"He's never dated anybody twice his age; I've never dated somebody half my age," 61-year-old Ron said about his boyfriend, who's 30 years younger. When he met Derek, neither of them expected to fall in love - but that's exactly what happened.
Before meeting the love of his life, Derek Scolpino was another young professional working in the Big Apple's financial district. As Derek himself put it, he was living a "fun, New York City single guy life."
There's no doubt Scolpino worked hard to make it in the tough world of finance. Before finding a job in the city, Derek got his Bachelor's Degree at Rhode Island's Roger Williams University. There, he majored in Marketing and earned a minor in Global Communications.
He Hit the Jackpot
After graduating in 2011, Derek worked as a Marketing Sales Manager at The Wine Enthusiast in New York's Westchester County. A couple of years later, he upgraded positions and became a Marketing and Events Manager at a different company. And Scolpino continued moving up the professional ladder.
Derek hit the jackpot when he landed a job at a world-renowned company: American Express. The hard-working 20-something-year-old later became a Manager in the corporation's New York City Business Development team. Around this time, Scolpino met someone who would change his life.
Derek had no idea that not too far away, the love of his life was paving his way in New York City, too. But Ronald Lense was nearing 60 and had pretty much already made a name for himself in the real estate industry. In fact, by the time the men met, Ron had been working at the same place for nearly two decades.
Lense was (and is) a licensed associate real estate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The company has locations in the city, the greater New York area, Florida, California, Connecticut, Colorado, and other national - and international - states and cities.
A Successful Man
The real estate company sells mostly luxury properties to some of the country's wealthiest residents. Having joined the company in 1997, Ron made great profits from his hard work with the organization. In fact, according to the Douglas Elliman site, his sales have made it into the 10-digits.
In the last ten years alone, Lense closed over 1,500 transactions with a sales volume of over $1,500,000,000. Nope, that's not a typo. Ron has been one of the firm's Top Producing Brokers each year since 1997. Today, he handles NYC properties that range from around $360,000 to a whopping $59,000,000.
Their Chance Encounter
Ron had an amazing life in many ways: an abundant bank account, a gorgeous apartment in the city, great colleagues, and even better friends. But there was one thing missing: a partner to enjoy all of this with. Little did he know, someone 30-years younger would soon fill this gap.
When Ron was around 57 years old and Derek was about 27, the two professionals met at a group event. They hit it off right away but with such a large age gap, the interaction was strictly platonic. Nonetheless, Scolpino and Lense exchanged contact info and kept in touch.
Derek Had a Crush
As mentioned before, Derek was living the single-guy life and happily so. But the young man couldn't deny his attraction to the 50-something-year-old when he met Ron. As the two men chatted, Scolpino became more and more enchanted by the man 30 years his senior.
While he found Lense physically attractive, it was something else that pulled him. "So, the first thing that attracted me to Ron was how kind he was," Derek shared. "Not just to me, but to other people. And then, of course, I love a man with a bald head, so I was very attracted."
The Feeling Was (Kind-Of) Mutual
"I think we just had an instant connection," Scolpino reflected of him and Lense. Derek was attracted to Ron's kindness and looks, but did he feel the same way? Fortunately for the 27-year-old, the feeling was mutual. Ronald agreed that the two men felt connected right from the start.
"It was kind of like that and it doesn't happen like that too often," Ron explained of their bond. But the 57-year-old wasn't sure he should go for it. Lense thought about being in a relationship with someone so much younger and wondered what others would think.
An Invite to the Hamptons
While Derek was sure about his feelings for Ron, the real estate broker was more hesitant. Sure, he was attracted to the young man, but that was the problem: Scolpino might be too youthful for him. Lense decided they needed a weekend away from the bustling city.
Ron decided to invite Derek for a trip outside NYC to a very well-known - and arguably expensive - area: East Hampton. Lense had a home there in addition to a city apartment and thought spending some quality time in the Hamptons would help solve his confusion.
Derek Didn't Know Ron Had Money
Up until the visit to Ronald's East Hampton home, Derek had no idea how wealthy the real estate broker was. Sure, agents selling in New York City could make the big bucks, but Scolpino was yet to understand just how much money his crush had in the bank.
"I didn't know you had money in the beginning when we first met," Derek told Ron. "I mean, how would I have known." But a little bit of time in the Hamptons would reveal a lot. And Scolpino could hardly believe his eyes when he visited Lense's weekend getaway for the first time.
Derek Was "Blown Away"
"Ron invited me out," Derek recalled of when Ron welcomed him to his home in East Hampton. "It was when we were like kind of starting to 'like like' each other, but we didn't really come out with it yet because there was such a big age gap." He was about to find out they had more differences than just their ages.
Of course, Derek had seen his fair share of beautiful homes. He himself lived in a nice apartment, thanks to his management position at American Express. But still, the East Hampton property impressed him. "First time I saw this house, I was quite honestly blown away," Scolpino admitted. "It's a really beautiful house."
Each Other's Firsts
Their time in the Hamptons only made Derek's feelings stronger. But much of the experience was a first for him. "I've never really been with someone that much older than me. It just took me off guard," Derek admitted. But what about Ron? Had he ever been with someone much younger than he?
Turns out the whole situation was new for him, too. "[Derek's] never dated anybody twice his age; I've never dated somebody half my age," Ron said. "And it wasn't either of our agendas. It just kind of happened." Their time in the Hamptons was just what Lense needed.
Taking Things Slow
But while inviting Derek to his home was arguably a big deal, Ron still wanted to take things slow because it was his first time with a man three decades his junior. "The age gap was large on my mind, and it was something that was foreign to me," he explained.
"I wasn't sure about like how to proceed with it," Ron added. But Derek felt more ready to take the next step. "I started making out with you," Scolpino laughingly remembered. "Well, he tried to," Lense clarified. His move might've been rejected, but their connection intensified in the Hamptons.
A Work Event Gone Wrong
Derek and Ron took it slow initially, largely because of Lense's doubts regarding their age gap. But it wasn't long before their feelings were too strong to continue putting off. So once Ron felt sure about taking things to the next level, that's exactly what they did.
But as the couple got more serious and started attending events together, the reality of his colleagues' opinions hit Derek. "I'll never forget, one time I had won an award through work and we were all out, and I overheard someone say, 'I'm so surprised how motivated Derek is to do well considering he's a kept man,'" he shared.
What Did Their Friends Think?
And sadly for the couple, work colleagues weren't the only ones judging their age - and net worth - gap. "People do comment about our age gap. I've had friends comment about it; I've had family members comment about it," Ron said. And some of his friends worried Derek was a gold-digger.
"Quite honestly, when Ron met Derek, I was concerned... I didn't think it was going to last," admitted one of Lense's close friends. "But then it was clear that Derek was kind of seemingly long term, so I was concerned that he was after maybe his money. I didn't want to see my friend get hurt."
"I Work so Hard to Make My Own Money"
While Ron's loved ones were concerned by the couple's differences in both age and wealth, Lense insisted he was never with Scolpino for his moolah. "I work so hard to make my own money. I not only support myself, I support our lifestyle, too," Derek explained.
"Before I met Ron, I've always worked in corporate finance, so I've been able to support myself," he added, emphasizing that it was the broker's vibe that attracted him. "There was something about his energy, the way he treated people, his sense of humor, that all just kind of made me go, 'Wow, that's someone to notice.'"
Did Ron Ever Think He Might Be a Gold-Digger?
Considering the lovebirds faced judgment from loved ones, it wouldn't be surprising if Ron himself ever questioned Derek's intentions. But the wealthy real estate broker said he always knew that money was not the reason Scolpino wanted to share a life with him.
"I have never really worried that Derek was with me for the money that I have," Ron explained. "I've got a good radar for that because there have been others who I've sensed that was, you know, part of their motivations." While Derek found comfort in that, other's judgments still affected him.
"It Hurts Me"
Derek felt secure in his relationship and knew Ron didn't doubt their love, but it still hit hard when others labeled him a gold-digger. "If someone calls me a gold-digger... it hurts because it makes me feel like they're belittling me into something or a box that's just not true," he shared.
Ron added, "He makes his own money; he does really well with his work. And it's kinda funny because people look at us, you know, and they think, 'Oh wow, you know, older man, younger very good-looking guy living an affluent lifestyle' and if they only knew that he carries his weight financially."
Their Active Lifestyle
Ron and Derek both decided to ignore the haters. After all, the only thing that mattered was that the lovers knew their connection was genuine. And despite a 30-year-age gap, Scolpino and Lense have a lot in common - including their love for living actively.
Young Derek is a fan of running marathons, especially ones for good causes. But his older partner also enjoys staying fit, and the couple even attends tennis camp together and paddleboard often. And when they're not working out, Ron and Derek are busy traveling in style.
Thanks to both of their successful careers, the couple enjoys a lavish lifestyle. Ron and Derek frequently attend concerts at the celebrated Carnegie Hall, have seen Adele perform at Madison Square Garden from their floor seats, and have traveled to watch the US Open Tennis Championships quite a few times.
Derek and Ron travel plenty for pleasure: they've been to Las Vegas, St. Thomas, and other places, always staying in incredible hotels. The couple now shares an apartment in the Upper West Side and Lense's house in the Hamptons. But as the lovebugs enjoy themselves, do their loved ones still have reservations?
Their Friends Came Around
Scolpino used to struggle with Lense's friend's suspicions of him. "In the beginning, it was a little uncomfortable and I did feel a little bit judged," Derek said. Ron explained that his friends didn't want to be "let down" but in the end, "the exact opposite happened."
It didn't take long for the broker's loved ones to come around and see what he saw in the young man. "I just loved him; I wanted to marry him," said one of Lense's friends who previously worried about Derek's intentions. "I think they're really good for each other. I think this is it." What about the couple's families?
They might have been a bit skeptical at first, but both Ron and Derek's families embraced the loving pair. Soon after the couple started dating, Scolpino and Lense started spending Christmas and other holidays with Derek's family in Connecticut. And that's not all that's involved in family bonding.
The lovebirds often vacation with Derek's tight-knit fam. His parents and siblings visit the duo's East Hampton home, and they all take family trips together to places like Aruba. But despite their loved ones' acceptance of them, something weighed heavily on Ron's shoulders for some time...
A Different Kind of Age Gap
Although it didn't take long for Ron to get over his and Derek's 30-year-age gap and admit that they were each other's soulmates, the broker's age difference with Derek's parents proved harder to overcome. It wasn't just that he's close in age to Scoldino's mom and dad - Lense is older than them.
"The truth is, I am actually older than his parents," Ron explained. "So that was awkwardness for me, you know, that I needed to get past." So has he been able to move past that detail? Fortunately, the now 61-year-old has. But his and Derek's 30-year difference brings up other struggles.
"That's the Hardest Part"
For Derek, the most difficult part of the decades between them is that he will have to live without the love of his life one day. "Reality is for me, like, there may come a time when Ron is not with me, and I'm still here," Scolpino vulnerably shared.
He continued, "And it's not about being alone; it's about not having my best friend with me for a long time, which is something that I actually try not to think about because it's so heartbreaking for me. So for me, I would say that's the hardest part about the relationship."
So how do these soulmates plan a future together, knowing that one of them will likely have to live without the other for quite some time? According to Ron, he just takes it day by day. "When I think about the future, you know, look, I am 61, I get it," he said.
"I watched my parents age, and I watched them both pass away," Ron added. "I will be doing my best to hold on to my youth. I have learned to not live in the past and not live in the future because what happens is that you miss the present." That's a mindset many of us could benefit from!
Normalizing the Age Gap
With their mentality of enjoying the present moment, Ron and Derek's relationship has continued to blossom. Scolpino said they are each other's "biggest champions and support system." And the couple doesn't think of themselves as only lovers - they are also best friends.
"We make each other laugh every day and are so blessed to have found one another," the now 31-year-old said. Derek and Ron know that their love is real, despite what others might think of their age difference. And so, the lovebirds want to help end the stigma associated with age-gap couples.
Sharing Their Story
Since Ron and Derek want to normalize age-gap relationships, the couple isn't afraid to show off their love to the online world. And Scolpino and Lense know they aren't the only couple with a significant age difference - there's a whole community of pairs like them.
The lovebirds even submitted their story to a special Instagram page that spotlights partners with significant age differences. While some of the couples featured have a decade in between, others are more like Derek and Ron and have a 20 to 30 year age difference. Sometime after, they were featured in a well-known publication.
The Daily Mail featured the lovebirds in their special online segment titled Defying the decades: Age-gap couples from around the world. Ron and Derek were pumped to see their story, and other partners like them, out there for the world to learn about.
"Daily Mail found us on Instagram and published our story! A friend found this article and texted it to me," Ron wrote on social media. "Pretty cool, anything that brings awareness to normalize age gap couples is something to stand behind!" But their increase in popularity also led to more severe judgment from strangers.
"I Love the Attention"
A quick scroll through the article's comments shows that not everyone believes Derek and Ron's love can last. One user claimed all of the younger partners just wanted a "sugar momma/daddy," while another wrote, "Big age gaps rarely work. Usually reserved for... dirty older men with large egos and even larger bank balances."
But luckily, Ron and Derek are too confident about their love to let the haters get them down. When another site featured the couple, Derek took to Instagram to share the news. "You can really see and feel our love play out on camera," he wrote, later adding, "yall know I love the attention."
The Test Of Time
While strangers on the Internet think Derek, Ron, and other couples like them won't stand the test of time, these two have so far proven the haters wrong. At the time of this article's writing, Scolpino and Lense have been together for over four-and-a-half years.
They might have a 30-year-age gap, but that seems to be nothing compared to the things Ron and Darek have in common. Together, the lovebirds have formed a marvelous life together and are going strong. It's been a wild ride with plenty of unsolicited judgment, but they seem as happy as ever.
"Grateful, Lucky, and Happy"
"I feel really grateful, lucky, and happy that I met someone who I love so much and feels very lucky and can't believe that he loves me so much, and I'm just grateful every single day for it," Run gushed. Derek added, "I would say the same exact thing to you."
As the old saying goes: age is nothing but a number. If anyone is proving that to be true, it's these two lovebugs. Derek and Ron feel confident that their connection and relationship are more important than the 30-year age gap between them, and they probably wouldn't have it any other way.