Heidi Klum and 28-year-old Tokio Hotel guitarist Tom Kaulitz went public with their romance in May, and she acknowledged in a new interview that their 17-year age gap has received a lot of attention.
“My boyfriend is many years younger than me, and lots of people are questioning that and asking about it,” Klum, 45, said in a new interview with InStyle.
“That’s really the only time when age seems to be shoved in my face and I have to give an answer for it. I don’t really think about it that much otherwise. You have to just live a happy life without worrying too much about what people think, because worrying is only going to give you more wrinkles.”
The two have been open about their relationship: Kaulitz is regularly featured in his girlfriend’s Instagram posts. And if their social media pics are any indication, they seem pretty happy together.
While there may be unique challenges that come with dating someone much younger, it doesn’t have to be a huge deal, licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
It’s important to address the age gap at some point, but that’s true of any kind of differences in a relationship, Durvasula says. “It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, but there is a reality to it,” she says. “There may be very different expectations around age, activities, friends, aspirations, and, often most importantly, children.” These can be big decisions, and it’s important not to gloss over them because two people are in love, she says.
There are also some possible psychological issues, namely if the older person wants to date someone younger simply because that person is “hot” or if the younger person is looking for more of a parent figure, Durvasula says.
“Not addressing the potential challenges and only focusing on what life is like now may be a sign that there is not a realistic approach to the relationship,” licensed marriage and family therapist Lesli Doares, author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
But there are benefits to this kind of relationship too. “The most powerful one is that such a relationship reenergizes you and can bring you back to the idealism and purpose that you experienced at an earlier time,” licensed clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Being in a relationship with a younger person can also make someone more motivated to be healthier, work out more, work harder in a career, and be more sensual, he adds.
However, there are times when an age gap can be too much for a couple to overcome. Children and family issues are often nonnegotiable, Durvasula says, and it can also be problematic if the older person wants to retire and the younger partner is still highly motivated in a career or wants to start an entirely different career path.
If energy and interest levels don’t match up, that can be an issue, she says.
But ultimately, an age gap matters “very little” if couples are able to navigate all of this, Mayer says. “Age and time are manmade benchmarks that people and society place on life,” he says. “What matters more is maturity level and the synchronization of interests.”
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