Sean Penn's May-December Romance A Symbol Of Daddy Roles in Relationships

Share Article

The May-December romance between 50-year-old Sean Penn and 26-year-old Scarlett Johansson serves as a symbol of what most relationships experience. "People play roles in relationships. These behaviors are childhood roles that served as coping mechanisms growing up, but don't serve adults well. The at-first endearing behaviors become annoying after awhile. When this happens, conflict soon follows," explains Imago Relationship therapist Rebecca Sears, who advises couples to seek an Imago Relationship workshop or therapist during this difficult relational transition.

Rebecca Sears, Imago Relationship Therapist and trainer advises couples who eventually find the once endearing qualities of their partner downright annoying, or worse, totally reprehensible.

“I used to think Maria was cute when she would ‘baby talk.’ Now I see her as childlike, and immature. I have to make all the decisions, and I feel like I have married a kid instead of an adult!” says Norman, a newlywed.

“This is classic,” explains Sears, who adds that couples will get to the place where they start to cringe at behaviors they once found attractive. “This stage of a relationship is a turning point for the individuals and their relationship, which is an opportunity for personal and relational growth if identified and worked on.”

While men may fantasize and drool over the May-December romance between Sean Penn, 50, and 26-year-old starlet Scarlett Johansson, this large age discrepancy offers a symbol of the roles many couples unconsciously play out in their marriages. People look at this couple, and can’t deny that he could be her father. While these alliances may look sexy and forbidden in some eyes, May-December romances are a symbol of a behind-the-scenes picture of what many couples eventually suffer from.

“What worked as a child becomes a default role adults carry on and bring into relationships. The problem is that what served a child as coping strategies, doesn’t work long-term in adult relationships,” Sears adds. To clarify Sears explains: “A child may have had received more attention when she acted “childlike” dependent, and passive. When the child grows up, this unconscious behavior becomes a coping mechanism, when the inevitable conflict or disappointment sets in. Behaviors that seem inappropriate to others are an outdated childhood survival technique. So, when a partner criticizes this once adored behavior, it is met with defensiveness and anger.”

The question of why people revert to childhood roles once they marry is answered by the Imago relationship philosophy. “The person we marry is a perfect match for us to begin the process of healing from childhood wounds (which comes from unmet needs) and experience personal growth. However, change is very painful, and instead of couples working together through the pain of change, they often blame, and in the case of 50 percent of marriages, divorce. Unfortunately, when couples divorce they miss the deeper meaning and amazing potential for growth in their relationship and personal lives.”

Imago offers support during these periods of confusion, distance, and pain through workshops, and individual counseling. “This weekend creates real hope for the future,” said Randy, a workshop attendee from Texas.

So, when we are faced with a tabloid video of Sean Penn and Scarlett Johansson in a wild make out session, let it serve—not as fodder for jealousy—but as a reminder that our own relationships can probably use a little growing up.

Rebecca Sears, M.Div, LPC is a pastoral psychotherapist and instructor with the Institute for Imago Relationship therapy. She trains clinicians and other professionals worldwide in Imago Relationship Therapy. For more information visit

Imago Relationships International helps couples restore connection. Weekend couples workshops are available worldwide. Imago has certified over 2,000 licensed therapists to guide couples to learn communication and connection, which was developed by co-founders Harville Hendrix, PhD and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD. Imago first came to public attention through the New York Times best seller, "Getting the Love You Want." Oprah Winfrey dubbed Hendrix "The Marriage Whisperer". Calling him "Her favorite therapist" Oprah has invited him on her show 17 times. Couples can start learning how Imago creates a better relationship for free, by visiting for online tools and learning experiences. For interview contact Diane Dennis, Inspired Media at 503-678-1356.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

|Diane Dennis
Inspired Media Communication
(503) 678-1356
Email >
Visit website