By Sara Gaynes Levy
Kenna hadn’t had much luck dating before she signed up for Bumble in January 2020. She wanted to find the right person for her, but as a single 48-year-old in Tyler, Texas, it became more challenging each year. “Being in my 40s, I had so few single friends,” she explains. So, while nervous, she began exploring the idea of dating online. Most apps and sites were intimidating to her. But Bumble’s setup—where women are able to reach out to their match first—was appealing. She knew of a friend who’d met a long-term partner on Bumble, so she cautiously gave it a download. “I’d never pictured myself doing the online thing,” she admits. But then Paul’s profile popped up. The first thing she noticed were his dimples in his profile photo. “I loved his dimples,” she says. “It was the most adorable picture: he was smiling and sitting behind the steering wheel of his car.” Kenna’s interest was also piqued by Paul’s hobbies, which he listed as “violin and magic.” (Now, years later, he admits, “I’m not very good at either!”) She reached out and asked, “how was your day?”
Paul trod carefully in his responses. “When Kenna and I began talking, I was 50, and I hadn’t interacted with a lot of people online before her,” he says. “I had also only been romantically involved with three people in my entire life, one of whom was for over 30 years.” That long relationship was with his ex-wife, with whom he shares two children. Paul and Kenna’s initial chats were pretty simple and straightforward, with both still unsure of how authentic a digital connection might be. Still, the conversation went well enough to schedule an in-person meeting.
In early March 2020, the two met for coffee. As it turned out, they needn’t have worried: offline, they discovered, they felt immediately comfortable with one another thanks to their similar backgrounds and lives. Paul, a social worker, felt an instant kinship to Kenna, an eighth grade science teacher. Paul had actually done some work in Kenna’s school system, and they had mutual friends. “I’ve always had an affinity for teachers,” he says. “Teachers and social workers share a quiet camaraderie.” They also bonded over their later-in-life master’s degrees—Paul was working on his, and Kenna had recently finished hers.
The next few weeks after their first in-person date brought worldwide COVID-19 shutdowns. Kenna and Paul continued to find creative ways to see one another, getting takeout and eating it at one of their homes or going on walks together. “I took her pretty seriously pretty quickly,” says Paul. They didn’t feel pressure to commit just because of the lockdowns, either. It just felt right. “I didn’t feel like our relationship was fast tracked because of COVID,” says Paul. “We were both looking for a long-term relationship, and ultimately marriage, so we were committed from the beginning,” Kenna agrees. It was easy for her to picture a future with him: “Paul is the most encouraging and supportive partner I’ve ever had,” she says “We like to have serious conversations, but we also have fun together!”
A few months later, Paul decided to take the step of introducing Kenna to his kids. He wanted to keep the initial meetings low-pressure and easy, so he introduced his children to her separately. Kenna prepped a Southern Greek feast for Paul’s son, 14, with whom she felt an instant kinship (she teaches his grade, after all!). She met Paul’s daughter, who is in college, a few weeks later. “I was nervous at first, but they’re fabulous kids,” says Kenna. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Kenna admits that in the past, she was not the type to fantasize about her wedding or even getting married. But after getting along with Paul’s children, and recognizing their mutual commitment to being in a serious relationship and working toward marriage, the idea of a wedding came up. “I always say marriage, children, and puppies do not go well in terms of surprises,” says Paul with a laugh. It was clear this was what they both wanted. Around Christmas of 2020, Paul began ring shopping.
The proposal was intimate and cosy, as much of their relationship has been. “I was in the living room watching television,” Kenna remembers. She says Paul came up beside her and got down on one knee. (The restaurant they were heading to afterwards to celebrate their engagement, unbeknownst to Kenna, had a hard ceramic floor. Paul joked that his aging knees wouldn’t have been able to handle it, so he decided to propose on the living room carpet.) In summer 2021, about 18 months after their first date, the couple got married at a historic Victorian home in their hometown. They had about 40 guests attend their outdoor ceremony held on the gazebo of the home’s property, and a friend made the cake. “It was small, fun, and tasteful,” Paul says fondly.
Married life is treating them both well. Kenna, who had never lived with anyone before Paul, loves it. “Having a roommate is much easier than I thought it would be!” she says with a laugh. And Paul has seen a whole different side of himself in his second marriage. “Personally, I had some things I needed to work on after my divorce that were long overdue,” says Paul. Between the personal work he’s done (including counseling) and the support he gets from Kenna, he feels like a new man. And all thanks to an app both were nervous to download. “We have Bumble to thank for bringing us together,” says Kenna. “Even though we live about five blocks away from each other, we wouldn’t have met without Bumble!”
Main photo credit: Rosebudd Photography