Plunging through the layers of thick grey cloud as my plane made its descent towards Heathrow, my heart flipped at the thought of the person waiting for me in the arrivals lounge.
The cloudy UK skies make quite a contrast to the bright sunshine of my native California, but I’d give up every sunny day for the rest of my life for a day with my beautiful wife Libby.
You could say our marriage is unconventional. We live 5,280 miles apart, at opposite sides of the world. We have an eight-hour time difference and flights to visit each other cost around £700.
But every time one of us steps off a plane and falls into the arms of the other, those minor logistics never seem to matter. We never take a moment together for granted the way couples in regular relationships sometimes do, and when we’re apart, our FaceTimes are the best part of the day.
Some of my mates back home ask, ‘Dude, what are you doing with a girl from England?’
I smile and tell them it’s a long story…
We met back in June 2018, when Libby was spending a season working at a Camp America summer camp in my hometown San Bernadino. I was 23 and Libby was 22 at the time.
She was working with the kids, while I had a summer job in the kitchens. I clocked her immediately – she had a gorgeous smile and funny British accent, but I needed an excuse to talk to her.
Then one day she burned her hand on a quad bike and I saw my chance to go over and ask if she was OK.
It was like a meet-cute scene from a movie; a bit cheesy, we instantly made eye contact and the next moment, I had her soft little hand in mine as I looked at the burn.
I think we both felt something shift, and the next moment I was asking if she’d like to go bowling that evening. She was super keen, which I loved; she had such an infectious enthusiasm. I found out afterwards that she was excited because I’d finally asked her out.
Our first date was so easy, there were no awkward silences. It felt like despite growing up on different continents – Libby told me she was from a place called Staffordshire, which I’d never even heard of – we had loads in common. We both absolutely love to eat, we enjoy similar music and have a similar sense of humour.
Of course I snatched a cheeky kiss at the end of the night, parked up at a gorgeous viewpoint in the hills looking down over the twinkling city lights. We discovered we have great chemistry, too.
Before long it was a full-blown summer romance. We soon discovered we don’t need extravagant dates or activities to have fun – half the time we enjoy the simplest things just because we’re doing them together. We’re both pretty upbeat, grateful people in general.
I tried to enjoy it, for Libby’s sake, but at the back of my mind, I knew that come September she’d have to leave. I felt absolutely devastated but also very aware of the reality of the situation.
San Bernadino was my home – but Libby’s home was thousands of miles away and I couldn’t even imagine what it might be like.
The week before she left, I told her I loved her. I hadn’t really planned it, I just blurted it out, and she looked a bit shocked. She’d always made it clear that she didn’t want a long distance relationship and I tried to be respectful of her decision, but saying goodbye to her at the airport really broke my heart.
For days I moped about at home – and my parents Viv and Fleming could sense this wasn’t just your average break-up. Then a message popped into my inbox, from Libby, with a link to a song, telling me she missed me.
After that we messaged back and forth constantly, and by December I’d made plans to fly to the UK to visit her. It was a huge gamble; I had no idea if we’d feel the same when we saw each other again or if it would just be super-awkward.
Like me, she lived with her parents, so I knew I’d have to make a good impression with them, too.
Thankfully, as soon as I got off the plane at Heathrow after the 11-hour flight and saw her waiting for me, it was like we’d never been apart. And her parents, Denise and Robert, were really welcoming.
I could tell they had their reservations – what parents wouldn’t? – but within days I felt like one of the family and was even calling Denise ‘Momma Libs’.
At the end of my stay, me and Libby agreed to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and give our long-distance love a go. We soon got into a routine of FaceTime dates and tried to make sure we spoke every day. I think we handled it pretty well and actually found our dates enjoyable.
Sometimes it was awkward is our schedules didn’t align, because of the time difference, or one of us had a tough day. But talking online still gave us the opportunity to see each other and connect.
But as my birthday approached in June 2019, I couldn’t help wishing that my girlfriend was with me to help celebrate. We just really missed each other and sometimes FaceTime didn’t quite scratch that itch.
Sulking in my room that morning, I rolled my eyes as my mom shouted for me to come downstairs as they had a surprise for me.
I stomped downstairs, convinced no present could soothe an aching heart… and there in my parents’ kitchen was Libby!
I’m a chatty guy – it’s not often I’m speechless – but at that moment I felt like the luckiest man on earth. I’m a huge cheeseball so it blew me away that this amazing girl had flown halfway around the world to surprise me on my birthday.
It turned out she and my mom had been planning the whole thing together for months. Knowing that my parents loved her too made me feel even more sure that Libby was the one.
Asking her to marry me was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. I proposed at the Albert Dock in Liverpool during a Christmas trip to the UK later that year.
I had no idea how we’d make a long distance marriage work but I was totally convinced that we’d find a way.
In February 2020 Libby came to stay with me in San Bernadino on an 18-month work visa. The idea was for us to get to know each other a little better and start making plans for the future.
It turned out to be a really fortuitous move because a month later Covid hit and the whole world went into lockdown. Me and Libby ended up isolating together in a house my parents had loaned to us and weathering a pandemic showed us that we were just as good together as we were apart.
She missed her family though, and when she finally flew home in September 2021 I knew she was desperate to see them.
I applied for a marriage visa, to enable me to travel to the UK to get married, although I would have to return to the US afterwards, and on February 2 2022, we tied the knot at The Mill Barns in Bridgenorth, Shropshire.
It was the best day of my life. When we said our vows it felt like all those separations and months missing Libby were worthwhile, because she was finally my wife. I remember whispering to her, just after we were pronounced husband and wife, we did it.
But after a mini-moon in Bath I got on a plane to fly home again.
Libby and I have decided that for now we’ll continue with our long distance love, but Libby is going to start the application process for a green card, which could take up to 18 months. We’d love it if she was living in the States for a period by 2024.
We’d also love a family one day, but not for another few years, so time is on our side.
In the meantime we read together, cook together and watch movies together over FaceTime – just like a regular couple. We’ve actually just recently been bingeing the new series of Virgin River. We count down to pressing play so we’re both watching it at exactly the same time.
But one thing is off the table… we don’t have cyber sex. I think we’d both die of embarrassment. Anticipation is a wonderful thing – our relationship never gets dull or boring.
When I see friends cuddling up together with their partners on the sofa, or arguing over something trivial, I think to myself they don’t know how lucky they are to have their loved one physically with them all the time.
I’ll never take Libby for granted and I know that one day we’ll be together permanently.
Libby came out to visit me earlier this spring and I’ve just spent 17 days in Staffordshire with her this August.
We travel between Heathrow and LAX as often as we can, but I love Libby so much – even if I only saw her for one day a year, I would still pick her over any other girl in the world.
As told to Jade Beecroft
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