A woman has revealed how she’s had to endure abuse in the street after she fell in love with her teenage son’s best friend when he was just 16.
Marylin Buttigieg, 60, a mother-of-seven from Crawley, West Sussex, met her now-husband, William Smith, 31, when her son brought him over after school in June 2006.
The pair say they ‘naturally gravitated towards each other’ but that William was initially hesitant, fearing what people would think.
After coming out as a couple, and getting wed in April 2009, Marilyn and William are now celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary despite the 29-year age gap.
They admit that they’ve faced plenty of vitriolic comments from strangers about their relationship and have lost many friends and family members who strongly disagree with them being a couple.
Only one of Marilyn’s seven children speaks to her and William is no longer in contact with his family.
Marylin Buttigieg, 60, a mother-of-seven from Crawley, West Sussex, met her now-husband, William Smith, 31, when he came over to hang out with her then 16-year-old son in 2006
The couple became friends and then fell in love and have now celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary – but say they’ve lost friends and family because of their unusual relationship. They were wed in April 2009, pictured above.
However, the couple, pictured on holiday together, say they ‘would do it all again’ and are still very happy
The relationship began when William would come over to Marilyn’s house to play video games with her son.
They say they slowly got to know each other, and William started to help around the house. They say they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Marylin, who owns a cleaning business, says: ‘William and I are still so in love. We’re never apart and if we are we miss each other so much. He’s my soulmate.’
They say they’ve lost most of their friends and family because they chose to be together but admit they ‘would do it all again’ and are still very happily loved up.
She continues: ‘We have suffered a lot of hate over the years and I’ve been called a “paedo” but we’ve always had each other. We’ve stayed true to ourselves and our feelings and that is what matters.’
William, a film producer, says he knew it was love and still feels as strongly today: ‘I knew we had something special. She was and still is my dream woman.’
‘We’ve stayed true to ourselves and our feelings and that is what matters,’ Marilyn says the pair have no regrets about their relationship and are still happy 15 years on
Their love grew when William started helping Marylin around the house after she was diagnosed with ME – a long-term illness causing extreme tiredness and muscle pain
The couple say they want to change the narrative and judgement surrounding age gap relationships
After their first meeting, William started helping Marylin in her home; she has ME, a long-term condition which causes extreme tiredness and muscle pain among other symptoms.
Before long their friendship grew into something romantic, but they were both hesitant – after already being mocked by their family before they were even a couple.
‘I didn’t want to take away William’s life,’ says Marylin.
‘I didn’t want to have any more kids, but I didn’t want to stop William having a family if he wanted. My family had also already judged us for being friends and thought we were something more before we were – just because William helped me out.
We’ve been to hell and back and even now we get nails in our tyres and I’ve been called a paedo more times than I can remember…
Marilyn Buttigieg, on her age gap relationship
‘I think that made us gravitate towards each other to be honest.’
William says they discussed being a couple before actually getting together: ‘She quizzed me to make sure I was sure this was what I wanted. I was 100% sure it was.’
After a long chat they decided to give it a go and moved in together quickly. Marylin says all but one of her children ‘disowned her’, but the couple stuck by each other and fell head over heels in love.
William has also since lost touch with his family.
In February 2009 William proposed and the couple got married soon after in April 2009. They enjoyed a honeymoon to Gibraltar – where Marylin is originally from.
William says: ‘We’ve struggled a lot with hate over the years and lost our families too but we are now family. People hurl us abuse and it’s affected my jobs in the past, but it is getting better now.’
Enduring love: Marilyn and William say they now want to make a film about their affair
Marilyn adds: ‘We’ve been to hell and back and even now we get nails in our tyres and I’ve been called a paedo more times than I could remember. People just can’t just leave us alone.’
Despite the abuse the couple have stayed strong and have stopped worrying about what anyone thinks.
‘I tell William to kiss me in the streets because why should anyone care?’ Marylin says. ‘I’m proud of him and our relationship – let them stare if they want to.’
The couple are now raising money to make a film about their story.
William now plans to turn their love affair into a film and is crowd-funding to raise money for the project: ‘We want to tell our story our way and to change the judgement surrounding an age gap relationship.’
Marylin says: ‘I think people’s perceptions still need to change. I couldn’t imagine anyone else loving me more than William does. I trust him with everything.’