'Karl is 14 years younger than me but the age gap never mattered... though I did lie to my parents about his age for a while!'
At 48, Kylie Minogue is engaged to her fiancé Joshua Sasse (29). Does it matter if a woman is more than a decade older than her man? Kerry McKittrick talks to Newtownabbey mum Gillian Woods, whose husband Karl is 14 years her junior.
Cougar, sugar mommy... there is now more than one unflattering name for women who date men much younger than they are. While eyebrows are still raised when a woman in her 40s or 50s gets involved with a man more than 10 years her junior, it's becoming less of a rarity.
A recent study has revealed that a third of single women between 40 and 70 are going out with a man at least a decade younger.
Londonderry-born Snow Patrol rocker Johnny McDaid, (40) and Friends star Courteney Cox, (52) have had an on-again, off-again relationship, but their differences have been more to do with where they should live rather than their 12 year age gap.
Meanwhile Kylie, (48), who is engaged to Joshua Sasse, (29) has never been happier - although the couple won't tie the knot until same sex marriage is legal in her native Australia.
We talk to a local couple about what it's like when others think you should mind the (age) gap.
Hairdresser Gillian Woods (46), from Newtownabbey, is married to Karl (32). She has three children, Ross (20), Ellen (16) and Natalie (14). She says:
Karl and I married last September, but we met in 2008. I was going on a night out with the girls from work and we began our evening with some drinks at the house of one of them. However, we had no bottle opener, so my friend had to nip next door to her neighbour to borrow one - that's how Karl and his friend ended up coming with us.
We met that night and there was a bit of flirting, but it was all very casual and just a bit of fun. I had absolutely no expectations from him, as I was just enjoying the fun and the attention. Having been married before, with three children it had been a long time since I had dated anyone.
For the first year we went from week to week, not making any plans for the future or looking for anything more. I kept my social life and home life completely separate from Karl's for at least two years. Instead, we would spend time together when the kids were with their dad.
Our relationship changed, though, when Karl won tickets to Oxegen music festival and asked me to go with him rather then invite any of his close friends.
We spent five days together in a tent and after that the feelings between us were altered. It started to get deeper and more serious. We had much more contact with each other and were constantly texting. And it wasn't long after that trip that Karl introduced me to his parents. I can freely admit that I was terrified. He has a very close-knit family and, even though his mum and dad are very young at heart, his mum warned me that if I messed with her son she wouldn't be pleased. Thank goodness, we can laugh about it now. Karl's mum and dad are only 10 years older than me, so it took a little getting used to.
Eventually all of the families were introduced to each other and it all worked out fine. Karl started coming to my house for dinner once a week and the kids started to get used to him. Then, once a week turned into twice a week and eventually he started staying over occasionally. We moved in together and Karl proposed on Christmas Day three years ago. He has always said he never had any intentions of having kids of his own. This area had been a struggle for me for a while. Having had a hysterectomy at 36, there was no question of me having any more children but I did wonder about what Karl really thought. Now, though, I know that Karl was always very sure that he didn't want any children.
He met my kids gradually over a period of time and he really started to enjoy having them around. He has slipped into the role of stepdad very easily.
There was never a point when I thought Karl was too young for me - he acts a lot older than he really is. I did lie to my parents about his age, though - he was 28 for quite a few years but, again, we laugh about it now.
I became a grandmother three years ago and little Emily often stays at our house. She calls Karl 'granda' - his friends really keep him going about that one.
People might have said things behind my back but no-one has ever said anything nasty or judgemental to my face about the age gap. There was never any hesitation in Karl when he asked me to marry him. Our relationship was something I always kept on the back-burner. He was the one who was taking on my whole family, so if he was happy to do that then I was happy too.
You might be one age on paper, but how old you are really comes from your outlook on life and your attitude. Kylie doesn't look anything close to 48, so I say good on her for marrying someone who is 29.
My only real reservation is that as time goes by I will be in my 60s when Carl will be in his 40s - that is at the back of my mind. I have elderly parents and I can see the difference just a couple of years can make to your health. But Karl says that he just wants to have a good time and not outlive anyone."
Karl Woods (32), is a security system engineer. He says:
I wanted to see Gillian again after the night we met - mind you, I didn't see it turning into a marriage. It's never daunted me that she came with a family, I'm too laid back to let things like that bother me. It was something I had to think about when we moved in together, because it wasn't just Gillian, it was her and the kids, too.
People are surprised when they find out about the age difference, but it's more because I look older than 32 and Gillian looks younger than 46. Most people tend to think we're about the same age - although sometimes I have been mistaken as the older one. When we got together my family and friends did take me aside and ask if I was sure.
Gillian thinks that she is the winner, because I took all of this on. But 10 years down the line I now have a family including a grandchild that I never would have had - so I think I'm the winner.
Whatever Gillian wants to do makes me happy. I behave like someone older than my age so the fact I'm not going clubbing every night doesn't bother me.
It's great when we have Emily staying over with us occasionally and it's funny that she calls me granda.
I asked Gillian to marry me because she was the one I wanted to settle down with. We are a unit and getting married just cemented the relationship we already had. We are so happy and getting married made the rest of the happy family too - they might have been a bit worried about it at the start, but they're really content about us as a couple now."
Some celebrity women and their younger consorts
Courteney Cox described one of her break-ups from fiance Johnny McDaid as “brutal” in a way that her divorce from husband of 14 years David Arquette wasn’t. She said that Johnny’s Northern Irish passion was very new to her. Cox has a 13-year-old daughter, Coco, with Arquette.
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, (33), and One Direction star Liam Payne, (23), are expecting their first child together — although the couple never officially announced the pregnancy, the former Girls Aloud singer is said to be due very soon.
The Kardashian ‘momager’ Kris Jeffer, (60), started dating music producer Corey Gamble, (35) after splitting from her former husband Bruce Jenner. She was previously married to Robert Kardashian, who was part of a legal team representing O J Simpson at his imfamous trial.