I fell in love with my son's best mate when he was 16 – I'm twice his age & get called a paedo but we're madly in love

WHEN 16-year-old William Smith walked through her front door in June 2006, Marilyn Buttigieg was expecting her son’s friend to disappear upstairs to play video games.

But little did she know, the mum-of-seven was about to fall head over in heels in love with this teenage boy – and their relationship would turn both their lives upside down.

At the time, Marilyn was 31 years old and living in Crawley, West Sussex, with her children.

The couple got to know each other when William offered to help with housework as Marilyn was suffering from ME – a long term illness causing extreme tiredness and muscle pain.

Marilyn and William – who have a 29-year age gap – say they "naturally gravitated towards each other" during this period.

The mum says it took a lot of convincing on William's part to start a romantic relationship – and needless to say, it sent shockwaves through their families.

She explained: "My family had already judged us for being friends and thought we were something more before we were- just because William helped me out."

Explaining how she struggled with her decision, Marilyn – who owns a cleaning business – continued: "I didn't want to take away William's life.

"I didn't want to have any more kids, but I didn't want to stop William having a family if he wanted."

William, who is now a film producer, added: I knew we had something special. She was and still is my dream woman.

William and I are still so in love. We're never apart and if we are we miss each other so much. He's my soulmate. I've been called a paedo more times than I could remember.

"It took a lot of convincing. She quizzed me to make sure I was sure this was what I wanted. I was 100% sure it was."

After committing to their new relationship, the couple didn't hang around and quickly moved in together.

As a result, Marilyn says all but one of her seven children 'disowned her' and William also no longer speaks to his family – but they say they'd happily "do it all again".

In February 2009, William popped the question and the couple married two months later before going on their honeymoon in Gibraltar – where Marilyn is originally from.

Having recently celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary, William and Marilyn opened up about the criticism they've faced.

The mum continued: "William and I are still so in love. We're never apart and if we are we miss each other so much. He's my soulmate.

"I've been called a paedo more times than I could remember. We've been to hell and back and even now we get nails in our tyres.

"People just can't just leave us alone."

William added: "People hurl us abuse and it's affected my jobs in the past, but it is getting better now."

Despite the abuse they've faced, the couple say it's made them even stronger.

Marilyn added: "I tell William to kiss me in the streets because why should anyone care?

"I'm proud of him and our relationship – let them stare if they want to."

Now the couple are fundraising to make a film about their unconventional love story and challenge the stigma attached to age gap relationships.

Marily n said: "I think people's perceptions still need to change.

"I couldn't imagine anyone else loving me more than William does. I trust him with everything."

To donate go to https://gofund.me/6c71f380

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