By Sara Gaynes Levy
Content warning: This piece contains experiences of domestic abuse and trauma.
When Nia joined Bumble, she’d been through it, dating-wise. The Fort Worth, Texas-based influencer started blogging about her history of abuse and trauma in 2018. On her site and on her social media, Nia openly talks about the challenges of dating—and really, existing—after being in an abusive relationship, and how she’s learned to navigate the world in the aftermath. When she felt ready to date again after splitting with that boyfriend, she didn’t want to waste her time. She sprung for Bumble Premium so she could see who’d already swiped right on her profile. She was intrigued to see a guy in a sweatshirt and glasses one day in mid-2020 who “just looked so cute,” she recalls. She sent him a simple “hi,” with a heart-eyes emoji.
Tyler, who works at a law firm, had swiped on Nia’s profile because of her beautiful photos and her obvious sense of humor. “I liked that she wasn’t taking it so seriously,” he says. After Nia reached out, the two exchanged a few jokes, and that was all it took: Nia felt like Tyler got her. Their banter transitioned to texting after a few days, at which point Tyler asked her out—including a proposed date, time, and location for the meeting. It might sound simple, but this was really indicative to Nia of what kind of person Tyler was. She liked that, unlike other men she had dated, Tyler had a plan and a date and was clearly putting in an effort.
The two agreed to have a bite to eat and then play mini-golf. When Nia couldn’t choose which appetizer to order, Tyler suggested they get all of them. She’d had a good feeling about Tyler anyway, but this sealed it. “Well, I gotta marry him now!” she recalls thinking. The rest of the date felt just as right. “We were laughing and just genuinely having a good time,” says Nia. “The chemistry really just felt like it was there.” Their next date was the very next day.
Over time, Nia began to reveal to Tyler the health conditions she faces, including lupus, arthritis, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hypermobility that can cause problems walking), as well as a previous brain surgery for something known as Chiari malformation, a condition where brain tissue extends into the spinal column. One side effect is that she has an altered perception of time: after two weeks of great dates, she thought they’d been together for almost three months. (Tyler, who was completely sympathetic and nonjudgmental, actually had to show her a calendar!)
Still, it’s easy to understand her mistake: they were getting along so well, and already having emotional, in-depth conversations about what they were looking for in a relationship. Nia had laid bare her immediate dealbreakers based on her history of abuse: any signs of yelling, screaming, name-calling, or aggressive behavior of any kind would see her immediately walking away from the relationship. Tyler really soaked in what she was saying. “When she was laying out those things, it allowed us to get into her history and some of the things that she had to go through,” he says. He completely agreed with what Nia was saying, and he wanted to be in a relationship free from passive-aggression and fighting. He was also grateful that by naming what she was looking for so clearly, Nia had encouraged him to be more communicative about his wants and feelings than he’d been in the past.
It was clear this relationship was going to be very good for both of them. “I think because we established a lot of stuff very, very early, it made me realize: he was like the missing puzzle piece,” says Nia. “Things just clicked. He’s the most supportive, incredible, sweet person I’ve ever met.” Tyler loves Nia’s goofiness, and the way she is unapologetically herself while giving him space to be just as authentic.
As Nia and Tyler’s relationship progressed, that held true. They encouraged one another to pursue their individual interests. For example, Tyler is a gamer, and while previous partners had wanted him to give up playing, Nia embraced it. Nia needed time to work on her growing social media following, and Tyler gave it to her. One night, Nia recalls Tyler hanging out at her apartment and laying his head in her lap. She grabbed her phone and texted her best friend: “I’m doomed. I’m in love with this man.” At that moment, she was sure she really would marry him.
Tyler was feeling the exact same way. “More and more frequently, I’d be at home playing a game or something and think ‘I’d rather be with her. I’m happier when I’m with her,’” he says. “And that’s how I knew that this is long-haul love.”
He decided to propose in spring 2022. “I wanted it to be something where I could center her as much as possible,” he says. He picked a weekend when Nia’s dad was in town, and invited his sister, a few of his friends, and Nia’s best friend. He surprised her with a proposal on a rooftop, with the crew in tow to get great photos. Nia said yes, and they’re planning for an August 2024 destination wedding.
There’s no question for either of them: this relationship is the best thing either has ever experienced. “I always feel like I’m the most comfortable, the most myself when I’m with her,” says Tyler. After everything Nia has been through, “this is the happiest I’ve ever been,” she says. “Itʼs so important for survivors to see that they can have happiness after abuse. Tyler and I are a true success story.”