Married couple with Down syndrome still happy after all these years

Maryanne and Tommy Pilling are an unusually happy couple. They've enjoyed being married for 22 years now, spending each and every day together. But when they tied the knot in Essex, England, over two decades ago they caused quite an upset, even reaping fierce criticism for their union. The reason? They share something that distinguishes them from most people.

Both were born with trisomy 21, otherwise known as Down syndrome. They were the first known married couple in the world where both parties have the genetic disorder. At the time many argued that they couldn't possibly be capable of feeling real love or understanding what marriage is.

But these two proved their critics totally wrong.

Twenty-two years later they're just as in love as on the day of their wedding. Maryanne's sister recalled Maryanne's first encounter with Tommy: "...she came home with the biggest smile on her face. She couldn't stop talking about him and asked if he could come for dinner."

They dated for a year and a half before Tommy, with a ring from a gum-ball machine in hand, asked Maryanne's mother for permission to propose to his girlfriend. Maryanne's mother agreed but insisted that he get a real ring first. 

Maryanne had fantasized since childhood about a huge, white wedding and now with Tommy, her dream was going to come true. Despite the public criticism and doubt.

All their family and friends stuck by them and helped prepare a beautiful ceremony.

The public reaction wasn't only negative either. Soon they were receiving letters and messages of encouragement from all over the world. Parents of children with Down Syndrome wrote to say how much hope Maryanne and Tommy's story had given them, that their little ones would also find love and live a happy life. 

Now 45 years old, Maryanne knows she made the right decision. And she remembers her wedding fondly: "My wedding was the best day of my life. I was shocked when Tommy proposed but I didn’t have to think twice about saying yes. Tommy and I never argue. I love my husband very much. He is my best friend." 

The couple lives independently, but next door to her family for the best of both worlds.

These two have certainly demonstrated that love is an equal-opportunity feeling — just as inclusive as commitment. Everyone deserves a chance at the happiness and fulfillment they bring! 

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