At first, it seems like a very normal story: a man and a woman get married and share their love and excitement for their future together on social media.
But when Phillip Eling of Adelaide, Australia, posted on Facebook that his wife “Susan is the best wife a man could ever want,” he wasn’t just giving a shoutout to the woman he loved. He was defending their interabled marriage against an onslaught of mockery and condemnation.
The same thing happened to Susan Eling when she posted online a video of her and her husband dancing at their wedding reception. She was excited to show one of the happiest days of their life.
She wasn’t prepared for the thousands of people who responded with negative comments, mostly insisting that Susan and Phillip’s relationship was false and that she must have married him for his money.
When a Boy Meets a Girl
Phillip has a rare disease called Bethlem Myopathy. A type of muscular dystrophy, Phillip’s disability, which weakens his muscles and stiffens his joints, means that he is mostly wheelchair bound. Susan says Phillip’s disability “was never a problem” for her.
Originally from Kenya, Susan was interviewing for a job at a facility for disabled people when she met Phillip. It was Phillip who took the first step, reaching out to Susan via email. “Hello,” he wrote, “I hope this email finds you well. I was the man in the wheelchair during the interview – I just felt we had a connection. I hope this doesn’t offend you, but I’d love to get to know you more. From Phil.”
In the past, Phillip had avoided romantic relationships because he wasn’t sure how long he had to live. When it became apparent that he could manage his illness and live a long life, he decided to embrace life and all its opportunities. He was instantly attracted to Susan and decided to take a chance.
An Instant Connection
It wasn’t long before Susan felt the connection, too. The two got together regularly and met each other’s families. They were dating for a year when they decided to get married.
A three-hour long video documents their wedding day in detail, everything from the bride laying out her outfits to the end of the reception. In it, Phillip says, “I just cannot explain the joy I felt when I entered the reception and they announced Mr. and Mrs. Eling.” Then, he adds with a laugh, “I thought it was my parents!”
The gushing new bride shared a video of their first dance online, but she was horrified to read all of the negative comments later. People not only questioned her love for Phillip — they went so far as to suggest that Susan was marrying Phillip for money or citizenship. One person dared to suggest that Susan would murder her new husband once she had her papers.
Susan wasn’t shocked by people’s curiosity. While she and Phillip were dating, people would often stare. It’s not often that one sees an interabled couple. “Phil never made me feel embarrassed,” Susan said, “but I knew what people would think when looking at us. They’d assume I was his carer. I hated that.”
Support for the Interabled Couple
Still, she was surprised by the outright hateful comments. Phil remembers how his new wife couldn’t sleep at night. Even her colleagues would make underhanded comments about Phillip to her when she was at work. But while the online community tried to tear the couple apart, Phillip and Susan’s families, who had seen them together, fully supported them. They knew how the two adored each other.
One day, when Susan went over to Phillip’s house, the radio was on and she danced to a song. Phillip then asked her to turn it off. She was worried that something was wrong, but Phillip insisted that it was the contrary. He told her that he loved her — and he said it in Susan’s native language. Then, continuing in a well-practiced if accented Swahili, he asked her to marry him.
Susan describes Phillip as hilarious, caring and kind. Phillip in turn says that the three years they’ve been together “have been the greatest years of my life.”
“To everyone who supported us…I’m very thankful,” Susan said. She tries now to ignore the negative comments about their interabled marriage and to focus on all the wonderful memories and she and Phillip are making together. She also asks God to help them keep their marriage strong.
Nowadays, the happy couple try to normalize their interabled and mixed-race relationship by making videos about their life together. Through their YouTube channel, Philgood Productions, they share the ins and outs of their everyday life and special events.
In the end, the opinions of only two people really matter when it comes to judging Phillip and Susan’s relationship.
More from Goalcast: