By Sara Gaynes Levy
Back in March 2020, about two weeks into the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, Makala and Ben matched on Bumble. It was, to say the least, a weird time to connect. Makala, a fourth-grade teacher based in Colorado, wasn’t sure she had the energy to add digital dating to her already-full plate. “The last thing I felt like I wanted to do was spend time dating,” she says. “However, it crossed my mind that due to coronavirus, maybe this would be the time I could really connect with someone, because everyone was stuck at home, not preoccupied with other things.”
She was right. From the first time she messaged Ben, who lived an hour away from her in Colorado, both felt an instant connection. The two began sending each other “hundreds” of text messages as days turned into weeks (including two COVID-related pickup lines; Ben’s was “If the coronavirus doesn’t take you out, can I?” Makala’s response: “You could be my Prince Charmin.”). There was just one problem with their immediate repartee: they couldn’t meet in person. So, they got creative. “About three weeks in, I asked Ben if he wanted to have a video date,” says Makala. “He shared that he was a little too nervous for that—which I thought was so cute!— so we decided to call each other on the phone. We spent six hours talking that night.” The marathon call boosted Ben’s confidence, and the next night they had their first virtual date.
Despite their digital-only meetups, Makala knew Ben was special. “One day, the doorbell to my house rang,” she says. “I was downstairs teaching, and I walked up to see 18 long-stem red roses being delivered to my door. He remembered they’re my favorite flower and wanted to make me smile. We hadn’t even met in person yet!”
A connection this strong had to be honored with an IRL date, and after confirming they were comfortable with one another’s COVID-precautions, Makala and Ben met up for a picnic in a park. Both say that from that moment on, they were inseparable, spending every weekend together doing pandemic-approved activities like hiking in their home state of Colorado.
While there’s no doubt the pandemic made dating extra challenging, Makala and Ben both believe the unusual circumstances of quarantine led them to one another when a more “normal” year might not have. “The fact that I was able to get to know Ben online, without meeting in person right away, was actually a really good thing for me,” says Makala. “I don’t like to go to bars, I work mostly with other women, and I’m not the type of person to have one conversation with someone on a dating app and then go on a date. Quarantine gave me an opportunity to get to know Ben without any pressure.” Ben admits he’d been out of the dating game “for a few years” before quarantine hit, and the pandemic gave him a reason to re-open Bumble after his hiatus. “I don’t know that our social circles would have aligned and allowed us to meet each other if not for all this,” he says.
Because Ben and Makala lived an hour apart, they had to rely on technology to carry them through. Ben, for example, keeps a “secret” note on his phone of Makala’s favorite things (which was, of course, how he knew to send her roses). “He won’t let me read it!” Makala says with a laugh.
After the two met in person, “it was clear that both of us wanted a future together,” says Makala. “Both of us are looking for the same thing and have the same goals.” So after a year of dating more-or-less long distance, Ben set up a remote work arrangement which allowed him to move in with Makala. “We still do all the things we did before: we still go on hikes, we still make dinners together, but it’s so fun to be able to live in the same place and not have to just see each other on the weekends,” says Makala. And they’ve been able to do more simple things, like grocery shop for the week together, or spontaneously decide to eat at a restaurant if they don’t feel like cooking (unlike when they first met and everything was shut down!).
Living together hasn’t stopped Ben from constantly surprising Makala. “I don’t think there’s ever a time where I’m not surprised by him, either with my favorite candy or my favorite flowers or a glass of water on my bedside table,” she says. For his part, Ben says, “Makala has become my favorite hiking partner, my favorite person to cook for, my favorite person to talk to all day every single day, my favorite person to blast country music with, my favorite person to watch movies with, my best friend, and my favorite person on the face of this Earth.” And a few months after moving in together, Ben proposed. Makala, of course, said yes.
Their story proves one thing: something about a bond forged during the pandemic is just…special. “2020 was a year to forget in a lot of ways,” says Ben. “But, like any human would, I went searching for happiness in a dark time. And I met Makala and found the love of my life.”