Lawyer, 48, whose girlfriend is about to turn 104, says it’s ‘very personal’ to ask if the couple has sex

A 48-year-old man who has been in a relationship with a 103-year-old woman for more than a decade brushed aside a question about whether they were sexually intimate.

Estonian lawyer Mart Soeson is seeking to remain in Australia on the grounds that Elfriedie Riit is his legal de facto partner after his permanent resident visa application was rejected.

Ms Riit is the widow of Mr Soeson’s grandfather and the couple lived in her home at Bankstown in south-west Sydney until she moved into a nursing home in 2022.

USA Online Post Australia told the couple’s love story on Friday and their 55-year age gap raised questions from many readers about how they expressed their passion for each other.

When asked if he and Ms Riit had a sexual relationship now or in the past, Mr Soeson said: ‘This is a very personal question, and I myself have never thought of getting into the deepest holes of others peeping into people’s lives.’

Mart Soeson, a 48-year-old Estonian lawyer who has been in a relationship with 103-year-old Elfriede Riit for more than a decade, brushed aside a question about whether they were sexually intimate.  The couple are pictured outside the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Mart Soeson, a 48-year-old Estonian lawyer who has been in a relationship with 103-year-old Elfriede Riit for more than a decade, brushed aside a question about whether they were sexually intimate. The couple are pictured outside the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Mr Soeson then cited research from the United States which he said found 15 per cent of married couples do not have sexual relations – or, in his words, ‘do so very rarely’.

“That’s why I think that the more personal aspects of our lives are not as interesting to people as one might think,” said Mr Soeson.

‘The nuances of coexistence between people are much more multifaceted. Keeping these nuances to yourself makes being together much more versatile than presenting them in public.

‘Mental and emotional connections are often much stronger than any other type of feelings.’

Mr Soeson was not formally told why his visa was refused, but believed the Department of Home Affairs was suspicious of the legitimacy of his union with Ms Riit.

He has now brought his case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which he attended with Ms Riit on Wednesday to have their romance investigated.

That hearing did not continue at the tribunal’s office in Sydney because Ms Riit, who will be 104 years old later this month, was too distressed to participate in the proceedings.

Mr Soeson is seeking to remain in Australia on the grounds that Mr Riit is his legal partner after his permanent resident visa application was refused.  The couple are pictured at Bankstown RSL's Star Buffet

Mr Soeson is seeking to remain in Australia on the grounds that Mr Riit is his legal partner after his permanent resident visa application was refused. The couple are pictured at Bankstown RSL’s Star Buffet

Mr Soeson addressed the age difference between him and Ms Riit in a statutory declaration which forms part of his appeal.

“I understand this is a cliché to bring up, but people always question the motive when they see a couple with a significant age difference,” he wrote.

“And it’s more often than not that the elderly man has entered into a relationship with a woman who may be decades his junior.”

Mr Soeson wrote that ‘people question whether the woman is essentially behind the quality of life and wealth that her partner may have accumulated over the years.’

Alternatively, they questioned ‘whether there is any intimacy between them and it gives everyone the wrong impression regarding their circumstances’.

‘While I appreciate the fact that some individuals may enter into relationships for the wrong reasons… it is important to stress that, given our history and our circumstances, there is nothing to support a concern of that nature.’

Mr Soeson explained that he and Ms Riit met in early 1996 when he came to Australia to study advanced English and she invited him to stay with her.

Ms Riit knew of Mr Soeson as her late husband Alfred’s grandson – she was Alfred’s second wife – and invited him to stay at her home in Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west.

Ms Riit, who was also born in Estonia, is the widow of Mr Soeson's grandfather Alfred and will celebrate her 104th birthday later in February.

Ms Riit, who was also born in Estonia, is the widow of Mr Soeson’s grandfather Alfred and will celebrate her 104th birthday later in February.

It wasn’t love at first sight and ‘nothing happened overnight’, according to Mr Soeson, but the two soon became friends and that connection continued to grow.

Mr Soeson returned to Estonia but returned to Australia on holidays in 2000 and 2007 to see Ms Riit, whom he had by then ‘cared for a lot’ and ‘missed terribly’.

“When I returned from my trip to Austria in 2007, I could not shake the feeling that I was missing something in my life and that something was Elfriede,” he wrote in his statement.

Mr Soeson took annual leave to undertake further trips to Sydney in 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13 with the sole purpose of seeing Ms Riit.

During that last visit, the couple realized that their feelings for each other had deepened and moved beyond friendship.

“After spending the past five holiday seasons together, the relationship between Elfriede and I has become very close,” says Mr Soeson’s statement. “Elfriede was completely in love with me and I felt the same about her.”

Mr Soeson considered that his romantic relationship with Ms Riit began in January 2013 when she was 92 and he was 37.

Mr Soeson was not formally told why his visa was rejected, but believed the Department of Home Affairs was suspicious of the legality of his relationship with Ms Riit

Mr Soeson was not formally told why his visa was rejected, but believed the Department of Home Affairs was suspicious of the legality of his relationship with Ms Riit

The next step for Mr Soeson was to leave his legal career in Estonia and move to Australia to live with Ms Riit at Bankstown, which he did in September 2018.

By the time the couple started living together, Ms Riit was 98 and according to Mr Soeson, who was 43, still ‘extremely active’. They lived together until Ms Riit moved into an aged care facility in September 2022.

“This was a reluctant decision for both of us, but a necessary one due to her health and the recommendations of her health professionals,” Mr Soeson said in his statement.

Mr Soeson first applied for permanent residence in March 2016, a temporary visa was granted in July 2017, but his permanent (partner) visa was refused just before Christmas in 2018.

He hoped the tribunal would accept he was in a ‘genuine de facto relationship’ with Ms Riit and allow him to remain in Australia.

“Elfriede and I have been together in an exclusive committed long-term romantic relationship since January 2013,” he wrote in his statement.

Mr Soeson said he would be devastated if he was forced to return to Estonia because Ms Riit's failing health meant she could not join him.

Mr Soeson said he would be devastated if he was forced to return to Estonia because Ms Riit’s failing health meant she could not join him.

‘I moved to Australia and sacrificed many years for the well-being of Elfriede and for our sincere devotion. She considers me her husband even though we never got married formally and civilly.’

Ms Riit, who has no children, is on an old-age pension and the couple combine those payments with Mr Soeson’s wages earned as a part-time painter to cover their living expenses.

“I have spent many years of my adult life as a single man,” Mr Riit said in his statement.

‘I was reluctant to simply get into a relationship for the wrong reasons or with the wrong person.

‘And yes, I never foresaw that the woman I would eventually call my partner would be Elfriede.

‘What started as a wholesome bond I had with my late grandfather’s widow slowly but surely turned into a very meaningful and loving relationship.

“Every urge I tried to fight about our future meant nothing when I actually thought about how happy she made me.”

Mr Soeson said he would be devastated if he was forced to return to Estonia because Ms Riit’s failing health meant she could not join him.

“My duty is to stand by her side and when the last day comes, to bury her and fulfill her last wishes,” he said.

“Furthermore, if I lose the ability to visit her in the nursing home, she will die quickly.”

Mr Soeson’s appeal will return to the AAT at a date to be determined.