Tommy and Maryanne Pilling say they know the secret to a happy marriage – “I love my Tommy, he is my husband. We do lots of things together and he is my best friend”.
The couple have just celebrated 24 years of marriage and are thought to have been the first couple with Down’s syndrome to get married in the UK back in 1995.
“We do lots of fun things together, we go bowling, to the cinema, out for dinner, we cook together and bake cakes and we go shopping. It’s absolutely perfect.” Maryanne said.
The couple met at a local training centre for people with learning disabilities in Southend-on-Sea back in 1990. Maryanne’s mum Linda says she remembers the day her daughter came home love struck.
“One day Maryanne came home with a silly lovely grin on her face and asked me if she could bring a young man home for tea. He also went to the centre and was 13 years older than her. As she was growing up my one wish for her was that she would find someone to love and here I was watching it blossom.”
Maryanne, who was 19 at the time and Tommy 32, started dating and their affection for each other soon grew. Tommy had been in care since he was 13 because both his parents had died and he was an only child, and soon the pair became inseparable. Tommy then produced a plastic ring which he had bought from a vending machine, and the couple were engaged.
After four more years of getting to know each other, the couple finally tied the knot in their perfect white wedding surrounded by family and friends. Maryanne wore a perfect princess dress with tiara, and Linda accompanied her down the aisle.
“My Maryanne could not wait to walk down the aisle to her Tommy and it was my utmost honour to walk, in fact I had to keep tugging her gently back so she would walk, not run.”
After they were married, Tommy moved into the family home Maryanne shared with her mum and sister Lindi.
After seven years of marriage, Tommy and Maryanne moved into their own home together next door to Linda. They enjoy day trips out together, play football and still have special date nights. Pictures of the happy pair are regularly posted on Facebook, where they have more than 50,000 followers.
“I love to look after my Tommy, we watch TV together every night. We love to go to the cinema and to watch shows. Every day we go for a short walk together and we go to the beach and have a nice drink”
Now, a quarter of a century on from their wedding, the couple are still very much in love, with Maryanne telling Tommy she loves him at least three times a day and the couple continuing to live independently in their own flat with the help of Maryanne’s sister Lindi who is their full time carer.