A 20-year-old student has defended her relationship with her 60-year-old boyfriend.
Leah Senibaldi, 20, from Nashville in Tennessee, met her ‘soul mate’ Ress Benson, 60, while he was performing in her dad’s band three years ago.
She says the attraction was ‘instant’ and the pair are even planning on getting engaged after she finishes studying.
After meeting Ress, when she was just 17, Leah began speaking to him on Facebook but after her parents found out, and disapproved, the pair cut contact.
After a year the they got back into contact again and grew closer at band practices, before Leah confessed her feelings for him.
They became an official couple two years ago, in spite of the opposition from Leah’s family and many of her friends.
Leah said: ‘ We get a lot of stares, but we’re never offended, we play up to it and have a lot of fun by giving people something to stare at.
‘Quite often if we know people are staring we will kiss to try and wind them up, it shocks them but we don’t care because we’re not doing anything wrong.’
And describing the moment they first met she explained: ‘When we first met three years ago, our eyes just locked and I don’t know why but I ran up and hugged him – it just felt right.’
‘After my parents found out I was talking to Ress online, they assumed the worst, they didn’t want us talking and thought he was just trying to groom or use me. I was forbidden from talking to him, but after a year my feelings towards him hadn’t change and we started chatting again.’
‘After cutting off communications it was really hard, I thought about him a lot and knew in my heart that I needed to start talking to him again.’
Leah has revealed that when they did eventually meet up she knew Ress was the one for her.
‘As soon as we met again, I knew I loved him and since then nothing’s changed, my feelings have only grown with time.
‘It was obvious that we had feelings for one another, we were meant to be together and since we started dating last year we’ve been completely inseparable.’
‘My parents are still yet to accept Ress as my boyfriend, I hope they will at some point- they have an age gape of 27 years themselves.’
Ress, 60, an appliance salesman, is nine years older than Leah’s mother but 18 years younger than her father.
He said: ‘We faced serious opposition from both our families – her parents tried everything in their power to scare Leah away.
‘For us, when I met Leah it was a spiritual encounter, two spirits met in the universe – our eye contact, hug and communication was set apart from day one.’
Leah admits that her parents are concerned that given Ress’ age she could be left on her own at a young age. But despite the age gap of 40 years, Leah maintains she’s not concerned about being widowed at an early age.
Leah added: ‘All relationships come to an end, whether that’s from a break up or when someone dies, but if you focus on that you miss everything beautiful in front of you.’
‘My parents were worried about me becoming a widow in my 30s, but that may not happen, I could get cancer and die before him – you never know what will happen.
‘Also Ress is in great health and great shape so I know he’ll have a long life ahead of him.’
In fact Leah says she doesn’t notice the four decades between them.
‘It’s frustrating because no one knows what goes on behind closed doors, when people see us together they understand us as a couple – for us we don’t even see the age gap.’
The pair recently celebrated their second year anniversary and Leah said it’s a turning point for them.
‘We’ve just celebrated our second year of being together officially, we’ve made it through a lot, this year has been more significant because we haven’t had to hide anymore, it’s been the light at the end of the tunnel.’
Leah says she believes older women are jealous that she’s with Ress.
‘When we went out to dinner for my 20th birthday, one older woman kept turning around and looking at us, once I realised, I leaned over and kissed Ress on the cheek, I think they’re just jealous.’
‘I think a lot of older woman are jealous of me, because I’ve got such an attractive boyfriend and they can’t have him.’
‘Before dating Ress, I never had a check list for how I wanted my soulmate to be, it just so happens that mine came in a package 40 years older than me.’
‘He has got the most stunning blue eyes, he’s tall, has lovely hair – he hates compliments, but I’m constantly in awe of how attractive he is.’
Despite the controversy surrounding their relationship.
Ress added: ‘We’ve never considered not being together, we just had to be patient – bailing out was never an option.
‘As we step into another year together all of our opposition seems to be fading away due to the fruits of our relationship being seen by others – they can adjust.’