When it comes to being in love, Angela and her first cousin turned spouse certainly know the struggles that may arise. But, according to the happy couple, "There's not a force great enough in this universe" to keep them apart.
They Found Love in an Unusual Place
After meeting when they were in 2nd grade, Angie and Michael have since become closer than any of their family members imagined possible. "I've had dreams about her [for as long as] I can remember," Michael welled.
While this would typically be seen as a sweet comment, the pair's family wasn't so sure about their relationship. Why? Because their parents were siblings. That's right; this made Michael and Angie first cousins. However, for Michael, "It was just natural." And while many struggled with the idea, the couple soon became a family.
When Angela Peang was a young girl, her family moved around the world quite a bit, as one of her parents worked for the State Department. Thus, much of Peang's early years were full of adjustments and creating new relationships wherever she went.
From one hemisphere to the other and all places in between, little Angela was nearly always in motion. But, unbeknownst to her, the man of her dreams was waiting for her on the other side of the world. Yes, we're talking about her prince charming, Michael.
This is Michael Lee, also known as Angie's first cousin. While the young woman spent her childhood traveling throughout the world, Michael stayed put in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is likely the reason Lee didn't even know Peang's name until years later.
Even though they hadn't crossed paths yet, Michael spent a lot of time thinking about the cousin he had yet to meet. He wondered if she liked to play with the same toys, what her favorite movies were, and if the two would ever be introduced. But, he could never have anticipated how intertwined their stories would soon become.
The Cousins Finally Met
Come 1989, and the first cousins finally met! When the Lees traveled to Arlington, Virginia, for a vacation to a family reunion, there was no chance they could have known their little boy would soon fall head over heels for his cousin, Angie. Now, let's dive into the nitty-gritty details.
The extended family hadn't had a get-together in nearly a decade, but after what happened, there's a chance the elders wished it never took place. When the young cousins met, they were both just 7 years old. Little did they know, their family event quietly turned into the kids' first date.
She Stole His Heart
After scampering up the steps of the Peang's home that day, Michael laid eyes on Angie and immediately felt his heart begin to beat faster. It was love at first sight, something Lee had never experienced before, but at that moment, he knew it felt marvelous.
Michael was immediately drawn to Angela. "When I looked at her, I've never been able to see that in any other woman in my life," he gushed. Okay, sure, the young girl was his cousin, but Lee had never met her! He never could have known ahead of time that she would steal his heart right out of his chest.
The Cousins' First Kiss
Excited to have a new person to show around her home, Angie took Michael on a harmless house tour. But for Lee, it was his first chance to see if Peang felt the same instant connection as he did. Was he just a cousin to her? Or, even at their young age, did she also feel something more beneath the surface?
Michael was determined to find out. Thus, while on the tour, the young kids found themselves inside a barely-lit closet. "We were slow-dancing together, and I was kind of worried we'd get caught and be in trouble," Angie admitted. Before they knew it, the two were sharing their first kiss, and apparently, "It just felt right."
An Instant Connection
They soon made their way back to where the rest of the family was, and before long, the reunion was over. The cousins realized they would endure an unknown amount of time apart. Michael left the reunion, years passed, and the two couldn't keep each other out of their minds.
So, what happened when the cousins reconvened about three years later? "We were inseparable," Peang remembered. "It felt like a soul connection - as if I could see myself reflected in him." Michael and Angela became nearly glued to each other. And soon, the family began to read between the lines.
"I'm Going to Marry Angie"
No matter how much the families thought they surmised what was going on, nothing could have prepared Angela's mom for what came next. "I stopped her mother in the hallway one morning, like after breakfast," Michael explained of the moment he risked it all, "I said, 'I'm going to marry Angie.'"
In shock, Angie's mom replied, "No. You can't. But you can be friends," as calmly as she could. These words felt like daggers to the heart for young Lee. It was as if the universe was turning him down, but as it turned out, it was the two families that seemingly kept their kids out of reach from one another.
Their Parents Kept Them Separated
"From that point on, we kind of felt like we were kept apart," Angie revealed of the situation. "It felt unfair, a little like Romeo and Juliet," she continued. But in this love story, "[Instead of 2 different] warring families, it was the same one."
With whatever behind-the-scenes understanding the two sets of parents had agreed to, the young children feared that their families would keep them apart forever. However, Michael and Angie knew that despite the external efforts of separation, they would soon find their ways back to each other. But, when?
They Moved on With Their Lives
With every passing year, the cousins grew further apart due to life taking them on separate journies. Angie married another man and soon started a family of her own, adding three children to her new life. And Michael? He also got married, but his situation was a bit less glamorous.
Despite the vows he shared at the altar, Michael's heart belonged to Angie. "I'd go online… check out her profile, and I would just stare," Lee admitted. "Looking at your true love, the woman you're supposed to be with, knowing… she's not with the right person." It was clear that Michael struggled with the hand he was dealt.
Their Marriages Didn't Work Out
Nearly a decade had passed, and from what we can imagine Michael believed to be a higher power's act, Angie soon became single. "We both agreed to separate," she explained of her sudden separation from her then-husband. But, as fate would have it, Peang wasn't the only one reentering the dating pool.
Despite how hard Lee tried to keep his attention on his marriage, he struggled greatly. "Even during the several years I was married, I always pined for Angie," he said of the time. Thus, by 2012, Michael couldn't handle it anymore, leading him and his wife to advance towards divorce.
Angie's Big Move
Michael felt lost and struggled to adjust to the single life he had recently found himself in again. But, as it turned out, he wasn't alone. Angie was in the same boat, trying to figure out what direction to turn in next. Peang didn't know what she wanted, but she did know she was in desperate need of a clean slate.
So, Angie packed up her belongings and took her children to a new home. But, where did she end up? Well, this time, her old ways of traveling across international waters were squashed. Thus, Peang began to prepare herself for starting a new life in Utah.
She Learned Michael was Still Local
That's right; whether she realized it or not, she was moving to the same place in which Michael resided. But, Angie had no intention of getting back into a relationship anytime soon. "I simply swore off men," she proclaimed. But, fate had another plan already in action.
As the stars fell into place, Angie recalled that "Circumstances aligned." She soon learned that her cousin Michael was still living in Utah. In no time, she raced to her computer in hopes of figuring out how to get back in touch with Lee after all of these years. Little did she know, this was the start of the rest of her life.
Angie Reached Out
As it turned out, Michael's birthday was just around the corner. So, Angie reached out, as any other family member would do. However, when Michael received her message, he could tell there was more written than the words on the screen. In no time, the friendly connection turned romantic once again.
"[We were] using love emojis, heart emojis - there was a lot of innuendos there," the mom of three admitted. Both Michael and Angie revealed that they spent hours chatting online. But, would the chance ever come to meet in person again? So much time had passed, but had their feelings withstood the test of time?
They Planned an Anticipated Reunion
Come Christmas time, the cousins had finally hatched a plan to see each other again. But, unfortunately, she didn't "Really mesh with the personalities" of Michael's immediate family. Still, after learning that Lee would be in attendance at their grandparents' holiday party, she knew what she had to do.
After countless years had passed without seeing each other, Angie wasn't going to let any disgruntled family ruin her plans. "I was not going to miss my opportunity to see my dear cousin… for the first time in about a decade." Soon after Peang arrived at the event, her heart nearly jumped out of her chest.
Just Like Old Times
In the back corner of the home, sitting at the dining table, was her kind-eyed, wide-smiled cousin, who had grown from a boy to a man. "As soon as I set eyes on him again, I knew I'd done the right thing," Angie recalled. As she remembered, the moment felt like "Fireworks… like we picked up where we left off."
The pair nearly ran to each other, and after some time catching up, they realized that despite their tumultuous divorces, nothing had changed between the two of them. But, what were they to do now? One thought burned in Angie's mind: "Could one legally marry their first cousin in Utah?"
"We'll be Together for All Eternity"
Getting married wasn't necessarily something Michael and Angela spoke of; in the grand scheme of things, it was a conversation that didn't need to be had to be understood. Lee assured Peang, "Let's just assume that we'll be together for all eternity." So, that's what they did.
When it came down to the cold hard facts, the pair were first cousins. Not only could that lead to a winding road of family arguments, but more issues were on the horizon in the eyes of the law. "I didn't want to set myself up for heartbreak," Michael said sorrowly. But, his worries weren't the only ones coming to light.
"We Let Them Observe What Was Going On"
For Angie and Michael, their relationship was natural, but what would Peang's children think? Nevermind trying to convince one child that the possibly confusing situation was okay; they had to tackle three little minds! At the heart of it all, the doting mom only wanted her kids to see that they could now have a fatherly figure.
This was a pickle Angela wasn't necessarily thrilled to find herself in. So, in an attempt to allow her children to adjust as easily as possible, "Instead of telling them? We let them observe what was going on," Peang explained. But, "My younger girl was pretty upset and started crying," the mom admitted.
They Went Facebook Official
While Angie's children reacted as young ones do when they're confused and upset, disheartening comments continued when the couple went Facebook official in January 2019. Their "coming out" post consisted of polaroids of the pair, but the reaction they were met with was tough.
The joyful announcement was posted with lighthearted spirits, but when their close friends and family saw the photos, Michael explained that "[People] were shocked and horrified." Sadly for Lee and Peang, the rest of their family disapproved tenfold.
Their Family Disowned Them
"With our extended family, it did spark some controversy," Peang admitted. Before they could say or do anything to help people understand, their family members began to distance themselves from Michael and Angela. Both sets of their parents were "Alarmed and concerned," but the unrest didn't end there.
The couple thought they had faced their family's wrath until another first cousin, Cathy, got the law involved. "I think she might be jealous," Angie guessed. Since taking legal action, "[Cathy has] become the biggest hater in our family," she continued.
They Married in The Mountain State
Despite their family's extreme reservations, come spring, Angie and Michael headed to the mountain state of Colorado to be married. They had decided that the family members who chose to distance themselves wouldn't halt them from achieving happiness.
March 4, 2019, became the day the couple's lives changed forever. "We got married - not because we're religious, but to protect ourselves legally," the new Mrs. Lee stated. The pair vowed to stand by each other's sides through thick and thin, no matter how much family they would lose…
The Lee's Went Viral
As immediate first cousins Angie and Michael transformed into Mr. and Mrs. Lee, they decided to do something that would gain widespread attention. The spouses opted-in to appearing on Dr. Phil, where they were thrown questions of all kinds. But that wasn't all…
They soon became the stars of a short Dr. Phil series called Extreme Love, which launched them into the spotlight. So, how did they explain their side of things? Well, as Michael said, "Imagine... you have met someone that you're head over heels in love with... that just so happens to be your cousin."
"We're Really Like Everyone Else"
Despite the masses being widely confused, the couple considered their love story the same as anyone else - a natural connection. "We're really like everyone else, reassured Michael. In addition, Mr. Lee continued, "What if the question that was [being] asked was: Would it be okay to have an interracial marriage?"
He continued to challenge the audience: "60 years ago, the majority of people would have raised their hands no… we've evolved, we have learned more about how things work." Michael and Angie were head over heels for one another, and they remained determined to persuade the world to accept them.
Their Union is Not Valid in Utah
While the couple's opinion of their relationship was the same as anyone else's, the world viewed it as something completely different. Once Mr. and Mrs. Lee left Colorado to return home, they soon learned that their marriage was illegal in their home state of Utah.
More specifically, the marriage of first cousins was not seen as a valid union in the state, meaning in Utah, they were not wed. With sexual relations between relatives being prohibited for fear of birth defects in possible offspring, the pair might face an approximated $10,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.
For the Sake of True Love
With these charges looming over them, Michael and Angie decided not to let it deter them from their game plan for a happy life together. Despite facing time behind bars, the Lees did not shy away from sharing their life course. Thus, they started a channel where they could post content for anyone who would tune in.
"Advice for Cousins in Love" was one of many videos the spouses shared. From posting photos to snippets of their story, Michael and Angie even spoke about facing what would be a 3rd-degree felony in Salt Lake City. Despite negative responses, Peang shared, "We have a strong attraction… it's very mutually satisfying."
Baby on Board
With many haters and few supporters across the interwebs, Michael and Angie worked hard to push the negativity away from their relationship. But, instead, they focused on their happiness by expanding their family even more! On the morning of May 16, 2020, the Lees welcomed their baby boy, Eric Seth Lee.
The couple thought this would bring clarity to their relationship and show the world their strength and determination to follow their hearts. But, the choices did pose some risks. "We did genetic testing and found out it was OK," as it turned out, their 8.8lb son had a thick head of hair and seemed to be healthy.
A Petition to Legalize Marriage of Cousins
Their wedding vows of sticking together through thick and thin were certainly put to the test, even more so now that they had a child. Thus, the family decided that instead of spending more time trying to prove themselves, they would focus their attention on the root of those against them.
The Lees launched a widespread petition to encourage their acceptance from others. "Allow first cousins to marry in Utah," they declared. "We believe that the law is outdated and needs to be changed to accommodate us," they continued. To date, nearly 2,000 people have added their names in support of the couple's ideals.
Parenthood had begun to mean more to Michael and Angela than they ever could have expected. So the union was launched to the next level. Peang explained, "My personal experience has shown that supporters have more saying power than haters." Luckily, ears began to perk up.
Michael added, "Are you ashamed of your marriage with your husband or wife?... Should you go hide in the corner?... I don't feel like I should have to - or that Angie and I should have to keep it some kind of a secret." Thus, the Lees stood their ground, showing the world they weren't planning on quieting down.
"We Took on the Adventure of a Lifetime"
Now that the couple had gone viral across social media, television, and the world, Angie took the chance to send a clear message. "Despite the controversy, we took on the adventure of a lifetime, learning what it means to love," she explained. But, what would come next? Acceptance? More hate?
Of course, they have experienced dire hindrances to their happiness throughout the years, but in the end? Michael and Angela Lee value each other and their son above all else. "Just 2 years [together], looking forward to many more…" Peang gushed online.
A Family Fairytale
When Michael and Angie met at 7-years-old, neither one of them knew their lives would change forever. With love in their hearts and fire in their souls, the Lees have chosen their happiness above all else. And, they have seemingly been living blissfully ever since.
"There's not a force great enough in this universe to keep me apart from Angie," Michael declared. Despite losing family support and gaining a world full of people's opinions, the Lees have stood by each other's sides and clearly plan to remain that way.