How we met: ‘She dumped me on our first date!’

When Lynda’s husband died in 2015, she had no idea that online support existed. Two years later she stumbled upon a Facebook group for widows and started connecting with others in her situation. “You can’t really know what it’s like until you’ve been through it,” says Lynda. “It was nice to meet a group of people who understood.”

In September 2018, she began speaking to Carl, who’d been widowed earlier that year. “After my wife, Pam, died, I didn’t see anyone for days,” he says. “I hadn’t really used Facebook before but I hoped joining a group for widows might be a way to meet people.” Both he and Lynda had each been married for more than 40 years. “I clocked her on the group and read some of her messages,” remembers Carl. “I thought she was very positive and spoke about things she enjoyed in life, as well as her husband.”

When he was invited on a group holiday that autumn, he turned to the support group for advice. “He asked whether Pam would approve and I said she’d tell him to go but not to drink too much,” laughs Lynda. “He wrote back to ask if I’d known her, as that’s exactly what she would have said.”

They began sending each other private messages and built a friendship. A couple of weeks later, they arranged to meet in a pub in Manchester and got on brilliantly. “My husband was the first boy I’d ever been out with. We got together when I was 14,” says Lynda. “Although Carl and I had fun, it scared me a bit. It didn’t seem right to be so attracted to another man when I still felt married.” She wrote Carl a message to say that she couldn’t take the relationship any further.

“I’d not been dumped since I was 17 and then I got dumped on the first date,” laughs Carl. But he wasn’t ready to give up. “I knew she felt confused but I didn’t want to lose the connection we had.” After more conversations online, Lynda decided to see him again. “I said yes because we got on so well. He made me laugh by telling me stories about when he was a footballer, many years ago.”

After that, they went on regular dates to the pub or the cinema. “I lived in Manchester and Carl lived in Wigan. A few days before we met, [the mayor of Greater Manchester] Andy Burnham gave women my age a free bus pass, so it cost me nothing to travel to him a few times a week,” says Lynda. “It was as if it were meant to be.”

They married in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit, and she moved into Carl’s home. “Because we’d both been widowed, we experienced opposition from family about our relationship at first,” says Carl. “In widow [support] groups, people say it’s very common. But our families came around and now everyone is happy for us.”

Their late partners are still an important part of their lives. “You never forget,” says Lynda. “We talk about them and tell little stories about what they were like. It’s a form of therapy.” Recently, Carl was diagnosed with a rare, progressive, muscle-wasting condition called inclusion body myositis, but they won’t let it stop them from making the most of their time together. “We’ve already been through the worst by losing a partner. Disability is just another journey; we’ll work it out,” says Carl. “We’ve got a different way of looking at life. We are learning to adapt but we are in it together.”

Lynda loves Carl’s positivity. “He’s got such a great sense of humour and a lovely voice,” she says. “I liked his Wigan accent the first time I heard it. We have our breakfast in bed every day and chat together all the time.” Carl appreciates his partner’s kindness. “I’ve never known anyone as generous as Lynda. I’m just so glad we found each other.”