Dr. Lisa Jacobs had low expectations for online dating. So low in fact, that after matching on Tinder in December 2017 with Marinus Kerstens, who goes by Mark, she made sure to eat dinner before their first date, thinking it would be for only a drink. Mr. Kerstens showed up ready for a full meal.
“I was new to this whole online dating thing,” said Mr. Kerstens, 49, who is the senior director of fleet solutions for Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer in Palo Alto, Calif. “So we came into this with different expectations right out of the gate.”
It was Mr. Kerstens’s adventurous nature that had drawn Dr. Jacobs, 36, to his profile in the first place. So when he asked her if she wanted to spend the weekend with him at Lake Tahoe, after only three weeks of knowing each other, she agreed. But she snapped a picture of Mr. Kerstens’ license plate while getting in his car on the drive up to Tahoe. She sent it to her friends, joking that if she wasn’t back at work on Monday, they should look for her. Dr. Jacobs is an adjunct clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the assistant director of the Pegasus Physician Writers at Stanford and a psychiatrist in private practice in Menlo Park, Calif.
“Clearly none of that happened,” Mr. Kerstens said.
“And then it was just like adventure after adventure after that,” Dr. Jacobs said.
In March 2018, only a few months after they started dating, Mr. Kerstens’s company suddenly transferred him to Amsterdam. Mr. Kerstens is from the Netherlands, but had been living abroad for 24 years, 17 of which he had spent in the United States. It just so happened that for the first year ever, the child psychiatry fellowship at Stanford, where Dr. Jacobs was a fellow, would allow fellows to spend a month doing undirected scholarly work. It meant that Dr. Jacobs had a whole month she could spend away from the hospital, and she decided to spend it in Amsterdam.
The two traveled around Europe. But when Dr. Jacobs returned home, her friends were surprised to hear they had broken up.
Mr. Kerstens thought the distance would be unsustainable for their relationship, but he couldn’t stop talking about her. Finally his sister and brother-in-law sat him down and talked some sense into him.
“They were like, what are you doing here,” Mr. Kerstens said. “Get on a fricking plane, go to San Francisco and fix this. Win her back.”
He did, and six weeks later, Mr. Kerstens was back in San Francisco. He proposed to Dr. Jacobs on the beach of Lake Tahoe in December 2018.
The couple had been planning to get married May 16 at Hortus Botanicus, the Amsterdam botanical gardens, but had to postpone because of the coronavirus. A few months later, when wildfires started to burn through swathes of Northern California, the couple’s spirit was put to the test when the county sheriff knocked on their door and told them their Redwood City home was in the mandatory evacuation zone. They had to pack what they could carry and leave as quickly as possible.
They left for Verona, N.J., where Dr. Jacobs’s parents live. And although they hadn’t planned on it, decided to marry Aug. 30 in Dr. Jacobs’s parents’ backyard. Shira Bortniker, a minister with American Marriage Ministries and a friend of the bride, officiated.
The couple said that the chaotic past few months have only brought them closer together.
“I realized that he’s incredibly resilient, and a different level of supportive than what I imagined, and that my life was so much better and easier than if I had to weather such things without him,” Dr. Jacobs said.