Jenny Ellis, 44, met Robert Njie, 25, on holiday in the Gambia. Jenny is a chartered surveyor and Robert is a chef and amateur boxer. They married a year ago and live in London.
I'd first noticed Robert when I looked out of the window of the Atlantic Hotel and thought: "That chap's fit!" He was working there as a sports instructor. On my last night in the Gambia, Robert invited me to a jazz club. One minute we were chatting and dancing. The next minute we were holding hands and kissing. If I had stopped to analyse what was going on in my head, I would probably have got up and walked away. Here I was, enjoying an evening with a man who was black and 20 years younger than me.
I got home on a Thursday and, at some point over that weekend, I realised something serious was going on. I found myself missing him so much I was in floods of tears. It was so confusing. What I had done was totally out of character. I was 40 and happily single. I had a successful career and a lovely home. I knew nothing about him. He could have been married. He might have children. But within a month, I'd booked another holiday in the Gambia.
There was nothing crazy about it the second time around. By the end of the second week, we had discovered we were very similar in outlook and values. We made each other laugh and felt completely relaxed in each other's company. By the end of that holiday, we had fallen in love and agreed that Robert would come to London to visit me and further his training as a boxer.
It was a horrible shock to find out how young Robert was. I'd been praying he was at least 30! When he told me he was only 22, I thought, "My God! What am I letting myself in for?" As soon as I began telling people back home, I got all sorts of "good" advice about how what I was doing was utterly mad.
But our relationship blossomed when Robert came to London - we got married in June 1994. We have found that the easiest way to deal with our cultural differences is to talk through each problem as it arises. I tried to explain to Robert about prejudice. By now we have got so used to it that we don't even notice the stares in restaurants or in the street.
. Until I met Robert, I had a very close relationship with my parents and spent every weekend with them. Sadly, the same situation exists with my sister. It hurts so much to think they rejected Robert before they even got to know him. How could they think that the daughter they had known and loved for 40 years had suddenly changed? I am exactly the same person I was before I met Robert.
Living together was a major adjustment. Robert was used to living in a big compound where possessions are shared or happily given away to someone who needs them more than you do. I had to explain that giving away presents here can hurt the person who gave them to you. He had to learn to eat with knife and fork and what plates to use for which food.
Our relationship works because the family structure that Robert was brought up in gave him a wisdom far beyond his years. We have many differences but the same soul. Every week, we find ourselves saying: "Isn't it incredible that we met?" My family would have been thrilled if I had married a Jewish doctor five years older than me, but I always knew I was never cut out for a traditional marriage.
I wasn't looking to fall in love, I was out to enjoy myself
Kathryn Dargavell, 41, and Brian Leafe, 42, met on a Greek island and have been together for 21 years. They married in 1986 and have two daughters - Rachel, four, and Hannah, seven. Brian works in the music and video business. Kathryn is head of a referral unit for young people with challenging behaviour. They live in London.
It wasn't love at first sight, but I recognised an extremely attractive man. My sister and I were sitting in a taverna on the island of Santorini, eating breakfast, when a group of lads walked by our table. One of them asked me: "Please can I borrow your toothbrush? Mine's broken." He was quite gorgeous - tall, good-looking, straw-blond hair and tanned from a month of island hopping.
In those days, Greece was wonderful because students from all over the world went there to enjoy the freedom of sleeping on the beach and meeting other young people. Brian and I started chatting and the whole group of us spent the next week lounging around, eating and drinking in the tavernas.
I do remember one very romantic walk along the beach. It was an extraordinary night when there was phosphorescence in the sea and if you swam, you left a trail of light behind you. By then, Brian and I were having a relationship, but the whole thing was very level-headed. There were no stars in my eyes or feelings of "This is it!" It was more a sense of "It would be nice but ..." The reality was that I was going home and he was moving off to another island. We exchanged addresses with no promises either way.
Students were entitled to benefits during the holidays then, and it must have been about two weeks later that I found myself signing on. I suddenly thought: "This road sounds familiar." It was where Brian lived. I walked until I came to this huge house where he lived with what seemed like hundreds of other students. A bloke leaned out of the window and shouted that Brian was over in the pub. We had a drink and he took me out to dinner in a cheap restaurant in Earls Court.
It never crossed my mind when we met that this was the man I would eventually marry. I wasn't looking to fall in love. I was out to enjoy myself and have a good time. Gradually, Brian and I became more of an item and our lives began to revolve round each other. We started living together in 1979 and got married nine years ago.
Twenty years on, Brian's hair is a lot darker and he lost the tan long ago, but the same qualities that first attracted me are still the things that I like about him today. Nothing fazes him. He's very upbeat and positive. For us, it wasn't a question of opposites attracting. Although our personalities are different, we have an awful lot in common. We might just as easily have come across each other in our normal social circles as in a taverna in Greece!
The moment I landed at the airport I knew something was wrong
Alice is a 29-year-old personnel manager for a financial services company. Last year, she met Per on a beach in Bali. She is single and lives in Surrey.
Per was Swedish and an Adonis. My first day back at work passed in a total daydream. All I could think about was the wonderful three days we'd spent swimming and scuba diving. My friends took one look at my photos and said I'd be mad to let him slip through my fingers. I was thrilled when he phoned three weeks later and invited me to Gothenburg for the weekend.
The moment I landed at Gothenburg airport, I knew something was wrong. All the airport staff seemed to be staring at me. I'd just joined the queue to go through Customs when there was a tap on my shoulder and I was literally dragged into a small room by three Customs men.
They had had a tip-off that a blond woman was flying in from London carrying a large amount of cocaine. It didn't matter how many times I tried to explain that I didn't even smoke pot - they were adamant that a stash of drugs was hidden somewhere on my person.
What made matters worse was that Per had said he'd pay for everything, so I was carrying pounds 40 and my credit cards. Nor did I have an address, as he'd promised to pick me up at the airport. No accommodation address and no traveller's cheques? It seemed suspicious and the customs men knew it.
I was hauled into another cubicle, told to strip and produce a urine sample. Something very uncomfortable was shoved up my backside. For a further two hours, I was interrogated and my suitcase lining was cut to ribbons. Eventually, I was released and told "Get out of here!" By the time I finally reached the arrivals lounge, my face was red and puffy and I was in floods of tears. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Per wandering around.
My first thought was "My God, he's revolting". The tan had faded, he'd had his long blond hair cut off and had put on about half a stone. He rushed over and hugged me. I felt sick. Then he said, "I'm going to do it now," got down on one knee, produced a small box and told me to open it. It was a diamond and sapphire engagement ring. I explained that I couldn't possibly think of marrying a man I had only known for three days.
Things went from bad to worse. We drove back to his house and all his extended family were there ready to join in the celebrations. His mother had cooked a huge meal. Dinner was a nightmare. All his relatives kept asking me whether I wanted children. By 10pm, I was screaming inside and praying "Get me out of here!"
What finally killed any notion of romance was when I was in the bath at the end of the evening and Per walked in wearing underpants that my grandfather would think twice about. I ended up sleeping in the spare room and booking the first flight out the next morning. It was probably the rudest thing I've ever done in my life, but I knew I couldn't last the weekend. Never again!
'Alice' is a pseudonym.Reuse content