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A woman who married her first cousin says 'you can't help who you fall in love with'.
Cheryl Hickman, 47, said she lost touch with her now-husband when the pair were 14-year-old cousins.
Their fathers are brothers, but she and David, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, reunited after finding each other on Facebook.
As kids, Cheryl said the pair would play together, often staying at each other's family homes in Wandsworth, London.
But two decades later, after both of them had married and subsequently divorced, with each of them having children from those relationships, they realised their feelings for each other. Cheryl said they fell in love almost immediately.
Cheryl, a transport passenger assistant, said: "David loved to follow me around the house and yank my ponytail. Even though we were the same age, I always referred to him as my annoying little cousin."
In 1986, David and his mum moved 40 miles away, and he and Cheryl lost touch as a result.
In the years that followed, Cheryl adopted a baby, Caitlin, with her partner at the time. She married a year later, before getting divorced in 2007.
Two years after she got divorced, David found her on Facebook, sending her an unexpected message.
She said: "That night, David and I messaged back and forth, catching up on each other's lives. I discovered he was divorced and had step-children. I told him all about Caitlin and my past marriage."
Cheryl invited David to her daughter's 8th birthday party a month later - they say the attraction was instant.
She said: "Suddenly, I realised I found my cousin attractive. I told David he looked fantastic and he said it was so nice to see me. After the party, David pulled me aside and told me he had feelings for me. I was so excited, I admitted I fancied him too. We ended up kissing."
Mum-of-one Cheryl said that although they received abuse online, she was reassured to find that first-cousin marriages are legal in Britain and are not classed as incest - but it wasn't as easy to break the news to family.
"My mum told me to stop being ridiculous," Cheryl said. "While my dad was furious and said we needed to break up as it was against the law.
"I quickly showed him a website that confirmed first cousin relationships were legal. Then he calmed down.
"After that, they still weren't happy, but I understood they needed time to get used to the idea."
The happy couple got married in front of their family and friends in November 2016.
Cheryl said: "It was the happiest day of my life. Now, David and I have been together for 11 years and married for four. And we've brought up Caitlin and her biological sister, Sarah.
"He's the best husband I could ask for."
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