The older man with good intentions
Updated: Sep 4
When Joanne Grant, 50, left her fiancé to be with a man 16 years her senior who she had just met, people thought she had gone mad.
But a few decades have passed by and she’s still as happy, it’s clear to her she made the right choice.
Joanne met her husband, John, 66, when they both got new jobs at the same company. From the start there was undeniable chemistry. However, John was separated from his wife who he shared children with, and Joanne was engaged, so they became flirty colleagues and nothing more.
Over a few months the flirty banter escalated, and they were drawing closer and closer to each other. It all came to a head when they shared a kiss after drinks with their colleagues.
“It was the first time I’d done anything like that, and I moved out of my fiancé’s the following weekend. I stayed with my best friend for just one night because the next day John invited me to stay with him.”
The whole situation was bizarre for all involved, but Joanne believes it was just a case of instant attraction, and the age gap didn’t even come to mind until her own mum voiced her concerns. Joanne’s mum thought John was an older man just looking for someone younger to take advantage of.
Her mum was not alone in her concern, her closest friend was thinking of similar things but trusted that Joanne knew what was best for herself.
“I think people were nervous about making a judgement without falling out with me, but I never fell out with anyone... just my ex.”
Although a decade and a half between them, Joanne thinks that as long as it is not decades upon decades, there is no reason to question someone else's relationship.
“I tend to think our age gap is not that huge, I do think it’s a bit strange when someone starts going with somebody whose kids are the same age, but sometimes you just can’t help who you’re attracted to.”
The UK’s biggest relationship support network, Relate, have said that even large age gaps become less noticeable as couples grow older. They said:
“A woman of 25 with a partner of 45 may get some strange looks, but once they’re 45 and 65, somehow the gap doesn’t seem so big.”
In her twenties, Joanne was a bit of a novice to all the mundanities of adulthood: mortgages, home insurance and road tax. Her ex had only allowed his name on the flat and car they both paid for, and she found out the importance of this the hard way. When she left him, she had to leave everything behind and start from scratch.
Being with John could not have been more different, within the first week of moving in together he offered to put her name on the mortgage.
“That was him confirming his love and it was a commitment to the relationship. I said no because it was completely his flat but when we bought our own place a year later, we got joint names.”
John’s ex-wife didn’t react well to the new relationship. She and John had been separated for a few years but were not officially divorced and she tried to hold onto the marriage for as long as possible.
“She was a Catholic and they were married in the Catholic church. She said as far as she was concerned, they were married for life and wouldn’t give him a divorce, but a few months later she gave him it.”
On top of this drama, there was the new role of step-mum to contend with. That was the only thing they were nervous for, but everyone got along. In addition to being step-mum, she is now happily a grandmother as well.
“I think of the other grans as the official grans, but the grandchildren treat me the same so that’s really lovely. No-one’s ever been brought up to look at me as not a real gran.”
Although he successfully married Joanne, John made it very clear that he didn’t want any more children, and at the time Joanne accepted this and was happy being a step-mum.
However, ten years down the line, she realised that was something she could not compromise on and they agreed to have one child, Rachel, 15.
When it came to parenting, Joanne’s single-mum friends joked that she was like them because of how hands-off John was in the earlier years of Rachel’s life.
“John was a bit of a man’s man; he had a bit of an old-fashioned attitude which used to annoy me. Before we had Rachel, I said he wouldn’t need to change nappies and I had to kind of stick to that. So, I didn’t ever ask him to commit more to being the father than he already had.”
Now that Rachel’s older they have family nights in the house together, hosting parties, singing karaoke and playing silly games.
Compared to other couples like them, Joanne and John have beaten all the odds, research from Statistics Netherlands shows that the bigger the age gap between couples, the more likely it is to end in divorce. Nearly 35% of people in the same situation as Joanne and John ended up divorcing.
In terms of the future, she admits she gets a little worried, but it’s something she just has to block out for the time being.
“We’re both living a good life and are relatively healthy but there’s always that wee bit in the back of my mind asking who’s going to be looking after me when I’m looking after him? But tomorrow is not promised for anybody, so I just try not to think about it at all.”
For the price of one negative thought to enter her head occasionally, Joanne has had decades of good memories and she knows it.