David Mengon was coming to grips with being a divorced parent four years ago when he faced an awkward moment: meeting his ex-wife's new boyfriend.
Mengon, 31, had come to former wife Sarah Mengon's house near Waco, Texas, for his weekend visitation with his daughter, Willow, 5, when he met Sarah's now-fiance, Dylan Lenox, 27, for the first time.
"It was really challenging at first,'' David told TODAY. "There was a lot of pain and hurt on my side just seeing my daughter with another guy."
"He came out with Willow in his arms, and it crushed me immediately. Then as I got to know him and find out who he was as a person and realized it was never a competition of 'who's the better dad,' I started to gain a lot of respect for him."
What could've been a potentially rough situation turned out to be the beginning of a great friendship built around a mutual love for their daughter.
On Jan. 19, Lenox posted a series of photos on Facebook, featuring Willow and her two dads. Sarah Mengon, 30, who is a professional photographer, shot the heartwarming scenes before a school dance over the weekend. The adorable photos and the uplifting message that accompanied them reflected the special bond between biological father and soon-to-be stepfather.
The Facebook post has since gone viral, with more than 200,000 likes and over 100,000 shares.
"We have molded ourselves into one unique family, of only for the sake of our children to know the power of love,'' Lenox wrote. "Not only did I gain a daughter, I gained a brother and a best friend. Thank you Sarah for letting this all happen!"
"I was kind of blown away when I saw his post,'' David said. "We have respect for each other, but seeing it all written down kind of makes it real."
Sarah made a point of defusing any potential tension between her ex-husband and her new boyfriend. She and David were divorced when Willow was a year old but they had an amicable split and made sure to stay in regular communication.
"With David, I just had to put my own personal feelings aside, be an adult and be mature about the situation,'' Sarah Mengon told TODAY. "I never let my feelings get in the way of raising our daughter. It helped a lot that both sides were so understanding."
"I think it's just mutual respect, and that's all due to Sarah,'' Lenox told TODAY.
David served in the U.S. Army for nine years and is now a government contractor in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He went on two deployments after Willow's birth and was especially grateful for Lenox during those times.
"He was there to make sure Willow was protected and Sarah was safe,'' he said. "It's still a hard pill to swallow every once in a while when she calls him 'Daddy,' but I gotta remember it's not a title, it's a behavior."
"Because he is filling that role of being a good, positive male influence in her life and taking care of her, he deserves the title of 'Dad.'"
However, David admits that it hasn't always been easy. There are still some trying moments.
"It's far from a fairy tale, but when you have respect for a person, you can let go of that animosity or that jealousy or that pride a little bit and just say, 'This is someone else to protect them when I'm not around,'" he said.
All Willow has ever known is that she has two dads. She is part of a family that also includes Sarah and Dylan's daughter, Tatum, 2, and Dylan's son, Liam, 6, from a previous relationship.
"She doesn't have a recollection of me or David not being there,'' Lenox said. "We didn't push anything on her as far as titles or who plays what role. As long as we're equally supporting and loving, that's all that matters.''
David visits regularly from New Mexico and spends most holidays in Texas with Willow. Lenox said he plans on having David serve as his best man at his wedding to Sarah if the two decide not to elope.
"I've seen people commenting that real alpha males wouldn't allow this or do this,'' David said. "I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think as a father, especially in today's world where the idea is to empower women to be strong and independent, we had to swallow that pride together."
Lenox's Facebook post has encouraged and inspired others to share their stories and tackle their own relationships.
"I've gotten messages saying, 'This has given me motivation to make a change with my ex-spouse,'" David said. "They say they are going to put better effort into it and hope it changes. It's all about the kids."