By Julia Black
In the middle of October 2017, after weeks of fruitless swiping in Seattle, Aveena made a pact with herself: If she hadn’t found someone truly intriguing by the end of the week, she’d log off of Bumble and commit to spending some time alone.
That Sunday night, as her deadline crept closer, she resigned herself to putting off her search for love. She was about to go to bed when she got a Bumble notification. She had matched with Alissa, a mental health therapist with chestnut hair and striking blue eyes. Aveena fired off a gutsy first message asking for Alissa’s number, and went to sleep hoping that she’d wake up to good news. In the morning, she got just that: a reply from Alissa. The conversation took off from the start.
From their first date, Aveena and Alissa could tell they were on to something special. They talked for hours; Aveena was drawn to Alissa’s eloquence and gentle nature, while Alissa admired Aveena’s spirit and sense of adventure. From that date on, Alissa says, “I could tell Aveena had raised the bar. I could never settle for someone who didn’t spark a light in my soul like she did.”
Luckily, Alissa never had a chance to settle. The two started dating and falling in love, and just over a year after they met, Aveena faced a new deadline: Alissa wanted to be engaged by the time they moved in together, and both of their leases were up in January 2019. The problem? Aveena wasn’t out to her family, who didn’t even know that she was dating anyone.
Growing up in a conservative Christian home in Minnesota, Aveena had been raised to believe that being gay was a sin. As a result, she’d always had to hide that part of herself from her family—a part she feared would end her relationship with her parents. “For 30 years, I was living a double life,” she says. Though she knew the stakes of coming out to her family, she wasn’t willing to hide the love of her life from them.
Aveena charged forward with plans to propose in the park where she and Alissa had one of their first dates. Aveena lured Alissa out of town with a complicated lie about a fancy new seafood restaurant, but the night had quite a few hiccups—a last-minute relocation, terrible traffic, and a sudden downpour. Still, after Aveena read aloud from a book full of memories and got down on one knee, Alissa said yes.
With her new fiancée by her side, Aveena worked up the courage to come out to her family. The year before, Aveena had come out to her sister, who accepted the couple with open arms. She wasn’t as optimistic about what the rest of her family’s reaction would be, though.
Two days after the proposal, Aveena called her mother. “I was terrified and truly shaking as I spoke to my mom and emailed the rest of the family to come out to them,” Aveena says. Unfortunately, her fears proved to be true. Aveena was heartbroken by their rejection. “My community and my world went from being enormous to a very small number of people that I trusted and loved me wholly,” she says. Together, Alissa and Aveena have worked to forgive Aveena’s family, and try to show them as much love as possible.
If anything, their strained relationship with Aveena’s family only made the couple’s bond stronger as they moved forward with planning their wedding in October 2019. Together they crafted a distinctive ceremony that honored both of their backgrounds: Alissa wore a white lace gown, and Aveena wore a golden lehenga, a traditional garment worn in Indian weddings. Aveena’s sister walked her down the aisle to the altar.
For a couple who loves nothing more than to travel and explore, spending much of their first year of marriage inside due to COVID hasn’t been easy, but they’ve found ways to bring the magic home with romantic date nights in. At this point, they feel like there’s nothing life could throw at them that they couldn’t face together. Besides, Aveena says, “I would do it a million times over to be with Alissa.”