Illustration by Lauren Adams

Illustration by Lauren Adams

February 14, 2023

Athens’ Modern Romance

OU couples discuss relationships, Valentine’s Day plans

By Ryan Maxin | Editor-in-Chief

Happy Valentine’s Day, bobcats! Love is all around Athens, and not everyone celebrates their love the same way. This year, The Post sat down with four couples at Ohio University to talk about their origin stories, their plans for Tuesday and their hopes for the future.

Sydney Britton & Andrew Thomas

The origin story

When Sydney Britton first met her boyfriend, Andrew Thomas, they lived almost 500 miles away from each other.

Thomas is a sixth-year senior studying marketing online at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but in October 2021, he was visiting a childhood friend who attended OU. It was during Halloween weekend, and his friend wanted to show him Court Street. They walked into Lucky’s Sports Tavern, 11 N. Court St., and Britton was standing on a booth seat.

“When I saw him walk in the door, I was like, ‘Introduce me immediately,’” said Britton, a sixth-year senior studying commercial photography. “We hung out and talked for quite a few hours at Lucky's and then we ran to Stephen’s for a second."

“I realized I loved him when I was sick. It was my first time being sick around him and he made me soup, just like willingly came back and made me soup. I was like, ‘Oh, he really cares.'” —Sydney Britton

Britton and Thomas exchanged snapchats, and the following day they continued snapchatting each other. Thomas was only in town for a weekend, so Britton invited him to a party and they hung out after. The next morning, they got breakfast together before Thomas returned to St. Louis.

The next weekend was Dad’s Weekend, but Thomas offered to drive the eight hours it took to come back to visit the weekend after that.

“Then he came the next weekend after that, and then the weekend after and then the weekend after,” Britton said.

Thomas visited Britton’s family near Columbus during Winter Break 2021, and they continued to talk. At the time, Britton wanted to hold off on dating because she didn’t feel prepared for a relationship.

“I respected that so much,” Thomas said. “We didn't rush into things and made sure that these were the right moves. I mean, traveling from St. Louis, at that point, not knowing I'm going to uproot my life and move here, we made sure everything was kind of thoughtful.”

Then, on Feb. 16, 2022, the couple made it official. A few months later, Thomas, who studied online and had a job that allowed him to work remotely, moved to Athens full-time and moved in with one of Britton’s friends.

They were both nervous about living close to each other after dating long-distance for months, but the transition was comfortable, the couple said.

Plans for Valentine's Day

This year, with Valentine’s Day falling so close to the couple’s one-year anniversary, Thomas has a secret plan for how to commemorate his relationship with Britton.

“It involves Columbus and a scavenger hunt, that’s all I think I should say,” Thomas said.

Last year, two-days before they started dating, Thomas and Britton had dinner at Cirò Italian Kitchen & Bar, 120 W. Union St. Thomas surprised Britton with two bouquets of flowers, and the couple made a heart-shaped brownie together.

What’s next?

After graduation in May, the couple plans to move to Columbus, where they just got approved for their first apartment out of college.

After a few years, they’d love to move to New York and continue their careers, Britton said. After that, marriage and kids are certainly on the table, but nothing is set in stone yet. No matter what happens or where they are, the couple plans on cultivating their love.

“I realized I loved him when I was sick. It was my first time being sick around him and he made me soup, just like willingly came back and made me soup,” Britton said. “I was like, ‘Oh, he really cares.’”

Gwen Peters & Dylan Bertelsen

The origin story

Gwen Peters, a sophomore studying middle school education, wasn’t looking for a relationship in September 2020. But when one of her work friends came to her with his friend’s snapchat, she was intrigued.

Peters and Dylan Bertelsen, a sophomore studying accounting, began snapchatting back and forth, and they really hit it off. In December 2020, they officially started dating.

Initially, Bertelsen knew he wanted to attend OU, but Peters was still deciding. She was conscious about the implications of attending the same school as her significant other, so she applied to 12 other schools. Once she visited OU, though, she knew it was the place for her.

“I feel like it was kind of convenient that we both knew where we were going. I mean, we had talked about long-distance and we weren't really worried if we had to do that, but it was nice to know we were both going to go to the same place,” Peters said. “One thing we've always said is if we need space for schoolwork or just want to be by ourselves for a little bit, then we're going to grant that no questions asked because we don't want to overcrowd each other.”

So far, the couple has managed their closeness well. It’s nice to have each other so close, Bertelsen said, but it’s also OK if they decide to do their own things sometimes.

Plans for Valentine’s Day

For their second Valentine’s Day together, Peters and Bertelsen plan to keep things low key. After a nice dinner, Bertelsen said, they just plan to hang out and do the things that normally make them happy when they’re together.

“When we’re at school, our Valentine's Days are more relaxed just because we're college students, so we don't have all this money but also it's nice to just spend time together and reflect and stuff,” Peters said.”

What’s next?

Though they’re sophomores, Peters and Bertelsen have clear ideas of what they’d like their relationship to look like through college and after graduation.

“In my personal opinion, I see us getting through both of our college careers together and potentially either out of college moving in together or maybe like (during our) final year having a place together and then going from there,” Bertelsen said.

Peters agreed, saying she sees herself spending the rest of her life with Bertelsen.

“I believe in soulmates and I kind of believe that there's typically one for every person and I think that I've definitely found that in Dylan,” Peters said.

Silver Barker & C.J. Harris

The origin story

When C.J. Harris saw Silver Barker at North End Kitchen and Bar, 77 N. Court St., he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“She was good looking, so I went ahead and I tried to talk to her and she gave me some good conversation but she was not too interested in me at first. Let's just say I never gave up. I didn't quit, so I kept working … to get her attention.” —C.J. Harris

“She was good looking, so I went ahead and I tried to talk to her and she gave me some good conversation but she was not too interested in me at first,” Harris said, laughing. “Let's just say I never gave up. I didn't quit, so I kept working … to get her attention.”

Barker, a junior studying journalism, said she had just gotten out of a relationship and was weary about entertaining the idea of a relationship with anyone at the time. That was in September 2021, and over the next couple of months, she and Harris, a senior studying sports management, started to get to know each other better.

They talked during Winter Break heading into 2022, and Barker’s opinions about a possible relationship officially changed when Harris, who doesn’t like sushi, asked her out on a sushi date to Ginger Asian Kitchen because he knew she loved it.

“We sat down and had a talk about our goals and everything and our outlook and perspective on life, and I think that's what really kind of set him aside,” Barker said.

After about a month-and-a-half of hanging out, they officially started dating in late February. The couple will celebrate their one-year anniversary Feb. 27.

Plans for Valentine’s Day

In terms of plans for Valentine’s Day, Harris said he was keeping them a secret. Last year, however, Harris took Barker to Columbus to eat hibachi, and when they returned to Athens, he gifted her chocolate strawberries, a teddy bear, self-care items and more.

“I love chocolate covered strawberries,” Barker said. “My dad used to give them to me for the longest time, and now that C.J. is here, I think it's kind of a must for him.”

Though his plans for Valentine’s Day are secretive, he said he and Barker plan to visit Columbus again on Saturday to eat and visit the city. The two have very hectic schedules, Barker said, so it’s nice when they can just spend a day having fun with no rigid plans.

What’s next?

With graduation coming up, Harris plans to pursue a graduate degree while Barker remains at OU to finish her undergraduate degree. Barker said her degree and Harris’ will likely lead to unpredictable work locations out of college, but the couple plans to do everything they can to stay near each other after graduation.

“I met her and I was like, ‘Yeah, I need this woman to be my girl.'” —C.J. Harris

“Most definitely we’ll stick together and then wherever she goes, I'll try to follow,” Harris said.

Ideally, the couple will move to the west coast after they secure steady jobs, Barker said. They love the outdoors and the heat, and they think the best place for them would be out West.

Regardless of location, Harris and Barker plan to be together through everything. In doing so, Harris said he’ll accomplish what he set out to do the first time he met Barker.

“I met her and I was like, ‘Yeah, I need this woman to be my girl,’” he said.

Christina Beck & Roger Aden

The origin story

Roger Aden heard Christina Beck’s name for the first time in college with no idea she would eventually become his wife. It was at a college speech and debate competition in 1984, Aden representing the University of Nebraska and Beck representing Ball State University, and he heard she had delivered a great speech. It wasn’t until some years later, when they both became professors in OU’s School of Communication Studies, that they would meet in-person for the first time.

Beck was interviewing for a professorial job at OU, and Aden was one of the interviewers. As they reminisced about the competition, Aden commented on Beck’s speech, and Beck thanked him but said she wished she would have won the competition.

“Then I said ‘Well how did you do?’ and he said ‘Well I won,’” Beck said as she laughed.

“We became really, really good friends. And we even did a couple of research projects together, and then after my prior relationship ended, we had the whole ‘Harry Met Sally’ thing.” —Christina Beck

Beck got the job, and a close friendship formed between her and Aden.

“We became really, really good friends,” Beck said. “And we even did a couple of research projects together, and then after my prior relationship ended, we had the whole ‘Harry Met Sally’ thing.”

The couple married in 1999 and started a blended family. Beck and Aden have four daughters, two of which are from Beck’s previous marriage.

Plans for Valentine’s Day

With busy schedules and an active family life, Beck and Aden don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on the day itself. Their youngest daughter is active in sports, the couple said, and they’d rather support her pursuits than celebrate the holiday traditionally. There’s another reason, too.

“I was looking, when I proposed, to do something a little bit different and also to make sure that the day was memorable,” Aden said. “So I proposed on Groundhog Day, and we celebrate our engagement anniversary on Groundhog Day.”

This year, the couple celebrated with dinner at Casa Nueva, 6 W. State St., their favorite restaurant.

What’s next?

Beck and Aden are expecting their first grandchild in the coming months. Though they both have a few years to go before retirement, they have plans for what they’re going to do after leaving OU.

“I like the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, which my wife also likes, but her favorite place is Disney World,” Aden said. “So we've talked about how we can spend time when it's summer in Colorado and winter in Florida, but that's all the farther we've got with that is thinking through that as a possibility.”

Beck said she and Aden have joked about purchasing an RV and living in Colorado and Florida, but that changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. With busy work and family lives, Beck said she and her husband hadn’t gotten a lot of opportunities to spend time at home. During lockdown, though, she said they realized how much they love being in their home in Athens. Either way, Beck is sure their future will be wonderful.

“We'll do something fun and I imagine it'll involve traveling,” Beck said. “Then grandkids or whatever in the future, we'll go do something because we love our kids and their kids to be named later.”

AUTHOR: Ryan Maxin
WEB DEVELOPMENT: Anastasia Carter