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A More Mature Relationship the Second Time Around

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Cristina Lara and Kevin Bailey dated twice in Raleigh, N.C. The first time, in 2015, they were focused on setting up their careers and continuing to adjust to adult life. They had met at the Cary Wine and Food Festival and hit it off. But the relationship was “super casual,” Ms. Lara said, and a typical date was partying with friends downtown late into the night. They were together for only a few months.

When Mr. Bailey, an electrical engineer, was promoted to a managerial position at Duke Energy later that year, he relocated to Charlotte. Soon after, Ms. Lara headed to New York to work for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. They parted on good terms and stayed in touch, but there was nothing to suggest they would wind up getting married.

Mr. Bailey first recognized how much they had both changed when he visited Ms. Lara in New York in September 2017. Seeing her in person, and learning more about her day-to-day life, he says he remembers thinking: “We’re a lot more mature than we were in 2015. We’re like grown-ups now.”

In the months leading up to his trip, they had gone from texting sporadically to talking on the phone for hours while Ms. Lara walked from her office in the Financial District to Times Square, where she would catch a subway to her Upper East Side apartment. When their communication reached a critical mass, they decided it was time to see just how deep their growing connection ran.

Ms. Lara, now an employee relations partner at Biogen, said she knew after their successful reunion weekend “this is going to be a relationship I think that’s going to change my life.” By January 2018 she was back in Raleigh. Mr. Bailey joined her there in June, as soon as he was able to.

Their second Raleigh romance followed a much different trajectory. Ms. Lara, a Cornell graduate, gave up a high-powered human resources position at Goldman Sachs in New York to make the switch; Mr. Bailey, who received an M.B.A. from Queens University of Charlotte in 2018, left his company’s headquarters for a smaller branch in North Carolina’s capital. Both landed on their feet professionally. Ms. Lara was able to secure a position at Credit Suisse and Mr. Bailey was assured by his manager that the move would not hamstring his career. But it was still a risk — one that neither made lightly.

In the space of just a few years, the city had changed dramatically and so had Ms. Lara and Mr. Bailey. “We were just in a different place so we weren’t bar hopping constantly,” said Mr. Bailey, 35. “It was more like, what park can we go to? Or what dog park can we go to?”

Their transformation was particularly apparent to Ms. Lara, 28, when she found clothes after moving back that she had kept from her early 20s. “I saw all these dresses and I was like ‘I’m never going to wear this stuff ever again,’” she said. “I remember just being so much more aware that, wow, I’m getting older.”

The couple traded nocturnal adventures for early mornings exercising and preparing for work. And instead of dating casually, they lived together, raised their rambunctious yellow Labrador retriever, Leo, as a team, and in January 2019 became engaged at the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival. The Koka Booth Amphitheater, which hosted the event, was the site of their first meeting.

The couple married March 27 by the Rev. Perry Hardison, a Southern Baptist minister, who led an outdoor ceremony as 65 guests watched at the Sutherland Estate in Wake Forest, N.C.

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