Despite plenty of research on the matter, there is no ultimate equation for the ideal relationship. Society has an endless list of rules and guidelines for relationships, dictating what is encouraged and what is frowned upon. But, when it comes down to it, love works in mysterious ways.
Many couples have challenged stereotypes and societal norms, overcoming boundaries and succeeding in maintaining healthy relationships against all odds.
Among these boundaries is the issue of age gaps. While it is common for women in the Arab world to marry older men, questions arise from the topic. As for stigma? You know very well it surrounds it.
To get some insight on the reality of being in a relationship with a significantly older man, StepFeed reached out to four Arab women who shared their thoughts and experiences.
Here's what they said:
"Life goes beyond just age"
StepFeed talked to a 24-year-old Lebanese woman who has been in a relationship with a 36-year-old man for the past two years.
"The age difference was never a barrier to me. However, aging is a social construct, so even though I've never had a problem with it, I am somehow always aware of the age difference," she said.
She has learned a lot from her partner's past experiences and mistakes, she tells us, as he's understanding with some valuable life advice.
According to the woman, people tend to judge the relationships they deem as unconventional based on labels and stereotypes.
"They don't bother looking deeper into the dynamic of a relationship. They just like to judge based on the cover," she explained.
She admitted that she had criticized couples with age gaps before getting involved with her current partner. She then learned not to judge others for their romantic decisions because "there is always an emotional reason behind them."
"Life goes beyond just age. You should never let age difference or social disapproval stand in your way or anyone's way," she said.
"At the end of the day, it's all about your chemistry"
Raised in the United States, Palestinian 28-year-old Mariam Saniora is married to a man nine years her senior. They have been married for two years and have a daughter together.
Saniora said she had always hoped to marry an older man, explaining:
"I feel like girls mature faster than guys and I wanted someone to be ready for marriage and is set in his life and his career, so things could be easier to start a family."
Still, Saniora believes the success of a relationship is ultimately determined by how much the partners "click" together.
"I believe at the end of the day, it's all about your chemistry with that person and that simple click," she explained.
When asked about the pros of being in a relationship with an age gap, Saniora said it is reassuring to be with someone who is ready to settle down and lead a steady life.
She noted that society has double standards when it comes to relationships with an age gap. Men are usually applauded for finding a younger partner, while women are frowned upon and labelled as "cougars" when they are romantically involved with a younger man.
"I've learned so much from my husband"
Nour Soueid, a 21-year-old Lebanese law student, has been with her 32-year-old husband for almost three years.
Soueid said her family, especially the elders, advised in favor of having such an age gap, saying it would have benefits on the long run. Meanwhile, her friends worried it might be a bad idea. As for herself, she did not mind the age difference and did not see why it would pose any problems.
Soueid said she has not encountered any drawbacks resulting from the age gap she shares with her husband, since the two enjoy the same activities and have similar interests.
"Any two individuals can be a good match irrespective of age," she said.
She added that she has benefited from her husband's experiences and learned to be more mature, patient, and rational.
Will love always win?
And isn't that the one million dollar question?
For now, we don't know and can't tell - though we hope for it - but Closeup is here and ready to carry on the fight.
Each and every person's heart is worth it, and everybody has a role to play.
So, will you let love in or keep it behind the fence?
Join the movement by sharing your own love story accompanied with the hashtag #GiveLoveAChance