Fry calls Elliot the "love of his life".
Despite the 25-year difference, Michael Douglas (71) and Catherine Zeta Jones (46) are statistical outliers. Their marriage is heading into its 16th year. Both have suffered health problems in the past but Catherine said the secret to their marriage is not "throwing in the towel".
Here are some other age-defying relationships that are standing the test of time:
Cheryl and Liam Payne
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (32) apparently began dating Liam Payne (22) at the end of 2015, the same time that it was revealed her second marriage, to French restaurateur Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini was over.
Mary-Kate Olsen and Olivier Sarkozy
Child actress Mary-Kate Olsen (29) married the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s half-brother Olivier Sarkozy (47) in November 2015. Rumours about their relationship began circulating in 2012, when she was 25, but four years later they remain a solid pairing.
George and Amal Clooney
Actor George Clooney (54) married Lebanese-born lawyer and activist Amal Alamuddin (38) in 2014. It wasn’t the 16-year age gap that got people talking here though, but the fact that the serial-dating Hollywood star had finally committed.
Stephen Fry and Elliot Spencer
Comedian and TV host Stephen Fry (57) married writer Elliot Spencer (27) in January 2015. With 30 years in the difference this couple carry the crown the biggest age gap. They dated for three years before marrying and Fry calls Elliot the “love of his life.”
Adele and Simon Konecki
Adele (27) has dated entrepreneur Simon Konecki (41) since 2011, and they have a three-year-old boy together, Angelo. Like George and Amal this age gap hasn’t received much, if any, attention. The only attention they have received is whether the couple is married or not.
Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart
One of the most successful age-gap flanked marriages is that of Harrison Ford (73) and Calista Flockhart (51). They began dating in 2002, after the collapse of Ford’s second marriage. They eventually married in 2010, and have an adopted child, Liam, together.
Tina Turner and Erwin Bach
Soul singer Tina Turner (76) married German record company boss Erwin Bach (59) in a Buddhist ceremony in 2013. The wedding was attended by the late David Bowie and the American broadcaster Oprah Winfrey. After Turner's turbulent 16-year relationship with Ike Turner, friends were overjoyed at her marriage to Bach.
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones
Despite the 25-year difference Michael Douglas (71) and Catherine Zeta Jones (46) are statistical outliers. Their marriage is heading into its 16th year. Both have suffered health problems in the past but Catherine said the secret to their marriage is not “throwing in the towel.”
Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (84) captured his own headlines last January when he announced his engagement to former model Jerry Hall (59). Cynics struggled to find the catch. While the billionaire businessman is getting on a bit it’s not like Hall, who is successful in her own right and worth €15m, is short of fame or money.
Jennifer Lopez and Casper Smart
Jennifer Lopez (46) is dating choreographer Casper Smart (28), but this coupling has been dogged by split rumours since they began their courtship in 2011. They parted ways in 2014, but attended the Golden Globes together this year. She told Ellen DeGeneres in January that there was “no wedding.”