Couple with 19-year age gap say anonymous callers keep trying to break them up

A couple with a 19-year age gap have shared the abuse they get for sharing their relationship online.

Model Michael Justin, 46, and nurse Emily Downing, 27, from LA, hit it off after meeting at a yoga class in Arizona in 2019.

Because of the age gap, they both had reservations about a relationship, and then Michael moved to LA to further his modelling career while Emily continued to study nursing in Arizona.

When the pandemic hit, they realised they couldn’t stand being apart and moved in together back in Arizona, which is when Michael decided to go public about his relationship with Emily – something he’d never done before.

There was an immediate backlash on Michael’s social media from followers and Emily found herself being harassed, abused, and even had strangers ringing her number, trying to convince her Michael was cheating on her.

But when Michael started TikTok, the couple amassed followers who are largely positive about their relationship and even ask for dating tips.

Emily explained: ‘I actually used to get really scary direct messages online.

‘And they got my phone number at one point and these mega fans of Michael would be saying these terrible things to me.

‘We could tell they were trying to make me believe that Michael had cheated on me and trying to break up our relationship.

‘So I thought, “You know what, let’s just end this hate for once and for all”.

‘We should just embrace it and say, we’re a couple and just really show people that we’re together.’

Their first TikTok as a couple was a huge hit and got three million views – an incredible feat in 2020 when the app was just taking off globally.

Since then, says Emily, Michael has fewer stalkers. But it has come at a price, as Michael has also lost many other loyal followers as a result of being in a relationship.

‘When I first started posting anything on Instagram about Emily, I think I lost about 8,000 followers the first week,’ said Michael.

There is still the occasional bit of weirdness on social media; recently TikTok users claimed Michael had kidnapped Emily after they were seen at a coffee shop, with Michael wearing a hoody.

Michael and Emily think the rumour is so ridiculous that they’ve been having fun creating tongue-in-cheek videos mocking it.

‘They say, “if you’re wearing green on the next video you were kidnapped” and so I was gonna put her in green and literally talk about our wedding,’ said Michael.

‘Clearly I wouldn’t be talking about my wedding and marrying this man if he kidnapped me,’ said Emily.

There are also some people who still actively target Emily, either saying she has daddy issues or claiming she looks really old.

‘I’ve gotten a lot of comments that say, I look older than Michael,’ she said.

‘They were like, “Oh, this girl has terrible skin. She needs to put sunscreen on. She looks like she’s 60”.

‘We don’t let the negative comments get to us. Those people are clearly sad and mad people and that’s their problem.’

Emily said the nicest part about TikTok is building a friendly community and giving advice to people who themselves face judgement from family or friends over an age-gap relationship.

‘I always tell people, when you’re doing something that makes you happy, that’s really all that matters.

‘You can’t can’t concern yourself too much with everyone’s opinions.’

Now the couple are looking forward to their wedding in November and want to start a family.

‘I’ve kind of always known I wanted to be a mom; I feel like I was born with that maternal energy,’ said Emily.

‘That was one of the reservations in the beginning of our relationship. I figured, oh, he’s an older bachelor, he probably doesn’t want kids.

‘When it came time to talk about engagement and wedding, he said to me, “you are the only girl I’ve ever pictured myself being able to have children with”.’

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