While couples divorce for various reasons, sometimes they can remain in each other’s lives. In rare cases, the former couple realizes divorce was a mistake. That was the case for Paul Mattingly and his wife, Laura Lee Estes, who were college sweethearts. They first married in 1980 and divorced after four years.
Laura and Paul agreed that their first marriage was destined to end because they were too young. However, after 40 years, the former love birds reconnected. They said it was love at “second sight.” Sometimes all love needs to flourish is a second chance and a few decades apart.
In September 1980, Laura Lee Estes and Paul Mattingly were young lovers who exchanged vows. They were fresh out of college and decided to get married. However, the two divorced after four years because they “didn’t really know how to be married.” They knew it wouldn’t last the first time.
The two met during their first year at Centre College in Kentucky. Paul was a Phi Kappa Tau pledge, and Laura was a fraternity little sister. Paul fell madly in love with Laura, but she only wanted to be friends. However, Laura finally agreed to date him during their final year of school.
She Kept Him Guessing
Laura kept Paul on his toes throughout college, but they became best friends. A year after graduation, Laura and Paul married and settled in his hometown of Hyden, Kentucky. He took a job at his father’s telecommunication company while Laura taught at a local school, but they were still finding themselves.
During their first years of marriage, Paul and Laura didn’t know what they wanted in life. They were in their 20s and needed time to work on themselves. The couple also struggled with communication. If they had a small problem, it became big because they didn’t know how to talk to one another.
They Remained Friends
They started fighting more frequently and decided to divorce in 1984 after four years. Laura said they signed the divorce papers on April Fool’s Day. Although things were over, Laura and Paul agreed they would remain in each other’s lives as friends. They started as friends and still liked one another.
Laura shared, “We were so close. Paul always remembered our anniversary. He would send flowers. He’s very sweet, very thoughtful.” Even though people thought it was odd that they were still close, it didn’t feel weird to them. Their friendship felt natural and easy, and they had mutual respect; it wasn’t complicated.
They Grew Apart
There was no animosity between Paul and Laura, but they started to grow apart. They made sure to talk at least once a year, but the calls became less frequent. Laura admitted, “As time went on, you just start having distance.” They didn’t have a fight; they just grew apart.
It also became challenging because they moved on with other people. It was natural to grow apart, but it was still sad. Paul and Laura still had a love for each other, but that relationship moved to the back burner and slowly faded. The distance gave them a chance to grow.
He Moved On
After a decade apart, Paul married another woman, had a child, and moved to Alabama. His second marriage only lasted four years. He loved his second wife, but it wasn’t the same kind of love that he once had for Laura when they were young.
Meanwhile, Laura never remarried. She settled in Plano, Texas, became a school guidance counselor, retired, and started a career as a private therapist. Laura heard about Paul’s divorce but didn’t know if it was a good time to reach out again.
Giving It a Shot
After almost 40 years, Laura decided to take a chance. In December 2019, she was driving from Texas to her parents’ home in Georgia. She knew Paul lived in Alabama, so she reached out to ask if he wanted to meet for dinner in Birmingham.
The two weren’t dating anyone at the time, so he agreed to meet her. When they sat down for dinner, Paul knew his life would never be the same. The love he and Laura once shared came flooding back. He recalled that it was “love at second sight.”
Like Nothing Changed
Paul shared, “I looked at her and knew it was. I looked her in the eye, and I thought, ‘This is it.’” It was like no time had passed since they had last seen each other. Laura agreed, saying, “It’s just like that person, that best friend you haven’t seen for years.”
There was no hesitation when they saw each other. After the dinner, Laura continued on her journey to see her family, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Paul. They started talking on the phone again and shared Saturday night phone dates for weeks.
They Got Back Together
After a few weeks of phone calls, Paul joined Laura in Texas shortly before the pandemic began in 2020. They decided to get back together and realized they had wasted so much time. Paul said, “We wish we’d gotten back together earlier.”
They spent time catching up, but Paul didn’t want to waste any more time. He drove to Georgia in November 2020 to ask Laura’s brother and mother if he could marry her (again). He then took her to a beautiful French restaurant and proposed.
Paul and Laura remarried at the courthouse on February 12, 2021. Due to pandemic restrictions, they held off on a reception until May, when they had a Kentucky Derby-themed celebration. They were in their early 60s, but they wanted to celebrate their love again.
Their families were happy to hear that they were back together. Everyone knew their love was special, and they were meant to be together. The two knew that this marriage was meant to last forever because they had matured and learned to communicate.
Things Are Better
Paul and Laura had a fresh start. She gushed, “Paul is such a good man. He is kind and sensitive. He’s honest. He loves me. He wants the best for me.” Laura shared that they do a much better job communicating and laugh a lot.
However, it’s bittersweet that they were in their 60s and had to make up for the lost time. Laura admitted that she sometimes gets sad that they wasted 40 years, but it is also part of what makes their love so special.
Not the Only Ones
Paul and Laura’s love story is beautiful, but they aren’t the only couple that reconnected several years after divorcing. A Nevada couple gave their love a second chance after spending 55 years apart. Dennis and Diane Reynolds never expected to get married again after they divorced.
Their love story began in middle school in their homeroom at Sun Valley Junior High in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Dennis and Diane were only 13, but they had a crush on each other. Dennis had just moved to LA from Oregon.
A Cute Romance
Diane thought Dennis was cute, but homeroom was the only class they shared. Although they ended up at different high schools, the two pursued a romance. When they were 15, Diane and Dennis became an official couple. It was young love.
The two would go on dates to the movies and hold hands in the theater. They remained together throughout high school and decided to get married five months after graduation. Diane and Dennis were only 18, but they thought it was the right time.
Things Moved Fast
On November 11, 1961, they exchanged vows, and their relationship progressed quickly. Shortly after their wedding, Dennis and Diane welcomed their first son Curtis in June 1962. The following year, they had their second child Keith in December 1963. They thought their little family was perfect.
Although they loved their family, Dennis and Diane were very young. Like Paul and Laura, they two didn’t know how to communicate in a mature manner. After four years of marriage, their marital problems came to a head. They didn’t have much money and couldn’t do much.
It Wasn’t Fun Anymore
Since they were struggling financially, Dennis and Diane couldn’t have fun and go out like they had in high school. They started drifting apart because they each worked and went to school. Their individual lives became busy, and they didn’t have time for each other.
The romance started to die down. Diane said she would come home and want to talk, but Dennis wasn’t interested and didn’t want to listen to her. They didn’t fight, but the two came to a breaking point. Things weren’t working, and they went their separate ways.
Living Separate Lives
Dennis and Diane divorced in 1965. He went on to serve in the Vietnam War and remarried twice. He and Diane remained in each other’s lives because of their children, but it wasn’t the same. In 1969, Dennis married Bonnie, who died in 2000.
A year later, he married Cher, who died in 2018. Dennis moved from Arkansas to Arizona before settling in Las Vegas. He and Diane talked less and less over the years. She also moved on with her life after divorcing Dennis.
She Became a Widow
Meanwhile, Diane remarried in 1967 to John. The two expanded their family, and she had four children with him. They moved to Los Angeles until John sadly passed away in 1981. After his passing, Diane moved to Washington DC for work.
She had a very different life than when she and Dennis were together. Diane found herself over the years and understood what she wanted to do in life. She realized what she needed from a partner. Diane and Dennis knew they were too young when they married.
Unfortunately, a tragic incident brought Dennis and Diane back together. In 1989, their son Keith took his life at the age of 25 after contracting AIDS. Their loss left a hole in their lives, but that wasn’t the last tragedy they shared.
In 2001, the couple went through another tough time because their other son passed away at 38. He had several surgeries after being injured in a military mission. It was devastating, but Diane admitted that she and Dennis didn’t have much contact with each other.
She Wanted a Partner
In 2019, Diane had to go on disability after she fell on her way to work. She struggled during her recovery because it made her realize how alone she felt. Diane wished she had a partner to take care of her during that time.
It was like the universe heard her prayers because Dennis called her the following day. Initially, Diane thought, “God, couldn’t you have done a little better than that?” Her relationship with Dennis was strained for several years, and she didn’t know if they could be together.
A Change of Heart
Dennis and Diane started talking more frequently, and he grew on her. He said, “She’s the mother of my children. I grew up with her, so I did have deep inset emotions about her. And I know I was kind of curious.” He wanted to see what could happen.
Diane and Dennis were both alone. He also wanted a partner in his life, and he always cared about her. He decided to take a chance and gave Diane a call. She had a change of heart after they had a few phone calls.
Finding Love Again
Dennis convinced Diane to visit him in Las Vegas. She agreed because her daughter also happened to live in the area. While in Vegas, the two went on back-to-back dates and quickly fell back in love. Diane saw a change in Dennis.
Although they were much older, Diane was reminded of the sweet teenager she once fell in love with. Those two dates were all they needed to get back together. She knew he was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
A Special Date
It had been 55 years since they separated, but Dennis and Diane knew they were meant to be together. Diane moved to Las Vegas to be with Dennis, and they tied the knot on November 11, 2020. The date was special because it would have been their 59th wedding anniversary.
Those 55 years gave them both time to grow. They found it easy to get along and communicate. Diane shared, “We get along so well. We have a good time together, and we laugh a lot.”
Head Over Heels
Even though they spent so much time apart, their relationship was better than ever. Diane and Dennis were so happy together and knew this marriage would be the one that lasted. He happily shared, “The best part is waking up and seeing her every morning.”
The two felt like soulmates. They realized they had been too young when they got married for the first time but didn’t regret it because they had two beautiful sons. Diane’s four children from her second marriage welcomed Dennis into their family because their mom was happy.
An Exciting Future
Since they got married, Dennis and Diane have been busy building their new home. They once had barely any money to live a comfortable life, and now they could construct a place to call home. Their plans include a backyard pool.
Dennis used his Veterans United Home loans to build his wife’s dream home. He wanted to give Diane the life she always deserved. As a Vietnam War veteran, he couldn’t think of a more perfect way to use his benefits than to give his wife everything she dreamed of.
A Happy Life
Diane is happier than she has ever been. She is excited about her future with Dennis, saying, “We are going to swim every day, and we’re going to cuddle on that two-seat couch we bought. We’re going to enjoy every minute.”
She is happy to spend the rest of her life with Dennis. Although they were apart for 55 years, their love is stronger than ever. They are both in their 70s and hope they have many more years of love and happiness together. It’s like a happily ever after.
A Different Kind of Love
Lisa and Peter Marshall were a bit different than Dennis and Diane and Paul and Laura. When Lisa and Peter first got together, they were friends who had lost touch over the years. The two reconnected in a whirlwind romance while living in different states.
The two dated long-distance for eight years and traveled for rendez-vous that felt like mini honeymoons. After a while, they decided to tie the knot and move in together. In 2009, the couple had a beautiful beachside wedding in Turks and Caicos.
After nearly a decade of marriage, Lisa noticed something was changing in Peter. He had trouble remembering things and started to struggle. They decided to go to the doctor and get some tests to see what was wrong. In 2018, they found out Peter had younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
She cherished their journey together but knew their lives were going to change. Lisa was painfully aware that there was little she could do to help Peter, but she wanted him to have a beautiful life. He was only 53, and it was hard to comprehend.
As Peter’s Alzheimer’s progressed, Lisa painfully realized how much he had forgotten. It started with him not remembering important dates, and it reached a peak when he forgot she was his wife. In December 2020, they settled down to watch TV like any other evening.
A touching wedding scene came on, and Lisa started to cry. Peter made fun of her for a few minutes but suddenly became serious. He pointed to the TV and said, “Let’s do it!” Lisa was confused and asked what he meant. He pointed at the TV again, and she realized what he meant.
Popping the Question
Peter knew Lisa was his favorite person, but he had forgotten she was his wife. When he pointed to the TV that evening, Lisa said, “Are you asking me to marry you?” She thought about it for a moment and agreed because she liked the idea of walking down the aisle again.
Lisa felt sad for a moment because it felt like a loss. She didn’t realize his Alzheimer’s had progressed so far that Peter had forgotten who she was. Simultaneously, she was happy to be proposed to again. The moment was genuine.
Planning the Big Day
Lisa and Peter shared their engagement with their five adult children from previous marriages. Lisa’s daughter, Sarah, insisted the two actually have a wedding again. Lisa was unsure, but in February 2021, Peter started to decline more rapidly.
She knew her time was running out, so she and Sarah planned the wedding. Sarah was a party planner and reached out to trusted vendors, sharing her parents’ story. Everyone from the event hall to the florists and calligraphers generously donated their services for the occasion.
Not a Dry Eye in the House
The specialist who worked with Lisa officiated the vow renewal ceremony. On April 26, 2021, Lisa and Peter walked down the aisle in front of a small group of family and friends. They danced, laughed, and celebrated their love until midnight.
Everyone who knew their story shed tears as they exchanged heartfelt vows that day. It was bittersweet because the moment was filled with love, but Peter’s time was running out. When Lisa walked down the aisle, Peter was present and lucid, like his old self.
Sharing the Moment
Lisa shared their vow renewal on her Facebook page, “Oh, Hello Alzheimer’s,” which she started in 2019. She posted highlights of the challenges and lighter moments of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s. Lisa also used the blog to educate people about the disease.
She ran fundraisers to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and connect with other caregivers. The Facebook page gained over 16,000 followers who find comfort, inspiration, and support in knowing they are not alone. However, Lisa created the blog out of grief and panic.
A Tough Position
When Peter was diagnosed, Lisa took on the tough role of his caregiver. Initially, Lisa didn’t want to accept the diagnosis. She had no close friends or family who had been through something like this, and she was naïve about how Alzheimer’s would impact their lives.
Lisa said, “I didn’t know anything about Alzheimer’s. It was something you get when you’re 80. I was ignorant about it. I didn’t know anything at all. I knew he was cognitively slipping quick, but I was in denial.” It was sad, but she turned it into something positive.
Lisa’s blog showed that the life of a caregiver is no fairytale. She shared the raw moments of their day-to-day life. In one post, she wrote about Peter’s conversations with an imaginary friend in the mirror. In another entry, she shared that he couldn’t remember her name.
Although it was so hard to deal with this grief, Lisa’s blog helped many people. It helped her turn something negative into a positive. She raised over $55,000 for care, support, and research through her page. Despite the positives, things got worse.
He Kept Declining
As time passed, Peter continued to decline. He forgot his second wedding to Lisa and didn’t know who she was beside his caregiver. Peter didn’t recognize himself when they looked through the renewal photos. But she cherished that special day.
During their hardest times, Lisa found moments of joy. She remembered a touching time when Peter kissed her and whispered in her ear, “Thank you for staying.” Those moments are things she will remember for the rest of her life, and she chooses to hold onto those moments instead of the sad ones.
She Gave Him a Beautiful Life
After a rapid decline, Peter passed away in December 2021 at the age of 56. He was surrounded by everyone who loved him. Lisa shared the heartbreaking news on her page with a photo of her hand on Peter’s chest with his favorite plush monkey.
In her post, Lisa wrote, “I want to walk away from this day after knowing I gave him a beautiful life. My beloved Peter passed away peacefully last night, surrounded by so much love. He is free from her horrendous grip; for that, I am relieved.”
Honoring His Memory
Lisa continued her blog and shared that Peter’s decline was very rapid. In his last few months, he could barely function, with activities such as eating and showering becoming difficult. Since his passing, Lisa has spent time writing a book in hopes of helping others.
She hopes that sharing her family’s story and her journey as a caregiver will help others on their journeys with Alzheimer’s. Lisa was also honored for her active role in the community with an award from the Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Moving On Is Hard
Although many months have passed since Peter died, Lisa’s journey with grief has not been easy. She has shared updates on Facebook to find others going through the same thing. She admitted that she still cries every day but has slowly started returning to her life.
Lisa is spending time with friends and family. She goes on trips and focuses on her physical health. She said, “Now, I feel a little bit lighter and a little bit freer. I’m doing some things for myself and getting to know myself again. Getting acquainted, if you will.”