Love & Family

Forbidden love: I married my cousin

'You can't help who you fall in love with'

Reuniting with her cousin after 22 years apart, Cheryl Hickman realised her feelings towards David had changed.

Though it may be unconventional, the couple have now been happily married for four years and are raising children together.

As told to Candice Fernandez.

As the doorbell chimed, I rolled my eyes.

‘David’s here,’

I groaned. He was my annoying cousin.

It was February 1981, and we were both eight years old.

‘Be nice,’ my dad laughed, opening the front door.

As Dad greeted his brother, David yanked on my ponytail.

Every month, David and I would play together while our parents nattered away.

And every time, he pulled my ponytail and it irritated me. Then, when we were 14, David moved away.

A few months later, his mum sadly passed away suddenly.

Our family was devastated, and my heart broke for David especially.

‘I’m here for you,’ I wept, holding my cousin’s hand at the funeral.

After that, with David living far away, we didn’t speak.

‘I can’t believe he’s gone,’ I said to my parents.

‘I’m sure you’ll still see each other,’ Dad said.

But, Dad and my uncle lost touch and I didn’t hear from my cousin again.

(Credit: Supplied)

Over the years, I wondered what happened to him.

‘Do you ever hear from them?’ I asked Dad every so often.

‘Not a word,’ he said.

Meanwhile, I grew up and married and we adopted a beautiful baby girl, Caitlin.

Sadly, it didn’t work out and we eventually divorced, but I happily threw myself into being a full-time mum.

Then, one day two years on, a message landed in my inbox on Facebook.

Hi stranger, it said.

It was from someone called David.

Who’s that? I thought, confused.

But then it clicked.

‘Oh my God!’ I said aloud. David!

I hadn’t heard from my cousin in 22 years.

Looking on his profile, I found a recent photo. He was older, but his eyes and warm smile were the same.

I can’t believe it’s you, I wrote back.

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That night, we messaged back and forth, catching up on each other’s lives. I discovered he was divorced too, and had stepchildren.

After that, we spoke every day. The next month, I invited David, then 36, to Caitlin’s eighth birthday party.

As he walked into the laser tag centre, my heart skipped a beat.

He’s gorgeous, I thought.

Instantly, I realised I found my cousin attractive.

Cut it out, I told myself sternly, trying to shake the weird feeling.

‘You look fantastic,’

I smiled, as he hugged me.

‘It’s so nice to see your face,’ he gushed.

During the party, we couldn’t stop laughing.

It was strange; it didn’t feel like a family reunion.

It felt like a date.

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Later that night, when everyone had left, David pulled me to one side.

‘I have feelings for you,’ he stammered.

I felt like a teenager again.

‘I fancy you too,’ I said, feeling my cheeks blush.

Even though I knew we were cousins, my feelings overpowered me.

Leaning in, I kissed him passionately.

It should have felt wrong, but instead it felt so right.

The next day, it was all I could think about.

But David and I are related by blood, I panicked.

Our dads were brothers!

Are we going to get in trouble? I worried.

After frantically searching the internet, I discovered first-cousin marriages were legal, and it wasn’t classed as incest.

‘Let’s give this a go then,’ David said, when I told him. ‘I’m crazy about you.’

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After that, David and I were a couple, but we kept our relationship secret, afraid of what our family would think.

Two months on, though, we decided to come clean and I visited my parents.

‘David and I are in love,’ I blurted out over lunch.

They both looked horrified.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ Mum said.

‘But he’s your cousin! That’s against the law,’ Dad said, urging us to break up.

‘No, it’s not illegal,’ I explained.

Hands shaking, I quickly grabbed my phone.

‘Look,’ I said, pointing to a website confirming it.

Putting on his glasses, Dad began to read, and, slowly, he calmed down.

‘I didn’t realise,’ he said.

‘We love each other,’ I said, wiping my tears.

They weren’t convinced, but I knew they just needed some time to come round to the idea.

After that, David became a doting stepdad to Caitlin.

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Six months later, my family finally accepted our relationship.

‘We can see how happy you and David make each other,’ my parents said.

From then on, the fact that David and I were cousins rarely came up again.

When it did, people were nice about it.

Although I did come across some nasty comments on Facebook.

Incest! I read one day, my blood boiling.

‘How can they call us incestuous?’ I fumed. ‘We aren’t brother and sister.’

‘Just ignore them,’ David said. ‘They’re idiots.’

I knew he was right.

In November 2016, surrounded by friends and family, we married. It was the happiest day of my life.

‘You’re my soulmate,’ David wept at the altar.

Now, David and I have been together for 11 years.

You can’t help who you fall in love with.

David might be my cousin, but he’s the love of my life.

(Credit: Supplied)

Is it legal to marry your cousin?

• Australian and NZ law allows you to marry your first cousin, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew.
• It’s illegal to marry a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister.
• There is mixed opinion and research on the risk that having a child with your cousin can cause pre and postnatal complications.
• Worldwide, around 10 per cent of marriages are between first or second cousins.

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