“She was living in L.A. at the time and I was in Charlotte, North Carolina. I went to L.A. for training and was going out to a club. She was going out to the same club with her girlfriend,” Lochte tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I was like, ‘Oh, maybe we’ll finally get to see each other.'”
They indeed met face to face for the first time at the club, and “we reached out and grabbed each other’s hands and were like ‘This is you! Finally.’ And we didn’t want to let go,” continues Lochte. “Our friends were dragging us apart and that was the end of that night.”
Though the more traditional Reid was initially hesitant when Lochte first messaged her — “He was like, ‘Hey, I’d like to buy you a drink!’ and I was like ‘What does that mean?'” — the athlete was relentless in his pursuit.
“I wrote back ‘Maybe,'” says Reid. “And that was it. He was so persistent, constantly. I was like ‘Oh fine! I’ll meet with you.'”
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After their night out, the couple — who are parents to 15-month-old son Caiden Zane — had their first real date and knew immediately their connection was something special.
“We talked for eight to 10 hours about everything and honestly the next day we started dating,” says Lochte. “We just talked about what we want in life … our goals, family, everything. I think right after that I was just like, ‘She’s the one.'”
The newlyweds have already been through many ups and downs together, but Lochte says it’s only made them stronger.
“Our lives have been a roller coaster ride with everything we’ve had to deal with,” says Lochte. “No matter what has happened, she’s been there to pick me up. She’s the one that has motivated me to keep going and to keep striving for my dreams and my goals not just in sports but in life as well. I owe everything to her.”
Adds his wife: “Ryan is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. He’s a very genuine, heartfelt guy and that’s hard to find.”