You’re a what? A sex offender??

He makes me laugh. He is loving, caring, kind. He is a provider, and a man of wisdom. He is also a registered sex offender.

When we started dating, Matthew and I discovered we had a lot in common. We both had a passion for sports, we enjoyed similar music, types of food, television shows, and we were both single parents. We enjoyed each other’s company in a way no one but he and I could understand. We smiled at the same inside jokes, we got excited for reality TV, and our favorite date was take out chinese while watching Sunday football. We complimented each other in ways most couples only imagined. It was only inevitable that we discuss taking the next step. I asked him to move in.

While in the moving process, I discovered something a little unsettling. Okay, that was an understatement. I found something that made my stomach feel like I had swallowed a jug of bitterly gagging curdled milk. I found court papers. Papers that he took a plea which would change his life forever. A plea, that would have an ever-lasting effect on me and my family. I plea that would put him on the sex offender registry.

My first thought was I could not have this man in my house; not with my children. Then my next thought was, how does he have equal rights to his son if he is a sex offender? My interest peaked, and I had to ask.

He pulled out all the documentation. He told me to read it and ask him if I had any questions, and he would answer them honestly for me. The room felt like it was spinning, and I was losing grip on this perfect budding relationship. I was losing sight of my future, but I sat there and I read.

I read how almost 9 years ago, Matthew was clearly under the influence of alcohol, alone in his dorm room chatting on the computer. I read how the girl he was chatting with claimed to be older then she really was. The chat got sexual, and the chat got…dirty. Then, I read how the father found out, disclosed to Matthew that his daughter was only 14 and how he would see him behind bars.

I asked him to explain why he plead guilty. He explained how court appointed lawyers don’t really fight for you if you are involved in a “sex crime” with a minor. In Maine, this is what this was considered. He explained that the lawyer worked out a plea bargain. He would have a suspended jail sentence, so he wouldn’t actually face time in prison, a year of probation, and he would have to undergo extensive counseling. Matthew, at 21, didn’t want to go to prison, so he settled for pleading guilty to solicitation of a minor over computer – a class D misdemeanor in Maine.

I thought over…and over…and over. I understood. I was furious, but I understood. He didn’t lie to me. At this point, he was not on the registry and didn’t have to tell me anything, but he did. He was honest. He admitted to being wrong, he completed everything that was asked of him, and he completed all of his counseling. He was honest, and recovered. He was taken for a spin and he made the best of it. I trusted him.

He moved in with me that week. Not once have I felt the need to not trust him. Not once has my daughters acted or said anything that made them feel uncomfortable around him. No one needed to know his history, no one needed to judge our relationship. We continued in our happy, growing relationship together.

I became a mother to his son, and he became a father to my daughters. We began attending church, re-committing ourselves to our faith together. We were happy. So happy, that Matthew asked me to marry him on a Sunday night during a football half time, in the midst of our white glimmering Christmas lights. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

We began planning the wedding. Matthew was as involved as I was, having a dream wedding all planned in his mind. He wanted a large, traditional, classy wedding. His vision, to me, was beautiful. Everything was going as planned. We had found a home to purchase together. We moved into our new community. The kids were well established and enjoying school. They were making friends, attending functions and parties. Everything was running smoothly when it came. The letter that would change our lives. The letter that would stop our plans dead in their tracks. The letter that stated Matthew was required to go on the Maine State Sex Offender registry.

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