How I Met My Partner: Inspiring couple’s strength captured the heart of a nation

The Ballyphehane woman still laughs about the glow-in-the-dark tights she was sporting the day they met.
How I Met My Partner: Inspiring couple’s strength captured the heart of a nation

Colette and Anthony Wolfe ticking off an item on their bucket list with a quad bike ride. The couple feature in this week's How I Met My Partner

FEW people have seen their marriages tested in the same way as inspiring couple Collette and Anthony Wolfe.

Several decades ago, while still carefree teenagers, they had no idea of the highs and unbelievable lows that awaited them. They enjoy revisiting happier memories as often as possible.

The Ballyphehane woman still laughs about the glow-in-the-dark tights she was sporting the day they met.

“They glowed underneath the lights so there was no way he could have missed me,” she said. “We met in the Stardust in Cork city. Anthony asked for a dance and my friend asked his friend for a dance. He then ended up dancing with my friend so it wasn’t certain if we were going to end up together at all. By the end of the day, he was asking me to dance again.”

Luckily, it worked out well for Collette and Anthony.

“He walked me back to Ballyphehane that evening. However, he couldn’t go around the corner in case my dad spotted him and went mad.”

Colette was just 15 at the time and had left school early to start work in a chicken factory.

“My job was to clean out the chickens and I absolutely hated it. I had left early because I wasn’t learning anything. We weren’t geared towards college like young people are today. Later I went to work in a meat factory which I much preferred”

Meanwhile, Anthony, then 16, was working hard in his role as an apprentice stonemason.

Collette and Anthony Wolfe, who feature in this week's How I Met My Partner on their wedding day
Collette and Anthony Wolfe, who feature in this week's How I Met My Partner on their wedding day

The first time we went out he took me to the cinema to watch a musical called Tommy. I didn’t like the movie but it didn’t matter because I was in love.”

Nonetheless, Collette called a halt to the relationship after just a few months.

“I was really in love but my friend told me that I was getting too serious. I told Anthony that I needed some time out and he told me to take as long as I wanted.”

Collette never could have anticipated what that same friend had planned.

“When we broke up she took the opportunity to ask him out. They later started going out. While they were together I experienced a terrible trauma. After hearing what had happened to me Anthony brought me over a bunch of flowers. That was what made him realise that he still cared about me.”

The pair reconnected before Anthony eventually popped the question.

“We were passing a jewellery shop and he asked me what I liked in the window. We made arrangements for that Saturday to go buy the ring. There was no going down on one knee. I think he was afraid I might say no. In those days people were afraid to let their guard down for fear they might end up getting hurt or made a fool of.”

Collette always knew Anthony was the man for her.

“We both wanted the same things. They were a family, a home and a little fun along the way.”

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the couple.

“We weren’t talking the morning of the wedding. My sister was the main bridesmaid and she had slept in which meant I was three-quarters of an hour late for my own wedding. He was so cross with me that we didn’t speak for the whole day. He even serenaded his mother at the reception instead of me.”

After eventually making up, Anthony and Collette went on to have three children Anthony, Tríona and Leanne.

Even when money was tight the couple ensured they had a date night every week to keep their relationship fresh.

“If we had no money to go out we would get dressed and have a romantic dinner at home. No matter what happened we made sure to make it work. My advice to anyone entering into a marriage would be to have a date night every week.”

Collette admits they struggled to keep their relationship strong after an unimaginable tragedy involving their 18-year-old daughter Leanne.

The family came to media prominence following her death in 2007. Leanne had left behind only a diary detailing the relentless bullying from peers leading up to her suicide.

Collette spoke of the strain the loss initially had on their marriage.

“After that, there was only silence between us,” she said. “I didn’t want to open my mouth because I knew we would have just ended up blaming each other for what happened. Looking back, even that would have been better because at least it would have been out in the open. That whole time I thought he was blaming me and he thought I was blaming him. We were both in so much pain.”

They eventually attended the Redeemed Christian Church of God in a bid to find a piece.

Collette and Anthony said they found the perfect marriage counsellor in God who continues to help them through their pain.

“I had no faith before that,” Collette revealed. “On the other hand, I didn’t think that I was going to survive so I really had nothing to lose. Leanne’s death had driven a wedge between myself and Anthony.”

Collette is now a minister with the church where she attends with Anthony every week.

The pair are also inspiring others through their advocacy work. Most recently Collette penned a book about her experiences titled There is Always Hope. The publication, which is available to purchase on Amazon, is a follow-up to her autobiography If I Could Hold You Again which she co-wrote with Brian Finnegan.

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