Mars & Deborah 3:
As Deborah went to the departure hall to fly out of Adelaide I knew that the next few months were going to drag on slowly and that I would miss her like crazy. I just didnt want her to go but that was the reality of the situation. When she got back...
>> Continued




She's From:   United Kingdom
He's From:     United States

Benjamin, age 25, is from the mid west of the USA and Jennie, age 21, is from the North West of England.


Neither one of us were looking to meet someone on the internet, yet this is the story of how we met in a yahoo chat room, fell in love and got married on August 20th 2001.

Our story isn't quite that simple though...we were friends for 8 months before we became a couple. Plus, because I'm an 'alien' we had to go through the K-1 fiancée visa process to allow me to move to the USA to marry Ben. If you're in a long distance relationship, we hope our story will give you hope and encouragement. 






Ben and I originally lived a 3862 mile flight apart. This flight takes approximately 9 hours from Birmingham to Chicago plus there's a couple of hours of driving at each end getting to and from the airport. Central Standard Time is also 6 hours behind Greenwhich Mean Time. With all this distance it seems remarkable that we ever came across each other. But whereas we can measure this distance physically, it's hard to comprehend the massive space that is the internet. The odds of our paths crossing must have been so minute...which leads me to believe in the power of fate. I don't think I'd be so amazed if we'd both placed personal ads online and thus were looking for a relationship online. Or it wouldn't have been so unusual if we'd met on the emotional health discussion board where I posted every day. But no, we met in a yahoo music chat room.

I was in Vermont at the time, on an exchange program and so the time difference was only an hour then. I remember being online and none of my friends from the discussion board were around, so I decided to go into yahoo chat. I really don't have a clue what the date was, but Ben reckons it was most likely a Sunday night in September (1999) and I'll go along with that. I'd been in yahoo a couple of times before, but I didn't make a habit of it. With a female name all you seem to get are a lot of creepy blokes wanting to talk about sex. I went straight to the music rooms and the system threw me into one of many 'ska, punk and thrash' rooms. I was una_jen, 'Una' being the virgin maiden in Spenser's The Faerie Queene, who is saved by and marries the noble RedCrosse knight. This is a poem that I'd read for university from the 1600's, I think. The chat room I was in had only two people in there, someone called sk8er and my future husband who I met as Jaghurdamore... a name Ben made up for a monkey character who stars in a series of short stories he's written.

Well, from what I remember the three of us chatted for a short while and then ska8er left us alone. Although we were in a music room we didn't talk about music at all, except to say that neither of us liked punk. I was having a hard time in Vermont, as I hadn't really wanted to go on an exchange and somehow I ended up telling Ben all my problems, past and present, in detail. It's somehow easier to spill out a bunch of personal stuff to a stranger and Ben was a good listener and tried arguing me out of my depressive way of thinking. He remembers that night, as he'd never stayed up all night talking to someone online before. We swapped e mail addresses before we logged off so we could stay in touch.

I was in Vermont until late December and we kept in casual e mail contact during that time...I can't really remember if we chatted again in that time, perhaps we did once or twice. We lost touch over Christmas and during January as I had no computer access. When we made contact again Ben was all confused as to why I was in England. Ummm, because I lived there. He came across my e mail in his address book and wrote to me because he hadn't heard from me in ages. So during February 2000 Ben would send me e mails that made me laugh and I'd take two weeks to reply, as now I was having a hard time settling back into university in Nottingham. By March, after we kept missing each other being online in yahoo, we realised that we both had AOL instant messenger. So now we chatted when we could... more often and for longer periods of time as the weeks went by. Once we were both online for 15 hours straight, chatting for much of that time. Ben made me laugh on AIM, being what could be fondly called a 'jackass'. Whereas his e mails conveyed that there was so much more to him. I began to think what a good boyfriend he'd make but I didn't dwell on that...he lived on a whole other continent.

At this point we still hadn't exchanged photos. Ben has since told me that he had an impression of me having short black hair and not being pretty at all...hehe, thanks. My friend Liz helped us along on this issue. One night she came into the computer room as I was chatting to Ben and I handed the keyboard over to her so they could say hi. Liz was being all girly & bold and as I told her what a nice guy Ben is, she typed it up for him to see. Then she started asking what he looked like and I told her I hadn't seen a picture of him. On Liz's request, Ben agreed to send me his photo later in the evening. I sent him the only one of me that I had online, which was from Christmas 1998. In the photo I'm wearing a Christmas cracker hat which totally confused Ben as they don't have crackers in the USA. Swapping photos made our friendship feel more real and Ben got to know me better through 'meeting' Liz.

At this point in time we both started developing feelings for each other. There were a couple of clues that something was starting to happen between us: Ben had to draw a floor plan of his work for a college class and he included a little green haired stick figure, which was me being a customer. He also told me about a couple of dreams he had about me. One where he came to England to drive me to class. In one of his dreams he dreamt that he gave me a cactus instead of flowers, when he met me at the airport. This was really weird as I had a whole collection of cacti but had never told him. Then in 'Paint' I drew Ben a picture of a cactus. Hehe, I guess that was my way of flirting - sending him a picture. We also noticed that it got harder to say good bye to each other when we logged off for the night - hence the 15 hour chat perhaps. I also started saving our AIM conversations - I have a couple from the few days before we got together.

Around May 11th 2000, we became a couple. Ben sent me an e mail, in the midst of a migraine, with a few rhetorical questions, something like "Why do I miss you when you log off the computer?" and "Why do I feel depressed at the thought of going to work and not getting to talk to you?" Awww. He was worried that he was out of line even mentioning this and expected me to just politely dismiss him. I was nervous but thrilled. I sent him a rather confused reply, kind of warning him about all the weirdness he was letting himself in for. But when we talked on AOL later that night I let him know that I felt the same. We kind of skirted round the issue a lot. No way did we come right out and say that we were in love. We avoided the direct words but it was clear that we both had strong feelings for each other. Later that night we did address that issue and I agreed to be Ben's girlfriend. Hehe, it sounds like we were 14 or something but it was hard to get our feelings out in the open.

Ben and I were both a bit stunned at falling for someone on the internet...someone we'd never seen in person. Ben was particularly resistant, wondering "how the hell" this could have happened. As for me, well I'd never had a boyfriend before and now I had one, but he was on the other side of the Atlantic. So, as soon as we'd come to understand that we both felt strongly about each other, we talked about meeting and even the possibility of Ben one day living in England. Little did we know of the visa process back then. But we decided that the best thing to do would be for Ben to come and visit me as soon as possible. He was still in tech school at the time and so couldn't afford to miss classes until September. This was a good time to come visit me as I'd be in my flat at university and I could move in 2 weeks before the term started. This was all arranged in we had a long wait until we'd see each other.

By the time June came around, I was already impatient and getting frustrated. I'd finished my exams for the semester and had nothing to do but sit and wait until September. So after much thought and a phone call to my mum (who told me to "Go for it. You're only young once") I asked Ben what he thought about me coming to visit him for my birthday, later that month. After a lot of discussion and sleeping on it, it was decided. On my younger brother's advice, I spoke to Ben on the phone before I bought the tickets. Jordan said I should make sure that Ben didn't sound too creepy, hehehe. We only talked for about 20 minutes (my phone card ran out) but Ben sounded far from creepy...just nervous cute and kind of like a cowboy. Though I feel a bit silly for thinking that now. It certainly offended him when I told him that, especially as he was saying nice things about how eloquent and sane I sounded.

There's often a question as to whether you can fall in love with someone you've never met. Is it all just a fantasy? Even though we're now married, I still find it hard to get my head around falling in love online. I do think you can fall in love with someone's personality. It's definitely possible to form a strong emotional connection through communicating and sharing your thoughts & feelings. It is a lot different once you've met in person though. You're then able to add the final dimension to your love. Perhaps it can be explained by saying that you can love someone you know online but you can only be *in" love with them once you've met.

Falling in love online is not something you should rush into. I'm really glad me and Ben started out as friends online and let things develop naturally. Yes, before we met we did feel that we loved each other and we told each other this. But we also understood that we needed to meet in person and see how we connected before we considered our future. I sometimes read stories of people who say that they're engaged when they've never met but that just doesn't seem emotionally possible to me. I believe the internet can be a great place to meet people...I'm a shy person and so I was able to be myself more easily online. But I also believe that once you've met someone online and you're in a trusting relationship, it is *crucial* to meet in person to confirm how you both feel. I'm also really lucky that Ben was a 100% honest with me. I was more honest with him than I am with a lot of people in my real life. If you're dating someone online and you're planning on meeting soon then take a look at our Online relationship advice section for some advice on safety. Thankfully Ben and I had no obstacles with honesty to overcome, but people online don't always tell the truth. We did have our own particular fears before meeting though...

Before I met Ben I had four piercings: my nose, right eyebrow, labret (below my lip) and tragus (part of my ear). Ben has a very strong needle phobia, which extends to a dislike of piercings because of the images they create in his mind. If we had originally met in person it's unlikely we would have become more than friends, as Ben couldn't conceive dating anyone with piercings. So understandably I was worried that Ben would take one look at me and that would be the end. This wasn't helped by the fact that the only photo I had of me online was on taken before all my piercings. Everyone I spoke to about this suggested that I just take my piercings out...hmmm, no one seems to like them except me. Ben was the only person who didn't suggest that I removed them and when we did meet he came to accept them remarkably quickly. Ben was also worried before we met, thinking that he wasn't weird enough for me, as he wasn't some long haired guy with piercings. Hehe, but I can tell you that he's suitably weird enough for me just as he is.

The 18th of June 2000 was the day we first met face to face... 


>> Continued in Part Two.