Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 26 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cosmas and Damian
home iconInspiring Stories
line break icon

Couple with Down syndrome reveals secret to 23 years of wedded bliss

MARYANNE AND TOMMY PILLING

Maryanne and Tommy | Facebook | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 06/05/18

Defying critics, this couple followed their hearts and show us the beauty of marriage.

This year, Maryanne and Tommy Pilling celebrated 23 years of wedded bliss. When they exchanged their vows they became the first couple with Down syndrome to marry, facing much criticism and predictions that their union would never stay the course. Yet the two seem happier than ever, and it’s all thanks to their two secrets to happiness, as well as the support of their loving family and community.

The couple first met more than 24 years ago while working in a kitchen in a center that helps adults with learning challenges. It was love at first sight. An excited Maryanne explained to Echo News: “I had never been so happy in my life before. I thought he was very handsome and adorable.” They went on a first date and that was it. “Tommy made a really good impression,” says Maryanne.

Tommy, too, was hooked, and after 18 months of dating he was ready to ask his girlfriend, 13 years his junior, to marry him. Although he didn’t have the money for a ring, he wasn’t dissuaded and thought about buying one from a vending machine. Luckily, when Maryanne’s mom, Linda Newman, heard of his intentions, she took him to do a little ring shopping in a jewelry store. When Tommy finally proposed to Maryanne she “jumped with joy,” according to Today.

The couple wed at St. Mary’s Church in Southend, England, amid much criticism from people who didn’t believe people with Down syndrome should marry. Fortunately, this is where Maryanne’s family stepped in and offered their support. As Maryanne’s sister, Lindi, points out: “Anything is possible with love and there should be no limitations for anyone, no matter what their circumstances are.”

After their wedding the couple moved in with Maryanne’s mom, before taking on their own apartment just across the road. Although they need daily help, like many other couples they have shared interests and enjoy cooking, playing a round of golf, as well as a bit of bowling. While Tommy has no family of his own, his wife’s family are dedicated to caring for him. After a stint in hospital, he and Maryanne moved back in with her mom for three weeks to take extra care of him. As Maryanne’s sister explained, their mom has been a constant source of support for the couple “from day one.” And it is no doubt that the couple’s success story is partly down to this maternal devotion.

And Lindi’s love and involvement is also plain to see. She runs a Facebook page for the couple, and has posted many photos of them looking still as in love as they were when they first met all those years ago. Lindi wants to inspire the world with the wonderful story of her sister whose life is so full of joy — just looking at the photos is enough proof!

So what is their secret? How have they kept their marriage alive when so many others fail? Lindi puts it down to two simple things: “There is never a hidden agenda. They love each other with their whole hearts and are honest with one another.” It also helps that Maryanne’s chattiness is balanced with Tommy’s tendency to be more reserved.

As for the couple’s future plans, this year happened to be a big one for Tommy, as he celebrated his 60th birthday on World Down Syndrome Day. He celebrated by having a party with his loved ones and neighbors. As the couple continues to defy their critics and enjoy a rewarding relationship, we wish them many years of love and happiness ahead.


MADDIE ZAHM,AMERICAN IDOL

Read more:
“American Idol” contestant inspired by friend with Down Syndrome

Tags:
InspirationMarriage
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
2
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
5
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.