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
00:56 GMT, 28 September 2012
Maria-Louise Warne at her home in France: She spent
26 years in a relationship with a man 22 years her senior – and has
come to regret her decision
From the outside it was an idyllic scene — one I can still conjure up to this day. Sun flooded the terrace of our detached house in rural France, and the champagne flowed freely as my husband and I hosted a barbecue at our new home.
We’d pulled out all the stops to impress one of his oldest friends, spending a small fortune on steak, prawns and foie gras. Just six months earlier we’d left behind our life in Bovey Tracey, Devon, and bought a beautiful property in Charente, South-West France.
At the insistence of my husband — who is called Carol, named by his Europhile parents after King Carol of Romania — it had to be the largest in the village, and the garden grandly led down to the banks of the river. He revelled in the praise his friends piled on him for enjoying the perfect lifestyle — a stunning house and, of course, the icing on the cake, a nubile young wife. Me.
The consensus was that in bagging a bride 22 years younger than him, Carol had done very well for himself.
As the afternoon passed lazily by, I went to fetch another bottle of champagne from the fridge. On returning to the terrace I overheard one of our guests inquiring how life was with the ‘young bimbo’.
I watched with morbid fascination as my husband — sporting a pair of comfortable loose-fitting trousers, calf-length brown socks and his favourite Velcro-strapped sandals — strutted about our terrace like a bantam cockerel.
Oh yes, life was great, Carol crowed. We’d been ‘at it like rabbits’ all over the house.
His friend sniggered appreciatively like a schoolboy, urging Carol to ‘give her one from me next time’.
From my hiding place behind the door, I was frozen with revulsion and disbelief. Not only at my husband’s betrayal — but because our marriage was nothing like the one he had described in such prurient detail.
The reality was that Carol struggled to get out of bed before 10am each morning, and that was only after I’d served him breakfast, administered his daily heart medication and clipped his toenails.
We hadn’t had sex for over a decade, and it was highly unlikely we’d ever make love again. At 67, my husband had been seriously ill for the last ten years of our marriage. And I — far from being the ‘hot young bimbo’ — was, at 45, more like his carer.
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. Now, my blood always runs cold whenever I read in celebrity magazines and newspapers of young women in their 20s falling for older — and invariably richer — men. 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.
Possibly most painfully of all, she may find herself facing middle age childless, having sacrificed her fertile years to a man who’d put his parenting years behind him.
Maria-Louise and Carol on their wedding day in
December 1995: 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.
I was 28 and Carol 50 when ‘that’ conversation first came up. We weren’t yet married and he’d made it abundantly clear that the only life he was interested in was one with fine wines and no ‘whiny kids’.
Being in love with him, I decided to stick with him regardless, although I secretly hoped there was time to change his mind. I never did.
I first met Carol back in 1982 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 was sophisticated, well travelled and interesting, and I was smitten within weeks.
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.
While I didn’t give the age gap a second thought, everyone else was horrified. 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. What hadn’t crossed my mind was
that he had an enormous head start
Friends who criticised Carol were simply cut out of my life. I was convinced he was ‘the one’ and that we were going to grow old together. What hadn’t crossed my mind was that Carol had an enormous head start in that department.
We moved in together after five years of dating. He’d been married before and was reluctant to commit again. I found myself being absorbed into his middle-aged world, which wasn’t easy: most of the wives in our social set were openly hostile towards me, assuming I was only with Carol for financial gain.
Yet, ironically, after a few years, when he was 52, Carol’s business went bust and the shop closed — leaving me as the breadwinner.
Leaning for support: Maria-Louise says Carol could barely stand at their wedding ceremony
/09/28/article-0-153CF39F000005DC-181_634x484.jpg” width=”634″ height=”484″ alt=”The good life: Maria-Louise and Carol outside a restaurant in La Rochelle after their move to France” class=”blkBorder” />
The good life: Maria-Louise and Carol outside a restaurant in La Rochelle after their move to France
No escape: Maria-Louise says their problems followed them to France in the removal van
In 2005, Carol suffered a stroke. /09/28/article-0-144A4216000005DC-390_634x412.jpg” width=”634″ height=”412″ alt=”'My mother warned me not to marry him': Maria-Louise, left, with her parents Irene and Phillip Warne during a camping holiday in Somerset around 1969″ class=”blkBorder” />
'My mother warned me not to marry him':
Maria-Louise, left, with her parents Irene and Phillip Warne during a
camping holiday in Somerset around 1969
The day I decided to start being ‘me’ again was in 2007, during a routine doctor’s appointment when I was asked to stand on the scales.
I was horrified at how old and fat I’d become. When I got home, I began running again, despite Carol’s ‘what ifs’, and gradually my figure returned.
I don’t see it as a coincidence that Carol left me the following year.
Maybe he was threatened by my ‘rebellion’, my growing independence and the slimmer, less- manageable me. Maybe he wanted to punish me in some way. Or maybe — probably — he was as unhappy in our age-gap marriage as I was.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that passion is stronger than reason
He returned to the UK, saying he wanted to be nearer to his children. It turned out he’d been planning to leave me for the last 18 months.
Our divorce, which was processed through the French courts and granted on the grounds of his abandonment, finally came through in April this year.
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 25-year-old me out of embarking on the relationship all those years ago
Of course I couldn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that passion is stronger than reason.
I do still believe in love, and have started dating again. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my new boyfriend is the same age as me.
I don’t know if we will grow old together. It’s early days. 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.
Divorced: 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: ‘This is the story of a woman scorned I’m afraid. 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.
‘I know she always resented the fact that I gave my first wife two daughters. That said, she always told me she didn’t want children.
‘She has distorted things completely. She became impossible to live with, and so friends helped me leave France. My daughters now help me out and they’re very good to me.
‘When I proposed to Maria, I honestly didn’t think I was going to survive. I’d been ill for such a long time and continued to be very ill afterwards.
'I was so weak, she used to help me do everything — even go to the loo — for months. All this care for months on end: I thought the least we should do is get married.
‘It took me a long time to get back on my feet. The last thing I was thinking about during that time was “intimacy” — I was struggling to stay alive.’