Whenever there is a huge age difference in a romantic relationship there is bound to be some sort of backlash.
And the love story between Najlah Muhammad, 24, from Arizona, and John Malott, 48, from Wisconsin, was no different.
They first met in August 2016 at a nightclub where John was celebrating his birthday. One of Najlah’s friends introduced her to John and there was instant chemistry between them. They fell in love with each other within weeks of dating.
A year later and John popped the question and they are set to tie the knot in June 2019. However, the path there without trials. There was resistance from both sides of the family and John’s 25-year-old daughter even refused to talk to Najlah at first. They also lost a few friends, some of whom even claimed that John had cheated in the hopes of breaking up the couple.
But they held fast until both their families came to accept them. In fact, John’s daughters have come to love Najlah and she even goes out clubbing with them (John has four daughters: Jessica, 18, Carissa, 25 – only two months older than Najlah – and Lauren, 26, who is older than her future stepmother – and the youngest daughter, who is nine).
“I didn’t expect I would fall in love within weeks of dating,” Najlah said.
“It was almost love at first sight – within weeks actually. The amount of time we spent together, all day and night, our connection grew very strong. What attracted me to John at first was how well this man could dress. Then when I saw his dance moves and rhythm, I was very impressed.
“He’s also very charismatic, handsome and has a kind heart.”
Najlah said that her family wasn’t happy about the relationship at first but when they finally met John and saw how serious the couple was about the relationship, the tide began to turn.
The turning point for Najlah’s family happened when John invited all of them to his villa in Mexico in November 2017. John took them all out for a meal so that they can get to know each other better but when they arrived back at the villa, he knelt down on one knee and proposed to Najlah who, of course, accepted.
Now they are discussing having children and even John’s youngest is excited about the idea.
“We most definitely want to have children; John would like a son to carry on his legacy, but we would be happy with a boy or girl or even both,” said Najlah.
“His youngest daughter is very eager to be a big sister and asks me almost every time when we are having a baby.
While John was first attracted to her “beauty” at first, he then fell in love with “how well they connected.”
“It didn’t seem that he was talking to someone younger than him because the conversations never went dull,” she explained.
“I think we get along extremely well because I’m mature for my age – and I guess you can say he can be immature but never in a bad way. When people found out about us, they would find ways to try to destroy our relationship, gossiping and even making up lies about us both so we could stop seeing each other.
“People would lie that John was seeing other girls and that one time, in particular, he was out with some random girl, but I knew it wasn’t true because he was with me that day and we were living together. John has four daughters; at the beginning of our relationship it was tough for the daughter who is closest to my age, so she refused to meet me or talk to me.
“Eventually when we met, she got to know me and now we all feel pretty close and talk frequently. Now they say that they are very happy for their dad and we party when we get together.”
Of course, comments about Najlah being a “gold digger” couldn’t be avoided even if both of them have affluent jobs (she is a fitness coach and entrepreneur). The fact that their relationship is a mixed race one has also made other people uncomfortable.
But they didn’t let the negative comments affect them and they are set on cementing their union at the altar by the middle of this year.
“Friendships we had for years ended, but we didn’t let any of it tear us down. Looking back, it actually made us stronger,” said Najlah.
“It became an ‘us against the world’ kind of thing. John and I are not the same race – I am black and he is white. John and I are not close in age – he is 48 and I am 24.
“The combination of those two factors made people feel uncomfortable around us and our relationship.
“The stares, the uncomfortableness in social settings, the outright hate of our relationship to our faces and especially on social media has been difficult.
“People sometimes laugh or give dirty looks as if they’re confused. The most common things people say are ‘why are you with that old man?’ and ‘you’re a gold digger.’
“People see that I’m a younger woman dating an older gentleman and assume I’m after him for money, but I have my own business and we’re building businesses together.
“We don’t let the opinions of other people affect our life and our relationship.
“I would say that judging a book by its cover has never been a good idea. People don’t have to look like brother and sister to have a great relationship. The facade is never as important as the foundation.”