'When I'm told I have daddy issues because I married a successful older man, it's my father I feel for'

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Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart have a 22 year age-gap - Getty
Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart have a 22 year age-gap - Getty

Mostly, it’s my father I feel sorry for. When people find out my husband is a successful banker who is 30 years older than me, they often assume I have daddy issues. It’s ridiculous. My own dad has always been a wonderful role model – and in an era where we’re supposed to be breaking down barriers around who you can love, I’m tired of getting a knowing smirk when all I did was marry the most impressive man I’ve ever met.

Like Lady Kitty Spencer – who went out with a man 20 years her senior before settling down with 62-year-old Michael Lewis – I’ve always preferred older men. The age gaps started off small: a 24-year-old when I was 17; a man in his early 30s when I was in my final year of university. By the time I was a twentysomething dating in London, my most fertile hunting ground was lavish 40th and 50th birthday parties around the city.

Fittingly, I suppose, I met my husband on a business trip to Monaco. I was working as an executive assistant to a superyacht broker and was run off my feet trying to organise his schedule. He was a difficult boss and I was surprised when he invited me to dinner at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc one evening – yes, I looked good in a dress but he never usually liked spending money on me.

When we arrived, I immediately noticed Simon* – a grey-haired banker my boss was trying to woo as a client. I was attracted to him straight away, from his beautifully cut suit to his public school accent, and age-wise I put him at about 50, even though I later found out he was three years off 60. My boss gestured at me to sit on the other side of the table, but I ignored him and plonked myself next to Simon.

Lady Kitty Spencer on her wedding day
Lady Kitty Spencer on her wedding day

Immediately, we got on. We’d been to see the same exhibition at the Tate and had both watched an amazing series on television. He’d recently gone through a divorce and I’d just broken up with a boyfriend and we also talked about loneliness, ego and trying to understand yourself. When my boss interrupted our conversation for the third time, Simon held up his hand to silence him and then went back to talking to me. It was the most attractive thing I’d ever seen.

The next day he called to say he couldn’t stop thinking about me – and urged me to quit my job and come and spend the rest of the week with him at the Eden Roc (in separate rooms if I wanted). It felt like I was living out the opening chapters of my favourite book – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – except I’m clearly not as brave as Mrs de Winter, as I worked all week and then snuck off to spend the weekend with Simon. On Sunday evening we took his private jet to London, which beat the usual first-date gesture of paying for a black cab to my Battersea flat.

Back home, our relationship took off. We quickly realised that other people viewed it in quite a stereotypical way – a man afraid of ageing and a woman who wanted to be looked after. But we were falling in love and none of that mattered to us.

In many ways, I think I had a harder time of it than Simon – he got congratulated for finding a ‘trophy’ while I was just another gold digger. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t enjoy the weekend trips to La Reserve in Paris or holidays in Mustique over New Year, and yes, I preferred Simon’s very comfortable Notting Hill house to my flatmates in south London. But I grew up in an affluent middle class family and money was never going to be the ingredient that made our relationship work. I suppose you could say it was more of a cherry on top.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a 25-year age gap - Getty
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a 25-year age gap - Getty

Meeting family was harder. Simon is exactly 30 years older than me and a similar age to my parents. They were very hesitant about the relationship at first, but once they spent time with him, they were fine. My siblings, meanwhile, were always happy for me, but I quickly realised they were leaving us out of group dinners and weekends away. When I questioned my sister, she said it was because Simon would hate the sorts of bars and festivals they were going to, but it still hurt.

His side was more complicated. His ex-wife refused to meet me until we were living together, and once we were, insisted on being there when their children came around for the first time – this is despite them being in their late teens and early twenties.

As for me and Simon, we got engaged exactly a year on from that dinner in the south of France, in a suite in the Mandarin Oriental during one of his business trips to Hong Kong. Afterwards, we got married in a small ceremony in London, and then spent three extraordinary weeks following the migration around Kenya.

Ten years on, and Simon is still the best decision I ever made. We have three beautiful children and split our time between a townhouse in Chelsea and an old pile out in Gloucestershire. I’ve been happier since I stopped apologising for our unconventional relationship and now accept that sometimes stereotypes are true: he does make me feel safe and inspires me with his brilliant mind; I do keep him young and energetic and will adore him forever.

Happily, reading about Lady Kitty’s wedding over the weekend and seeing so many people say she was looking for a father figure didn’t bother me nearly as much as it once would have. Perhaps because the only ‘daddy issues’ I have these days is getting Simon to help me with the toddler’s early morning wake-ups...

*Names and some details have been changed

As told to Melissa Twigg

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