Meeting your partner for the first time is nerve-wracking for anybody, but for me – meeting my boyfriend for the first time after already having been dating for a year – was something else entirely.
I started talking to my boyfriend online three years ago. We became friends pretty much instantly, and we’ve spoken every day since then. It didn’t take long before I realised that I was starting to have feelings for him. There was only one problem – he lived 10, 236 miles away.
Before three years ago, a long-distance relationship was something I’d never really considered, never mind one that started online. Everything that I’d ever heard about online relationships left me feeling generally quite sceptical. We’ve all been told about the dangers of talking to people online – creepy old men, fake profiles, catfishing – but what about when you know that the person on the other end of the screen is who they say they are? Can a relationship that starts online work in real life?
After the initial happiness, these thoughts were all that went through my mind when he asked me to be his girlfriend. Because as much as I wanted to say yes, I had no idea how an online relationship was going to work, especially being as far away as we were. So I did what any reasonable girl would do – I told him I needed a few days to think about it.
Two days later – after very little deliberation – I said yes.
Over a year later, I was standing at the airport waiting to meet him for the first time. Our first year together was good – although slightly rocky – and the build up to him coming to visit was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life. And although those around me were concerned – what if we didn’t get along in real life, what if we weren’t attracted to each other, what if somehow he wasn’t who he said he was after all – we knew that it would be amazing.
With my family patiently waiting in the cafe behind me (just in case), I stood at the barrier waiting to see the face that had appeared next to so many messages. And then the thought crossed my mind – what if I didn’t recognise him? Despite all the snapchats and exchanged picture messages, the countless hours spent sat on Skype together, was there a chance that when it came to real life, I wouldn’t recognise the face I’d spent so many hours memorising?
After what felt like hours – although 40 minutes is probably more accurate – this was starting to seem likely. Every possible thought ran through my mind. Maybe he hadn’t gotten on the plane after all, or maybe he was lost. Maybe he’d already walked past and I hadn’t seen him, or maybe I was at the wrong gate.
But before any more extreme thoughts could emerge – images of him being detained in airport security or the plane exploding – I saw a hand raised in a nervous wave and a familiar grinning face.
I felt like I was going to pass out with nervousness, but as he came towards me and puts his arms around me in what was our first hug, I was struck by how right it felt. My heart slowed and the shaking of my hands that had somehow escaped my notice subsided.
“Long time no see,” he whispered, and I laughed, relieved. Everything was exactly the way I’d imagined – albeit I was significantly more nervous.
I waited for him to walk round to the open section of the barrier, where I grabbed his hand and prepared myself to introduce my boyfriend to my parents after having only just met him myself seconds earlier.
And although the next month and a half passed by quickly, they were even better than either of us had anticipated. Our connection was even stronger in person, and only reaffirmed our commitment to each other.
We’re both aware that we’re extremely lucky, and that perhaps our situation may be rarer than we think, but after nearly three years together and another trip planned in just two months, I think it’s safe to say that it worked out.