French First Lady Brigitte Macron opened up on her unconventional love story with the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, in a rare interview, but one expert has said it would be less controversial had the roles been reversed.
Mr Macron fell in love with his now wife when he was just 15. At the time, she was working at the Catholic Providence school in Amiens, northern France, as a drama teacher 25 years his senior.
The French President was one of the pupils at the institute – as was Mrs Macron’s daughter Laurence, who attended his same class.
Despite the huge age gap between student and teacher, the romance between the now president, 45, and the now 70-year-old blossomed, causing a stir in the area.
The now Mr and Mrs Macron themselves were aware of how their love story was being perceived by people around them, as his parents opposed it and her siblings joked about the gossip it had sparked.
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Sex and relationship adviser Barbara Santini acknowledged this relationship “challenges conventional norms” and “raises questions about societal perceptions of age and gender” when it comes to love stories.
However, she also believes that, if roles were reversed and Mr Macron was the older one in the relationship, the couple would have faced a milder reaction from society.
She told Express.co.uk: “If Mr Macron had been the older party in the relationship, societal reaction might have been less severe in some aspects. This is due to longstanding societal norms that are more accepting of older male-younger female relationships.”
She added: “However, it’s important to note that such norms are increasingly being questioned and challenged.” The fact Mr Macron was a student and Mrs Macron a teacher at the beginning of their relationship, Ms Santini also acknowledged, is a detail making the relationship more controversial.
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Both parties involved in a love story with a similar age gap should “focus on the core elements of the relationship: mutual respect, consent, and emotional maturity” and be aware of the “power dynamics” at play, she continued.
Seemingly aware of the gossip and controversy surrounding her love story, Mrs Macron confessed in a recent interview she delayed her wedding to the now president of France by a decade for the sake of her three children.
Mrs Macron said she didn’t want to “wreck the lives” of her children Tiphaine, Sebastien and Laurence – who are roughly the same age as Mr Macron – considering they were already dealing with rumours and comments about her relationship.
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Speaking to Paris Match, she said: “That lasted 10 years, the time to put them on the rails. You can imagine what they were hearing.”
However, Mrs Macron added she “didn’t want to miss out” on her own life and eventually officialised her love story with the French president, tying the knot with him in 2007. The year prior, Mrs Macron had divorced her first – and by then estranged – husband, André-Louis Auzière.
As she opened up to the press, Mrs Macron admitted she didn’t know what her late parents would think of her marriage to a former student. But her siblings, she admitted, would sometimes joke about the gossip surrounding her love story.
On the other hand, the parents of Mr Macron were vocal in their opposition to their son going out with a much older woman and teacher, and when he was a student they sent him to Paris to attend a different school in a bid to create some distance between the pair.
After the then student was moved away from Amiens, Mrs Macron said to have thought he would “fall in love with someone his [own] age” – but it did not happen.
Despite having been married to Mr Macron for several years, the First Lady said he still manages to amaze her with his memory and intelligence.
She said: “I had many brilliant pupils and none had his capability. I have always admired him.”
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