Hailey Glassman's romance with Jon Gosselin came as a surprise — even to her, she tells PEOPLE.
"If you had told me a few months ago, I wouldn't have believed you," Glassman says of dating the 32-year-old newly single dad of eight kids.
Glassman, 22, says she developed feelings for Gosselin — a longtime family friend who recently split from his wife Kate after a decade of marriage – while he was nursing his broken heart at her parents' New York City home in May. "He was so strong," Glassman says. "I admired him."
She refutes rumors that she's engaged to Gosselin, but admits she's having a great time with her new beau, who recently rented his own bachelor pad in Manhattan. "We're always laughing and joking," gushes Glassman, 22. "We watch movies, play pool and ping pong. We laugh a lot because I beat him at everything."
She adds, "He's a great cook. He cooks roasted veggies with special seasoning and sauces, and he grills pineapple with a butter concoction."
Another perk to dating Gosselin? Her parents approve of the match. "They love him," says Glassman. "They think of him as part of the family. They think things happen for a reason." That acceptance is crucial to Glassman. "The most important thing is if someone fits in with my family ... This is perfect. It just fits."
And what does she think Gosselin likes most about her? "I'm a huge believer in not controlling someone," says Glassman. "I'll give my opinion but tell him to do what he wants to do. He said, 'I'm just not used to having an option.' I told him life is about options."
For more from Glassman – and from Jon Gosselin himself — pick up PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.