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Liam Payne Opens Up About ‘Dream Girl’ Cheryl for the First Time: ‘It’s a Precious Time for Us’

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Liam Payne has kept mum about his relationship with girlfriend Cheryl — until now.

The One Direction member, who is expecting his first child with Cheryl, opened up about the couple’s romance for the first time in the latest issue of U.K.’s Rollacoaster magazine.

“Obviously I have the most ­beautiful girlfriend in the world and she’s absolutely amazing. She’s been my dream girl since I was younger. She’s so ace,” Payne, 23, said, according to a report from The Sun.

Cheryl, 33, and Payne, who began dating late last year, met when he competed on the X Factor in 2010 with his future bandmates. The pair made their red carpet debut in May at Eva Longoria’s Global Gift Gala in Paris.

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“She is a wonderful, wonderful person and it’s amazing to have someone who can relate to so much of things — someone who’s taken greater steps than me,” the father-to-be continued. “Her solo career was ­amazing. She’s been in the ­industry for 14 years now.”

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In November, PEOPLE confirmed Cheryl and Payne were expecting their first child, though the couple never officially announced it. Then in late February, the mother-to-be debuted her baby bump in a photo shoot for L’Oreal and The Prince’s Trust, published in The Daily Mirror.

“She fully supports me. We’re super happy. It’s a very personal, precious time for us. I’m still ­learning. I’m only 23,” Payne told Rollacoaster of him and Cheryl becoming parents.