Editor’s note: Emmanuel Macron is a favorite to win the French presidential election this Sunday, but he’s making headlines for more than his political success. At 64, Macron’s wife Brigitte is 24 years older than him. They first met when he was 15 and she was a 39-year-old teacher at his school. She divorced her first husband and married Macron 14 years later. The unusual relationship and age gap isn’t making waves in France, but it’s getting a lot of attention in other parts of the world.
In “Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance,” Susan Winter and Felicia Brings interviewed more than 200 men to discover the allure of the so-called “Mrs. Robinson syndrome.” You’ll be surprised at what men find appealing about older women.
Chapter excerpt, “Men Speak” from Older Women/Younger Men:
“I’d do it again? Definitely, no question. Oh yeah, and once you’ve done it, you definitely look at older women in another way.”—Nick, 33
We’ve made our position known and shared the thoughts and experiences of the women to whom we talked. Now it’s time to let the men speak for themselves.
One important question we asked was what they felt an older woman has to offer. Here are some answers which are clear, articulate and to the point. Their sentiments represent a very large proportion of the opinions we heard expressed.
“I met Karolina at a party given by some friends. When I saw her, I thought she was just the perfect woman for me and I was sure about that. I wasn’t looking for an older woman and Karolina wasn’t looking for a younger man, but it just happened. (I was 39 and she was 55 then.) Our relationship is unique, because it’s not just built on sex, but on trust, respect and love. We are both morning people and nearly always in a good mood. We are both hard-working with many hobbies in common. In my opinion, age has nothing to do with our relationship. In our twenty-five years together, we have never had a serious problem and we are still very happy.”—Paolo, 64
“Pat is very special. Not only is she beautiful, but she has a wonderful sense of humor and is very giving. The ability to talk about anything with her was refreshing and engaging. In fact, when I first met her, I didn’t know I was attracted to an ‘older’ woman. I knew she was older than I, but I didn’t realize the disparity in age until she told me (which didn’t happen until a couple of dates into our relationship). Pat offered me space, devotion and herself, which I couldn’t find in anyone else. I take better care of myself now. She is a best friend who reflects back to me what a good person I am, which builds my confidence and self-esteem. I now have a better job and feel better about myself than ever before.”—Neil, 35
Nigel, at 37, finds himself attracted to older women, in part for their clarity and substance and also their relaxed attitude about life:
“I find that I’m attracted to a woman who has some degree of self-possession. I like the stimulation of a sharp intellect. I enjoy sitting down to dinner with someone who has a level of conversation I can appreciate and enjoy. I think younger women are sometimes too focused on starting families and that is rarely an issue with older women. I’ve always had relationships with older women. They know themselves. They have so much more to offer and they are looking for different things. They are not just looking for guys who will be good fathers and providers. Older women can be more playful. They are more relaxed. It’s really a personality thing for me regarding what is attractive. I enjoy a confident attitude and older women definitely have the upper hand in that area.”
Dan, age 24, also expressed a similar theme:
“When I meet a woman over 30, she’s usually very clear and focused. She knows what she wants in life and it makes being with her so much easier. I look at a lot of my friends who have girlfriends their age and younger and the problems they have strike me as ridiculous. They frequently act foolish and immature. I don’t have time for that behavior—that’s why I like mature women.”
That life experience is sexy was also a repeated theme:
“Just the fact that there’s so much to learn from an older woman, that they have so many more life experiences to draw upon, is an adventure to me. It’s like a rush.”—Vincent, 31
Some young men saw themselves reflected back in an older woman and realized the woman’s own specialness:
“She was very beautiful and caring and we had similar interests. She offered me the opportunity to see another perspective on a lot of different issues. I mean, older women think differently on certain issues and they’ve got more experience. I grew up a lot with her. Yeah, definitely, she helped me to grow up. She made me realize how important I could be in making someone else happy. Not that I was doing it for her, but just being with her.”—Art, 27
Fred, age 28, told us what qualities attracted him to older women: “The experiences in life that they’ve had make them more grounded and realistic.”
When asked what a mature woman offered him that he couldn’t find in a younger woman, Fred answered:
“Emotional stability. Need I say more? There have been nothing but positives in my relationships with two older women. They were able to see things in me that I could not see in myself. Also, there were levels of honesty unlike anything I’ve experienced even with best friends.”
Fred gave us a wealth of information over several interviews. Open, upbeat and extremely handsome, he revealed the enormous love and respect he shared with his former partner and now shares with his current partner.
Fred’s first older-woman experience occurred when he was 21 years old and Gretchen was 37. They lived together for two years. They are both still very close and see each other regularly. Not only did they have a tremendous friendship as the basis of their relationship, but an extraordinary sex life as well. Recently, this woman underwent major surgery and it was her ex-boyfriend Fred, not the woman’s current older boyfriend, who was by her side. Gretchen, now 44, was involved with a man of 51 and he was simply too busy with work and personal commitments to be available when she really needed him. It was Fred who visited her on a regular basis and saw to it that she had what she needed during her recuperation.
After his relationship with Gretchen ended, Fred tried dating girls in their early twenties. He explained, often quite humorously, how ridiculous he felt trying to have meaningful conversation over blaring music at a dance club. His brief experimentation with younger females only reaped endless head games, confusion and immature behavior. Resolutely, Fred abandoned the “young woman trial period.”
He knew he liked older women and that was his standard. He decided this time to accept it.
His next relationship was with Marla, a co-worker. They were great friends and then she began to pursue him. Why not? he thought. She was older. Maybe it would work. But Marla’s flaw seemed to be that she was only five years older—and for Fred, that still wasn’t enough to produce the kind of emotional maturity and depth for which he searched.
After a year or so of taking a “time-out,” Fred met Lynne. She is 10 years older. Fred’s respect and appreciation of older women was clear when he spoke:
“The way mature women carry themselves shows they know who they are. It equates to stability. They’ve already figured out who they are. Maybe not all the time, but a lot more often than younger women. They are all-around much more attractive to me.
“Also, they are much more experienced with life. You know this is the kind of person who’s going to tell you exactly what they want and they are more sure of themselves than the people my age or younger. Older women are much more well rounded—they know what they feel and why they feel it.
“It’s easier to have a relationship with an older woman, because she knows how to communicate what she wants. It has a snowball effect all the way around.
“I have a preference for women starting at about 10 years older than myself and up. It’s adventurous for both of us, because it’s a whole new exciting journey. Younger women just don’t allow me to grow in the ways older women do.”
Not all older woman/younger man relationships last forever, but Fred’s answer to how he handled the ending of his relationship with an older woman was especially insightful:
“I went on with my life and took with me many memories and experiences that made me mentally and emotionally rich. I considered it a hell of a jump-start on life.”
Certainly, there are challenges for the men as well as the women in these relationships. For example, the issue of having or not having children came up repeatedly:
“My first relationship with an older woman—I was 20 and she was 36—lasted two and a half years. My second—I was 28 and she was 41—lasted three years and we lived together for one year. The main thing that attracted me was the overall calm of an older woman. There is a frenetic energy with a younger woman that can be very exciting and very cute, but not for my personality. Neither of my relationships was about being mothered. Both women were professionals, very focused on their work lives and extremely confident and sure of themselves. That was very attractive to me.”—Lenny, 38
Ultimately, Lenny’s last relationship ended when he wanted children and his partner of 43 did not.
Of course, the issue of “Will I want children later on?” has become a less significant challenge to a relationship between older women and younger men than it has been in the past. In vitro fertilization by donor eggs and other reproductive methods have greatly changed the fertility prognosis for older women. Pregnancy at ages once reserved for “miracles” is now a medical possibility.
Other challenges for the younger men occurred in the form of disapproval and criticism from friends and colleagues similar, although not as severe, to what the older women experienced.
“I got more of a reaction from men than women. The men my age and older were jealous that I was with her. They would look at me as if I had something they wanted and didn’t have and, because I was younger, they reacted more strongly. And women my age disapproved of the relationship.
“Every morning, I would wake up happy and feel like I had the world on a string. I guess some of these people thought I was trying to prove something—I wasn’t. Our relationship just made me feel great. She was great! I was proud of who she was and what we had together.”—Barry, 26
Overall, however, it seems that such criticism is not as big an obstacle for men in these relationships as for women. In fact, some men received support and admiration from peers and co-workers.
“Friends and colleagues all admired my decision to have a relationship with a mature woman. They respected what I had with her, which was an emotional connection with an experienced, centered person. Most people’s reactions have been good. There have been no negative attitudes or comments given to me that stick out in my head. Actually, many people have asked my partner and me for advice.”—Patrick, 34
The men to whom we talked spoke about the advantages of being in relationships with older women in terms of the serenity and comfort, the growth opportunity and the honesty they were afforded. But more than any other advantage, they talked about the positive sexual relationships they experienced. They all commented that sex with older women was better.
“Negatives? What negatives? I cried, I laughed, I went back for more. The advantages can be summed up in two words: intense marathon.”—Zach, 32
“Advantages of having sex with an older woman? Are you kidding? An older woman is more sure of herself and brings that to the relationship. She knows what she wants and how to communicate that to her partner. I like not having to worry about pregnancy and an unwanted child. I do not feel the desire to have one and the lack of anxiety over that issue is relieving. Lisa is also in her prime and we have the most intense sexual relations I have ever had.”—Gary, 39
“The biggest advantage is that they know what they want so there’s no guesswork. You may try to please them and they’ll tell you if it isn’t working. I loved it. That’s a turn on. Absolutely no negatives about sex? it was the best. The best!”—Scott, 25
“Phenomenal! The sex was important—but I was really concerned about what she needed and desired. She would take over and go from there. It made things a hell of a lot easier, because we were just there to have fun. It was like breaking through a major barrier that takes other people forever to figure out. There was a ‘click’ sexually. It was easy and it was great!”—Russ, 29
“If I look at a girl in her twenties, I might find her attractive, but thoughts are only on sex. I can’t really do anything with her. She’s not formed yet. She’s like a lump of cold clay—very pretty clay, but still unshaped. When I look at older women, I see real women. They feel like women. They are solid. Their bodies are solid. Their thoughts have solidified. A relationship with an older woman can be very rewarding.”—Mel, 32
“I learned how to make love to a woman. She took me by the hand and said, ‘Slow down.’ I mean, I was 20—and at 20 you’re just so happy to actually be doing it? you never think about how.”—Rick, 27
“The only reason I’m interested in young women is strictly physical—I haven’t met one in the last year or two who has the maturity that I’m looking for these days. Older women have definitely changed my taste as to who I’m attracted to. With most young women, I’m bored to death. Bored to death.”—Lenny, 38
“In a relationship, there is an intellectual component, a grounding component and a physical component. The physical is very important for a man? the sexual side is a big thing. It makes sense when you think about it? the greatest sex in my life has been with older partners. Even when it’s early in the relationship, it’s still much deeper.”—Michael, 35
Fred, who was mentioned earlier, expressed his own fulfillment:
“Although my initial fear was that I wouldn’t be good enough sexually, my larger fear was that I’d overwhelm her—like call too many times a day or say one too many ‘I miss yous.’ Instead, our mutual pleasure went from one high to another.”
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.