By Sara Gaynes Levy
Casey was about to delete Bumble entirely when he matched with Esther. After his divorce, he went on a few dates, but didn’t think online dating was turning out to be a good use of his time. Esther was the last one in his queue, and then he planned to sign off permanently. But for good measure, he extended his match with her—adding an extra 24 hours for her to start the chat, leading them to Halloween of 2018. When Casey popped up in her matches, Esther was surprised to see him. “I didn’t realize I swiped right on him!” she recalls, laughing. Still, she reached out, asking if he always extended his time on his matches. As they began exchanging messages, Esther was immediately intrigued by his wit, and they chatted for hours. At some point that night, Casey made a big admission—one that was missing from his profile. He was a single father raising four children. “My stomach dropped,” recalls Esther. Then he quickly messaged, “Have you unmatched with me yet?”
Esther says something in her gut told her not to, though she still had concerns: “Is he going to be attentive? Is he going to be able to hang out? What is this going to look like?,” she worried. Eventually she asked, on short notice, if he could meet for coffee, checking to see whether his schedule of working full-time in finance and parenting four kids, ages three to 11 at the time, would allow for spontaneity. “To his credit, he made it happen,” Esther says. The connection sparkled in person. Casey was blown away by Esther’s intelligence and heart (he was particularly impressed by her job at a nonprofit that helps rescue children from human trafficking and support their recovery); Esther loved that she’d finally met someone with whom she could have deep conversations and have fun.
Dating was logistically challenging at first. Without much free time, Casey would meet Esther for lunch near his office, which she happened to live near. (Their homes were on opposite sides of Dallas, Texas, making seeing one another even more complicated.) “It was any chance we had,” says Casey. They didn’t waste any of their little pockets of time, talking and bonding over weighty topics like spirituality not long after they met. “We matched on Halloween, and by Thanksgiving I was like ‘oh, I love this person,’” says Casey. As their relationship strengthened, there was one more big hurdle to conquer: Casey hadn’t introduced his kids to anyone since his divorce. After about six months, he decided it was time— they were both in this for the long haul. When the moment finally came, Casey found he wasn’t nervous about introducing Esther to his children as a potential stepparent. “Seeing what she does for work and knowing how emotionally available and genuine she is, I wasn’t too worried about it,” he says. And though she was already smitten, Esther met his kids and fell even more in love with Casey. “When I met them, I was in awe of the environment he had created on his own as a father.”
Becoming an instant stepparent to four kids wasn’t necessarily something Esther envisioned for herself, but with Casey it felt almost natural. She’d always wanted to have one biological child and adopt the rest, but when she met Casey and his kids, it felt right. “I was like, This has been in my heart since I was a kid,” she says.
It felt right to Casey, too. The couple got engaged last May on a trip to New Orleans. “We had talked about marriage a ton, and she had already picked out her ring,” he recalls. “There was no reason to be nervous. But when I got to the proposal spot, I suddenly got really nervous.” He remembers sitting down on a bench with Esther and starting to say some romantic things, then popping up and announcing “I’ve got bubble guts!” before dropping to both knees to propose. Esther can’t stop laughing when she hears Casey retell the story. “He tells it like it’s horrible, but it’s so us! We love to laugh!” she says.
After their engagement (she did, of course, say yes), they got married in September. As compatible as they are, not every moment has been easy. “I knew that I wanted to marry him, but the transition was a little bit more challenging for me,” Esther explains. “I really jumped right in. But I’m thankful, because now I have a family.” For Casey, though, nothing has ever been easier. “This marriage is sincere and it’s solid and it’s fun and it’s easy,” he says. “Yes, I have to speak up and say when my feelings are hurt and do things that aren’t fun. But I’ve never been able to be vulnerable until Esther. With her, it’s easy. And it’s never been easy before.”
Esther still can’t believe that she met her now-husband on Bumble. “There would have been no other way for us to have met,” she says. And she also can’t believe how lucky she is to have found him. “Still to this day, I’m like, oh my gosh. Emotionally, spiritually, sense of humor, intelligence….it’s all right there with Casey,” she says. “I mean, that doesn’t really happen.” Except it did—and to two people who couldn’t be better a fit for each other.