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.
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