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Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Summer Romance That Never Ended

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A postgraduate summer fling with Jurema Gobena, in New Haven, Conn., in 2016, just wasn’t enough for Enyi Okebugwu.

“The final conversation we had before leaving was, ‘This is a natural end, this is great,’” said Mr. Okebugwu, 30. But, he said, “It did not feel good at all. On my end, I thought, let me at least keep in contact, and maybe sometime we’ll be able to rekindle something.”

The two had met at Yale, where she was studying for a master’s degree in public health and he for an M.B.A. (She graduated from the University of California, Davis; he graduated from Harvard.) They were casual acquaintances during the two years they were in school.

After both their programs ended, in May 2016, she had him on her list of people to say goodbye to, in the manner of nice-to-know-you-have-a-great-life. Ms. Gobena, 36, suggested brunch.

It soon emerged that both were spending the summer in New Haven, and so they became co-conspirators, crossing items off the list she kept of things she wanted to do before leaving the town for good — from visiting an off-campus art museum to breaking into an undergraduate college for a spin on its rope swing.

“It was our kiss off to the city,” Ms. Gobena said. “It’s such a college town, we doubted we would ever come back.”

After a number of outings and more brunches, she tired of waiting for a first kiss. “I forced it because he was being so respectful,” she said. “We’d been hanging out almost every day and he’s not making a move, so I just did it.”

She remembers turning to a friend while they were still in school and saying, “Enyi is going to make a great partner for someone.” But she didn’t think it would be her.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

The summer romance began to change her thinking. “I was watching how he was with me,” she said. “It was very different than people I had dated previously. They came in with expectation, and with him, there was no ego and no assignment of what I should be for him. I was perfect as I was. It sounds very corny, but it was very freeing for me.”

When she returned to the Bay Area in California, where she grew up, and he went back to his hometown Olympia Fields, Ill., he implemented his plan to stay in touch. They soon fell into a daily habit of telling each other every detail of their lives.

“There was a breaking point in January,” Mr. Okebugwu said. “We’re literally talking as if we’re a couple — hours a day — and that’s not healthy. We’re not in a relationship. I want something here, but you have to tell me what you want. Or else we need to stop doing this.”

Ms. Gobena chose the relationship, and by September, Mr. Okebugwu had moved to the Bay Area. He is now an associate at Imaginable Futures, a philanthropic investment firm in Redwood City, Calif. She is a manager in the San Francisco office of CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit health care system.

On Sep. 19, the couple married at Viansa, a winery in Sonoma, Calif. The Rev. Temesgen Dabsu, a Lutheran minister, officiated before about 185 guests who were all vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Ms. Gobena said the decision to marry came about two years ago, when she asked him what he envisioned for the next phase of their relationship, and he responded in their own version of a love language: “Since he comes from an M.B.A. background, he built me a PowerPoint presentation,” Ms. Gobena said.

The approach, she said, was perfect. “You have a plan, you’re telling me exactly where things are going, and it’s not ambiguous. That was pure romance for me.”



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