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They might not be written in stone but everyone knows there are certain things that are ‘expected’ of them when it comes to sex – particularly if you’re a woman.

Ideally, you should wait for sex if you want to be taken seriously. You should aim to date a man older than you or around your own age. Married men are off limits and married bosses even more so.

The perils of not conforming to society’s expectations is swift, harsh judgement by those close to you.

Having the tick of approval from family and friends is important: it’s one of the main predictors of relationship success. But stepping outside the square doesn’t always end in disaster: it can make for a better relationship.

I spoke to three women who dared NOT to do the norm…and don’t regret it for an instant.

Tracey Cox spoke to three women who've ignored society's expectations when dating and have no regrets about what followed (file image)

Tracey Cox spoke to three women who've ignored society's expectations when dating and have no regrets about what followed (file image)

Tracey Cox spoke to three women who’ve ignored society’s expectations when dating and have no regrets about what followed (file image) 

We had sex within one hour of meeting

*Lara is 46 and has been happily married for 20 years

‘I grew up with conservative, traditional parents and got the message very early that sex was something you did with someone you love.

My parents weren’t ridiculous about it – they didn’t push the whole no sex before marriage line. Just taught me that sex was something special and you shouldn’t just do it with anyone.

When I was 25, I made friends with a girl who was much more sexually adventurous than me. I’d slept with three men when I met her, she was the same age as me and had slept with 15.

I wouldn’t say she was a bad influence but she did encourage me to pursue sex for sex sake, rather than only do it with men I thought I might have a relationship with.

One Friday night, we went to a pub near home, got absolutely hammered and got chatted up by some guys who worked in finance. My guy was nice and a laugh and I thought, ‘You’re about to get lucky!’. The pub was about to shut and I went home with him after talking for about 15 minutes. Within one hour we were having sex.

I passed out immediately afterwards and woke up the next day with the worse hangover I have ever had.

I felt both sick and mortified and planned on jumping in a cab and going home to recover. Instead, the guy made me coffee and toast and made me drink gallons of cold water and really looked after me. I slept again and woke up feeling half decent. We chatted in bed for ages after that, cuddled, watched films and got takeaway. I didn’t go home until Monday morning and that was just to get some new clothes to wear to work.

We’ve been together ever since. Ironic, that the one time I set out to have no-strings sex, I end up marrying the guy.

He says he’s never had sex so fast before either but wasn’t going to knock me back because why would he?

We have a daughter who’s 16 and she knows the story of how we met and what happened. She also knows it was out of character for both of us, but I want to her to know that so-called sex ‘mistakes’ – things a lot of people feel ashamed of – don’t have to end badly.

Would I advise her to have sex on the first night? Probably not. Should she be ashamed if she does? Absolutely not.’

I had an affair with my married boss

Marika is 27 and works in commercial real estate

I’d been working for the company for about two years when a new boss arrived. We were a well-known brand but old-school and he was there to modernise the firm.

Tracey (pictured) said stepping outside the square can make for a better relationship

Tracey (pictured) said stepping outside the square can make for a better relationship

Tracey (pictured) said stepping outside the square can make for a better relationship

My previous boss was old and unattractive. This new version was mid 30s, tall and extremely attractive. He was Scandinavian and had alarmingly blue eyes and great cheekbones. He’s athletic, so has a great body as well. His wife came into the office very early on but only once. We all noticed her – she was equally as good looking – and sighed. Everyone fancied him!

I managed a small team and reported directly to him, so we had lots of interaction. He was friendly and easy to talk to and we very quickly became friends as well as colleagues. I was attracted to him from the start but never had any intention of acting on it. He was married and my boss and I had no intention of becoming a cliché.

But as time went on, we got closer and closer. I didn’t admit to myself that I was in love with him but I knew it deep down. The staff would joke that we were ‘work wife and husband’ but I think most just thought it was friendship.

We didn’t talk about his wife: all I knew was that they’d been together six years and had no children. Had he talked about her a lot, with love and affection, I honestly don’t think I would have gone there. I’m not a monster: I wouldn’t set out to break up a happy marriage or put myself through that.

There was a period when he seemed stressed and irritable – unlike him. I asked him if he was OK and he said he was having problems in his marriage.

I’m ashamed to say my heart soared. I hadn’t dared to entertain thoughts that he might not be in love with his wife. My resolve not to get involved faltered, but I still had no idea if he’d ever thought of me in a romantic or sexual sense, though sometimes I caught him looking at me.

Not long after that, I went on an overseas holiday with some girlfriends.

We didn’t communicate outside of work but I got a text from him while I was away saying he hoped I was having a good holiday and that he missed me.

Marika, 27, who works in commercial real estate, has built a lasting relationship with her former boss since he decided to leave his wife (file image)

Marika, 27, who works in commercial real estate, has built a lasting relationship with her former boss since he decided to leave his wife (file image)

Marika, 27, who works in commercial real estate, has built a lasting relationship with her former boss since he decided to leave his wife (file image) 

I thought I would die with happiness. I took a risk and sent one back saying I missed him too – more than he could imagine. He sent a kiss back and that was that.

Two weeks later I walked back in the office. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous. He gave me the biggest smile and told me to come into his office and shut the door.

He told me he’d never missed anyone so much in his life and that he was in love with me. It was pointless pretending I didn’t feel the same way. Everyone can see into his office, so we couldn’t hug or kiss and had to pretend this was a normal conversation.

We met in a hotel that night and had the best sex I have ever had. We made love for hours! He said he was going to leave his wife but that we should keep a low profile until that happened.

So much for that! His wife found a text exchange about two weeks after and came storming into the office looking for me. All the staff witnessed her accusing me of sleeping with her husband. I denied it but not terribly convincingly.

My boss rushed out of his office and led her out of the room. She was sobbing, huge gut-wrenching sobs, and it was awful. I felt so ashamed and humiliated.

Someone obviously told the big bosses and we were hauled up to the HR department to explain ourselves within a few hours. We’d agreed to tell the truth, knowing it would cost us our jobs. It did but, to be honest, I didn’t care. Who knows how long it would have taken him to leave if we hadn’t been caught? He’s a kind man and hated hurting her.

That was five months ago and this will be our first Christmas together. We both work for different companies now, so no-one knows how we got together.

I’m not proud of what I did but I do know that we love each other desperately and that our relationship was built on friendship rather than meaningless affair sex.

I’m with a man 20 years younger than me

Jackie is 51 and her partner is 31

‘I had divorced just before we met: angry and not interested in having a relationship. But I was interested in having sex: I’d come out of a sexless marriage and keen to make up for lost time.

The only single men I knew I worked with, so I was resigned to going online. It was with little hope that I downloaded a few dating apps but I was pleasantly surprised. I look pretty good for my age (I was 48 at the time) and got lots of attention. They were all younger men – not one man my own age ever showed any interest.

Trying to make love work against the odds? Here’s how to win over the sceptical.

Give it time before involving others. The stronger your relationship is when you tell people you’re an item, the more able you are to withstand criticism and judgement.

Don’t punish people for worrying about you. We all want our loved ones to be happy. If the relationship seems like a big risk, it’s natural for them to be protective.

Aim for acceptance not approval. Make it clear you’ve made your decision and while you’re interested in their thoughts, your mind has been made up. Ask them simply to simply keep an open mind until they get to know your partner and see how the relationship works.

See ‘difficult’ friends or family separately. There will always be some people who really can’t tolerate anything out of the norm. If you want to stay close to them, make it easier on everyone by seeing them solo rather than forcing everyone to get on.

Don’t be tough on yourself. If the relationship does fail, it doesn’t mean it was a mistake. Not all relationships should or can last forever. Relax and enjoy without expectations and see where it takes you.

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I hooked up with a few of them and the sex was terrific. I’d forgotten how wonderful a young body looks and feels. These men were fun: no agenda, just happy to be with someone who loved sex as much as they did. One guy said older women had no idea how hot they were but I beg to disagree. I knew I was attractive to younger men, I just had no intention of getting involved with one.

It was fun while it lasted but I got bored after a bit and didn’t go on the apps for months. Then, one night, I felt like sex and found a guy I liked the look of. He was Indian, handsome and young and had a smile I wanted to look at forever. We arranged to meet at a pub nearby, for sex I assumed. But when we got there, we ended up chatting for hours and hours over a bottle of wine. Sex didn’t happen that night at all. Instead, we organised to see each other again.

We certainly didn’t skimp on the sex that first weekend: we didn’t leave the bed or the house. But this was different: I was interested in him, not just the sex or great body. There was a 20-year age gap between us but it didn’t feel like that. He’s an old soul in a young body and I’m a young soul in an old(er) body. Our points of reference weren’t dissimilar at all. He left on Monday morning and I missed him the minute he walked out.

It was the ease of the relationship that drew me in. My ex and I competed – this man wasn’t out to prove anything. He had a good job but nothing special. He was more interested in me and my career (which is, I have to say, quite impressive). I’ve never met anyone who asked me more questions or gave me more compliments about myself.

I started to worry about how I was feeling about him: he was feeling more and more like a boyfriend than a lover. But how could I take the relationship seriously with such a big age gap?

When we did venture out, I’d see people’s eyes pause and travel over both of us. They’d clock the mixed-race combo and then the age difference, eyes darting back and forth. Are they mother and son or lovers? I didn’t hold hands or show any affection in public. I didn’t want to see the judgement on people’s faces.

One day, he took my hand when we were strolling around my neighbourhood, and I snatched it back. That was the first time I saw him angry and upset. He asked me why I wouldn’t hold hands in public and if I was ashamed of him.

I told him our age difference meant we could never work long-term and he spun around, looked me right in the eye, and said, ‘But why not? I’ve never had more in common with anyone in my life. Or wanted to be with anyone else for the rest of my life. We are perfect together’.

After that, I confessed the relationship to my close friends. None seemed that shocked, though a few were cautious and worried I’d get hurt. I introduced him and everyone got on famously.

I worked up the courage to tell my daughter, married with babies, and while she was initially taken aback, she agreed to meet with him. That was difficult for me: they are almost the same age. I wondered if she felt embarrassed or weird about it all, I certainly did.

She took longer to convince than my friends but we’re now two years in and she’s happy that we’re so happy.

In private, our relationship is relaxed and the happiest I’ve ever had. We rarely argue and like all the same things. Publicly, I still feel uncomfortable when I see people staring at us and trying not to. You’d be amazed how many people do: it’s an ageist society we live in.

If the roles were reversed and it was an older man with a younger woman, no one would bat an eye. Actually, maybe that’s not true anymore. I think even then people gawp: it’s not ‘woke’ for an old bloke to be out with a much younger woman anymore.

I don’t think people care too much if the age difference is under 10 years. But I think once you push it past that, people will always judge. Jealousy perhaps?’

(* Names have been changed.) 

Looking for last-minute presents? You’ll find some great partner gifts – books and products – and a guide to buying sexy presents at traceycox.com  

Source: Daily Mail UK

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