When Dawn Northey, 42, met Takhari Aldridge, her son's friend, she was instantly attracted to him, despite being 22 years older than her son's friend.
Dawn's son Callum and Takhari "met" while playing an online game, but after three years of gaming, they finally decided to meet face to face.
Despite the immediate attraction, Dawn and Takhari first kissed seven months after they met when the man was 18. Though he was still a teenager, Aldridge was not underage, so they weren't doing anything illegal.
The couple have been together ever since, but they're still facing some harsh judgments.
Why can't women date younger men?
The first kiss happened one afternoon when Northey was dropping off Takhari. Dawn recalls their first meeting:
"When I first met Takhari, I couldn't believe I found an 18-year-old attractive."
After their first kiss, Dawn was relieved that he liked her as well:
"Thankfully he fancied me too in the end and now we're head over heels in love."
The couple's aware that their relationship is raising many eyebrows, though they choose to overlook it, as Dawn says:
"A lot of people condemn our relationship but we just ignore it."
At the time of their first meeting, Dawn was married with two kids. Looking back, she remembers seeing a handsome, dark, tall man. After leaving her son with his gaming friend, she went to Aldridge's home and talked to the young man's mother.
Dawn says that it wasn't awkward:
"I went inside and chatted with Takhari's mom while the boys played video games upstairs."
"We said how we'd heard our sons speak about each other over the years and how nice it was that they were finally meeting."
After a week, she went to pick up Callum, and told Takhari that he could visit any time.
The collapse of Dawn's marriage sped things up
A few months later, Dawn's 15-year marriage to Callum's dad ended. In January 2018, the couple split up. Dawn, Callum, and her daughter, Addison, 8, moved out of their home to Blantyre, South Lanarkshire.
Weeks after, Takhari came to visit, and while they were on the way back to his home, the new couple kissed.
Dawn speaks fondly about the time before the two hooked up:
"When Takhari came to visit, I was excited to see him."
"I kept stealing glances at him around the house. Every day I had to tell myself I was too old for him and to stop being daft. 'I thought it was just a silly crush."
The next week, Dawn drove Takhari back home to Wolverhampton. She says:
"As we chatted away about our lives, I had no idea how mature he was."
"When we arrived, Takhari suddenly leaned in and kissed me in the car. 'I couldn't believe it. I had no idea he fancied me too."
"I was over the moon. Later that night, he texted me saying he'd been dying to kiss me from the moment we met."
Takhari's mother wasn't thrilled
Though the new couple wanted to keep things private, Takhari's mother found the messages just six days later. She kicked him out, and Dawn told him he could stay with her family.
As she recalls:
"Takhari had nowhere to live so I told him to come to stay with us."
Dawn added that she would love to be accepted by Takhari's mother:
"Although Takhari's mom hasn't given us her blessing, we really hope she will one day. I don't see why people judge our relationship when we are simply happy and in love. Most of the time, we forget we have an age gap anyway."
Her worst fear was telling her son, who's also one of Takhari's best mates:
"Next, I needed to come clean to my son, but I was terrified."
"That night, I told Callum that Takhari and I had romantic feelings for each other."
Callum's reaction made the bond stronger. Dawn continues her love story:
"I explained that if he didn't accept us then we would end it immediately, as neither of us wanted to sacrifice our relationship with him."
"Callum shrugged his shoulders and told me he was fine with it. I'd never felt so relieved."
With Callum's blessing, Dawn and Takhari moved in together and officially became a couple.
The couple's still getting scrutinized
Although they are happy, they still face criticism. Dawn says:
"Whenever I held Takhari's hand in public, strangers gave me dirty looks. "
"One day Takhari injured his knuckle and we had to go to the hospital. The nurse said: 'I'll check your son's hand now.' I felt so embarrassed and told her I was his partner, not his mom."
However the strangers aren't the only one giving this couple grief. Her family disapproves as well:
"Someone from my family accused me of grooming Takhari and threatened to call the police. We were both horrified."
But, here we are four years later, and it looks like the two are still very much in love.
Even if it's not forever, Dawn and Takhari are enjoying what they have, and more people should mind their own business.
Legal age plus consent means that the two don't have to worry about cynics. Of course, it helps that Callum wasn't making an issue out of it because as a mom, Dawn has to put her kids first, especially when she's hooking up with her son's friend.