Can a relationship between an older woman dating a younger man work out in the long term? It's a big question with many answers and outcomes.

The good news is that yes, in some cases it can work. The bad news is that in some cases, it's never going to work.

Just to add some personal perspective to this - I have been married to my husband, who is 10 years younger than me for just over 5 years now. I write a blog on the subject here. I have a friend who has been in an intergenerational relationship with her partner (17 years younger) for 12 years. There are success stories out there. But there are also a lot of failed relationship tales too.

To try and understand if your relationship with your older or younger lover stands a chance, you need to take a look at the facts:

Were you both looking for a long term relationship from the beginning?

If you were both just after something casual and your intergenerational relationship has developed into something deeper, then it could be that at some point, one of you decides (often the younger partner) that they want to go back out there and have some fun. A lifetime commitment may not seem that big a deal if we are 35-50. We've sowed our wild oats, lived out our youth and are ready to settle down. While the concept may not scare off the younger partner, a few years down the line, the reality may hit and you may be saying goodbye.

How do you communicate with one another?

If you are able to talk openly, honestly and maturely, then good. But if the younger partner still likes to have tantrums, sulks and is unable to fully express their feelings (because they are still learning to understand them), then it's all to easy for this to be misinterpreted. It's one of the downsides of intergenerational dating. Even worse, as the older partner, you may find yourself trying to help them interpret their feelings by explaining things based on your experience, when the fact is, they aren't you. This is so often something that's done without even thinking, but it can make the younger partner feel patronized and can lead to even more miscommunication. You need to have good, flowing dialogue and be able to step back and acknowledge their feelings, even if you don't like them much or find them immature.

Do you share long-term goals?

If one of you wants a home, 5 kids and a picket fence, and the other wants a round-the-world backpacking trip, then it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. Unless you can find a way to meet both of your needs, without one party feeling they have missed out, then it's going to be trouble down the line.

What are your views on children?

You may already have children. He may or may not want children of his own. You may or may not be able to give him them. This is a deal-breaker for many intergenerational dating couples. Sure, they may come around to your point of view (whatever that is), in the short term, but having or not having children is something that can't really be compromised on by meeting in the middle – you either want them or you don't. You can either have more, or you can't. Don't mislead one another on this, or it will most definitely come back to bite you.

How does your younger partner deal with your children?

Does he get involved, or leave them to you? How you will parent together in a long term relationship is also critical. Everyone – you, them and the kids all need to feel comfortable with their roles in the family structure.

How do friends and family feel about this relationship?

Underestimating how friends and family feel about you both as a couple is foolish. They may have noticed something about your partner that you just don't see. If your partner's mother has ideas that her boy with an older woman just won't do, or everyone generally disapproves, don't just think 'we don't need them'. Don't be discouraged by people who disapprove of intergenerational dating though.

The younger partner especially, needs his family and you don't want to be the one to come between that. Any lasting relationship needs outside support and if your friends and family aren't prepared to give it, you need to ask yourself honestly why that is.

The truth is, that however old the age of each partner and whatever the age gap, that some relationships work and some fail. Being open, honest, mature and brave enough to see (and discuss) the cracks, rather than papering over them, is the best that any of us can do to make any relationship endure.

Other Older Women Dating Younger Men articles you may enjoy: