Politicians In Relationships With Uncomfortable Age Gaps

It's always fun to take a break from our own lives to take a look at someone else's, and the same goes for relationships. Somehow the grass always seems either way greener or scorched to a crisp on the other side, and both can be vicariously exciting. Celebrity couples can be entertaining, but lord knows we're saturated with that content, so why not shift one gear over and look at political relationships? Sounds good to us.

Age gaps in celebrity and political relationships (or in any relationships, frankly) are nothing new. Just look at Leonardo DiCaprio — he's getting older while his girlfriends' ages remain the same. The optics of it might be a tad cringe, but as long as the relationship is between two consenting adults, who are we to judge? Of course, that doesn't stop the internet from having the odd conniption fit, but for the most part, it's none of our business to pry into the proclivities of others. As James Greig said of condemning relationships with bigger age gaps in The Guardian, "A prescriptive, one-size-fits-all rule between consenting adults cannot work because it ignores the complexities of desire."

Our somewhat arbitrary barometer for categorizing "uncomfortable" age gaps is to look at couples who are approximately 10 years apart, with a little wiggle room in either direction. And for some couples, a lot of wiggle room is required!

Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Ronald and Nancy Reagan's long-lasting love story became the theme of their biographies. They met thanks to the American hysteria regarding communism during the Cold War. Nancy (née Davis) was working as an actor when her name was incorrectly added to a watch list of Hollywood's communist sympathizers in 1949, per Vogue. Nancy decided to enlist the help of a mutual friend to contact the president of the Screen Actors Guild — who was none other than Ronald Reagan. 

This stressful event wound up having a very happy outcome. Nancy and Ronald went for dinner, and ended up embarking on a lifelong romance. Despite their 10-year age gap, they soon married, on March 4, 1952. Ronald had been previously married and had three children, Maureen, Christine, and Michael, with his former wife, Jane Wyman, per People. Ronald and Nancy welcomed two children of their own, Patti and Ron. Despite this big brood, however, the two only had eyes for each other, often overlooking their children. In a letter Ronald wrote to Nancy, detailed in Karen Tumulty's biography, "The Triumph of Nancy Reagan," he said, "But what is really important is that having fulfilled our responsibilities to our offspring we haven't been careless with the measure that is ours — namely what we are to each other." Larry King reiterated this to People when he said, "Their love affair was probably more important than their love for their children." 

Their marriage lasted 52 years, until Ronald died in 2004.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jetsun Pema

If you're into fairy tales, this will be right up your alley. This story is set in the Kingdom of Bhutan, located in South Asia, near India and Nepal. When King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was still a prince, he met commoner Jetsun Pema at a picnic. She was seven and told the 17-year-old prince she would like to marry him, per World of Buzz. When he asked why, she said, "I like you." Allegedly, at the time of her declaration, Jetsun didn't know she was speaking to royalty.

She then studied at Regent's University London and while she was a student, she ran into Jigme again, who was king at that point. He reportedly still remembered her declaration and in 2011, when she was 21 and he was 31, they got married. The ceremony, unlike many other royal weddings around the world, was closed to foreign royals, according to Royal Central. The next day, during a public celebration, King Jigme said, "I have been waiting for quite some time to get married. But it doesn't matter when you get married as long as it is to the right person. I am certain I am married to the right person." They welcomed their first son in 2016 and their second son in 2020, per Hello!.

Clearly, the affection runs in the family. Jetsun's older sister married King Jigme's younger brother in 2013 and in 2020, her younger brother married King Jigme's half-sister.

John and Jackie Kennedy

Back when Jacqueline Bouvier was working for the Washington Times-Herald as the "Inquiring Camera Girl," mutual friends invited her to a dinner in Georgetown to meet John Kennedy. The meet-cute was a hit, and Kennedy later told a friend, immortalized in Edward Klein's book, "All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie," "I've never met anyone like her. She's different from any girl I know." Hilariously enough, Jackie had to leave the dinner party early because a man was picking her up for a date. When Kennedy ran out of the house to ask her if he could take her out for dinner, she casually said, "Perhaps some other time," and hopped in a convertible with the other man. However, that didn't stop John from looking for her in New York.

John and Jackie dated for two years before John popped the question with a very stately "2.88-carat diamond and 2.84-carat emerald" ring from the luxury jewelry brand Van Cleef & Arpels, according to Vogue. They married on September 12, 1953 in Newport, Rhode Island, when John was 36 and Jackie was 24.

At the reception, which was held on Hammersmith Farm, a property that belonged to her mother and her mother's husband, Hugh D. Auchincloss Jr., John and Jackie chose the Meyer Davis Orchestra's version of "I Married an Angel," Vogue noted, for their first dance as a couple. The two obviously liked Davis, as he performed at John's inaugural ball in 1961. 

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

The Italian-born Carla Bruni moved to France as a child and launched a successful career as a model, working for Guess, Christian Dior, and Givenchy, becoming one of the highest-paid models of her generation, according to W magazine. As if this wasn't impressive enough, she then launched a musical career with several successful albums, her most famous being "Quelqu'un m'a dit" ("Someone Told Me"). 

Bruni met the then-president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, at a dinner party in 2007, according to The Sun, and the two were clearly on fire because they got married four months after this first meetup, upon which she became the first lady of France. Bruni later said of Sarkozy, per The Guardian, "I was seduced by his physique and his intelligence." He was 53 and she was 40 when they tied the knot. The two had a daughter together, Giulia, and they both have children from previous relationships.

While they were clearly wild for each other based on the speed of their relationship, Bruni had some surprising things to say about marriage. In an interview with Figaro Madame Magazine in 2007, she said (via The Star), "I get crazily bored by monogamy," adding, "I'm monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry. Love lasts a long time, but burning desire -– two or three weeks." While she might be bored to death, she and Sarkozy are still married. Clearly, love can last a long time.

Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda

American journalist Glenn Greenwald married David Miranda, a Brazilian politician who serves as a Federal Congressman representing the state of Rio de Janeiro. The couple had quite the meet-cute, too! Greenwald was vacationing in Rio de Janeiro and, while at the famous Ipanema beach, Miranda "accidentally knocked over his drink," per The U.S. Sun, while playing a volleyball game. Miranda was 19 and Greenwald was 37 at the time. What a charming way to begin a relationship! They have since adopted two children in 2017 and are rescue parents to 24 dogs. Yes, 24 dogs.

Prior to meeting Greenwald, Miranda hadn't completed his education and was struggling to land a career. Greenwald encouraged him to return to school, the push that Miranda seemingly needed. In 2019, he was named one of Time's "Next Generation Leaders." Miranda was also one of the first openly gay members of the city council in Rio. Out magazine called him "Rio's Gay Crusader."

While it can be awe-inspiring, Greenwald and Miranda have faced criticism for their 18-year age gap, with accusations levied against Greenwald and calling him a predator. However, The Guardian came forward with a compelling defense of their relationship, and Miranda, the younger of the two, vehemently spoke out against anything negative about their relationship or anything nefarious in Greenwald's behavior during their courtship. And there is probably some truth to Miranda's words, as the two married in 2005 and are still together.

Donald and Melania Trump

Donald and Melania Trump met in Manhattan at a party in 1998 when Melania was 28. As the BBC reports, Trump asked for her number, but Melania replied, "I am not giving you my number. You give me yours, and I will call you." They got married in Florida in 2005, where Melania wore a Christian Dior dress bedecked with 1,500 crystals. Donald is 24 years her senior.

When Melania became the first lady, there was an early movement centered around the hashtag "Free Melania." But as time went on, it became clear she didn't see herself in a situation where she needed help. Mary Jordan, author of the famous book on Melania, "The Art of Her Deal," spoke of their unique relationship. "She likes to be isolated. She is a loner. He is a loner. They're perfectly happy to be separated," Jordan told The Guardian. Despite this looming isolation, Jordan said that Melania and Donald are very close in their own ways.

"She's the first call he makes after a speech or a rally, because he trusts her –- he doesn't trust many people -– and she watches on TV," Jordan added. "So they have a very unusual relationship, but there is a bond there. ... He's got his own life and he spends a lot of time apart from her. And she's absolutely fine with that." Hey, it seems to be working.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron

The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte Macron, have a notable age gap, but in a different order than some might expect. Brigitte is 24 years older than Emmanuel, a situation that sheds light on the typical gendered aspect of age gaps in romantic relationships.

Brigitte and Emmanuel are the only couple on our list where the woman is older. In 2017, when Emmanuel was the frontrunner in the French election, he was 39 and Brigitte was 64. Mary Jordan wrote in The Washington Post that women in Paris were thrilled, with one saying, "It's normal to see men with younger women. So it's rather great to see the opposite."

Brigitte was actually a teacher at Emmanuel's high school and at the time, she was married with three children. Emmanuel was 15 when he first met her, according to The U.S. Sun, and she was his drama teacher. His parents sent him away to school in Paris when they saw a budding bond between him and Brigitte. When Emmanuel became president, the two set some records. He is, unsurprisingly, the first president under France's current republican system, also called the Fifth Republic, to have a partner who's older than him, and they also have the biggest age gap in Fifth Republic leaders and their spouses, according to a publication by The Washington Post

Eva and Juan Peron

Eva Duarte, popularly called Evita, was born in Argentina and moved to Buenos Aires in the hopes of becoming an actor. She managed to succeed, landing parts in live theater as well as films, but she hit it big through a radio show. In 1944, an earthquake hit Argentina and as a fundraising effort, Juan Perón, who was then the secretary of labour and social welfare, gathered celebrities for a gala. Eva attended, famous thanks to her radio program, and it was there that she met Juan.

They married in October 1945, according to History, when Eva was 26 and Juan was 50, giving them a 24-year age gap. He had an impressive political trajectory, going from the secretary of labour and social welfare to the minister of war to ultimately becoming vice president, according to Britannica. In 1946, he won the popular vote and became the president of Argentina, with Eva by his side. In fact, she was such an involved spouse that she set a new political tone for the level of involvement from wives at the time.

Eva was deeply committed to social welfare for those in poverty, per History, and was a vocal advocate for women's rights. She was so involved that she announced that she would run as vice president alongside her husband in 1951. However, her failing health forced her to relinquish this idea and she died in 1952 at the age of 32.

Sen. John Hickenlooper and Robin Pringle

Senator John Hickenlooper made headlines in 2019 for his presidential bid in the Democratic Party, though he dropped out before the primaries. Hickenlooper served as the mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011 and became governor of Colorado from 2011 until 2019. He then became the oldest first-term senator in 2020, according to Colorado Politics.

Hickenlooper married Robin Pringle in 2016, making her the first lady of Colorado until 2019, according to Town & Country. At the time of their wedding, he was 63 and she was 37. Despite their notable age difference, Pringle was completely unfazed by any perceived imbalance in their relationship. "I think anybody who actually knows me thinks I'm older than he is, so it doesn't actually phase most people once they spend an hour with us," she told The Denver Post.

Pringle has an impressive pedigree of her own. She hails from California, according to the National Governors Association, and has a bachelor's degree from Duke University and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University. She works in overseeing corporate development. Perhaps the most interesting thing about her dynamic with Hickenlooper is that Pringle was once a registered republican, but she has also made donations to the Democratic Party, and has since changed her voting registration status to read independent. And who knows? Their political differences may keep their relationship interesting.

Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel

Nelson Mandela, the late former president of South Africa, married three times. His first marriage occurred in 1944, according to South African History Online, and, after welcoming two children, he and his wife Evelyn divorced in 1957. He wed again to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1958. However, they divorced in 1996, even though their marriage survived the 27 years Mandela was in prison. 

Later, Mandela fell in love with Graça Machel, who had been married to the late Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique, according to CNN. Mandela and Graca tied the knot in 1998, when she was 52 and he was 80. While their age gap might be big, it was perfect in Graça's opinion. When Mandela turned 90, she granted an interview with CNN and described what it was like being married to the political icon.

"He is simply a wonderful husband," she began. "We met in life at [a] time [when] we were both settled. We were grown up, we were settled, we knew the value of a companion, of a partner." Machel said that the error of the young is to be too demanding in relationships. "And we enjoy every single day as if it is the last day," she added. "Because of that, it has been wonderful to have him as a husband." Mandela died at the age of 95 in 2013, though apparently not before tapping into the secret of a happy marriage.

Jacob Zuma and Tobeka Madiba

Jacob Zuma, who served as the president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, is a polygamist and has some notable age gaps between himself and his wives. In January 2010, he married his third wife, Tobeka Madiba, in a private ceremony. He was 67, according to The Guardian, and Madiba was 36, giving them a 31-year age gap. They share three children.

Zuma then married Gloria Bongekile Ngema in 2012, according to The U.S. Sun, with his three other wives in attendance. Madiba was there, along with Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo-Zuma, his first wife, and Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, his second. There's a 23-year age gap between Zuma and Ngema.

Zuma defended his stance on polygamy, saying, per The Guardian, "There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide so as to pretend they're monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I'm proud of my children." While polygamy is legal in South Africa, it has become notably less popular with younger generations. As The Guardian reported, it's seen as "expensive and old fashioned." However, for Zuma, it's a viable option. In total, he has been married six times, though he and one of his wives divorced and another allegedly died by suicide. He has 23 children.

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Michel Temer and Marcela Temer

Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer became the president of Brazil in 2016 after the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff, who served as the country's first female president, according to The Washington Post. While this is already politically salivating enough, Temer garnered more headlines for the huge age gap between him and his wife, Marcela Temer.

Michel is 42 years older than Marcela, a former beauty queen. He was 60 when they began their courtship, while she was just 19, and they married one year later. Despite their ages, they've been married for over 18 years, so something must be working. Marcela even has a tattoo of Michel's name, per CNN, though it's easy to hide, since it's on her neck and she frequently wears her hair down. When Michel became president, making Marcela the first lady of Brazil, the situation became tense for the couple. Rousseff was being impeached by a predominantly male congress, and the Brazilian press, particularly Veja magazine, lauded the incoming Marcela as a "beautiful, demure housewife," per The World. The media coverage disparaged Rousseff but praised Marcela, sparking international outrage.

Brazilian activist Sonia Correa spoke out against this difference in treatment, saying, "This is to contrast Dilma [Rousseff]. This is how Veja aligns with many of the guys that have taken over power at this tragic moment. Part of them are very happy with the idea of returning women to their natural places, so to speak," according to The World.

Edwin and Trina Edwards

The late Edwin Edwards, former governor of Louisiana, had an impressive age gap with his wife, Trina Edwards. They were 50 years apart, according to Fox News, and they met in a curious way.

Edwin was in prison for racketeering charges and served over eight years, according to The Advocate. Meanwhile, Trina came across Leo Honeycutt's biography on him, "Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana," per Fox News. "I was in the last year of my prison term ... and after she read the book, she became interested in my career and asked to visit me," Edwin told Fox News of the budding pen pal relationship with his future wife. "And I arranged for her to visit me and after that we got to know each other well and she came to visit me every visiting day thereafter."

After he left prison, the two married and welcomed a son named Eli in 2013, per The Advocate. They later starred in a reality show called "The Governor's Wife," which ran on A&E for one season. "[The reality show] follows us from the time we decided to have a child," Trina told Fox News. "We went through the IVF process, so it follows along with the IVF process and I think the season finale is actually when I gave birth to my son. So it follows the entire pregnancy, which was ... pretty rough." Edwin died in 2021.