When looking for love, sometimes it can be right under your nose the whole time.
At least, that’s exactly what happened to Monica Vankoek, when she found love with her first cousin, Paul Derschan, after her own marriage broke down.
The 35-year-old, from Colorado Springs, now plans to marry Paul, 55, and have his children, despite criticisms from their family.
Things are now going from strength to strength for the pair, but it hasn’t always been that way, with Monica admitting that at first, she found it difficult to be intimate with her partner.
‘In the beginning it was extremely difficult to be sexual with him – I felt very guilty and would even cry afterwards because of how bad I felt, and Paul would also,’ she explained.
‘Our relationship was so natural because we already had a close bond being family – in fact, sexual intimacy was the only part that felt forced.’
Monica says it took around six months before they were able to have ‘a healthy sexual relationship without feeling incestual or wrong’.
Sadly, it wasn’t just their bedroom action they struggled with.
According to Monica, several family members ‘disowned’ her because of her decision to be with Paul, despite it being legal to marry cousins in Colorado.
Even though it is legal for us to be together, my family members still thought it was wrong and judged us for it.
Luckily some have stuck by me and are just happy that I have found someone who I truly love and treats me well.
The loved-up couple have been engaged since May 2019 and are planning to get married in August, while they continue to plan starting a family together.
Due to Paul being older than me and my own fertility issues, we are going to start IVF treatment in the spring.
But despite these issues, we will make sure that the child is 100% mine and Paul’s, not using donated eggs or sperm, as we would love a child of our own.
Monica initially tried to deny her feelings for Paul, over fears of how others would react, but she says she’s glad she gave in to them because they believe their relationship is ‘stronger than average couples’.
‘I believe that being cousins has helped us have the most successful, healthy and happy relationship we could possibly have, she said.
‘Our bond is even stronger than average couples because we love each other as family and as spouses – it’s like two different forms of love rolled into one, and that’s a very binding feeling.’
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