By Ashley Edwards Walker
In November 2017, Rob, an enterprise account executive based in San Francisco, was visiting his good friend Darrin, who’d recently relocated to Columbus, Ohio. Over breakfast that first morning, Darrin couldn’t stop gushing to Rob about how beautiful the women in Columbus are. He encouraged Rob to go on Bumble to see for himself, and when Rob did, Hayley’s profile was the first one to pop up. “I was like, oh wow, yeah, he wasn’t kidding,” Rob recalls thinking upon seeing Hayley’s pictures.
He swiped right, and Hayley, a mental health counselor, did too—after deciding Rob met all the “parameters” she’d set for her matches: attractive, no selfies, at least one photo with friends, at least one photo doing an activity, and a bio within their profile. “If there’s no information in their profile, what’s the point?” she says. Luckily, Rob’s profile checked all her boxes—at least at first glance.
After Rob and Hayley matched, Rob waited two hours before deciding to use his one free Extend for that day on Hayley. With 22 hours left on their initial connection, he didn’t need the extra time—he just wanted to get Hayley’s attention, since women are in charge of making the first move on Bumble. He thought, “I’m here for the weekend. If I have to extend on one person, it should be her.’” When Hayley got the notification, she messaged him, “I see what you did there.” They started messaging back and forth, flirting—until Rob told her he lived in San Francisco and was only in town for the weekend. When he asked if Hayley would still be interested in meeting him and his friend for drinks that evening, Hayley shut it down, saying it wasn’t her “vibe” and wishing him “luck finding a gal pal for the weekend.”
A couple hours later, when Hayley got a notification Rob messaged her on Bumble again, she rolled her eyes. But when she opened her inbox, she saw a picture of Rob smiling next to a guy she recognized: Darrin. The guys were at a football game, and when Darrin asked whether Rob had matched with anyone on Bumble, he’d shown him Hayley’s profile. “Darrin was like, ‘Dude, I know Hayley. She and I play indoor soccer together,’” Rob explains. That’s when Darrin suggested they send Hayley a photo of them together. When Hayley saw it, she agreed to meet up after the game. Learning they shared a mutual friend took the “pressure” off and “was like a vote of confidence” for Rob, she explains. They met up at a club, then spent the rest of the night talking at a friend-of-a-friend’s loft. Both of them thought the other was “cool,” but Hayley still dodged Rob when he went in for a kiss. “She was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. You live in California. You’re flying back tomorrow morning. That’s not a good idea,’” says Rob. They said goodnight—but not before exchanging contact information.
By the time Rob landed back in California the following day, he and Hayley were following each other on social media. They quickly fell into a pattern of sending flirty memes back and forth. Hayley would post about her German Shepherd, and Rob would comment. “I was just flirting, basically,” he admits. After six weeks of this, Hayley was out one night and decided to call Rob to ask him his intentions. “I felt like, I don’t even really know this guy. Why is he sending memes?” says Hayley. “Why is he commenting on all my photos? I was just being blunt and sassy.” Their phone conversation was “silly” and didn’t last long, but it added fuel to the obvious spark between them. Christmas came, and they stayed in touch through the holidays. Then, on New Year’s Day, Hayley asked Rob for a video call.
Even though Hayley was initially skeptical about starting anything with Rob—they lived 2,500 miles apart, after all—he’d been on her mind ever since their brief phone conversation. She’d started thinking that maybe there was something there worth exploring. Rob also hadn’t been able to get Hayley off his mind. Both had been in long distance relationships before. Although they “aren’t the best,” as Rob describes them, they knew “we could make it work.” Especially since Rob’s job often took him to the East Coast, so he figured it would be easy enough to swing through Columbus to see Hayley. They used that first video call to “ask some questions and really get to know each other,” says Rob. By the time they got off the phone, he’d agreed to fly back to Columbus to visit her.
Rob flew to Ohio a month later, and he and Hayley spent five days exploring her favorite restaurants, breweries, and cocktail bars in Columbus. The final night of Rob’s trip was also Hayley’s birthday. Before a planned dinner with friends, the two went to drinks and Hayley initiated a check-in. Both agreed they felt a connection, so Hayley said, “What are we doing then?” To which Rob responded, “We’re dating.” But she didn’t see it that way. “I said, ‘How do we go on dates? You live in California, I live here. How are we just going to casually go on dates?’” she recalls. They decided to commit to a relationship and delete their Bumble accounts the next day.
For the next year, they spent hours talking on the phone every day, which both say strengthened their bond. “Because we weren’t together all the time, we had to be purposeful with our communication,” explains Hayley. “We’d ask really deep, honest questions,” discussing things like their visions for their careers and what their future as a couple could look like. They also took turns flying to visit each other and meeting up for events and vacations in places like Chicago, Florida, and Washington State. “Every time we saw each other, it was like some new fun city adventure we were going on,” says Rob. Traveling as a couple and with friends and family was a way to integrate themselves into each other’s lives, even though they didn’t live in the same city. But they did want to live in the same place. And, six months into the relationship, Hayley told Rob she’d move to California when the time was right.
Before meeting Rob, Hayley had already been considering doctoral programs in Texas and California. “I knew I wanted to move west,” she says. Hayley ultimately decided not to pursue a graduate program, but after one year of dating long distance, Hayley and her German Shepherd packed their bags and moved to San Francisco.
In early 2020, when the pandemic hit, Rob and Hayley left the city to stay with Rob’s parents at their house near Lake Tahoe. They’d been talking about buying a house in the Bay Area, but after getting outbid a few times, inspiration struck. They were on a camping trip with Rob’s parents in Truckee, Calif., a mountain town where Rob’s family had frequently vacationed while he was growing up. “We were drinking a beer out in front of this brewhouse and Hayley turned to me and said, ‘Hey, this is cool. I could live here,’” Rob recalls. Within a few months, they purchased their first home in the area and, soon after, while back in Lake Tahoe, Rob proposed to Hayley on a dock. In June 2022, they married in a disco-themed wedding featuring an LED dancefloor and dozens of disco balls hanging from the ceiling in Reno, Nev. “It was the best day of all time,” says Hayley.
What could have been a low-stakes vacation hookup has proven to be lasting love. “To make a long distance relationship that started through an app work, you first have to be open to a relationship and looking for the right person,” says Rob. “That was our disposition, so when we realized we had a connection, we were willing to explore that possibility and find out what could happen. It’s about having an open mind, open heart, and seeing where that takes you.”