William, 53, had messaged her via a mobile phone app called ‘Venting’ – where members discuss day-to-day life with a series of posts – and Michaela couldn’t help but notice his ‘amazing brown eyes and gentle smile’.
‘I instantly fancied him,’ Michaela tells New Idea, explaining the pair went on to chat online for two months – their feelings for each other growing deeper all the time.
‘I’d tried so hard to hold back my feelings as I didn’t want to come across as too forward,’ Michaela admits. ‘But I couldn’t. I guess you can’t help who you fall in love with.’
However, there was one big thing between them – an obstacle that for many couples might spell the end of a blossoming romance.
An age gap – and a 34-year one at that.
‘My mum was shocked when I told her my boyfriend’s age and she asked to talk to him over the phone, which terrified me,’ Michaela, 19, admits. ‘Thankfully she didn’t try to break us up and remained calm.’ Six months after first making
contact, the couple planned to meet for the first time in July 2016. But when Michaela’s father heard about the plan, he was deeply concerned – asking her to speak to a counsellor before taking the trip from her home in Nebraska to visit William in Alberta, Canada.
‘The counsellor knew nothing about me, but she agreed with my parents that I shouldn’t visit William and should avoid talking to him,’ a frustrated Michaela recalls. ‘Our vacation plans had been ruined and it broke my heart that no-one supported our love.’
But the smitten young woman refused to be deterred – renewing her passport, she packed her bags, quit college and left her parents without saying goodbye.
‘I was legally an adult and despite feeling extremely anxious before first meeting William at the airport in Canada, I was so relieved once I was finally in his arms,’ Michaela recalls. ‘I definitely believe we’re soulmates.’
Now living with her man in Canada, Michaela – who can’t work because she doesn’t have an appropriate visa – spends her days waiting for William to return home from his job as a truck driver.
During the week, his night shifts make having quality time together difficult, but the couple enjoy every second together on weekends, spending their time watching movies, eating European food, listening to music and visiting local sights.
‘We’re completely in sync with one another. It’s hard for some people to understand age- gap relationships, but they’re like any other,’ Michaela says. ‘Both of us are really happy and know that we’ll be together forever.’
However, unsurprisingly, Michaela’s decision to leave without saying goodbye has strained her relationship with her family.
‘It takes around five hours on a plane to get home, and although my mum isn’t happy about the situation, she doesn’t want to lose me either so we just don’t discuss it when she calls,’ Michaela says.
And with William having popped the question while the pair were at home one day, it’s something Michaela knows she’ll have to work on.
‘I wasn’t expecting a marriage proposal at all, but of course I said ‘yes’ straight away and we’ve already planned to tie the knot in either France or Italy next year,’ she says. ‘I know I shouldn’t have left home the way I did, but I’m hoping to patch things up with my parents as time passes.’
Michaela describes her relationship as ‘amazing’.
‘It’s the best either of us have ever had,’ she says. ‘We’ve even discussed having kids, and even though William already has one from a previous relationship, he does want more in the future.’
And as for critics, she put it simply. ‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if you can’t be happy then don’t comment.’
William, meanwhile, says the pair have ‘nothing to be ashamed of. We were trying to get a joint bank account and the woman assumed we were father and daughter. We were quick to correct her that we are in fact engaged,’ he explains.
‘Our relationship doesn’t need to be hidden away.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!