How we met: ‘I wrote down everything I wanted in a partner – and he fitted all the criteria’

In 1993, Karima Wicks was working for a tech company in Tucson, Arizona. “Tim caught my eye,” she remembers. “He had this long ponytail, shorts and Converse sneakers. I remember thinking he had a very west coast look.” Timothy had also noticed her style, which was “totally different”, he says. “She was so dazzling and always dressed up. There wasn’t anything romantic there, though, because we were both married.” They became close colleagues, but lost contact when Timothy left the company later that year.

Two years later, Karima’s marriage ended, although she and her former partner continued to co-parent their daughter. “I went through a confused period where my career felt ungrounded, I was trying to care for my daughter with my ex and I’d come out of two relationships,” she says. She went to see a traditional South American healer, known as a curandera, for guidance. “As part of the ritual, I wrote down everything I wanted in a partner, to gain clarity.”

A few weeks later, she was chatting to a friend, who offered to set her up with her boyfriend’s roommate. “I agreed and she told me it was someone I’d worked with. I realised it was Timothy, who was now single.” Timothy, meanwhile, had no idea his date would be with Karima, but says he was pleasantly surprised when he found out.

They met in a coffee shop and got off to an awkward start. “My roommate’s dog had escaped, so I kept calling Karima to say I was running late,” he says. “When I finally got to the date, she asked me for a tamarindo soda and I had no idea what it was.” But Karima says the date went well and they talked for a long time, catching up on old office gossip. “It was a lot of fun and there was definitely a connection,” says Timothy. It wasn’t until they went on a second date, to a street fair, that they realised there could be something more than friendship. “Tim fit all the criteria I was looking for. Compassionate, progressive views, an interest in arts and culture and an understanding that my daughter would always be my first priority,” says Karima. They officially became a couple in December 1996, but took things slowly.

“Karima’s daughter, Zoey, was only two years old and wasn’t sure how to take me at first,” he says. “We took her out to a coffee shop and she ate all his whipped cream while glaring at him,” says Karima, laughing. Luckily, they developed a positive relationship and Timothy has always been on good terms with Zoey’s dad. “We built a blended family,” says Karima. “When we first got together, I didn’t know if his mother would like me, because I already had a child.” She needn’t have worried. “Tim’s family is Chinese American and I’m black. She was supportive of my family situation and very comfortable with our relationship.”

In 1998, they moved in together; they married the following year. They fostered a child for a year in 2000 and later co-parented with Zoey, when she became a mum in 2009. “We now help out with her two younger children as well,” says Karima. The couple live with their eldest grandson, three parrots, two dogs and four cats. “We’re always feeding the strays, too,” laughs Karima. Timothy is retired after a long career in the tech industry and Karima is taking a graduate school counselling programme.

Timothy loves his partner’s strength and her sense of moral conviction. “We mesh really well in terms of our politics, our interests and the music we like. We both love electronic dance music, which I guess is unusual for folks our age,” he says. Karima appreciates her partner’s style and his family values. “As an Asian American man, he’s sensitive to issues around race and understands what our black children are going through,” she says. “It’s great to be in a relationship where you can be together, but also have the freedom to do all the things you’re passionate about. It’s been fun and challenging and we always learn from each other.”

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