Older Women Who Marry Younger Men: They're Stigmatized, but Highly Satisfied

Older Women Who Marry Younger Men: They're Stigmatized, but Highly Satisfied

Both before and after the recent election of French president Emmanuel Macron, his wife, Brigitte, found herself to be the target of constant attacks on social media. Why? Because she happens to be 24 years older than her husband.

Age-gap relationships in which a woman is significantly older than her male partner have always attracted a lot of attention and scrutiny. Case in point: remember what big news it was when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were together? As you may have noticed, this same scrutiny isn’t usually applied to relationships in which men are significantly older than their female partners. As some evidence of this, just consider what a non-issue it has been that U.S. President Donald Trump happens to be 24 years older than his wife, Melania (the same age-gap as the Macrons).

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Is There A Romeo & Juliet Effect? The Link Between Parental Interference And Relationship Quality

Is There A Romeo & Juliet Effect? The Link Between Parental Interference And Relationship Quality

In 1972, a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology announced scientific support for the so-called “Romeo and Juliet effect." The basic idea was that the more parents try to interfere in a couple’s relationship, the stronger that relationship becomes--just like in Shakespeare's classic story. Given both the sexy name and intuitive appeal of this idea, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that this effect has been cited hundreds of times in academic journals and textbooks. In recent years, however, several scientists (myself included) have grown skeptical of this idea because it just doesn’t seem to fit with what the broader literature on social approval and relationships has reported.

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Could Being In A Marginalized Relationship Be Bad For Your Health?

Many people are involved in romantic relationships that are not accepted by their family, friends, or society at large. Sometimes it is because the partners are of the same sex, while other times it is because the partners are of different races or because one partner is much older than the other.  Regardless of why one’s relationship is socially rejected, this bias can have significant implications for the partners involved. For instance, the more relationship disapproval a couple experiences, the more likely they are to break up in the future.1 A brand new study suggests that the effects of romantic disapproval may extend even further than this and could potentially harm couple members' health and well-being.2
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