“Of course, we have breakfast together, me and my wrinkles, him with his youth…,” Brigitte Macron once said in an interview with Elle France.
She and her husband, French president Emmanuel Macron, met when she was 40 and he was 15. She was his teacher. Her daughter, Laurence is his agemate, but neither that, nor the age gap, has ever fazed him, even after his parents transferred him from the school he was in when they discovered the budding, forbidden romance.
“Whatever you do, I will marry you!” he declared when he was 17, and true to his word, they married in 2007 when he was 29 and she, 54 at the time. They have been married for 25 years now.
Closer home, Kenya may never have had President Uhuru Kenyatta if his parents, former president Jomo Kenyatta and his wife, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, had felt shy about their 40-year age gap. Ngina was only 18 when they married.
Other age gaps between couples that have set tongues wagging include Peter Mbugua, who married 67-year-old Wambui Otieno when he was 25, and more recently, musician Guardian Angel, 32, and his wife Esther Musila, 52, wedded despite the 20-year-age gap between them.
This, however, is considered to be forbidden love. Such couples face disapproval and endless curiosity from society, which studies have shown that tends to occur when the age gap is over ten years. From a psychological perspective, however, attraction between people with massive age gaps between them is completely normal, according to Dr Kimani Githongo, a counselling psychologist and lawyer.
But what draws younger people to people much older than them and vice versa? “For the older ones, it might be because at their age they may never get another partner who may be free and who may not have children as they may want people who don’t have children,” says Dr Githongo.
“For the younger ones being drawn to the older ones, they are drawn to the maturity and stability. They are not necessarily drawn to them as a mother or father figure. If so, there will be other underlying factors but usually, they are just looking for a partner who can be stable, mature and reasonable,”
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Dr Githongo clarifies that stability does not just mean money, but psychological and emotional stability as well. “They may look at me as an older person and think I have seen it all so I will not go outside of the union to cheat on them,” he says.
Having grown up in completely different generations and thus have different ways of thinking, the different ages complement each other in some areas and cause the lovebirds to clash in others.
“The little I may not know about the younger generation may be complemented if I get a younger wife and the younger person will draw from the wisdom of the aged person,” says Dr Githongo.
The way they resolve it is by talking about it and trying to understand each other from the other’s perspective. Naturally, however, the older partner will be more understanding. It is almost as if they are bringing up a child, so they have to moderate their thinking capacity.
“The younger person will not understand what the older person is talking about if they talk about Mau Mau issues!” says Dr Githongo.
“But when the younger one talks about things like Information Technology (IT), even if the older person is not conversant with it, they will understand that that is where the world is now.”
According to Psych Central, the older partner usually carries the heavier emotional burden in the relationship.
“The older person is by nature very nurturing to the younger person and will be more comfortable talking about their spouse and even showing them off. At times the younger person may not be 100 percent comfortable in showing off the older one in their circles, but the stability that the younger person is getting usually makes up from that,” says Dr Githongo.
On the other hand, most times the health burden tends to fall on the younger partner later on in life and their vow of “in sickness and in health” is tested when age-related health issues come into play, with the younger partner sometimes having to take care of the elder in their increasing infirmity.