By Leah Spellman Berger
Only a few months after Meredith, a consultant, relocated with her family to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018, her marriage ended. Suddenly single with three young boys, she navigated the best she could, trying to make a new home in an unfamiliar place, learning to co-parent, and eventually, dating again. But her faith in love was shaken, she says.
Jim, an optometrist living in Charlotte, had experienced a similar situation. After his own 10-year marriage ended two years earlier, he had to adapt to being a single parent with two boys, and to the dating landscape. So much had changed in the dozen or so years since he had gone on a first date, but the popularity of online dating worked in Jim’s favor. “I’m not one of those guys who will introduce myself to someone at a bar, so it was easier,” he says. “It was perfect for me.”
Jim wasn’t familiar with Bumble, but after a friend’s recommendation, it quickly became his favorite app. Within a short period of time, he was having success. “I pulled my profile up and the next morning I had like 300 matches,” Jim says. “I was just blown away. I was ready to move on, so it was exciting.”
When Meredith decided she was ready to begin dating again, it was also a friend who suggested Bumble. “What I really liked was that it was up to me,” she says. “It does take a little bit of creativity and thought to initiate conversation, but it was way better than hearing a man’s one-liner.”
Meredith still remembers the night she matched with Jim. She had just put her kids to bed when she saw his profile. It was to the point and direct—just how he is in real life, she would later learn—and said he was from North Carolina and loved football. Meredith thought Jim was attractive and that he had a commanding presence.
Meanwhile Jim was at a brewery with friends when they matched. He was talking with his business partner and his business partner’s daughter about dating, and showed them his Bumble profile. He let his friend’s daughter look at some of his matches. “This is the one,” she said, holding up Meredith’s picture. When he saw Meredith’s profile, he agreed and swiped right.
After they matched, Meredith, a Pittsburgh native, decided to open with a joke about their opposing football teams playing the next week and said, “I better say hi now before you don’t want to talk to me.” That night Jim replied to Meredith and they messaged back and forth for hours, the banter coming easily. Meredith remembers sitting in bed with a smile on her face, their connection instant and effortless.
Within a week they met in person for their first date at a local restaurant. Meredith was late which, as Jim would later learn, was par for the course, so he had a drink while waiting for her. He thought Meredith’s profile pictures, which were beautiful, didn’t do her justice. “When I met her I thought, ‘Wow.’” Drinks turned to dinner and dinner turned to finding a second place to grab a drink nearby, followed by one more stop. Before they said goodbye they shared their first kiss and knew a second date was in their future.
Each date got better. Jim says Meredith, a “social butterfly,” lights up every room and is happiest when she’s around people. She brought out the adventurous side of him as they explored new restaurants, went to concerts, and spent time with friends. In Jim, Meredith found a great listener who was supportive as she navigated her divorce and adjusted to co-parenting. He not only gave great advice, but was also someone she could unwind with.
Early on however they discovered one major difference. Jim didn’t want to get married again. Meredith did. “I didn’t understand what the purpose of marriage was,” Jim says. “I went through a divorce and it was really hard. I didn’t want to deal with the possibility of that again.” And while Meredith didn’t want to get married again anytime soon, she did see it in her future one day. They were honest with each other from the beginning about their viewpoints. “I was happy going out and having fun, but I let him know I did want a true partnership one day. I wanted my kids to see that too.”
Another difference? While Jim had been dating for a while, Meredith was just beginning to meet new people. Her date with Jim had been her first, post-divorce. Despite their magnetic connection, Jim worried Meredith should get out there more. So she continued dating Jim—and other people.
Three months later Meredith found herself on a lackluster date with someone else on Valentine’s Day. “I didn’t want to be there,” she remembers. Later that night she talked with Jim on the phone. After they hung up, he texted that he was all in. From then on they were exclusive. Soon, they introduced their kids during a playdate at a bowling alley. “For a very long time my kids didn’t even know Jim’s name,” Meredith jokes, explaining how they prioritized introducing the kids as potential friends rather than Jim as her boyfriend.
With things continuing to go smoothly, Meredith eventually moved in, an important milestone for both of them. They adjusted to life as a blended family with five boys under one roof. The transition was a test—one they passed. For Meredith’s birthday, Jim surprised her during a trip to Charleston with a proposal, something she didn’t see coming because of his previous position on the topic. “He got down on one knee and said, ‘I never thought I would say this again, but will you marry me?’” Meredith remembers.
As they began planning their wedding, one of the most important aspects was how the event would symbolize the blending of their families. “What we were trying to instill in the boys is that they’re each other’s brothers,” Meredith says.
They chose not to have a conventional wedding. “We did things backwards,” Meredith says. “We did it the ‘right way’ in our first marriages, but they didn’t work out, so we decided to do the opposite this time.” Honeymoon to London to see a dream tennis match before the wedding? Reception first, followed by a surprise ceremony then a rehearsal dinner the next night? Why not? They decided to cross off an item from their bucket list and have a wedding in a dream destination—the Bahamas.
Now, Jim and Meredith are excited by the seemingly limitless possibilities ahead. Maybe they’ll cross more things off their shared bucket list. Napa next? Going to adult golf camp? A trip to Amsterdam? After so many life plans that’ve changed, they’re holding onto one another embracing the anticipation of what might come next.
Main photo credit: Jacoby Rose Photography