Nikki Haley Didn't Pursue Her Husband Michael When They Met

Nikki Haley's husband, Michael Haley, plays a prominent role in her quest to become the Republican Party's presidential nominee for the 2024 election. Michael is a Major serving in the South Carolina Army National Guard, and his military career is featured in one of her campaign ads. Nikki has observed that her bond with Michael is one of the things motivating her to pursue the presidency. "I'm doing this for my husband and his military brothers and sisters. They need to know their sacrifice matters," she commented at a campaign event, per CBS News.

The couple have been together since 1989 and married since 1996. In honor of their 19th anniversary in 2015, Nikki posted a picture on Facebook of herself and Michael with their arms around each other, captioning it, "We have grown up, lived, laughed, and loved together. How fun it has been!" Even though they've enjoyed a close bond for decades, Nikki and Michael's relationship almost didn't get off the ground, since Michael was dating someone else when he first met Nikki. 

Nikki was 17 at the time, and Michael was 19. She was a brand-new freshman at Clemson University and connected with Michael through an old friend who was also his roommate. Sparks flew immediately. However, Nikki had never dated anyone before, so she wasn't in a hurry to jump into a relationship. Once Nikki discovered Michael was already attached, she abandoned any romantic aspirations. Then fate intervened, giving Nikki and Michael a second chance.

Nikki was adamant about exclusive relationships

A week after Nikki Haley and Michael Haley first met, they ran into each other at a college party. Although Michael's then-girlfriend was with him during the festivities, his attention was directed toward Nikki. "I wanted no part of it, but I thought it was funny that every time she walked away he came over to check on me," Nikki reminisced in her memoir, "Can't Is Not an Option." Soon after, Michael was single, and he expressed his romantic interest in Nikki.

As their connection deepened, Michael nearly made another misstep when he suggested that he pursue two different romantic relationships, including one with Nikki, simultaneously. This proposition was a dealbreaker for the would-be South Carolina governor. "I don't date people who also date other people," she explained to him in her memoir. This revelation caused Michael to reconsider, and he embarked on an exclusive relationship with Nikki. As a sophomore, he even decided to switch schools and join Nikki at Clemson. They later got engaged at the botanical garden on the university's campus. 

After so much time together, separations have been difficult for the couple. In summer 2023, Michael deployed to Africa for a year. But that wasn't the first time they'd been apart. During Michael's 2013 deployment in Afghanistan, although Nikki and Michael emailed each other frequently, it wasn't the same. "You don't get the emotion, the humor you get in one-on-one communication on the telephone or physically being there," Michael explained to The Christian Science Monitor.

Nikki changed Michael's name

After Michael Haley agreed he wouldn't see anyone else and his relationship with Nikki Haley got underway, he also agreed to a name change. Up to that point, his first name was William, and he preferred Bill as a nickname. "'You just don't look like a Bill," Haley later recalled in her book, "Can't Is Not an Option" (via Fox News). After learning his middle name was Michael, Nikki thought this name suited him better. "He looks like a Michael," she later asserted. Nikki and her friends consistently called him Michael, and the new name stuck.

The former South Carolina governor has a preference for her own middle name as well. Her birth name is Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, although in her case, family members called her Nikki throughout her childhood.  Ahead of their September 1996 wedding, both Michael and Nikki used their middle names in a newspaper announcement. 

While some individuals might feel it was presumptuous of Nikki to change her husband's name, it's possible it might have been appealing to Michael. Since his adoptive father was also known as Bill Haley, it may have been easier for him to differentiate himself among his family by changing his name.  However, Carie Mager, Nikki's college roommate, doesn't believe Michael really had an option to dissent. "If she decided something had to be a certain way, you weren't going to change her mind," Mager informed Politico.