Chloe Lusted and husband James are like any other newly married busy couple – they enjoy hanging out together and have recently bought a puppy. But when they first got together, Chloe, 23, faced opposition from her family because James, 29, suffered from a rare genetic condition which causes dwarfism. Here Chloe recounts how their relationship unfolded.
As the phone rang I was nervous. I was about to tell my mum about my new boyfriend and I knew she would be shocked, so I had left it until I was on my journey back to university, almost 200 miles (320km) away.
I told her the name of my new boyfriend and her reaction was pretty instant. She said: “Why Jay, why Jay? Chloe, he is a dwarf, you’re not suited.”
She couldn’t understand what I saw in James, who everyone knows as Jay. She was in shock.
Jay was born with diastrophic dysplasia – a rare genetic condition that causes dwarfism – despite both his parents Dawn and Dave being of average height.
Jay stands at 3ft 7in (1.1m) tall while I am 5ft 7in (1.7m), and that was part of the reason I was so nervous about telling my mum.
I was a bit angry at her at the time, why couldn’t she just accept it? But looking back at it now she would have had reservations about any guy I got with.
And because Jay was “different”, I guess I can understand why she was so shocked and reacted like she did.
Growing up, I was very much into boys from the age of 16, but I was always looking for a long-term partner.
I have grown up in the church since I was five years old, so it has always been really important to me and I have always wanted to have a wedding and a marriage – I guess I am traditional in that way.
Before Jay I had two long-term relationships and always wanted to settle down with someone, I didn’t want to date just any guy. I was always asking myself – is this guy marriage material? And, if not, what am I doing with him?
To be honest, when we first met, I didn’t really think about Jay as a potential boyfriend. Because of who he is, and his condition I never really thought about him in that way.
He was friends with friends of mine, and we were acquaintances, but we became friends on the day he carried the Olympic torch when it travelled through Wales in May 2012.
He had been chosen to carry the flame because of his work encouraging others to become involved in disability sport.
As the British Class 1 badminton champion within the Dwarf Sports Association for nine years and someone who had travelled to Beijing in 2008 as a British representative, he was a natural choice to have a turn carrying the torch.
I went with some of his friends to watch him, and met him and his family properly for the first time.
What I liked about him was that he was an all-round happy person, and positive person to be around. He always carried a conversation which is really important to me, and he just shone.
But I was dating someone else at the time, so it wasn’t until we broke up the following year that Jay asked me out.
I was studying in Cardiff so he sent me a text message asking if I’d like to go on a date. I said yes, as I liked the fact he was so positive and outgoing.
Our first date was at a bar in Betws-y-Coed, Gwynedd, in May 2013 and we just got on.
But I had not long come out of my recent relationship and we were both very busy with our own lives. This meant we didn’t see each other that regularly so we decided to keep it quiet for a while.
And inside I was also having a bit of a struggle – sometimes I can get very caught up in what people think and say about me, mainly my mum, so I was worried about it going further. I was worried how people would react.
But as I started to find out how well-known Jay was in the area, and how much appreciation he had, the worry about what people would think gradually disappeared.
- Features can include short arms and legs, a small chest and clubbed feet
- Around 33% of sufferers have a cleft palate
- The condition occurs in one in 110,000 births
I wasn’t really 100% about it until, one day, my mum, me and my sister went shopping in Llandudno and we bumped into Jay.
In that moment I had that feeling in my stomach that you get when you see someone and you know you really like them. I never go shy, but I was lost for words.
When I went back to university that September we made our relationship public.
My mum was a single mum and fiercely protective of me and my two sisters, but it didn’t take her long before she changed her mind after her initial shock, and started to appreciate who Jay was and how he treated me. Now she just sees Jay, nothing else.
Jay has had a few people comment on photos of us on social media in the past: “How on earth has Jay got this really beautiful girl?”
But it is not just about looks, Jay is very attractive to me and vice-versa.
Around a year after we made our relationship official Jay and I went back to where we had our first date in Betws-y-Coed for lunch. We then drove up to our favourite lake, Llyn Geirionydd, which is a beauty spot nearby.
Jay was particularly quiet on the way up to the lake, which is not normally like him. We got to the jetty and I sat down, and before you know it he was behind me tapping me on the shoulder.
I turned around and he was on one knee, and said: “What would you do if I asked you to marry me?”
I said yes.
Our wedding day last August was the happiest of my life, and I am so excited to spend the rest of my life with him.
But what I didn’t know as I teased him for crying at the altar was that the moment was loaded with emotion for him for many reasons, because he had spent part of his life believing he would never find love, let alone get married.
Jay says he appreciates how I accept him for who he is and that I see him, not the condition.
We work as a team and love and support each other.
Since getting married we have moved into our house in Colwyn Bay and are busier than ever before. I am close to graduating from Bangor University after qualifying as a primary school teacher and Jay has just been elected a councillor on the local council.
I have always wanted a family and I’m so excited for that, but I’m happy to wait a couple of years as I would like to be in full-time work.
We have spoken to doctors about having children, and the possibility that ours will be born with the same condition as Jay, but because it is so rare, the likelihood is slim.
All the same we are not bothered about being tested for it.
If we do have a dwarf baby I wouldn’t have any worries about it, and the same if it is an average-sized baby – I will love it just as much.
Jay hadn’t dated anyone before me so I always feel very blessed that I was his first love, and will be his last love too.
He is someone who likes to dream big and have other people around him who are the same. I’m so lucky to have him in my life.
- Chloe and James tell their story in Big Love – available on iPlayer