Finding a Keeper in the Course of ‘50 Throwaway Dates’

Eva Maria Theresa Janerus, recently divorced, sought the help of a matchmaker in June 2019 to prepare her for the rigors of a return to the dating game.

In an effort to get Ms. Janerus going, her matchmaker prescribed a whopping “50 throwaway dates,” leaving room for plenty to go wrong in a search for Mr. Right.

Ms. Janerus, 37, the head of business development for Night Owl Capital in Greenwich, Conn., was soon executing the game plan. In June 2019, on the dating app the League, she met Gautam Mukunda, 42, a political scientist, author and entrepreneur.

Mr. Mukunda, who had never been married, felt like a flat-out keeper to Ms. Janerus. But to be absolutely certain, she went on 19 more dates. Not a single one of them measured up to Mr. Mukunda, “a man of integrity who is also handsome, trustworthy and wicked smart,” according to Ms. Janerus, a Swedish American who grew up in Old Saybrook, Conn.

He also proved to be a hero to her dog, Rudy, a 22-pound Shih Tzu-poodle rescue.

On a scorching Fourth of July in 2020, they were at Sandy Neck Beach in Cape Cod, Mass. The couple got lost trying to find their way back to the trailhead where they were parked. Rudy, then 11, was exhausted.

“Gautam picked up Rudy, put him in his backpack and carried him for 11 miles until we found our car,” Ms. Janerus said. “He saved Rudy’s life.”

“It was the kind of seminal moment that began to make me think that I could start a family with this person,” she added. “He was someone I could trust, the kind of person who chooses to do the right thing even when no one else is watching.”

Mr. Mukunda had what he considered to be a “seminal” experience of his own with Ms. Janerus.

“To me, the clearest expression of someone’s values is how they treat people, all people,” he said. “The way she went out of her way that day to make sure she had thanked each and every member of that staff told me all I needed to know about her.”

Ms. Janerus, who graduated from the University of Connecticut and is also the board chair of the Y.W.C.A. of Greenwich, Conn., said that she and Mr. Mukunda “got very serious very quickly.”

Their relationship began deepening in February 2020 as Mr. Mukunda, a former Carnegie biosecurity fellow, became concerned about the risks from Covid-19 and urged Ms. Janerus to prepare to stay in place and isolate for at least the next six months.

They decided to ride out the pandemic together, at Ms. Janerus’s home on Cape Cod, in Barnstable, Mass. For the next year they were barely apart for more than a few hours, spending the pandemic by working from home, working out and enjoying time with Rudy.

“I have never been around someone who made me laugh as much as Gautam,” Ms. Janerus said.

Mr. Mukunda said that Ms. Janerus “is also someone who always speaks the truth.”

On Feb. 15, Mr. Gautam gave Ms. Janerus a necklace of Burmese rubies — his great-grandmother had worn it at her wedding and had given it to his mother, who wore it at hers.

He asked Ms. Janerus to wear it at their wedding, on Sept. 11, at what is now their home in Barnstable. Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times and a friend of the couple who received a one day solemnization from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to officiate, led a ceremony that included 170 fully vaccinated guests.

“Seeing Eva Maria wear that necklace at our wedding was the most perfect moment of my life,” the groom said.