By Kelsey Miller
Annika had lived her whole life in Utah, but it never really felt like home. “I was a Black woman living in a predominantly white state,” she explains. “I was a minority, and that was constantly pointed out to me.” It was tough to connect with people and make friends, and dating was an even bigger challenge. Annika struggles with social anxiety, so Bumble was a good way for her to meet new people, even though she wasn’t looking for anything specific. In February 2020, her life was quite full as it was: Annika was a 22-year-old college student in Salt Lake City, and a single parent to her four-year-old daughter Haylee. Sure, romance might be nice, “but I genuinely thought it would be impossible to find love.” Then Drew found her.
“I remember thinking that she had a great smile,” says Drew, a finance manager, recalling her profile. “And you could tell just from her pictures what a lively personality she had.” Annika was immediately drawn in by Drew’s profile too. She liked that he was college-educated and thought he was really attractive. Of all the descriptors Drew had included, “recovering sneakerhead” jumped out at Annika first. “I love shoes!” she laughs.
Drew and Annika started chatting on Bumble, “and almost immediately, I felt a connection,” she says. Soon they were texting or talking on the phone every day, discovering things that they had in common, like the music they enjoyed. But the connection was less about what they discussed than the ease they both felt talking to each other. “I felt I could just be who I was,” says Drew. “I didn’t have to put on an act—the chemistry was natural.”
But the timing of their connection was tricky. Soon after they matched and before they’d arranged a first date, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. Unable to meet in person, they dated virtually for a month, video chatting daily and watching movies “together” from their respective homes. They talked so often that there were many nights that Annika fell asleep while they were on the phone.
By the time they finally had an in-person date, it felt almost anticlimactic, but in a good way. “It wasn’t even a ‘date,’ necessarily,” Annika says. “I went to his apartment and he made me dinner. We’d planned to watch a movie, but we wound up talking all night instead.” To them, it felt less like a first date than a continuation of the conversation they’d been having for weeks. Again, both were struck by the comfort they felt in one another’s presence. Being able to openly talk about work or family was no small thing for Drew, a self-described introvert, or the socially anxious Annika. “I don’t even remember what we talked about, specifically,” she says. “It felt like we talked about everything. I just remember laughing so hard that I got a stitch in my side.”
By that time Annika had started working as a nurse aide, and in order to protect her patients she wouldn’t leave her home if COVID case numbers were high. Sometimes they didn’t see each other for weeks, but they kept dating virtually. Their conversations continued to be “riveting,” aided by the fact that they have a similar sense of humor. “We’re constantly laughing!” says Annika. “He’s the funniest person I’ve ever met.” When it was safe to meet up, they saw each other daily, spending their time cooking together, playing Monopoly for hours, and watching movies.
That May, for Mother’s Day Annika, decided to introduce Drew to Haylee as well as her own mother. Drew brought them both presents—which won him brownie points with Annika’s mom, she says—and Haylee liked him immediately. “She thought he was hilarious and he jumped right in and started playing with her,” recalls Annika.
“For me, that’s when it really clicked,” says Drew. “When Annika started bringing Haylee along, and it was the three of us hanging out, I felt like I could see our future. It was like all the pieces came together.” And that’s what he told her, seven months later, when Drew took Annika out to see the Salt Lake City Christmas lights, and got down on one knee. “First, I screamed—then immediately started crying,” she says. “He said he loved me and loved Haylee so much, and couldn’t see his life without the two of us.” Annika felt just the same. Two months later, exactly one year after matching on Bumble, Drew and Annika tied the knot in a small, COVID-concious wedding with only close family in attendance.
One month later, Annika was back on Bumble, this time to try the BFF feature to make new friends. She, Drew, and Haylee had moved to Drew’s hometown of Newport News, Va. Annika had visited Virginia with Drew before their engagement and loved it. “It was such a nice change of scenery for me,” she says. “More diversity, beautiful trees, beaches. But the move itself was hard.” Though thrilled about her new hometown, Annika felt unmoored without her family and old friends to lean on during the transition. “Suddenly, Drew had to be everything for me.” And he wanted to be—but Drew was also learning how to be a full-time parent to Haylee. Everyone was adjusting to this new life and home. Annika knew that meant making new friends of her own. So she opened up the Bumble app, and a week later, she was on her first friend date. “It was great!” she says. “We went to brunch and she introduced me to her own circle.” Soon Annika had her own tight-knit group of friends—another novel experience for her. “I’ve honestly never had such close friendships as the ones I’ve made here.”
Reflecting on their first year of marriage, both Annika and Drew describe it as one of growth—for the family, and for them as individuals. Drew says parenthood has made him more patient and accepting of others. Annika taught him that as well: “To be with someone who embraces your true self? That’s amazing, and I have that with Annika,” he says. “I can be silly. I can joke around. The walls come down when I’m with her.” And with Drew, Annika has found not only love and acceptance, but community, and a family life she always yearned for: “I grew up without a dad,” she says. “With Haylee, Drew has become the kind of father I could only ever dream of.” And he still makes her laugh like no one else. It’s taken time, and a good deal of effort, but Annika has finally found her home.