Madonna, 63, splits from 28-year-old lover – can age gap relationships really work?

Ahlamalik Williams and Madonna on the carpet ahead of the World Premiere of Madonna’s Madame X, presented by Ketel One Vodka at Paradise Club & Theater at The Edition Hotel Times Square on September 23, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Ketel One Vodka)
Madonna and Ahlamalik Williams had a 35-year age gap. (Getty Images) (Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images)

Madonna, 63, has split with her boyfriend Ahlamalik Williams, 28, after nearly four years together.

The popstar has reportedly separated from the back-up dancer as it was "hard to keep the relationship alight", but the pair are "still on good terms".

"Madonna has thrown herself into a busy social life and has been seeing her friends and family after the split," a source claimed to The Sun.

"She has a packed schedule, working on her upcoming biopic, new music and looking after her family.

"Things have been on and off with Ahlamalik for a while. There's a lot of love but for now they have decided to separate." The pair first met when he was dancing on Madonna's Rebel Heart tour in 2015.

"They are still on good terms and there are no hard feelings but they are at different places with their lives," the source added.

"They spent months together on tour and in lockdown, but now he has moved out of her home.

"With them both working on other things, it was hard to keep their romance alight."

Speaking on the couple's 35-year-age -gap in 2019, Williams' dad Drue, 61, showed his support of the relationship. “She told us she is so much in love with him and that we didn’t have anything to worry about as she was going to take care of him," he said.

“We know there’s a huge age gap between the two. Madonna is two years older than me.

“I asked him how he feels about her and he says he has never been happier.”

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Lisa Spitz, Counsellor & Psychotherapist, tells Yahoo Life UK she's seeing lots of couples who have had difficulties due to the extended amount of time they’ve spent together from lockdown.

"Issues that could be ignored now had to be dealt with," says Spitz. "Maybe Ahlamalik's younger age proved tiresome, maybe they had a different approach to COVID or maybe being together so much just highlighted that whatever they had between them was not sustainable under acute pressure.

Middle aged couple lying on the beach making a toast, Ibiza
Can relationships with age gaps last? (Getty Images) (monkeybusinessimages via Getty Images)

"The sex life might be better due to more openness to explore and less sexual disfunction getting in the way," she continues.

"And there might be a willingness to be more spontaneous, less dogmatic and address issues, as well as flexibility of thought. It might make you feel alive."

Spitz says generally "too much difference isn't great" but admits there's also "opportunity" within an age-gap in a relationship.

"For women, if you go on apps you get a lot of younger guys hitting on older women because what they're looking for is sexual satisfaction without the commitment of a traditional relationship," she says.

"But there's something very beneficial about mixing people in different age groups as you get the opportunity to see the world in a different way, with the wealth of experience meeting naivety and joyfulness."

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Young man and a mature woman are having a romantic weekend at the spa. They are sitting by the pool wearing cozy bathrobes.
There are both pros and cons to age gap relationships. (Getty Images) (fotostorm via Getty Images)

However, she explains there can be a "mismatch of different life experiences".

"The older partner may be looking for someone to ‘mould’ and this could prove problematic as the younger partner matures and potentially wants different things," she adds.

She also highlights the potential for power and control issues.

"The younger partner may want children and the older of the two already has family or doesn’t want any kids," she adds. "There could also be a pressure to perform sexually when the woman is menopausal or the man has prostate issues."

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People in age-gap relationships also often have to face more external judgement than other relationships.

"We get really hung up about age because we have in our head what is socially acceptable in our culture," says Spitz.

"I think there is the classic thought process that a much younger man/woman who is with an older man/woman is a gold digger, we wonder what they have in common and how long it could last but assume 'the sex much be great!"

Watch: Leonardo DiCaprio roasted for 'younger girlfriends' by Oscars co-host Amy Schumer.

Read more: Age is just a number': Woman, 27, proposes to boyfriend, 72

Percy Gibson and Joan Collins attend the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Dinner Arrivals at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Robert Smith/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Percy Gibson, 57, and Joan Collins, 88, have been married since 2002. (Getty Images) (Robert Smith via Getty Images)

There are also very different attitudes towards older women dating younger men and younger men dating older women.

"No one questions the sanity of Richard Gere with his much younger partner or Simon Cowell or Rod Stewart but Katie Price or even Joan Collins are often seen as cougars," Spitz says.

"I think attitudes are changing towards women with younger partners and there have been some very success younger men/ older women relationships – Joan Collins and Percy Gibson; Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron to name two but the fact that people still feel the need to comment shows we have a long way to go."

Read more: Viral Leonardo DiCaprio graph shows how crazy Hollywood dating standards are

Simon Cowell and Lauren Silverman attend the Shooting Star Ball in aid of Shooting Star Children's Hospices at the Royal Lancaster Hotel on November 12, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Simon Cowell, 62, and fiancee Lauren Silverman, 44. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images) (Jeff Spicer via Getty Images)

Age-gap relationships being successful can also depend on whether friends and family show support or not. "I would say to anybody where it feels ‘obvious’ why they are together, to be a kind and supportive friend.

"Keep your judgement to yourself and understand your feelings around it and if you are unfortunately proved right be there to pick up the pieces. Take time to get to know the new partner so you can make a true assessment of the person."

So, is age really just a number?

"I think if you find someone you love and want to build a future with, have common values, expectations and great communication they have a good chance of working," Spitz concludes.