Expert Answers: My mum has a toyboy – and I don't like it

My mum and dad divorced more than 10 years ago and since then she has had a number of boyfriends which has been fine. Now she has started dating someone nearly half her age and I think it's disgusting. She is in her 50s and he is in his late 20s. I think she is making a fool of herself but she says he makes her happy. I worry he is just using her.

Demi Moore, Tilda Swinton and Sam Taylor-Wood are all fans of the toyboy.

Now a study has shown that women who date, or are married to younger men consider themselves younger at heart than those who spend their time with an older man.

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The survey of 1,000 women found that having a toyboy can make a woman feel an average of four years younger than they actually are.

It revealed that women with younger partners have a tendency to enjoy more outdoor activities and mix with people who have more youthful hobbies.

Most said that their partner made them feel four years younger, but one in 10 claimed that having a toyboy knocked 10 years off their age.

More than half said that their partner's energy had rubbed off on them and 27 per cent said that they visit pubs and night clubs more with a younger man.

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Three in 10 admitted that they make an effort to dress younger, and a sixth said they over-compensate for their age by trying harder to keep the relationship fresh and exciting.

A spokesman for dating site, which carried out the research, said that US television show Cougar Town, which stars Courtney Cox as a recently divorced woman who re-enters a dating scene filled with younger men, had sparked a 102 per cent increase in membership.

"That is the largest increase we've seen in the 10 years since we launched and it shows women are no longer secretive about their preferences for a younger man," he said.

"An increase in high profile toyboy relationships like Demi Moore and

Ashton Kutcher has also helped.

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"It has always been believed having a younger man makes you feel younger and now we have proven this is true.

"Whether it means going out more, dressing differently or trying new things they wouldn't normally have done, it does seem having a younger man is the answer."

The survey also showed that the greater the age gap, the happier a woman is likely to be.

Thirty-six per cent of those polled said that older men are more set in their ways, grumpy (27 per cent) and serious (22 per cent), while one in five believe that they are more boring and likely to be out of shape.

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The women claimed that younger partners, on the other hand, are more likely to make them laugh, and have a more relaxed attitude to life. But they admitted that older men were more chivalrous and trustworthy.

Of those who were previously in a relationship with an older man, one in six admitted to being on the lookout for someone younger.

But three in 10 women said that they would not trust a younger man not to leave them for a girl his own age.

Paul Charlson

GP from Brough

I can understand your concerns, but your mother is clearly old enough to make her own decisions. I agree the age gap is an issue and will certainly cause problems but they are not insurmountable. You say it is "disgusting" but why do you think this? Perhaps you should examine your own feelings and try to decide why you feel this way. I think it best to be constructive and try to put your own prejudices aside. If your mother is happy, you should be happy for her. I am not sure what you allude to when you say you are worried this younger man is using your mother. Is she helping him financially? Again, it is really none of your business, but if you are concerned, perhaps you should broach the subject tactfully but you need to be very careful.

Elaine Douglas

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A chartered psychologist who specialises in family and child relationships

I am sorry, but I think that you should let your mum get on with her life. Your mum is in her 50s which suggests that she has some experience of life. She has been single for a long time, and has now found someone who makes her happy – but he is a lot younger. Why should that offend you? From talking to clients and friends, I don't think it's easy for someone of your mum's age to meet a man who ticks some, let alone all of the boxes. She may not consider this guy as a lifelong companion, but he is making her feel good about herself. As someone once said to me, "Age is just a number". A lot of younger men find an older woman very attractive, and a lot

of older women feel the same about a younger man. If you can, it would be nice if you could be less critical and give your mum some support. The only concern I would have is if she is a very wealthy and naive woman who could be vulnerable and susceptible to flattery. Discuss your concerns with her, but do it in such a way that it doesn't come across as being negative and disapproving.

Cary Cooper

Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University

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I can understand that you might be protective of your mother but she is older and more experienced than you. Obviously if her boyfriend starts to take advantage of her financially or some other way, you would have the evidence to then engage in a discussion with her about his intentions. I suspect you might also feel somewhat jealous or angry with her finding a new man, or feel sidelined by this new arrival in your relationship with your mother. Your mother obviously needs love and attention and is searching, like so many other people who have been divorced, but unless you have strong, clear-cut evidence that this boyfriend is doing her damage, either financially or emotionally or in some other way, I think you need to leave it up to her to determine her own life. It is often difficult for children of divorced couples to accept anybody else in place of their father in these circumstances, but when it is someone much younger, it is doubly more difficult.

Dr Carol Burniston

Consultant Clinical Child Psychologist

You and your mum are at different stages of your lives; although you do not say how old you are, I guess you must be in your 20s. I wonder if you think that he would be more appropriately in a relationship with yourself than your mum? Your life agenda is different to your mum's, she has raised her family and her priorities are now different, she just wants to be happy. I wonder what impact that has on you on a day to day basis? Perhaps you are in a phase of life where you are feeling the responsibilities weighing on you and find it frustrating that your mum is behaving more like a teenager than the mum you feel you still need? Did she express opinions about the people you have had or are having relationships with? What are the rules in your family about such things? Perhaps it's okay to say what you think but then just let your mum get on with it; she is, after all, a grown-up! Try to express your concerns in a non-judgmental way, your relationship with your mum has more longevity than the one she has with her boyfriend.

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