This study, based on intensive interviews with married, cohabiting and divorced older women and younger men, explores the impact of this type of age discrepancy on relationships and selves. Both the women and the men were aware of the stigmatizing potential of their relationships, in particular that the woman might be mistaken for the man's mother (which indeed sometimes happened). Although the couples' fear of audience response lessened over time, the impact of stigma on their sense of self remained. For the woman, her embodied self—body and face—was most problematic, and increasingly so as she aged. For the man, it was the cohort self: his lack of shared history with his wife, distance from his age peers, and precipitation into other age-discrepant roles, such as grandfather. Both men and women developed techniques of neutralization to counter stigma, techniques which were challenged only under conditions of divorce or marital problems and clinical intervention.

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