A married couple with a 25-year age gap who got engaged one week into dating are hitting back at haters who say they must be "kidding" about their relationship - and mistake husband for father.
Areil Duncan, 28, met her beau, Steven, 53, on a dating website and, despite initially thinking the turf equipment technician was too old for her, hit it off a few weeks later.
After first meeting in December 2016, the couple became official on New Year's Eve and were engaged just one week later, then married in May 2017, and have since built a life together - and are soon hoping to try for children.
However, during their two year relationship the couple have received abuse on a daily basis, in the form of judgemental glares, people asking if they are "kidding" when revealing their connection and even mistaking Steven for Areil's dad.
Now the couple, from Pennsylvania, US, are sharing their story in hope that it will break the stigma behind age gap relationships.
Areil, a teacher, said: "I initially wasn't looking for an age gap relationship as, even though Steven looked good for his age, he was too old for me.
"But we eventually hit it off and have been together ever since - we are married and hope to spend the rest of our lives together, alongside hopefully trying for children soon.
"However, since being together, we have continually received comments about our relationship - we can tell that being together makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable.
"We get a lot of stares - some are angry, some confused, some curious - and we often get comments about our age difference. We've had people saying that Steve is old enough to be my father, people asking if we're 'kidding' about our relationship and that they didn't think we would last.
"But we try to ignore it, we're both adults so age does not really matter. What is important is having great conversations, having similar morals, life goals and real love - which is what we have."
Despite having been together for almost three years, Areil admits that she was first put off by the age difference.
She said: "We met online on a dating site - he messaged me first, so we exchanged greetings and he asked me what I thought about him.
"I told him that he looked good for his age, but that we could only be friends and that he was a bit older than what I was looking for. He told me, we could be friends, that was not his intention, but we continued messaging all the same.
"On a day I was very down, he insisted I speak with him on the phone so I did and we had a long engaging conversation and by the end I felt a million times better. We met a few weeks later in person and have been together since."
After meeting face-to-face in December, Steve quickly proposed weeks later in January 2017 and, after marrying in May that year, the couple have been settled ever since.
They are now looking forward to trying for children soon, and hope that they can diminish any stigma behind their relationship ahead of growing their family.
Areil said: "We want people to realise that as long as you are both consenting adults, there is no reason that age should matter.
"We are happy and we hope that when we do one day have children, they will not have to hear the comments that we do. We have true love and that is all that matters - age is just a number and the stigma behind these sorts of relationships needs to be destroyed."
Reporting by Caters.
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