Aldo and I met in spring 2016 when I was out with friends. I’d just returned from a year in New Zealand following a break-up and wasn’t looking to date, when this handsome man came over and complimented my outfit. He was classically good-looking with dark eyes, and a tailored shirt. But at first I was suspicious; surely he was out of my league?
Refreshingly, Aldo was an open book. That evening, I learnt about his childhood in Albania, his move to London at 18. By the time he mentioned he was a builder earning £20,000, I was already smitten. I was surprised at his candour, but Aldo always says it like it is.
I, meanwhile, earned £65,000 as a designer in the tech industry, though I didn’t tell him this straight away. [The average London salary is £39,476.] I’m not driven by money but past boyfriends had earned similarly or more than me and I’d assumed that’s who I’d end up with. If I’m honest, the 20-something-me might have written off Aldo, assuming we’d have little in common, but by then I was in my mid-30s and wise enough to see past that.
On our first proper date, we wandered around holding hands until we found a cosy Italian restaurant we both fancied. It wasn’t cheap but I bit my lip, ignoring my worries about whether it was too expensive. Over tiger prawns and steak, we discussed family and he told me how close he is to his mum. Three hours later, we were still chatting. And when he insisted on paying, I thanked him.
Over the following weeks, Aldo showered me with flowers and other thoughtful gifts, and took me to charming, modestly priced restaurants. He never let me pay but eventually I insisted; I’d been financially independent since I was 18 and was used to paying my way.
Our relationship accelerated quickly and I really liked him. But deep down, the salary difference niggled, as I knew I’d have to change how I lived. I grew up modestly –Mum was a nurse, Dad, a farmer – but since graduating I’d grown used to my sizeable disposable income. I’d impulsively book long-haul holidays, while Aldo carefully planned low-cost airline visits home to see his mum. He lived diligently within his means and I didn’t want to rub his nose in it by taking him to my usual haunts, so we both adjusted, going for walks by the canal or on Hampstead Heath and packing home-made picnics. Plus, money aside, we had lots in common.
In fact, money was never an issue to us –only to others. A few friends raised an eyebrow about it. One was particularly cruel, rudely assessing Aldo’s long-term suitability and joking that he was only interested in my earning ability. I was so offended, I haven’t spoken to her since. Luckily, my family love Aldo, and if anyone else comments, I tell them to mind their business.
Part of the problem is the stereotypes associated with jobs. Aldo is bright, interested in working outside with his hands and enjoys the camaraderie of building sites. I’d happily pay for him to return to education but he doesn’t care for letters after his name.
One year after we met, we got married. It wasn’t the five-figure affair that some friends had. We married in a register office and had a meal at a cousin’s restaurant afterwards – and that was perfect. The entire day cost £1,200.
Today, we have a joint bank account for bills and rent, and we’re saving up for a deposit for our first home. I pay a bit more and that’s only fair as I earn more. For now, long-haul holidays are out too. Plus we’re waiting to have kids until we’re more financially settled with our own home. But neither of us minds – we’re investing in our future and we have each other, which is all that matters.
As told to Samantha Brick. Bridget is a co-author of ‘Rise: In Pursuit of Empowerment’, out now (Reach For Greatness Publishing, £19.99)