Tell us how you met, and how you knew that this relationship was special.

Aaryn: We met in college, in sociology class. I was sitting by the door, and he was approaching it, talking to a friend. I remember feeling someone looking at me, and when I looked over toward the door, I saw him, and he literally stopped in his tracks. I felt very drawn to him, but really didn’t give much of a conscious thought to what that feeling was. We spoke a few times in class and exchanged emails for a class project, but that was it. We realized later that that moment in class was recognition. I think we recognized each other, though neither of us was ready for it at that time. We didn’t go on a date until almost a year later, and we got married 7 months after that.

Brandon: We met on a stage of higher learning. I knew it was special because I saw everything that I wanted in a woman. Peaceful, kind, sweet, goodhearted. And she saw the Brandon that even I didn’t see when I looked in the mirror. Our relationship is special to me because, from the beginning, I saw my future with Aaryn, and looking into her eyes, there were endless possibilities for a great future.

Do you feel you're connected on a soul level?

Aaryn: Definitely! Our relationship is definitely by design. That sociology class was the only class we had together. Not too long before that class, I wrote an article titled, “The List,” where I talked about the expectations we set for finding “the one.” I dug deep and created my own list of the qualities I wanted my future husband to possess, and when I published it, everyone laughed and joked and said it was impossible to find one person with everything I listed. When Brandon and I started dating, it didn’t take me long to realize that he had all of those qualities. He was definitely “the one.”

Brandon: To be honest I gave up on relationships. I just wanted to continue growing into a complete man. One day I prayed, and asked that I would recognize the only woman intended to be my wife under the eyes of heaven. I started to realize that what I had given up on were the kinds of relationships that were not ideal or realistic. I still believed in the love that two like-spirits could share. I recognized Aaryn to be all my heart and soul wanted and needed to be that complete man. So yes, she is my soul mate. Heaven sent.

What passions do you share?

Aaryn: We both share a passion for creating. We are both writers, but at our wedding, we chose not to write our vows to each other. Instead, we did a painting that expressed our union and the beginning of our journey together. We plan to add onto the painting each year. I think that is the most beautiful expression of our love, because it totally defines our relationship.

Brandon: Ultimately I believe we both share the passion for the power of “us”. Without Aaryn, I am less than the man I have the potential to be. Without Aaryn is not my idea of a present, or futuristically great reality. We are strongly connected by goals of versatile growth together. We also understand our positions as heads of our family, raising our children not only by design, but also by example. I feel that we both made sure the time was taken to love ourselves before being brought together to love each other. I ensure our loving connection by not ever asking her to prove her love to me, because I don’t doubt it. I asked her to do three things at least for the rest of our lives that she has and always will be able to do, because in turn, I will always give her reasons to love me, believe in me, and give me moral support. That’s all I need, but she never fails to give me more. To ensure our connection, we honor each other as the blessings we are to each other.

Describe one of the most soulful experiences you've had together.

Aaryn: We are a blended family. We each have young children, and we love all of them the same, and now we have a new baby together. We got married on January 1, 2011 (1-1-11). The date meant a lot to us because one is the number of unity. Our son was born later that year on 11-11-11.

Brandon: The very end of anything can be trying. The last couple of months of college were not smooth as I worked so hard for them to be. Aaryn was my alarm clock, my early morning wisdom, and fitness instructor. Aaryn gave me more than what was expected of her, even before we were married. I realized she was investing in me with her love and care, making me stronger for our future. She helped me complete college. It was such a meaningful experience to have such an awesome woman, and my future wife by my side at my graduation.

How do you feel you benefit from your relationship?

Aaryn: We are both very strong individually, but we make each other stronger. Our goals, beliefs, and values are very much in line, so on our journey, if one of us starts to get a little sleepy behind the wheel, the other will drive for a while. It is important to both of us to stay in forward motion until we get there. Because we have each brought children into this union, it is important that we are meeting their needs in our roles. The kids bonded instantly to each other and to us as a unit. Them being happy allows us to be happy, and us being happy allows them to be happy.

Brandon: I benefit from being happy, feeling safe in love, and having strength, even when my feelings are what could be considered to be weak. Others, in general, may benefit from positive vibes given off by any source of positive energy. I believe that when some people see a couple sharing high levels of love, it sickens them. I feel that when my wife and I are in the presence of others, it is evident that our love for each other and our ability to share it effortlessly, only makes sense, especially with us wearing the hats of being parents and partners, striving for individual and combined goals alike. I also believe us riding life’s great crashing waves, in addition to the settled waters, is such a great example to our children. They have all (except the baby) experienced the broken home. Aaryn and I coming together, being strong role models, gives all of our children optimism for a life experiencing the opposite of broken: completely fixed.

Do you  have a shared purpose for being together?

Aaryn: I said to Brandon not too long ago that we have both struggled immensely trying to reach some of the goals we are most passionate about in life. We each have dreams that have been shot down or discouraged by just about everyone around us. We support each other’s dreams in very active ways, and in just over a year of marriage, we have made more progress toward achieving those dreams than either of us has been able to make on our own in our lifetimes. It’s beautiful.

Brandon: Yes, I do believe we have a shared purpose of having one in your life to call yours, without foolish feelings or others getting in the way. Another purpose is that we compliment each other with the strength of love, which makes us so powerful together. I believe our ultimate purpose is carrying our love through life, death, and a type of life again. Our lives will be limited, but our love has the ability to outlast it. Our love will, if we hold on to the essence of it, carry over with us as the same shared purpose for eternity.

What challenge have you faced together, and how did you find your way through it? 

Aaryn: The first major challenge we faced together was a miscarriage. I went to a doctor’s appointment, already sensing something was wrong, and there was no heartbeat. I felt so much guilt because I was in school at the time, taking a class that was extremely stressful. I let out a cry in the hospital that I had never cried before, or since. I had never lost anyone very close to me (tragically) before this happened, and for that first person to be my own child... It would have been unbearable if he were not by my side. He did an amazing job of comforting me, and explained life and death to me in a way that has given me peace.

What are you learning in your relationship right now?

Aaryn: I think one of the greatest lessons I am learning is that being smart doesn’t make me right all the time. I’m used to winning arguments all the time, and that does not happen with Brandon. Sometimes he concedes, and sometimes he stands his ground. I love that he is honest and will tell me when I am wrong. And I do the same with him. It’s never what a person wants to hear, and it’s not always accepted right away, but if you can acknowledge and concede defeat when you’re wrong, you will have grown as an individual, and your relationship grows as well.

Brandon: Exactly what I intended to learn more about: my wife, and myself. I am a firm believer that life is a “live and learn” process.

Is there anything else special about your relationship that you'd like to share with us?

Brandon: I could not have found a better love, honestly. I feel like a man who was robbed until he was poor, and then found by someone who is more valuable than gold. Aaryn makes me feel like I am of so much value to her. The feeling of belonging is valuable to one who feels like a grain of sand in a desert. Aaryn picked me up and cherished me. I try to give her my life, but since my life is not really my own, I give her my time, and all of me that I do control because that is what she gives me, and I could not have asked for more. I prayed for this entirely and specifically, so have faith my friends.

What advice can you offer other couples to help them keep their connection strong? 

Aaryn: Don’t try to change the person you fell in love with. One of these days my husband may put his work scrubs in the laundry bin on his own, and one day my driving may improve and he won’t be terrified to be in the car with me when I’m behind the wheel. Many times we seek change, when what we really need is growth. Growth is a type of change, but change does not necessarily mean growth. And more specifically, you not only want to grow, you want to blossom (because weeds grow, too). Nurture each other as individuals and you will each grow beautifully. Nurture your relationship, and it will blossom year after year. (My PopPop taught us that.)

Brandon: Remember what you went through before that great someone. Never forget the first reason you had for falling in love with them, and keep your eyes, ears, heart, mind, and soul open to having more reasons throughout life to cherish. Have faith in yourself, and in each other.

What advice can you offer single people who desire a relationship like yours?

Aaryn: The greatest advice I can give to single people is to create the list that I created for myself. I looked over the superficial characteristics that we typically look for in a significant other, and created a list of qualities that I wanted in a significant other. By doing this, I was forced to look inward. Can I match these qualities that I am asking him to possess? I had to work on the areas where I was falling short before I could attract someone with everything I desired. It’s not just about finding someone who you think will be good enough for you; you have to be good enough for them, too, if it’s going to work. I met Brandon 5 months after I created that list.

Brandon: Be patient for love. Don’t look for it; it will find you, it might grab you out of mid air, or you may need to have your senses alert to recognizing the person of your heart’s desire. Love yourself to the max as if there was not a maximum level, and then love that person with it all like you will not ever have a chance to love again. That way you will understand that giving up on love is given up on yourself.

Treat yourself and your relationships to Aaryn K. Coley-Gooden's extremely insightful blog, The Accidental Therapist. Here are a few great entries: Relationship Evolution, The Gift of Love, and The Happiness Template.

Mali Apple & Joe DunnThank you for sharing your soulmate experience with us—we are inspired by your example of what a truly soulful connection is all about! ~Mali & Joe, authors of The Soulmate Experience, 52 Prescriptions for Happiness, and the upcoming book The Soulmate Lover, and creators of Mantras for Making Love