By Liana Jacob


THIS WOMAN describes herself as a ‘firecracker’ and says she started dating her boyfriend, who is THIRTY-SIX YEARS OLDER, because unlike younger men he is a ‘REAL MAN’ who is strong enough to handle her.

Coincidentally, para equestrian, Alyssa Cleland (22) from Texas, USA, was working at a land surveying company in 2018, the same company as CFO, Rick M (58), but they ended up meeting through an online dating app.

They began dating unofficially in July 2018 and decided to keep it casual with the intention of never seeing each other again so as not to complicate their working relationship.

Alyssa pictured in love with her boyfriend, Rick. MDWfeatures / Mallory Hicks

But after four hours of engaging conversation, they changed their minds and agreed to start dating as long as they were no longer working together. Rick ended up leaving his job so that they could embark on their relationship.

Alyssa was born with a rare condition called paraxial tibial hemimelia, a rare condition which causes the absence of the tibia and deformed hands. Due to this she has on some occasions had negative dating experiences and while she has mostly dated men her age, she feels that the communication with Rick has been much better in comparison.

The two have lived together ever since and plan to get married in the future.

Alyssa pictured with her horse. MDWfeatures / Alyssa Cleland

“Rick and I met when we were both working at a land surveying company in Texas. Rick was the CFO and I worked as a CAD technician,” Alyssa said.

“While we knew each other from the office, Rick and I really met each other through an online dating website.

“Rick had ‘favorited’ or ‘liked’ my profile and I messaged him asking him what he was thinking. We ended up going to lunch the next week to talk things over.

Alyssa pictured as a child. MDWfeatures / Alyssa Cleland

“We wanted to make sure that neither one of us was going to speak about this; we meant to just let it go and never see each other outside of work after that.

“However, after four hours of wonderful conversation, we decided we wanted to date, but not as long as we were working together – although we counted that as our ‘first date’.

“Rick ended up leaving the company not long after that and we were able to start publicly dating each other. Rick is now the CFO of a construction company and builds custom homes on the side.

Alyssa and Rick pictured with their cat. MDWfeatures / Alyssa Cleland

“I just thought he was a real man; very strong, handsome and always polite and kind. As we got to know each other my attraction for him grew.

“He always treated me well, made sure I had everything I needed, was there for me emotionally and helped me work through things that were bothering me.

“Since he was so much older and had a ton of insight, the communication between us was a little easier.

Alyssa pictured with Rick. MDWfeatures / Alyssa Cleland

“I’ve dated a few men my age and it’s hard getting to know them, to carry on a conversation or to communicate when there’s a problem in the relationship, but with Rick it was different. Things were just easy with him and I felt very comfortable around him.

“A handful of times I’ve had some negative experiences with dating, but I haven’t really put myself out there that much to begin with.

“At my senior high school prom, I asked the guy out and while he said yes, he ditched me the entire night; he didn’t take pictures with me, go to dinner with me or even dance with me.

Alyssa and Rick. MDWfeatures / Mallory Hicks

“The few men I dated before Rick all knew in advance about my leg and were fine with it. Any guy that wasn’t ok with it, I didn’t interact with – because what’s the point?

“I think the fact that Rick believes in my dreams as much as I do and helps me in any way he can do to get me there has made him very supportive of me.

“Not to say that the other people I’ve dated didn’t believe in me, but they didn’t stick by me when things got rough or when I had a bad day, they weren’t able to console me the way Rick does.

Alyssa and Rick pictured hand in hand. MDWfeatures / Cheyan Alexa

“I’m a firecracker and a lot to handle, so I’m happy that Rick is strong and mature enough to help me when I need it.”

Rick describes how he saw Alyssa when they first met.

“She came across as very strong, confident, ambitious and she ran circles around everyone in the office – with half the leg power,” he said.

“I tend to be attracted to strong, confident woman who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, stand up for themselves and take charge.

Alyssa pictured resting her head on Rick’s shoulders. MDWfeatures / Cheyan Alexa

“She spoke with passion and purpose about just day to day stuff and I thought it was very cool. She was mature beyond her years, always positive and somebody that inspired me by the way she carried herself. She has a super cute smile and we just connected.

“We haven’t really made any plans for children. We are in the process of building our life together, which will hopefully, one day, lead to marriage.”

Alyssa says that they have been mistaken for father and daughter by Rick’s friends and by real estate agents while they were looking for a home together.

Alyssa pictured dressed up for the gym. MDWfeatures / Alyssa Cleland

They both did photoshoots with two photographers @wildwanderingsphoto and @mhicksphotography.

“I’ve met a few of Ricks friends and a couple of them thought I was his daughter, so that was super interesting,” she said.

“Also, when we were looking at places to live, some of the real estate people would point out the two separate bedrooms which just made me call Rick ‘babe’ the whole time we toured places.

“I don’t think you can judge people until you’ve been in their shoes. You have no idea what they’re going through or what their life/relationships are like.

“Rick likes a clean and organised house and don’t get me wrong, I do too, but I have to force myself to focus on it or else I’ll just move onto something else.

“We recently moved and in this new place I’ve been pretty good about keeping everything tidy. Now, I’m the one telling Rick to clean up after himself.

“I personally don’t want kids and I know Rick also doesn’t want kids. As far as marriage goes, I’m just waiting for the ring at this point. I know I want to marry him, it’s just a matter of time.”