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story.lead_photo.caption Melissa and Justin Carter were partners at work and now they’re partners in parenting their son, 14-month-old Lachlan. “I know we are his No. 1 priority in life,” Melissa says.

Melissa Schouten refused to date anyone she worked with and Justin Carter almost signed work "divorce" papers. Then they fell in love.

Melissa moved to Arkansas from Arizona in 2012, and started working as a paramedic for Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services. Justin got a job there shortly after her.

The first time I saw my future spouse

She says: “I thought, ‘Look at that cocky college kid in the aviators.’”

He says: “I thought she seemed pretty cool and I wanted to get to know her.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “It poured down rain, but it was still perfect.”

He says: “Our wedding seemed to be our relationship in a nutshell. It was raining, nothing seemed to go right, but we just made it all work and it was awesome.”

My advice for a long happy marriage is:

She says: “Set your pride aside. You can’t communicate if you’re too busy just being adamant that you’re right.”

He says: “You’ve got to talk. So many fights are over small things that if you take the two minutes to actually say, ‘Here’s where I’m coming from,’ and then you listen to their side, you realize there’s no fight to be had.”

"I remember thinking, 'Look at that cocky college kid in the aviator glasses,'" she says, laughing.

Justin remembers seeing her, too.

"We all parked in the same parking lot," he says. "Her Tahoe had an Ireland sticker and a bunch of other cool stickers on it. I thought she seemed interesting, like someone I wanted get to know."

They were eventually assigned to be partners on an ambulance.

"You're in the truck with somebody for 12 hours a day," she says. "You see them when they're sick, you see him when they're mad, you see them when you have a bad call, and you cry. Sometimes, you go into work, not feeling good and you're just kind of grouchy. They see every side of you."

Their type A personalities initially clashed, with each having a preferred way of doing various parts of the job, and the heightened senses that came with such a fast-paced job exacerbated the issues.

"I almost signed 'divorce papers,' which is what we call them," he says, explaining about the paperwork paramedics could sign saying they could not work with certain people. "She was not like anyone I'd ever met, so it took me a little bit to read her and understand where she was coming from. There were a few miscommunications between us."

They managed to work through their conflicts, and their relationship improved drastically.

"He's said, 'Well, do you want to go have a drink sometime?' And I said, 'Nope, I don't date anyone in EMS, I don't date firemen, I don't date cops ... and I sure don't date partners, because it's just too weird to date somebody you work with and then if it doesn't work out, you still got to work there.'"

After a certain period, they had to bid on new shifts.

Justin started working a night shift, Melissa on a 24-hour one, and they had new partners. Justin kept asking her for a date, saying they weren't partners anymore. Melissa turned him down because they still worked for MEMS.

Melissa and Justin were friends, though, and they often exchanged texts when they weren't working. She was at her sister's house once when he texted to ask her to meet him to play pool, and her sister took control of the situation.

"I had set my phone down and my sister took my phone. She's texted back, 'Sure, I'd love to come meet you,'" Melissa says. "I didn't want to be mean and say, 'That was my sister, I don't want to come hang out with you.'"

So she went. That opened the door for an actual date.

"I knew if I could at least get her to say yes and go on a date, I knew I could impress her," Justin says.

He persuaded her to go with him to dinner and a movie.

"I said, 'But no expectations, because this just probably is not a good idea,'" she says. "And we've been together every day since."

While they were together as partners they discussed families, past relationships and likes and dislikes.

"It was the most comfortable first date I've probably ever had," Justin says.

They had talked about marriage and Justin was pretty sure Melissa expected him to propose on their forthcoming trip to Disney World. He, however, was determined to surprise her.

So, in August 2013, when their families came together for a joint birthday party for Melissa's mother and Justin, he had a custom designed ring ready for a proposal.

Justin was opening gifts and so was Melissa's mom, and Justin handed a gift to Melissa. She wanted to know why she was getting a gift on his birthday. He insisted she open it.

"I opened it and I started shaking so bad when I went to pull the ring out of the ring box," she says. The ring sailed across the room and ended up under the couch.

They exchanged their vows on March 15, 2014, at Ausley Family Farms in Bismarck.

Melissa and Justin live in Benton, and they are still paramedics, but they are partners only at home. They are parents to a 14-month-old son, Lachlan.

They believe that not getting along initially has made them a stronger team.

"We realized there something going on and we needed to get it figured out, whereas sometimes you're just like, 'It's not worth even discussing it.' We kind of just sat down and talked about it -- where we were each coming from -- and then we said, 'OK, I get that. That makes sense,'" Justin says. "I guess it was good training for marriage."

If you have an interesting how-we-met story or if you know someone who does, please call (501) 425-7228 or email:

kimdishongh@gmail.com

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Melissa Schouten and Justin Carter married on March 15, 2014. Melissa was set against dating Justin, who worked with her, but her sister took her phone and replied to a text from Justin, saying she would love to meet him to play pool. “I knew if I could at least get her to say yes and go on a date, I knew I could impress her,” Justin says.

High Profile on 05/19/2019

Print Headline: Work partners became life partners after a time

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