Diary of a Marriage: The Long-Distance Engagement

When J.'s best friend proposed to a girl who lives in the Philippines, it made me wonder: Could J. and I have survived 9,000 miles?


At first glance, the bridal shower invitation that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago looked relatively normal. It was for a shower for Aubrey, the fiancé of J.’s oldest friend, Andrew, whom he’s known since grade school. But then I noticed the start time. Ten-thirty. In the morning. And then there was the fine print: It is a Skype shower. As in, the bride-to-be will not actually be physically present at the shower. She’ll be at home, in the Philippines, watching us watching her as we celebrate her impending nuptials from 9,000 miles away.

It was J. who created Andrew’s Match.com profile several years ago. He helped Andrew choose the best photos, write the right stuff, and craft the perfect online persona that would inevitably lead to Andrew finding his soul mate. Andrew went on a few dates with a girl, a cute teacher who lived about 30 minutes away in New Jersey. It seemed a good fit, but Andrew quickly dismissed her: The distance was just too much.

So I suppose it makes perfect sense that now Andrew is getting married to a girl who lives about a 15-hour plane ride away, clear across the world.

When I first met Andrew, he didn’t say much. I’m sure I overwhelmed him a little bit: I can get loud sometimes, I gesture wildly when I tell stories, I squeal when I get excited, and I hug people freely, even when I’ve just met them. Andrew would sit quietly and I’d fire questions at him, mostly about cars because J. once told me he’s into them. He’d answer a question and I’d ask another. I thought it was making good conversation; I’m sure Andrew felt like he was in the Spanish Inquisition.

And then he met Aubrey and suddenly Andrew couldn’t stop talking.

Andrew and Aubrey met at a mutual friend’s wedding in the Philippines. We were all a bit hesitant at first, mainly about logistics. Aubrey wasn’t able to get a Visa; she was stuck in the Philippines, living in a tiny house with all of her extended family and no air-conditioning. Andrew visited her as often as possible, and they began the exhausting process of developing a relationship from opposite sides of the world. They talked frequently, emailed even more, Skyped constantly. They took three-week-long vacations to places like China and Thailand. On Christmas, she even opened presents with his family via Skype. It was all progressing nicely, but J. and I were worried: Skype isn’t real life, nor is a fancy hotel room with room service on vacation. Skype isn’t dirty dishes piled in the sink and snoring in the middle of the night and paying the bills and dealing with a leaky roof in the midst of a rainstorm.

So we were all relieved when Andrew was able to get a job transfer to Manila for six months. Now they’d both be able to see what life together was really like, stripped of computer delays and 12-hour time differences and Mai Tais on exotic beaches. Six months later—right before he came back to the States—he proposed, and on Sunday I’ll be picking up my mother-in-law for a Skype bridal shower that begins at ten-thirty in the morning.

The thought of beginning a relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the world is daunting, and it makes me wonder if J. and I would’ve been able to do it. We had it relatively easy: We lived within minutes of each other when we met, and our schedules allowed for weeknight get-togethers and weekend dates. Our days began and ended at the same time; we slept during the same hours, we spoke the same language and we shared the same culture. It was uncomplicated; we instantly clicked into place, like two pieces of the same puzzle. Andrew and Aubrey, I guess they’ve just got more pieces to fit together: securing a Visa, ridiculous red tape, language barriers, moving a life to an entirely different continent.*

Looking back on us, though, it wasn’t entirely easy. There were broken hearts before J., and I considered fleeing the country and living in an ashram—Elizabeth Gilbert-style—on more than one occasion. But we found each other eventually, and then we plowed through all the growing pains—dirty dishes in the sink and snoring in the middle of the night and paying the bills and dealing with a leaky roof in the midst of a rainstorm—and now we are here. I’m just glad I didn’t have to travel 9,000 miles to get here.** But I’m glad Andrew made the trip.

Have you and your groom ever had to do the long distance thing? How did you make it work? Do you think you two could swing distance as great as what our friends are dealing with?


*Aubrey’s not used to cold weather, and doesn’t own one lick of winter clothing. In a burst of genius, I told J. I’d loan her a few of my vintage furs. He didn’t seem to think that was such a good idea. I guess they don’t do vintage in Manila. Or maybe they don’t do fur. J. thinks I might overwhelm her, and proffering dead (vintage!) animals probably isn’t the best way to start off. I’m going to do my very best not to squeal at the Skype shower.

**But I would have anyway.



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