A common experience of divorce seems like an unlikely origin for a love story, but so it was for Raj Sardesh and Alexander Seidel.
Mr. Sardesh (left) and Mr. Seidel were in the throes of parting from marriages when they met in 2008. Both were also in the process of coming out as gay men.
They met in Berkeley, Calif., at a Wednesday night support group at the Pacific Center for Human Growth, which provides clinical and support services to L.G.B.T.Q. people. After the meeting, the group typically went out for a drink at the White Horse Inn, a gay bar some blocks down Telegraph Avenue from the center.
“We connected pretty much immediately,” said Mr. Sardesh, 57, who is a technology marketing consultant and was until last year the owner of Origany, a company that manufactured organic clothing for babies and children.
The two shared a first kiss that night. And then, as Mr. Sardesh tells the story, Mr. Seidel didn’t return his telephone call asking for a dinner date for a year.
“I was pretty shy in that era, and maybe unsure of myself,” said Mr. Seidel, who is 65 and the president of a San Francisco architectural firm that bears his name. “He was waiting for more attention from me for a while than I was willing to give.”
At the same time, Mr. Seidel said, he remembers that he fell in love with Mr. Sardesh quickly. “I feel like it was right away,” he said. “I kept going back to him. He’s smart, he’s quick-witted, he’s got so much education and is good at management and technology and a bunch of stuff that is not my forte.”
Mr. Sardesh said that once the two did reconnect, “It just seemed like we were coming from the same place, having been married, and our values were pretty similar.”
“He really has the highest integrity in terms of he doesn’t lie, he doesn’t play games — he doesn’t need to — and there’s a sense of strength that he has,” Mr. Sardesh said.
The two saw each other every other week, then weekly, then a few times a week, and by 2012, they had moved in together.
But legally acknowledging a long-term relationship was still a point of contention. Mr. Sardesh said that he saw marriage as a way of committing, and he was especially eager to take the step once gay marriage became legal in 2015.
“I kept giving ultimatums — ‘This summer or nothing!’—but then summer came and went,” he said. “I was still going through some frustration, but he was always there for me and that was another thing: He made it clear he would be there for me for the long haul.”
On Aug. 8, in the backyard of their home in Belvedere, Calif., just outside San Francisco and overlooking a lagoon, the couple were married in a ceremony led by Mr. Sardesh’s daughter, Nina R. Sardesh, who had become a Universal Life minister for the event. They had planned a much larger event, with a Hindu ceremony, but in a bow to the coronavirus pandemic, they had just eight participants.
Mr. Seidel, who describes himself as “by nature a pretty conservative guy,” said that while he may have been slower to come to a desire to formalize the union, he was never unclear about what the relationship meant to him.
“I think there were moments when Raj felt I wasn’t moving fast enough and was ready to throw in the towel, and I never wanted him to do that,” he said. “I didn’t want to let go of him.”