From Secret Admirers to Soulmates: Tichara and Cyrena

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I talked to third-years Tichara and Cyrena on a beautiful Tuesday evening, the two all smiles as they made their way to a coffee shop near the University of Virginia’s campus. Eventually stopping to sit and chat on a park bench, they dove into the story of their relationship.

Here’s the twist: Tichara and Cyrena aren’t exactly matches. The Marriage Pact brought them together a little differently than most—through the power of an anonymous email, a tweet, and an Instagram DM.

When the Marriage Pact comes to a college campus, students are able to enter the email of someone they want to fill out the questionnaire. Nicknamed the “secret admirer” email, students can anonymously request that their friends, crushes, and would-be matches fill out the form. Whether they match or not, whatever happens next is entirely up to them.

Cyrena, a global public health major from Austin, Texas, first heard about the Marriage Pact through NPR’s coverage of the questionnaire’s time on Stanford’s campus. When it came to UVA, she knew she wanted to fill it out. She was interested in seeing who she would match with and in the self-inventory of values that the form provided, but she also knew that with a secret admirer email, she had a way of shooting her shot with Tichara, a girl she’d known from class and had previously matched with on Tinder.

Tichara, an African American and African Studies major, was not a newcomer to the Marriage Pact either—she’d first heard about it on Twitter as a first-year and took it to see what would happen, eventually matching with a close friend. The following year, Tichara didn’t know the questionnaire had come back to UVA until she received a curious email about it.

Tichara: I was in 1515 [UVA’s student center] and I was supposed to be doing homework when I got an email that said, “You have a secret admirer, someone wants you to fill out the Marriage Pact!” At this point, I didn’t know that the Marriage Pact was back… So I screenshotted the email and posted it on Twitter, and I did it aimlessly—I think it was because I’m always on Twitter anyways and was like ‘oh, this is funny.’ I posted the screenshot and said “speak now” and then kept going about my day. This was all on the same night, and before matches were sent. I was just, like, in my main character moment.

Cyrena: There was actually no follow-up plan, I had just been pining aimlessly with no clear intention on how I was going to ask her out. We had matched on Tinder but that never really works out for me. We had a class together, and at that point I was trying to be cool and ask her random questions because… well, I knew a lot about her from internet stalking and from mutual friends and what I’d heard about her. Then I was like, ‘oh, the Marriage Pact would be a cool way to reach out’.

Cyrena sent Tichara the secret admirer email before realizing the email’s anonymity was both a blessing and a curse—Tichara now knew that someone was interested, but Cyrena had no way to follow up.

Cyrena: One of the reasons why I really liked her was because she’s really funny on Twitter. I saw the post she made and it was the perfect opportunity. I was a little chickenshit and didn’t want to follow up at first, but my friend was like, “You need to reach out, she posted this, you have to do something about this now.”

Cyrena screenshotted Tichara’s tweet and DM’ed it back to her over Instagram, adding an (in Tichara’s opinion, ambiguous) 👀. From there, Tichara asked if Cyrena had been the one to send the secret admirer email, to which Cyrena admitted that she thought Tichara was cute and that she wanted to get to know her better.

And with that, the day before matches had even been sent out, the date was set—ice cream at the Ben and Jerry’s on campus.

Tichara: I knew that I was going to anticipate it, and me being a nervous person going on a date with a cute girl, I was like, ‘oh God, what do I wear, what do I do?’ I knew I had a class with her, so I really wanted the date to be before we had class together again because I feel like I wouldn’t be able to sit in class and focus and be normal knowing all this had happened. But we were really busy and I think the date was planned for after one more class.

Cyrena: We left class and then we went to the same party that weekend, too, so the date was not the first time meeting face to face.

Tichara: It was nerve-wracking… Like, I had classes to go to and then I knew I was gonna be on a date… but I think once I actually got there, it was like five minutes of nervousness but then we had a very good conversation. We talked for quite a bit. I remember she had another class shortly after so it wouldn’t be that long. I kept losing track of time and I was like, ‘oh shoot, I don’t want her to be late for class, but I’m really liking this conversation.’ I was very nervous about it, but it was a really good experience.

The pining didn’t stop there. Before they’d started dating, Tichara and Cyrena went to a stoplight party, where people can take different colored cups indicating their relationship status.

Tichara: I remember coming up to the cups and thinking, ‘oh my God, what cup is she gonna take?’ I feel like both of us that night were fixated if the other was gonna get the cup that said it’s complicated, or don’t talk to me… I think that was really fun because at the end we started talking about the fact that both of us wanted more and wanted to be together because we both got the not-single cups.

Tichara and Cyrena have been dating since last December, and though they didn’t match this time around, they don’t need an algorithm to tell them they work.

Tichara: I think we have a lot of similar interests, but we also have a lot of things that are different from each other. I feel like I’m in constant awe of her, and I remember feeling like that the first time we actually sat down and had a conversation. We’d had class together, but you don’t really have that opportunity there, so she was, like, this mysterious girl. But even now I think she’s still that mysterious girl and I just want to keep knowing her and talking to her.

Cyrena says that the Marriage Pact was still a great catalyst for her to reach out as someone who was already interested but who didn’t know how to express it.

Cyrena: I was thinking that just matching on Tinder would be lame, but talking in person, I wouldn’t know how I would clearly express that like, ‘I don’t just wanna be your friend’. And just talking in class, I don’t know how to bring that up out of the blue. I think the wording of “secret admirer” was really helpful because I was like, “yes, I like you like you.”

Tichara: I am… I don’t want to say a wimp, I’m trying to think of something nicer… I’m not very forward or forthcoming, so if she hadn't reached out, I probably still would have been chillin’. And not in a bad way, I’m just glad she reached out because I’m really happy to be with her and I wish I had that same confidence. I’d totally do it now.

When asked the thing they admire most about each other, the pair answered:

Cyrena: Her selflessness. It’s like a double-edged sword because I’m like, “take care of yourself, let people take care of you,” but she’s always thinking about other people. Family, friends, me… it’s really sweet. It’s such a good wholesome character trait that I really appreciate.

Tichara: One of my favorite things about her is her humor. She says that I’m funnier than her but I seriously think she’s the funniest, most quirky (in a good way) person. I was saying earlier how much I’m in awe of her, and I think no one compares in terms of interest and humor and the things that randomly occur to her, she always keeps me on my toes.

The couple has been apart for a few months over the summer, with Cyrena studying abroad in Morocco and Tichara away in Ghana. As the school year approaches, they’re excited to be around each other again and continue where they left off last semester. The two began their time at UVA during the pandemic, so there’s so much in Charlottesville they haven’t done and can’t wait to experience together.