The Graduate became a cult hit and spawned the hit song Mrs Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel.

A recent study suggests women who are married to younger men are happier than the rest of us, writes Marchelle Abrahams

The year was 1967. It was the decade of free love and unbridled hedonism. Dustin Hoffman became a household name when he starred in the movie The Graduate where college graduate Benjamin Braddock is seduced by a bored housewife and friend of his parents. The movie became a cult hit and spawned the hit song Mrs Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel.

It was an interesting commentary on relationships and how society viewed affairs between older women and much younger men. But it also generated a series of phrases for women who were into younger men, such as “cougars” and the not-so-flattering “cradle snatcher”.

It painted them all with the same stereotypical brush and made the relationship dynamic somewhat of a taboo.

Then, when Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, 25, married Demi Moore, 41, their six-year relationship spawned a trend.

Either way, these relationships were not the norm.

Research by the University of Colorado, recently published online in the Journal of Population Economics confirms men and women report greater marital satisfaction with younger spouses, adding the satisfaction fades over time in marriages with a significant age gap between the partners.

Ashton and Demi: US actor Ashton Kutcher was 25 when he met Demi Moore. Picture: AP

That said, men openly date much younger women without the stigma attached to women who choose to date/marry much younger men.

Professor Terra McKinnish from the University of Colorado, told news agency IANS, “Women are particularly dissatisfied when they’re married to older husbands and particularly satisfied if they’re married to younger husbands.”

Among modern day couples who seem just peachy with their relationships are French President Emmanuel Macron, 39, and his wife Brigitte, 64.

The 25-year age gap has raised a few eyebrows, even in a European country that has a laissez-faire attitude towards sex.

In South Africa, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, 67, tied the knot with long-time partner Mokgatla Khomo.

The Free State businessman is said to be 10 years her junior.

The question on all our minds though, is what is it about older women?

“For starters they’re more emotionally stable and know what they want, “ says Pretoria-based sexologist and relationship expert Dr Elmari Mulder Craig.

She also points out that older women are usually more comfortable with their bodies, more sure of themselves and know their bodies better.

“Older women are also able to communicate their needs and desires better to their partners. They are generally also more comfortable with initiating or taking an active role in bed because they are more at ease,” she says.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete (67) tied the knot with long-time partner Mokgatla Khomo, who is 10 years her junior. Picture: Henk Kruger

So was it confidence that baited these young bucks? They spill the beans...

Age is nothing but a number

* Bernie and *Sandra have been married for six years with a 7-year age gap between them. “The age thing was never an issue,” says Sandra.

“And to be honest, I found him more mature about certain things than my ex-husband who was a year older than me,” she adds.

The couple met at work about seven years ago and immediately hit it off. “Had it been a bigger gap, then maybe it would have made a difference. But as it is, we don’t give it much thought,” said Bernie.

The one-night-stand that lasted 26 years

Dave Abrahams, 62, and his wife Jenni, 70, are married for 21 years and have been together for 26 years. “We met at a party hosted by her sister-in-law. Sitting in the corner was this 6ft blond wearing the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen. I was instantly blown away,” laughs Dave.

“We spent the whole evening talking; went back to my place, and she’s been there ever since. It’s a one-night-stand that’s lasted for 26 years!”

Their 9-year age gap has never been an issue for the couple. Dave thinks the strength of their marriage rests on the fact they share common interests.

‘She stood me up, but I wanted her even more’

Emile Booi and wife Joline have been happily married for 12 years.

The 36-year-old met his wife, 43, through a mutual friend and started dating before tying the knot a year later. “It was her personality that first attracted me to her,” he shyly adds.

“She was interesting and I wanted to get to know her better.”

But it wasn’t plain sailing at the beginning of their relationship. Emile recalls the times Joline would stand him up on dates, “but I wanted her even more”.

Today they are the parents of a boy, 10.

* Not their real names