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Monday, June 27, 2022

How we met: ‘I had another date lined up on Tinder, but I realised I wanted to be with Ben’ | Relationships

In September 2015, Simon was working at the University of Birmingham and running an Effective Altruism group. “It’s a movement that assesses charities, giving people information and advice about how and where to donate,” he explains.

When Simon saw the Facebook guest list for the first event of the new term, he spotted Ben. “So I recognised him when he arrived but I pretended not to know who he was, as that might seem weird,” he laughs. Ben was a student in a different part of the university. “I’d been involved with an Effective Altruism group at home in Exeter and decided to carry on in Birmingham,” he says. When he was introduced to Simon, he thought he seemed “quite serious and knowledgeable”. Although they had a good conversation, it wasn’t love at first sight. “Ben seemed quite nervous,” says Simon. “It was just a general chat about the group and what we were doing.”

They gradually became friends through meetings and socials. “On Bonfire Night, I suggested a group night out but it ended up being just the two of us. I was nervous as we’d never done anything one-on-one before, but we went to a fairground and had a really nice time,” says Simon.

“It just felt comfortable,” adds Ben.

Towards the end of the year, something shifted, and the pair developed more of a romantic attraction. While celebrating the success of the Effective Altruism group, they shared a hug. “It went on for just a little longer than a friendship hug and I detected something more,” says Simon. A few days later, he invited Ben to his room to look at a decal on his wall and they kissed.

Although they liked each other, neither wanted to be in a serious relationship over the summer holidays. Instead, they kept things casual until the autumn of 2016. Simon recalls: “I had a date lined up with someone from Tinder, but realised that I really didn’t want to go – I just wanted to be with Ben.” He confessed how he was feeling and Ben said he felt the same way. “I was ready for it to be a serious thing by then and so we officially became a couple,” says Ben.

Although neither of them had previously wanted to marry, they got engaged in March 2019, on a trip to Kenilworth Castle. “My opening gambit was about the pension benefits we would get,” Simon says. “But I think I was just looking for an excuse to propose because it felt right.” After Covid delayed their initial plans, they’ve now arranged a wedding in Oxford for next year.

They moved to Bicester at the end of 2019, where they live with their cat, Seth. “We moved in together three months before lockdown, which is the acid test for any relationship. We got on really well, though, and barely bickered at all,” says Simon. He now works as a lecturer in medical ethics at the University of Warwick, while Ben is a software engineer. The couple are excited to start travelling again, one of their shared interests. “We’ve got a big trip to the US coming up,” says Ben.

Simon has never met anyone as kind as Ben. “He’s very sweet and understanding,” he says. “I’ve been a bit unwell recently and he treats me so well in my worst moments. Ben is quite anxious but it never stops him doing things. He just feels the fear and does it anyway, which I admire.”

Ben loves how well his partner takes care of him. “I have some mental-health problems and he is very understanding and gives me all the space I need. And he makes me thousands of cups of tea,” he says. “Simon always makes it very clear how much he loves me, which I really appreciate.”

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