When the news that 50-year-old Linda Hogan, ex-wife of famed wrestler Hulk Hogan got engaged to her 21-year-old boyfriend Charlie Hill, eyebrows shot up. Although it is common to see older men in relationships with younger women, the “cougar” dynamic of older women dating younger men remains taboo in the eyes of many. But statistics tell another story. A study compiled by AARP magazine shows that 34 percent of women over 40 are dating younger men. The study stated that the higher divorce rate over the last several years has contributed to the amount of single, 50+ women swimming in the dating pool.

Relationship expert Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, finds the cougar syndrome a boost to a woman’s waning sex drive and self esteem. As a woman ages, menopause can wreak havoc with her libido. “What better way to feel energized and more attractive, than to piggyback off a younger mans high libido. A younger energetic man helps a woman feel younger and more alive.”

Many women suffer from feelings of inadequacy as they transition into menopause. Dating a younger man can be a boost to the ego during a time when women often describe feeling invisible. And, it isn’t just the women driving the cougar relationships. Young men reportedly have no fear of being put down by their peers when there’s cougars like Demi Moore, married to a much younger Ashton Kutcher. For younger men, the attraction is finding older women confident, sexually mature, independent and knowing what they want.

In her book Make Up Don’t Break Up, Dr. Weil encourages singles to find ways to bring up that loving feeling, and for a woman facing issues of aging; a younger man might be the catalyst that picks up her pulse.

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