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Emmanuel Macron made history this past weekend — at 39, he’s the youngest man to be elected president of France. While many might applaud that, as well as his centrist policies over the nationalistic views of his former opponent, Marine Le Pen, others were astonished by the 25-year age gap between Macron and his wife, Brigitte Trogneux. True, it’s the same age difference between Donald and Melania Trump, but in this case it’s Trogneux who’s older. That has some people celebrating his win as a win for feminism.

At the same time, the couple has sometimes been teased and taunted; some have circulated rumors that he’s gay. Others have labeled Trogneux a “cougar.” To Macron’s credit, he has stated that this sort of language just illustrates the “rampant homophobia” in French society and the “rampant misogyny” against older women in general.

“They both had to face hostile looks, even the reluctance of their respective families and also the view of our society about the age difference,” Philippe Besson, a friend of theirs, has said. “Especially when the woman is older, (people are) always suspicious.”

To which Macron has replied, “We do not have a classic family, it’s undeniable. But do we have less love in this family? I do not think so. Maybe there’s even more than conventional families.”

The pain of being marginalized

And that is a beautiful response to those who would mock them. People who have been marginalized by society, whether LGBT people or poly people or people who live apart together or any of the dozens of variations on the theme of what love and relationships “should” look like, have to work harder to feel good about themselves or their choices. And many do.

Still, it can be hurtful.

Some research indicates that while couples in which the wife is significantly older may, as Macron states, have love and happiness, the judgment from others may add stresses to a union — especially for the wives — that ultimately break it apart. Says Sven Drefahl of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research:

“Couples with younger husbands violate social norms and thus suffer from social sanctions. Since marrying a younger husband deviates from what is regarded as normal, these couples could be regarded as outsiders and receive less social support. This could result in a less joyful and more stressful life, reduced health, and finally, increased mortality.” tweet

That does not seem to be an issue in the decade-long  Macron-Trogneux marriage, despite the rumors and naysayers; I hope the stress of being a president’s wife doesn’t change that.

A former teacher (in fact, she was Macron’s drama teacher, married and with three children when they met), Trogneux has put her career on hold to help him. with his campaign and now presidency.

She is unequivocally his equal.

“She spends all her time beside him, she reads and listens to everything that is said about him. He asks her questions and takes her advice,” according to Paris Match.

As Macron has said, “I owe her a lot, she helped make me who I am.”

Changing the romantic script

What I love most about their partnership is that they’ve turned what we have come to expect of men and women in romantic relationships on its head. Men only desire youth and beauty, we’ve been told, and women will use their youth and beauty to snag a man  of status and wealth, usually older. Sometimes that happens, and if both parties are savvy to what’s going on and agree to it, why should anyone else care?

Macron’s version of what he wants in a relationship isn’t limited by that, or fears that his wife will get old (we all will) or saggy (ditto) or less beautiful; it’s pretty clear that his version of beautiful transcends just the physical.

He’s not the only one.

When I was actively dating online, I never felt diminished by a man who rejected me because he wanted someone younger. In truth, a man like that is not someone I want to be with anyway; I wish him well in finding what he wants.

Busting stereotypes

Many women who seek a romantic partner, no matter our age, want someone whose understanding of what’s beautiful and desirable goes beyond physical beauty and age. I imagine a similar dynamic works for men; they’d like to be appreciated for things other than a paycheck or their status. This all sounds dated and sexist yet it’s why people question the Macron-Trogneux marriage and not the Trumps — why would a young, handsome, virile and powerful man choose an old woman?

Maybe because he isn’t trapped by a narrow version of what a relationship looks like. Maybe he sees that there’s more to a woman than youth and beauty. Maybe he appreciates having an equal partner and he’s open to what that might look like and with whom it would happen.

More important, maybe they weren’t willing to let society dictate what they know is right for them.

“Nobody would call it unusual if the age difference was reversed,” Macron has said. “People find it difficult to accept something that is sincere and unique.”

Yes, sadly, they do. We have much to learn from them.

Want to learn how to have an unconventional marriage? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon.

3 Responses to “Emmanuel Macron’s unconventional marriage is a lesson for all”

  1. Jono says:

    My wife is 8 years older than I and it never made a difference. While our 30-some year marriage hasn’t been great and may be coming apart it has nothing to do with age. There is a woman 23 years younger than I with whom I would love to have a relationship. I am conscious of our age difference, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Of course I am concerned with it, but it just never seems to come up unless I bring it up. She is in her 40s and is all grown up, but if we were 20 or 30 years younger it would likely be more significant. I am very impressed and heartened by Emmanuel and Brigitte.

    • Rob says:

      Go for the younger one. You won’t be sorry. I am 62 and have been single for three years now. During that time I have dated a number of women between the ages of 26 to 60 and by far the younger women are hotter, more fun, more interested and enthusiastic about sex, and aren’t as bitter and jaded as the older ladies. My two current girlfriends are 26 and 18 years younger than me and I could not be happier.

      Also look for foreign women. The one older lady I had a lot of fun with was a Russian in her early 50’s. Most foreign women are not nearly as entitled and demanding as their American counterparts and they are very appreciative of the things you do for them.

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