Meet the couples who found love in later life

Eimear O'Hagan

Does a divorce after decades of marriage mean the opportunity for lasting love is over? Not according to these couples, who were given a second chance at happiness.

Joy and John's story

Joy and John's wedding

Joy and John Eerebout married in 2012, four years after meeting on an internet dating site for over-50s.

Both were married before: Joy for 31 years and John for seven years. Joy has two grown up sons and a six-month-old grandson

“A few months after my first marriage ended, I decided to try online dating,” says Joy, a 58-year-old retired teacher. “I was nervous because when I’d last dated the internet hadn’t even been invented, but at my age how else was I going to meet someone? And after so long in an unhappy and lonely marriage, I craved companionship and fun, someone I could laugh and relax with. Marrying again definitely wasn’t on my mind though.”

After chatting online for several weeks, the couple met for lunch and Joy admits she immediately felt John, a 63-year-old retired London tube driver, was special.

“It’s a cliché, but it felt as if we’d known one another for years. It was so natural and easy from that first date. John is a very jolly, talkative person and I felt completely at ease with him. I knew soon after that first date he was a keeper.”

Says John, “It felt like I was sitting with an old friend of many years, not a woman I’d only just met.”

Joy first married when she was 22. “I thought I knew it all, and had great expectations of what marriage and family life would be like. But I can see now that my ex-husband and I weren’t compatible, and the marriage quickly became an unhappy one,” says Joy.

 

“It felt like I was sitting with an old friend”

 

“Having children just put it under more pressure, and over time we came to be living separate lives under the same roof. We were together in name, but there was no bond.”

Joy resolved to stay in the marriage until her sons were grown up and had their own lives. “It was hard and I was often very lonely. I couldn’t have dreamed then that I’d find such happiness later in my life.”

While the couple each have their own interests—he likes to fish and play golf, while she enjoys cooking and reading—they say it’s their shared passions which lie at the heart of their happy relationship.

“We have two huskies and love to walk them together,” says Joy. “We have a home in France that we travel to regularly for holidays, and we both enjoy eating out and trips to the theatre. Being together is what makes us happy and if we’re apart, even for a few days, we really miss one another.”

And they both credit their mutual happiness to meeting later in life.

“Being older and having lots of life experience, including having been married before, means we prioritise having fun, laughing, enjoying life and trusting one another. Those are the cornerstones of our relationship,” says John. 

For Joy, with age has come a confidence she didn’t have in her first marriage, which has made her relationship with John a far happier one. “If something is bothering or annoying me, I’ll just say it, then we can move on. I know now the key to lasting happiness is just taking each day as it comes. That’s what we do and we’re so happy.”

“They say love can blossom in the most unusual places and that’s certainly true for us—we actually first met on a petrol-station forecourt!” says Kenny Linton, 68, a retired IT company owner. 

“I was waiting to fill my car up with petrol and growing impatient because the woman in front of me couldn’t work out how to get the petrol cap of her new car open. 

“I got out of my car to help her—and hurry her up—and we got chatting, decided to go for a coffee together and we’ve been together ever since. I fell for her that day.”

 

Kenny and Audrey's story

Audrey and Kenny

When they met, Kenny had been divorced for ten years and Audrey, who’s an NHS maternity auxiliary, for three years. He’d been married for 26 years and she for 27 years, and together they have five children and 16 grandchildren.

“I married my first wife when I was just 21, and we were very young dealing with all the problems life can throw at you. There were financial pressures, we were trying to raise a family while working, and our personalities just weren’t right for one another,” says Kenny.

“We weren’t very tolerant of each other and I’ll admit that I was selfish with my time. I did what I was interested in, like keeping horses for racing, and thought everything else should fit in around me. There was blame on both sides and eventually things just broke down.”

 

“We both learned lessons from our first marriages”

 

Audrey admits that had she not met Kenny, she probably would have stayed single following the end of her first marriage.

“My ex-husband and I led very separate lives. He worked away a lot so I was often alone, raising our sons by myself. And when he was around we didn’t socialise together or really spend much time with one another. We were two people who were married, but we weren’t a couple,” she says.

“So when we divorced, I already had my own life and wonderful family and friends to support me, and didn’t think I needed a new partner. Then I met Kenny and he changed everything.”

When they met, Kenny and Audrey were living almost 100 miles apart, so after eight months of travelling back and forth to see one another, Audrey moved into Kenny’s home in the Scottish Borders in May 2004. And
in September 2006, on the third anniversary of their first meeting, they married at a local church in front of 160 family and friends, followed by a reception at a nearby hotel, complete with a full pipe band.

“We both learned lessons from our first marriages, and they’ve helped make our relationship such a strong one,” says Kenny. 

“I learned to be more tolerant and to give time and respect to the other person’s interests, not allow my own to dominate. So now I join Audrey for trips to the theatre, which she loves, and instead of spending all my time on horse racing we go on holidays together. Life isn’t about me anymore, it’s all about my marriage.”

For Audrey, expecting more from this marriage than her first has helped contribute to its success. 

“As I’ve got older and more mature, my sense of self-esteem is higher. I know now I settled for too little in my first marriage. I want more love, time and respect this time, and Kenny gives me all that, which makes me very happy.”

The couple, they admit, are known for being inseparable. Says Audrey, “I wish we’d met earlier in life, but we try not to dwell on that. Instead, we cram in as much fun and love as we possibly can, both determined not to waste a second of the time we have together.”

 

Ann and Clive's story

Clive and Ann

It was a whirlwind romance for Ann and Clive Brewer, who married in June 2014—just one month after they first met in person, and six months after meeting online. The couple, who split their time between the UK and their home in Brittany, fell in love and got engaged before even laying eyes on one another.

“I admit it’s an unusual way to begin a marriage, but we forged such a deep connection online that it felt natural to us,” says Ann, 54, who’s an artist.

“We met on Facebook through mutual friends. I posted something silly one day in December 2013 about my dog’s astronomical vet bills, Clive made a jokey comment that made me laugh and we started messaging one another. From there it evolved into phone calls that lasted for hours, as I was in France and he was in London.”

 

““We did it as a joke at first, changing our relationship status on Facebook to ‘Engaged’, to wind up our friends,” ”

 

The couple bonded over similar upbringings in London, a shared self-deprecating sense of humour and a passion for cookery and good food.

Their engagement began as an April Fool’s Day hoax, but quickly became real.

“We did it as a joke at first, changing our relationship status on Facebook to ‘Engaged’, to wind up our friends,” says Clive. “But then we thought, Well, why don’t we get married? Even though we hadn’t met, we knew we had strong feelings for one another, and we’re both ‘seize the moment’ kind of people.”

“We’ve both lost loved ones in the past to illness and that’s encouraged us to make the most of life,” adds Ann. “It was a spontaneous decision but not a flippant one—we both wanted to make a serious commitment.”

A month later, in May 2014, Ann flew to London to meet Clive for the first time—with both confessing they were nervous but excited. 

“I ate a whole packet of mints while I waited to collect Ann from the airport,” laughs Clive. “I knew our first kiss was imminent! 

“As soon as she arrived, any nerves I had faded immediately. There was no awkwardness, we were both too excited to be together finally. We spent a wonderful few days together in London before she had to leave, but we knew then our days of being apart were numbered.”

They married in a friend’s garden in Twickenham a month later, surrounded by friends and family. This is Clive’s first marriage, but Ann was married previously for 13 years and has two grown-up sons. Her first husband was a French sailor five years her junior.

“I met him when I was 27 and on a girls’ holiday to Corfu. He was docked there with his ship. A holiday romance turned into a serious relationship and we married a year later, in 1988.

“Nothing terrible happened, but we realised our relationship had mainly been founded on a physical attraction. Once that had faded, there wasn’t enough common ground to sustain us. We separated in 2001. But we remain good friends, and I don’t regret that marriage because I have two wonderful children from it,” says Ann.

“It’s completely different with Clive. He’s a free spirit like me, and we give each other space to be individuals. We don’t live in one another’s pockets like some couples do.”

Although Clive had been in relationships before meeting Ann, none had progressed to marriage.

“There just wasn’t the connection I felt with Ann, and I think I met her at the right point in my life. 

“Meeting later in life means we’re able to focus on what’s important; laughter, good food, pottering in the garden and our four dogs. We’re not under pressure to have a family, we’ve established our careers and for the most part we can do what we like. It’s the perfect recipe.”

 

As featured in February's Reader's Digest

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