Age gap

"When she'd start to talk about Duran Duran or Erasure, I was like, 'What are you talking about?'" said Charlie Capen, right, now 31 and married to Avara, 39, left, for eight years. They are shown with their son, Finnegan. (Handout/Family photo / September 19, 2012)

Danger of self-sabotage

Brings doesn't like the cougar image of a predator hunting young cubs, but she thinks age shouldn't stop anyone. Often the biggest obstacle comes from within, Brings said, as women will obsess about what a younger man might think of her cellulite, while an older man rarely gives his gut a second thought.

"Women have to rise above what they've been programmed to believe about themselves," Brings said.

Noah Brand, 35, said recently he has preferred dating older women after several relationships with younger women "melted down in drama storms." With older women, "you get less drama, better communication," he said.

"It's nice to be dating someone who is on equal footing as you or even knows more than you, has been places you haven't," said Brand, who lives in Portland, Ore., and is the editor in chief of The Good Men Project, a social movement that explores modern manhood.

Brand dated a woman 19 years older for several months, when he was 32 and she was 51, and said comparing different generational touchstones made it interesting.

Sometimes, though, those qualities that initially attract someone to a much older or younger mate can boomerang, cautioned Jacqueline Del Rosario, a Miami-based marriage coach. A younger man's carefree spontaneity can translate into his making poor decisions, his physical stamina can grow tiresome when you get home from work drained. Same goes when it's an older man and younger woman.

Perhaps the toughest obstacle for many age gap couples is the fact that old age will hit one person well before the other, so partners must be honest about how they'll cope when the physical decline begins, Del Rosario said, just as they should establish early on if children are a goal.

Charlie Capen said he and his wife have a gallows humor about that, riffing off the fact that women on average live four years longer than men.

"Now we're more on even ground," he said.