Share this article Share It was at that moment, ten years ago, I realised marrying a man more than two decades older than me was the biggest mistake of my life. Age is just a number, they insist.
Yet I know how these stories end. While her new middle-aged husband might seem mature and exotic, in a decade or two he and her marriage are likely to change very rapidly. One day she may wake up and discover that she is no longer a wife but an unpaid geriatric nurse, working around the clock and sleeping with a man who resembles an aged grandfather. Maria-Louise and Carol on their wedding day in December She was 38 by this time; he was 60 and had that year contracted MRSA after open-heart surgery Children was a battle I failed to win with Carol.
He already had two daughters from his first marriage, who are now in their 40s, and even though I would have loved to have had children, I foolishly allowed myself to be bullied out of motherhood. Being in love with him, I decided to stick with him regardless, although I secretly hoped there was time to change his mind. I first met Carol back in when he was 47 and I was 25 and working for him at his sports shop in Tiverton, Devon. I really enjoyed his company: He knew his way around a wine list and was a born raconteur — clearly in a different class to the men of my own age.
My mother made no bones about the fact she disliked Carol, warning me that he viewed me as a pension fund who would support him in his old age. I was convinced we were going to grow old together. We moved in together after five years of dating. Maria-Louise says Carol could barely stand at their wedding ceremony By then I was enjoying a successful career as a sales executive and also running our home.
We had a fantastic life: Our sex life had never been particularly active, however. I can say with absolute honesty that I can count on one hand the number of times Carol and I were intimate. Even in our early years, sex was rare, which I put down to him behaving like a perfect gentleman and not wanting to pressure me. In , when I was 38 and Carol 60, he was admitted to hospital for open-heart surgery. When he gained consciousness, and was still unable to speak, he proposed by scrawling on a piece of paper: My mother warned me not to marry him, but I ignored her and we held the wedding in December of that year.
I overlooked the fact that Carol could barely stand at the ceremony. Afterwards, instead of a night of newly wedded bliss, I put him to bed at 5pm, having given him his medication and changed his dressings. Even aside from his poor health, our marriage did not run smoothly.
Four years after our wedding, in , Carol walked out on me for three months. He left no note, and when he returned he refused to discuss his reasons for going.
I was devastated yet I still took him back. I know people will struggle to understand why I did this. So we decided to have a fresh start, and moved to France in And for a while I truly believed it would work: Our problems came with us in the removal van, and escalated beyond measure. Not only was I working flat-out to make a career for myself in a foreign country so I could pay our bills, I was also providing round-the-clock care for Carol. His deteriorating health left me responsible for his most intimate needs.
I tried not to think about the fact that here I was, in the prime of my life, reduced to being a carer to a rapidly ageing husband. Maria-Louise says their problems followed them to France in the removal van In , Carol suffered a stroke. By now I was increasingly worried about our future. What if he had another stroke? Would I have to give up my job and look after him permanently?
What would we do for money? The daily strain was unrelenting, and I was prematurely ageing. What if I had an accident, he argued, and was unable to look after him? The lack of exercise, combined with the rich, French food that Carol insisted I cook every night, saw me balloon from 8st to 15st within a couple of years. It was the little things that robbed me of my self-esteem. Carol revelled in reminiscing about his formative years, talking about a life he enjoyed before I was born.
Listening to him on a daily basis became boring and predictable. Maybe he wanted to punish me in some way. Or maybe — probably — he was as unhappy in our age-gap marriage as I was. Five years after the end of our marriage I still cannot help having twinges of bitterness at those lost 26 years of my life. But could the older, wiser me have talked the smitten year-old me out of embarking on the relationship all those years ago? I do still believe in love, and have started dating again.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my new boyfriend is the same age as me. But one thing is certain — if I am lucky enough to enter old age with a loving partner, we will be entering it as equals. Maria-Louise says she has now started dating again - and her new boyfriend is the same age as her When approached by the Mail, Carol said: Maria is a very controlling and dominating person — because of her attitude I knew it was totally irresponsible to bring up a baby with her.
She became impossible to live with, and so friends helped me leave France. All this care for months on end: I thought the least we should do is get married. Never marry an older man. You'll end up childless, sex starved and cutting his toenails: Bride whose husband was 22 years older confesses about their relationship.