After Becoming a Widow at 31, Tori Got a Second Chance at Love With Joey
By Ashley Edwards Walker
Tori met her husband when she was a teenager, and they were together for 15 years until a tragic motorcycle accident took his life in 2018. All of a sudden, she was a 31-year-old widow. With her life turned completely upside down, Tori decided to make a fresh start, relocating from Florida to Nashville, Tenn. for her job as a travel nurse. But life in a new city turned out to be lonely.
In 2019, about a year after her husband’s death, Tori tentatively began dating as a way to meet new people. After a handful of disastrous dates with men who were “jealous of someone who’s no longer here” or afraid of her “baggage,” Tori had all but given up on love. She decided she just wanted to keep things casual, and downloaded Bumble because it gave her more control over who she matched and interacted with. She opted to pay for Bumble Premium so she could see which guys swiped right on her first, even if they were out of the five to 10 mile radius she’d set using the location filter. That’s when she saw Joey’s profile.
Joey, who works as a project manager for a renewable energy company, lived two hours away in Chattanooga, Tenn. Like Tori, he’d recently moved to Tennessee and had signed up for Bumble as a way to meet new people. When he came across Tori’s profile, he was drawn in by her curly hair and tattoos. He made a sweet first impression on Tori by including a picture with his nephew on his profile and calling himself “uncle of the year” in his bio. Tori decided to send him a message: “Why are you so far away from me?” she wrote, poking fun at the long distance between them. It turned out to be the perfect opening line. “Right away, the banter between us just flowed,” says Joey.
They started messaging through Bumble and quickly switched to text. They discovered that, like Tori, Joey’s mom is a nurse. Tori’s family also ran a donut shop in Kentucky, where she grew up, and Joey loved the sweet treat so much his nickname growing up was “Joey bag of donuts.” It felt like it was meant to be. “We ended up joking back and forth about meeting at the courthouse and getting married,” says Joey.
During these conversations, Tori decided to open up to Joey about the loss of her husband and being a widow. “Something Joey did differently than anyone else I’d dated was to ask questions about my path,” says Tori. Most guys would generally steer the conversation away from her loss. “Joey was interested in the life that I’d lived before. That was quite a breath of fresh air in terms of being a young widow and being on the dating scene.”
Soon, they were making plans to meet up—until Joey got cold feet. “She was incredible,” Joey says, “the conversation was easy.” But when Tori started coming on “too strong,” telling Joey she’d drive to Chattanooga the next day, he worried he was being catfished. Tori was confused when he stopped responding to her texts, but she didn’t wait around. She picked up her conversations with other matches. Then one night two weeks later, Joey texted out of the blue. He realized that he’d be passing through Nashville on a road trip he was taking to visit his family in Arizona. It presented the perfect opportunity to finally meet Tori in person. They talked that whole night, making plans to meet at a vacation rental just outside Nashville—a converted treehouse.
Two months after first matching on Bumble, Tori and Joey met at the treehouse and realized the connection they’d made online did, in fact, translate to real life. Although they both agree it was “crazy” to meet somewhere “out in the middle of nowhere” on a first date, they were excited by the prospect of sharing a new experience together. Tori arrived first, and when Joey got there, they hugged, took a tour of the place, made some drinks, and dug into their respective backgrounds. At the end of the night, they went outside to do some stargazing. The next morning, when they were packing up to leave, they agreed they were on the same page: they wanted to continue spending time together, but neither was ready for anything serious. Tori wasn’t ready to even think about falling in love again, and Joey was happy to keep things casual.
And yet, for the two weeks Joey was in Arizona, they continued talking every day. They made plans to meet for their second date at a ranch on Joey’s return trip to Chattanooga. After a two-night stay, Tori knew she was falling for him. For the next few months, Tori and Joey continued talking every day, and took turns visiting each other.
They continued to make a point of calling each other “not my boyfriend” and “not your girlfriend,” even after agreeing to be exclusive. Still, their feelings for each other continued to grow, and Joey invited Tori to Arizona with him for his nephew’s birthday, where she’d meet his family. There was no denying they’d fallen into a serious relationship, and they told each other they loved one another on that trip.
Then in May, just over four months into their relationship and six months after first matching on Bumble, Tori found out she was pregnant. The pregnancy came as a surprise for a number of reasons. For one thing, Tori was on birth control. For another, she and her first husband had started IVF after having trouble conceiving, so “I didn’t even think I could get pregnant,” says Tori. After feeling “off” during a shift at work, she took an at-home pregnancy test. When it was positive, she called out of work and drove to Chattanooga to tell Joey in person. At first, like Tori, Joey was shocked by the news. But after about 15 minutes, “he lit up like a Christmas tree,” recalls Tori. They’d already planned to return to Arizona the following weekend to celebrate their birthdays, and they decided to use the opportunity to share the news with Joey’s family. “Everybody cried and laughed and hugged,” recalls Joey. “It was a beautiful moment.”
In January 2021, after relocating to Arizona to be closer to Joey’s family, the two welcomed their daughter, Sunny. “I’ve been through so much in my life,” says Tori. “I’m always expecting the worst to happen.” But when meeting her daughter for the first time, all she could think was, “How on earth can I be in this spot—in a relationship with such a good person and with such a beautiful, perfect baby—and feeling so good despite all of the bullshit?”
In March 2021, two months after becoming a family of three and surrounded by Tori’s family in Kentucky, Joey proposed. They’re planning on getting married in fall 2023 and have set the location: the treehouse outside Nashville where they spent their first 24 hours together. “It feels like we were meant to be in each other’s lives,” says Joey. “We’d like to think destiny brought us together. But I don’t know that meeting would have been possible without Bumble.”