Embracing Love While Becoming Their Authentic Selves

On Oct. 1, 2013, the two went to the Melting Pot restaurant to celebrate their one-year anniversary. On the way, they happened to stop at a red light about a block away. “I looked up and took a picture and made a joke about Jared’s, the jewelry store,” Ms. Carmichael said. “I posted it on social media and said, ‘Look, he went to Jared’s.’”

Ms. Carmichael had no idea what Mr. Hatcher had planned for that night.

After dinner, he handed her a glass jar with 99 clear stones in it. “Each stone had a memory from the past year. He asked me to pull a few out and read them, so I did,” Ms. Carmichael said. The stones recounted their first “fancy date” at a steakhouse; taking the children to a pumpkin patch; milkshakes at Carl’s Jr.; and their new house.

He then handed one to her that he pulled from his pocket. It read, “Getting engaged.” He then took out a white gold and diamond ring, got down on one knee and proposed. “I immediately cried and said, ‘Yes,’” Ms. Carmichael said. “The Melting Pot took our picture and gave us a printout that I still cherish today.”

Mr. Hatcher, 42, grew up in Albuquerque and works as an acquisition program specialist with the federal government. He has a master’s degree in software engineering and database technology and an M.B.A. from Regis University in Denver. A previous marriage ended in divorce. He has also been in one previous civil union.

Ms. Carmichael, 40, is a fourth and fifth grade special education teacher for Albuquerque Public Schools and was also raised in Albuquerque. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

Not long after their engagement, the two began having problems. Their pastor recommended a therapist. “A few months in, we made the realization that many of the issues were because Spencer was not able to be his true self,” Ms. Carmichael said.