1. Home
  2. Science
  3. Health
  4. news
  5. I thought I was straight. Then I fell in love with my best friend — 26 years my junior — at the age of 64.

I thought I was straight. Then I fell in love with my best friend — 26 years my junior — at the age of 64.

Jane Ridley   

I thought I was straight. Then I fell in love with my best friend — 26 years my junior — at the age of 64.
  • Liz Hilliard was married to a man for 37 years. She said their relationship had its "ups and downs."
  • She said she never entertained the idea that she could be gay.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Liz Hilliard. It has been edited for length and clarity.

People often say that I look good for my age. I'll be 70 in January.

It has a lot to do with owning a fitness studio. I keep in shape. But it's mostly related to the fact that I found the freedom to embrace my truth when I was 64 years old.

I'm the happiest I've been in my life after finding love with a woman following 37 years of marriage to a man. I never once considered I was gay. But I got my wake-up call in 2018 when I fell in love with my best friend, Lee, now 44.

Lee is 26 years younger than me and only three years older than my daughter. But the age difference doesn't matter. She's the right person for me.

I married my husband in 1980, eight months after we first met. He was gorgeous — tall, handsome, and smart. We had similar passions in life, but that also made for a very rocky marriage. We were either madly in love or we wanted to kill each other.

My self-help book was about owning who you were — but I wasn't

We had our ups and downs, but we were loyal. He taught me positive things about love and respect. However, we separated in April 2018. It had been a long time coming.

It happened a year after I'd completed a self-help book. It was about becoming powerful by owning who you were and having the courage to live your life the way you wanted at any age.

Still, when it came to my personal circumstances, the words were hollow. I couldn't pinpoint why, but I knew I needed to stop whatever I was doing that felt wrong or end up feeling fake for the rest of my life. "I'm not going to be married anymore to this man," I thought.

It never crossed my mind that I wasn't heterosexual. It was the last thing I expected; I'd never had romantic feelings for another woman in my life.

I met Lee in 2012 when she joined my business. We developed a deep friendship. I could tell her anything. I was also very close to my daughter, and Lee was, too. They're about the same age, and the three of us were always together. We'd often eat out and go to the movies. We looked at each other as best friends, despite our age differences.

I was Lee's boss and she was 26 years younger than me

Not too long after my separation, something incredible happened. Lee walked into my office when I was having a bad day. She threw her arms around me. She's a big hugger and had done it thousands of times before.

"I've got your back," she said. All of a sudden, I felt as if an electrical shock had gone through my body. It was absolutely physical. I ended up pushing Lee away because it was so intense and confusing.

"I'm not only her boss, but she's 26 years younger than me," I thought afterward. "On paper, everything is wrong with this thing."

But I texted her that night. "Would you like to have dinner with me?" I asked. She immediately texted back. We'd go out for dinner about three times a week — usually with my daughter — but we both knew this next time would be different.

I felt like a teenage boy on the date. It wasn't just sexual. I was falling in love with my best friend. I was shocked to my soul that I felt that way. Lee, who had recently separated from her own husband, was overwhelmed, too. She said she'd never felt this way about a woman either.

Step out of your comfort zone and you become fearless

At first, I wanted to keep the relationship under wraps. We both needed to get our heads around it. But you can't fake love. People would call us out, saying, "You guys look like you're having an affair." Well, they were correct.

We live in North Carolina where a lot of people tend to be religious and conservative. We lost some friends who found it difficult to cope with our sexuality and age difference.

But if you step out of your comfort zone and do something wrong in society's eyes, you become fearless. Not much scares me anymore. My friendships with people who accepted our new situation got deeper.

My daughter struggled at first. It was hard for her and hard for me to explain it to her. I couldn't really explain it to myself. But I knew that I wanted to be with Lee forever. My daughter, who has two children, had a lot of therapy to help her deal with the new situation. We both did. It took some heartache to get there, but our mother-daughter bond has grown into something great. She adores Lee just as much as before.

We got engaged last month

I'm finally leading an authentic life. Lee is a beautiful woman. Our relationship is very physical — constantly erotic and orgasmic — and very spiritual. I look and feel my best when I'm with her.

We now host a podcast called "Be Powerful with Liz & Lee," where we discuss all kinds of relationships. We want women to feel powerful, whatever their age.

As for the future, we got engaged last month. We're planning our wedding for early next year. It might even take place on my 70th birthday. I can't wait to reach that milestone — with Lee by my side.

Do you have a powerful story to share with Insider? Please send details to

Popular Right Now