By Sara Gaynes Levy
Ben can only describe a “feeling” the first time he saw Jude’s profile on Bumble. “I can’t explain it,” he says. “But I hadn’t had it before, with anyone else’s profile.” He swiped right, and so did Jude, who, as a fellow cat-lover, said the two cats in Ben’s photos intrigued her. “Did you get the cats in the settlement?” Jude said when she reached out. (Ben, now a private investigator, had been divorced, which he put in his profile.) From the first joke, “we were speaking the same lingo,” says Ben. The two exchanged rapid-fire gifs and jokes and “it felt like I could say whatever came into my head,” Ben recalls.
They matched around Christmas 2019; the hectic time of year made meeting up in person difficult. Still, a few days after their first messages, Jude (after a few drinks!) called Ben from a party. They were on the phone for two hours. They discovered they had tons in common— both come from large families, had grown up in similar parts of Australia, and were in similar lines of work at the time (Jude is in the legal field, as was Ben). Jude was traveling for the holidays with her family, but they arranged to meet at a pub once she returned.
Because they’d been messaging every day for over two weeks, Jude felt that it might be too good to be true. “We’d built it up so much that it seemed like we would meet and it wouldn’t be the same in person,” she says. But when they both arrived at their first date, they picked up right where they’d left off messaging. Even though they’d spent countless hours talking before meeting in person, they still felt like they had more to talk about. When the date ended with a kiss outside Jude’s place, she went inside and told her housemate: “I’m going to marry him.” Nothing had ever seemed more obvious to her. Ben, believe it or not, had the same thought. “I didn’t verbalize it to anyone, but I came home from that first date knowing I was going to marry her as well,” he says.
Two days later, they went on a second date. Two days after that, there was a third. “We just got on so well, more than I ever had with anyone,” says Jude. Two months into their relationship, they were seeing each other so frequently that they hardly had to adjust when COVID-19 lockdowns hit Australia in March of 2020. They didn’t officially move in together, but the extra time together was a welcome distraction from the grim reality of the virus. “Suddenly we’re spending every minute of every day together, with nowhere really to go, no dates to go on. It was absolutely make or break, but there was no break,” says Ben. “It was just make.”
The two would’ve moved in together straight away, Ben says, but Jude didn’t want to leave her then-housemate alone during lockdowns. As they continued getting to know one another, they’d constantly be pleasantly surprised to learn they’d been at the same concert years ago, or the same sporting event. “Some relationships work if the people are opposites—but for us, there was so much comfort in our similarities,” says Ben. Still, they waited until May 2020, five months after they met, to move in together.
Just before the move, Jude experienced intense abdominal pain and ended up in hospital. Doctors discovered an ovarian cyst, meaning her ovary had to be removed, affecting her fertility. Doctors told Jude, then 38, that if she planned to have children, she needed to, for lack of a better term, get on it. “The weird thing was, we’d already talked about having children,” she says. “We were like, oh yeah, we’ll do it in a year’s time after we do some travel.” The doctor’s warnings moved that timeline up considerably, but neither partner was fazed. “We talked about it and thought, well, we don’t know how long it’s gonna take to get pregnant,” says Jude. “We might as well try.” “It doesn’t sound normal to be having that conversation after a few months, but it was just so normal to us,” says Ben.
To their surprise, they got pregnant immediately. “I was so excited,” says Jude. Ben was too. “People had told me I was born to be a dad,” he says. “It was nice to fall pregnant with the love of my life.” Jude had a pretty easy pregnancy. And six months in, Ben made good on their first-date predictions and proposed. “He got me to come up to the roof of our building for some fake reason,’” says Jude. “I turned around and he was down on one knee!” Jude, of course, said yes. Ben was thrilled. “She’s obviously stunning, extremely intelligent, a very caring, nurturing person, and she’s also funny. I feel like I’ve known Jude for my whole life. She’s just an amazing, amazing person.” They put off wedding plans until after the birth, and when their daughter Shonee was born in March of 2021, they were overjoyed. The challenges of new parenthood set in shortly after, and Jude found herself overwhelmed in the first few days of motherhood. “I thought it was the baby blues,” she says. “But my anxiety started spiraling in that first week. And then we started to not be able to communicate properly, which was weird for us.”
When Shonee was just two weeks old, she had a terrifying medical episode that required a stay in hospital. At the same time, unbeknownst to anyone, Jude was in the early stages of postpartum psychosis, which ultimately caused her to be hospitalised too. It was an unimaginably difficult period, but once both Shonee and Jude were discharged, it proved the couple could handle anything. “Ben was amazing. He came and visited every day and brought Shonee to see me,” Jude says.
As scary as both incidents were, once Jude and Shonee were both home and healthy, the couple’s relationship continued to flourish. “I think parenting has brought us closer,” says Jude. “It’s amazing doing it together. We both find it really hard, but love it.” And in spring 2023, just before Shonee’s second birthday, her parents tied the knot. “Shonee and I wore matching dresses!” says Jude. “It was a pretty special moment for me seeing them both walking down the aisle together,” says Ben. And, without Bumble, none of it would have been possible. “Bumble was the twist of fate that drew us together,” says Ben. “I’ve never been as certain of something in my whole life than that we were meant to be together.”