Helen and Darren Clark both have a learning disability and met and fell in love at a party more than three years ago and confounded the expectations of those around them by getting married in 2014.
The Groom’s story
As soon as I set eyes on Helen, I knew she was the one for me. I have a learning disability and never thought I could have a relationship with someone even though this was something I had always dreamed about. I was determined to make this happen.
We met at a Mencap party, and I’ll be honest- I had to have a few drinks to build up the courage to ask her out.
According to Helen, I dragged her away from friends, but she seemed to enjoy dancing with me. We swapped numbers that night, but Helen made me work hard to win her over!
Before I met Helen, I lived in a residential home. I stayed in my bedroom a lot watching telly, I didn’t really have much of a life outside of the house. I’d come home from my voluntary job and just go straight to bed.
My life has changed completely since we met. I feel very lucky to have met Helen.
Now we have our own place together and although during the day staff come in to support us at night it’s just us. I love that, it’s just time for me to enjoy being with Helen.
I proposed to Helen after two and a half years, and we got married in 2014. I always dreamt about getting married, so my wish came true in the end.
The best thing about our big day was saying our vows – Helen looked so beautiful.
It hasn’t always been easy – some people didn’t want us to get married at first- they were worried we wouldn’t cope. However, with the right support I knew I could make a success of our marriage and we’ve been married for two years now, so I think we’ve definitely proved those people wrong.
I was a lonely man before, but I love my life now – I love living here, I love looking after my wife and helping her out – I clean for her and I cook. I do all the washing; I love it. I just help her out.
Helen is my first serious girlfriend. I always dreamed about getting married, so my wish came true in the end.
A lot of people say people with a learning disability shouldn’t be allowed to be together, which isn’t fair. There are 1.4million people in the UK with a learning disability. With the right support, people with a learning disability can be in a loving relationship just like we are.
I tell this story as I want other people with a learning disability to realise they can have relationships as well. There are not enough role models out there, and I want to show that my disability doesn’t stop me from living the life I choose.
The Bride’s story:
I played it cool at first. I told mum I’d met a friend who was a boy. Mum was a bit worried at first.
Darren didn’t ask me out, he just dragged me from one end of the floor to the other! I was dancing with the girls…
My mum found out because he was looking lost outside our house – he’d come to find me!
He’d turned up at our house with flowers. I wasn’t always nice to him, but Darren kept coming back with cards and gifts.
Really I’d liked him for a while but I finally let him win me over and it went from there.
Darren and I got married in June 2014.
I was born into the traveller community, but as I got older, mum realised I needed expert support. Because they wouldn’t let outsiders come in, we left the community and got a flat together.
I’d been looking forward to getting married for ages, now I’m getting used to saying ‘my husband.’ It feels nice.
We did it the traditional way, and Darren stayed with his family the night before the wedding. There were 14 of us getting ready at mum’s house – I had loads of bridesmaids in the usual traveller way! It was quite crowded but good fun.
It was a fantastic day. It was very emotional for everyone – my mum cried loads. I had 14 bridesmaids who were all friends and family. I also invited 8 of my support workers to the wedding. They all came along and enjoyed the day.
We had a red and white theme, and mum did a lot of work to help us make the day special in just the way we wanted.
My local church looked amazing – all my friends and family watching. And Darren was waiting for me at the end of the aisle and I could see he thought I looked beautiful. And I felt beautiful. It was a brilliant day.
It hasn’t always been easy – some people didn’t want us to get married at first – they were worried we wouldn’t cope. But we’ve had two years to prove them wrong, and by the time the wedding came round everyone was on our side.
I used to live in a caravan but I enjoyed it. I liked having all my family next to me – I could go into one caravan and it was two minutes to the next one.
I haven’t got that surrounding me anymore but I’ve got used to living in a flat now. I think I’d choose a flat over a caravan now.
I used to go out and enjoy myself and I still do – I wasn’t too worried about anything and I’m still the same so not much has changed for me.
Darren looks after me, I try and do something and then he’s like, “No, don’t worry, I’ll do it.” So I’m like, “OK, I’ll just sit here and do nothing shall I? It’s fine for me”
I just feel like anyone else in the street – it’s the way life should be.
I know that a lot of people say people with a learning disability shouldn’t be allowed to be together but we haven’t ever heard anyone say things like that to us. We feel quite safe going out and about around here.
Coined from mirror.co.uk