By Kaitlin Menza
On the same day in fall 2018, Carly and Daniel, both based in Dallas, Texas, downloaded Bumble. They had both just gotten out of their previous marriages, had both been with their ex-spouses for eight years, and were curious to learn what online dating was all about. “I’d never used dating apps before, but I was recently separated and just in that mode of, ‘Well, I should put myself back out there,’” says Carly. A friend told her Bumble was a great app for women, so she gave it a try. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I matched with Daniel within the first day.”
They both loved the sense of silliness they detected in each other’s profiles. “There was one photo in particular where she looked super cute, in glasses with a coffee cup, but it was what she wrote that really caught me,” Daniel says. “Something along the lines of, ‘I love dinosaurs, I love to play board games, and I will beat you while making puns.’ I was all in!”
Carly was similarly amused by the glimpses of personality she saw on Daniel’s profile. “His picture was at our local rock-climbing gym—I recognized it right away because I also went there—but he was dressed in a cowboy outfit for a Halloween event,” she says. “You could just tell right away: He’s into my hobby, and he’s silly enough to make this his main picture on Bumble. It just tickled me.” She was excited to meet him, but a little nervous. He seemed too good to be true. “My thought was, ‘You’re smart. You’re athletic. You’re handsome? Something must be wrong with you.’”
In fact, Daniel was convinced there was at least one thing about him she wouldn’t like. They agreed to see an art show together for their first date, but he asked if they could grab coffee right beforehand. “I wanted to level with her,” Daniel says. “I sat down and I was like, ‘So this isn’t easy to say, but I’m going through a divorce right now. I just thought you should know that. And she laughed in my face.” In her defense, Carly says, “I was just so taken aback! I chuckled, and I said, ‘Oh! Well, me too.’” She hadn’t planned to tell him or anyone else she might date right at the beginning, but she admired Daniel’s honesty.
The pair wound up skipping the art show to keep talking, for hours, into the night. “It was one thing after another. Oh, you have that interest? I also have that interest. Oh, you listen to that obscure podcast? I also listen to that obscure podcast!” Daniel says. “It was almost uncanny.” They ended up back at Carly’s house, eating bowls of cereal like they’d known each other for years. “She made up a pun in the kitchen and I leaned over and kissed her because I just loved it,” Daniel says.
That first date wound up lasting 48 hours. They were both smitten, but Daniel resisted getting too heavy right away. “Daniel was pretty upfront that he had also gotten out of eight years of a relationship and marriage,” Carly says. “I knew he was really interested in me, but he expressed that he wasn’t ready to commit to anything.” For his part, Daniel says it would have been “a disservice” to them both to get seriously involved so soon after his divorce. They gave it a few weeks of dating other people, but all they could think about was each other. “Finally, he was like, ‘Okay. Okay. I can’t date anyone else either. No one’s like you.’”
Still, Daniel wanted to make sure they approached their feelings in the healthiest possible way, and didn’t carry their past baggage into the new dynamic. So about two months in, he suggested they go to couples therapy. “I was going to my therapist twice a week, just to get stuff off of my chest,” Daniel says. “That’s the first time I had ever really gone regularly and it was doing wonders.” He was worried about re-creating dynamics that didn’t work in his previous relationship, and wanted to make sure that his connection with Carly wasn’t just infatuation or a rebound. As a strong proponent of therapy herself, Carly was glad Daniel took the initiative. “We learned a lot about each other’s past—things that weren’t coming up on our own,” she says. Daniel also credits that time in therapy with helping the couple “establish a common language of how to discuss hard topics and understand that, regardless of how tense we might feel, the other person’s really on my side,” he says. “I tell all my friends, ‘Go to therapy!’”
Not every conversation was so heavy, of course, and the sense of playfulness they’d spotted on each other’s profiles is still a big part of their relationship. “We match intellectually, but he is also really goofy, like me!” Carly says. “I run around the house singing songs, and he’ll chime in. He’s not afraid to be completely silly with me.”
In 2019, the couple moved from Dallas to Seattle, Washington together so Daniel could pursue his doctorate in computer science, and Carly got a job as a content developer. On the second anniversary of their first date, in fall 2020, Daniel proposed as the couple were looking out at Lake Washington before a dinner with a ring he’d made using a diamond from his mother. “I made him repeat everything he said after he did it, because I didn’t hear it,” says Carly. “I was just in complete shock!”
With a pandemic winter barreling down on them, and no expectation of a vaccine to come, the couple made the decision to marry just weeks after their engagement. “We had no idea when we’d ever be able to have a wedding, and the thought of kicking that can down the road further and further, I just hated the idea,” Carly says. “We want to have a family, and I’m not young, so we need to start that process. I thought, ‘Why the heck not’?” After so much careful, healthy protection of their hearts, they were ready to be somewhat spontaneous. They pulled together an intimate celebration with a dozen friends in Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park in December 2020, which was live-streamed for family. A reception of pizza and cupcakes followed.
Now, the couple drives their camper van around the Pacific Northwest, hiking and enjoying the outdoors and each other—and preparing for their daughter who is expected this summer. Daniel couldn’t be happier with his post-divorce experience. “I just tell all my friends how great online dating is,” he says. “You can match with your soulmate within 24 hours!”