As far as politicians’ relationship scandals go, the French president-elect’s marriage seems pretty PG. Emmanuel Macron, age 39, who recently beat alt-right candidate Marine Le Pen to become the next president of France, is married to a teacher named Brigitte Macron, age 64. Gasp!
Yes, it’s a big age difference, but it’s about the same as the one between Donald Trump (age 70) and Melania Trump (age 47). Do people speculate about the first couple’s marriage, wondering what really goes on behind closed doors and why Melania puts up with Donald? Yes. Is their age gap the issue that most people focus on? Nope.
Of course, with President-elect Macron and his wife, what the public may be most scandalized by, whether they recognize it or not, is that it’s a gender role-reversal. We’re not shocked when a young woman pairs up with a much-older man — we’re used to it. But when a man ends up with a significantly older woman, it’s a different story, unfortunately.
Earlier this week, President-elect Macron addressed the controversy and attention surrounding his marriage in Le Parisien. According to Harper’s Bazaar U.K., he said: “If I had been 20 years older than my wife, nobody would have thought for a single second that I couldn’t be [an intimate partner.] It’s because she is 24 years older than me that lots of people say, ‘This relationship can’t be tenable, it can’t be possible.'”
Macron says accusations and assumptions that he’s gay and his marriage is a sham come down to misogyny, homophobia and overly homogenous views of society. “There’s a big problem with the presentation of society and how they see the place of a woman,” he said.
While pundits like John Oliver have cited Macron’s lack of political experience and ideology as reasons why he’s “inoffensive to the entire population,” implying that Macron’s personality is a bit milquetoast, he evidently has absolutely no problem taking critics of his marriage to task (which seems to bode well for the social policies he’ll champion in France).
Another reason it makes sense that Macron isn’t backing down is that he reportedly first declared his love for his now-wife at age 17 after she directed a play he was in when he was 15 and she was 39. They finally got together at ages 29 and 54, when Brigitte (whose maiden name is Trogneux) divorced her banker husband. So basically, this has been a long time coming.
Though it might be entertaining for the public to pick apart the Macrons’ marriage, we hope they’ll get over it soon. An age gap certainly beats some of the stuff other married male politicians have been caught up in, from cheating with a White House intern to sexting with underage girls.
Curious about what makes these kinds of marriages tick? Click here to find out why real women chose their May-December relationships.