“We actually became an official couple before we were even that physical,” Sarah Hyland tells PEOPLE

By Aili Nahas
September 18, 2019 08:45 AM

They might not have had the most traditional start to their relationship, but Sarah Hyland and her fiancé Wells Adams are much closer because of it.

The couple of two years, who got engaged in Fiji in July, had their first date in September 2017, just days before Hyland, who has kidney dysplasia, a condition in which the kidneys don’t fully develop in the womb, underwent her second kidney transplant.

“I had all these health issues at the very beginning of our relationship,” the 29-year-old actress tells PEOPLE. “We had two dates before the surgery, and then I was just on massive amounts of painkillers in the hospital, FaceTiming him all hours of the day and night.”

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Wells Adams and Sarah Hyland
Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty Images

And for the Modern Family actress (the series’ final season premieres Sept. 25), who also stars in and executive produced the film The Wedding Year, out Sept. 20, Adams’ support was telling.

“He still liked me after that somehow,” she says. “So it definitely brought us closer together and forced us to have a relationship that was very serious from the start.”

RELATED: The 25 Cutest Photos of Newly Engaged Sarah Hyland and Wells Adams

The fact that Hyland was recovering from a major surgery also meant that when it came to being intimate with Adams, a radio DJ and Bachelor in Paradise’s resident mixologist, whom she met after he “slid into my DMs,” the new couple had to take their time.

“It was completely not normal, because we were not allowed to do certain things for a while,” says Hyland. “Health wise, [because of] the surgery, can’t really do it. We weren’t able to have that physical part of the relationship like you normally have in the beginning, so that bonded us on an emotional and intellectual level much faster.”

Sarah Hyland
Brian Bowen Smith

Ultimately, “we actually became an official couple before we were even that physical,” says Hyland. “That just goes to show what kind of relationship we do have.”

RELATED: How Wells Adams Supports Fiancée Sarah Hyland During Health Issues: ‘He’s Seen Me at My Worst’

And according to Hyland, an engagement was almost a foregone conclusion.

“We liked to joke when we first started dating that Wells and I are the same person with different genitalia,” says Hyland. “We’re so similar that it felt like meeting a kindred soul from a past life.”

The 11th and final season of Modern Family premieres Sept. 25 on ABC. The Wedding Year is in theaters on Friday, Sept. 20.

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