‘I love my husband very much. He is my best friend.’

Like many girls, Maryanne Pilling of Essex, England, dreamed of finding true love. The only difference between Maryanne and most little girls was that she has Down syndrome. In 1995, it was rare for people with developmental and learning disabilities to get married. Things changed when she met Tommy Pilling.

Maryanne and Tommy Pilling early in their relationship. | Facebook

“The day Maryanne met Tommy, she came home with the biggest smile on her face,” recalls Maryanne’s sister Lindi Newman in the Daily Mail. “She couldn’t stop talking about him and asked if he could come for dinner.”

According to People, the couple met at a training center for people with learning disabilities. The two began to date; 18 months later, Tommy asked Maryanne’s mother for permission to propose with a toy ring from a vending machine. “My mom immediately said yes, but wanted them to do it properly,” says Newman. “[She] took him to a jewelry shop to buy a proper ring.” The two married July 15, 1995.

The couple at their wedding on July 15, 1995. | Facebook

At the time, Maryanne’s mother faced criticism for blessing her daughter’s marriage. She decided it was ultimately Maryanne’s decision.

“Tommy and I never argue,” Maryanne told the Express. “I love my husband very much. He is my best friend.”

After almost 22 years of marriage, Maryanne, 45, and Tommy, 59, are happier than ever. They live in their own home, with family members next door to assist them when necessary. Newman set up a Facebook page for the couple that serves as inspiration for people with Down syndrome and their loved ones. Newman says the page gives parents of those with Down syndrome “hope that their children can also fall in love and live happily ever after.”