Why Generation-Straddling Relationships Shouldn’t Still Be Raising Eyebrows

Vive L'Age Gap!

emanuel macron wife

by Kathryn Knight |
Published on

It’s a familiar image: a handsome male politician anked by his glamorous adoring spouse as he works the election trail. Except this

one has a twist: while French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte Trogneux – all tanned limbs and tousled blonde hair – may look the part, she’s also nearly a quarter of a century older than her husband. Not only that, but they met when he was just 15 and she was his 39-year-old drama teacher – and married and a mother of three to boot. His parents disapproved, but ‘Little by little,’ Brigitte recalled recently, ‘he overcame all my resistances in an unbelievable way, with patience.’

This unconventional history has provided picturesque election headlines for the rest of the world, even if in France their age difference has been met with an insouciant shrug. But their romantic denouement will, if current polling is accurate, see 39-year-old Macron become the country’s youngest ever President, with his 64-year-old wife installed as

France’s new First Lady. So who’s having the last laugh on their slightly problematic backstory then?

As someone married for 10 years to a man a decade younger, I can’t help feeling there’s inherent sexism at play too. While the cougar cliché is well established, it seems the idea these relationships can be profound and enduring is still challenging.

Forgoing his own chance at biological fatherhood on the basis of Brigitte’s age, Macron is stepfather of three and step- grandfather of seven. Brigitte, meanwhile, has long played an informal but vital role in his political life – one Macron has made clear will continue if he is elected. ‘She will be there, with a role and place,’ he has said. It’s an unusual backdrop for a man not yet 40 whose centre-left politics is aimed at disenchanted Millennials who have more in common with his stepchildren than his 60-something wife.

Yet in a world where we’re entirely accustomed to seeing a powerful man hook up with a much younger woman (see Trump and Melania and all of the Rolling Stones and their increasingly junior spouses), what does it say that this long-standing, mutually respectful age-gap relationship continues to attract open suspicion? One website said it all when they suggested that Macron is secretly gay and living a double life.

Some of the raised eyebrows, in fairness, perhaps derive from the teacher- schoolboy dynamic: while both parties maintain they didn’t of cially become a couple until Macron was 18, there is no doubt that if the roles were reversed it would cause a degree of discomfort.

But, given my own happy age-gap, I can’t help but nd the images of Emmanuel and Brigitte’s clear affection as life-af rming and empowering as the French public seem to. (I feel the same, incidentally, about the happy 21-year marriage of Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborra, 13 years his senior, and Sam Taylor-Johnson’s relationship with husband Adam, 24 years her junior.) Macron knows that age is no bar to style or substance. So maybe it’s just the rest of the world that needs to play catch-up.

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