Establishing a joint Google calendar may not be a standard marker of a flourishing romance, but for Efrain Guerrero and James Jones, it stood in just fine for a more customary expression of commitment.
The two men met in September 2017 through the dating app Scruff, and had their first date at Rendezvous, a restaurant in Harlem, where both lived. They had instant chemistry, as well as common experiences as people of color who attended Ivy League schools and worked in majority-white professions. There was also a mutual regard for the “Real Housewives” franchise. A second date quickly followed.
“By month two, we were boyfriends and had a shared Google calendar, and I think that’s when we knew we had a shared future,” said Dr. Jones, 33, an assistant professor of African-American and African studies at the Newark, N.J., campus of Rutgers. He graduated cum laude from George Washington University and received a doctoral degree in sociology from Columbia. They still use the joint calendar, he added: “It’s very handy.”
When it came to outwardly sharing their feelings for one another, however, the process took longer, according to Mr. Guerrero, who is 39 and the senior managing director for operations in New York at KIPP, a network of charter schools. He graduated cum laude from Harvard and received an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
“James is by nature a little more reserved, and I had to match that a little bit,” he said. “I was definitely the one who said ‘I love you’ first,” within the first few months of the relationship.
When Dr. Jones didn’t reciprocate the sentiment, Mr. Guerrero didn’t flinch.
“I felt like I had to say it — I couldn’t hold it in — and was OK with whatever came after that,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK, he’s not ready.’ That’s fine. He shows his love in many different ways, but verbally is not the one that comes most naturally to him.”
“It was really, really hard because I didn’t grow up saying ‘I love you,’” Dr. Jones said. “We say ‘I love you’ by what we do.”
By about the six-month mark, Dr. Jones grew more comfortable expressing his feelings. The two moved in together after about a year, and began talking about what might come next.
“I was like, OK, this feels good, this feels right,” Mr. Guerrero said. “We had a conversation: What do you think about timeline? How many years does it make sense to date before marrying each other?”
The two were legally married Sept. 12, exactly four years after their first date, in a ceremony with around 10 friends that took place on the rooftop of the Harlem building where they now live. Jessica Lau, a friend who became a Universal Life minister for the event, officiated. They had intended to marry in 2020, but postponed because of the pandemic.
In August, the two had a much larger celebration in Mexico City, with about 40 friends and family members joining them in a culinarily focused destination event that included a ceremony led by another friend, a welcome reception, a family lunch and a farewell brunch. All but two of their guests were vaccinated, and they coordinated testing for the entire party upon their return home (everyone was negative).
Though Mr. Guerrero felt he should play it cool when the couple first met, Dr. Jones, a lifelong student of doing rather than saying, had no trouble at all reading into his actions.
“He walked me home after our date, and I was still like, Does he like me?” Dr. Jones said. “Then he kissed me and then I was like, This is a good kiss. And he likes me.”