Ben and Ashley Hayden admit their relationship progressed quickly from the start.
After three short months of dating in 2010, Ben proposed and the pair soon moved in together.
“We moved really fast, but it felt right,” Ashley, 26, said over a mug of tea at a diner in Woodland, where the couple lives with Poppy, their toy Australian shepherd puppy.
“I thought, ‘This is going to be great; we can get married,’” Ashley recalled, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. “I didn’t know the extent of (Ben’s) situation.”
Ben, 35, suffers from epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes him to experience regular seizures. He takes two different medications, which combined cost more than $3,500 for a three-month supply. Among other treatment, Ben also visits a specialist every six months to reign in his seizures.
Because of his epilepsy, Ben was still on his parent’s insurance at the time he and Ashley began dating. If he had married at the time, he’d have been forced to forfeit his parents’ benefits, and it would have been nearly impossible, Ashley said, for him to become insured elsewhere.
“We met, fell in love and couldn’t get married,” Ashley lamented.
For four years, that was their story. The relationship that had initially progressed so quickly was suddenly stalled in legal limbo. Ashley wore her engagement ring — a band set with a heart-shaped opal, her birthstone — with the understanding that it likely would never be accompanied by a wedding band. Small things, such as seeing different last names on their checks, were painful reminders of their situation.