Not all love stories have fairytale beginnings. Thank you, Daniela and Toby, for sharing your special story with us. (Because of the sensitive nature of this story, Daniela and Toby have chosen to remain anonymous.) Photographs courtesy Laurence Van Oliver; see his artistry here.

Tell us how you met and how you knew that this relationship was special. We met at a time when we were both homeless. Toby was a geek, and not a lot of the gals liked him. He was too outgoing, too corny and just too much for  “ordinary” women to deal with. I knew there was something special about him, because he stated when he lost his virginity, he would marry her. No woman wanted him, as he was also not the  cleanest of men. I saw something in him that I knew others didn’t; it would just take some digging to get to it.

What passions do you share? Computers, believe it or not! At first I hated them, as my mom was dead-set against “new technology.” This tainted my views too, until Toby taught me that the computer is merely a tool. Now I am online more than he is! We also love the outdoors, and weather permitting, love to go camping and even if it isn’t overnight, we love going to a park and letting the kids play while we enjoy nature.

How do you feel that you benefit from your relationship? I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 5 and was told I would never have a normal life. I had been abused as a child and [in previous relationships] physically abused, lied to, and cheated on, so when I invited Toby over to dinner that first night, I was quite jaded when it came to men. Our children know that ours is not a “normal” home: Toby is ADD, and I am autistic; in addition, one of our daughters is developmentally delayed and one is ADD/ADHD. We take pride in knowing that even though we are considered “dysfunctional,” we make it work.

A lot of people see us and know that we are not your “typical” couple. I look at them and have to smile.

What challenges have you faced together? We have faced homelessness, placing a child for adoption because she was in ill health and our insurance did not cover the surgery needed to save her life, and relocating across the country. We have overcome major health crises because of my husband’s diabetes, major surgeries, losing our vehicles, and our oldest daughter leaving home. Now Toby is half-owner of a company, which had been his goal for a long time. Through the faith we have in each other and in the Universe, this dream has come to fruition.

Do you feel you have a shared purpose for being together? We feel that we are together to raise our children and to fit in the grand scheme of things. Our marriage has had its problems, true, but together, we know we can rely on each other to get us through. I know in my heart of hearts that Toby is rock-solid and he knows I am here for him too.

What advice can you offer single people who desire a relationship like yours? Stop looking. Prepare yourself to meet the The One by,  above all: Create within you the qualities  you want in your mate. And also: No one can “fix” you: you are not broken. You must “fix” yourself, and prepare yourself in order for the Universe to send that special person to you. One last thing: This person is not always the person you expect. Drop the expectation; the Universe doesn’t “do” custom orders.

What advice can you offer other couples to help them keep their connection strong? Don’t give up on your partner. See the strengths and rejoice in them. Offer to help each other raise their weaknesses and overcome them. We are not in it alone. If that were the case, it would not be a relation-ship. Support each other’s differences and do not try to change them. They are the way they are for a reason: it is what makes them, well, them.

If you know a couple with a special love story to share, we’d love to feature it—just contact us Mali & Joe, authors of The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships