I don't know what exactly made me (Eva) try out Catholic Match. I had an account for a few months before I decided to purchase a membership. I wanted to meet someone special, but one of my worries was that there were very few men from home country of Belgium on the site. Still, I did weekly searches for matches and contacted people. I had a few interesting contacts, but nothing that lead to a deeper relationship and the contact always fizzled out.
One day in December, I stumbled over Bill's profile and he seemed like an interesting person. We had a lot in common–not just in interests but in what we wanted from life. There was one problem–Bill lived in California and was interested in people who lived within a 100-mile radius from Stanford. I decided to send him a message anyway and I mentioned that, while I might not be the person he was looking for as a wife, we might become interesting friends. And that we did.
We started emailing pretty soon. Then we exchanged instant messenger addresses. Then phone numbers. We seemed to always have so much to say. And we found out we were extremely compatible for marriage, despite the first intention of being friends. And then we fell in love, one email and one messenger conversation at a time. Both of us are nerds. Thorough nerds. As in going in costume to the opening of Lord of the Rings nerds. Researching three hours to find the history of the nutmeg and having read all the Catholic social encyclicals kind of nerds. And we are unashamedly enjoying our nerdishness, even though that is not a word.
In March, Bill sent me some flowers for my birthday, which was the gesture that made me realize he had changed his mind over that 100-mile thing. Still, the distance between us remained a reality to be dealt with. So we continued to talk and spend hours online together, both of us still doing work at the same time. In June, his family was visiting Ireland and a few months before, he asked if he could come over and visit me in Belgium. I enthousiastically embraced the idea.
The visit, where Bill stayed at my mother's house, was a success, which made me feel even more nervous about this developing relationship. After all, if I were really to marry this man it meant moving to the United States. But I had fallen in love with him over playing Trivial Pursuit, laughter, museum visits and his willingness to let me set the pace of our relationship.
We kept talking nearly every day. We even had transatlantic dates. We would go to the movies together in different countries, in the evening for me, in the afternoon for him due to the time difference, and then talking about the movie afterward.
I visited him and met his family in November. By now, Bill had moved back to his hometown of St. Louis and when he drove four hours to allow me to visit a friend of mine in Kansas, after nearly no sleep and still needing to teach that afternoon, I dozed on the front seat and decided to say yes if he asked me to marry him.
Ask me he did, in December, about a year after we met online, on our third physical visit. And I said yes. Being the most careful and cautious person ever, I would have never thought I would be someone who would do this. I don't even recommend it now. But after being so happy, I did say yes.
Bill had asked permission of my mother to marry me, before coming to Belgium. He asked for my hand in marriage in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, in the St. Joseph chapel. St. Joseph is my chosen patron saint. I had asked his intercession to send me a wonderful husband and all through the courtship we asked his guidance. Afterwards, we went to sit in Adoration for half an hour or so, then went out to eat fries and just enjoy our news for half an hour more amongst ourselves before informing the families.
There was much rejoicing and an international wedding to organize. Both of our schedules made a summer wedding the best idea, and since I had a strong connection to my parish and Bill had just moved, we decided to have the wedding at my church–the magnificent 800-year old cathedral where he'd proposed. We mixed cultures in both the wedding ceremony and the preparation. His mother came over to help out in March. Both of us wanted a wedding that was centered on our union before God and sharing this joy with our family. And we wanted it done on a budget, since there would be more than enough costs associated with setting up house together. His mother and her friends organized a bridal shower for me in St. Louis. My best friend organized a girl's night for the two of us in Antwerp. And on July 8 we married.
The wedding preparations were wonderful, and easier than we would have expected, with lots of volunteer help. A colleague of my mother sewed my wedding gown and my aunt made up the flowers for the reception. The volunteers from the Cathedral did my flowers for the church and My collegues in teaching confirmation class sang in the wedding mass. We walked through the city to the church without a need for big limos or cars. Both of us actually utterly enjoyed our wedding day, despite several things that didn't go according to plan.
Having prepared very well for the paperwork, I was granted a visa only three weeks after being married and a few weeks later, I moved to South Carolina where Bill has a tenured track job, with two suitcases and a sparkling new wedding ring. Now, a year and a half later, I have not regretted my decision for a single day. My husband is more wonderful than I would have ever dreamed of.
Fifteen months after our wedding, our marriage was crowned with the birth of our first child, Joseph William. I would never have believed a life could change this much in less than three years. I went from a single woman, living in Antwerp Belgium, to being a much loved wife and mother in South Carolina, USA.
In retrospect, I think there are distinct advantages in having a courtship that limits the amount of "stuff" you can do together. Going to the movies or going out on a date may be fun, but does it truly encourage you to talk about real things? About your feelings on simple, day to day things that happen? Or about your desires, wishes and attitudes, like the way you want to lead your life and are leading your life? Talking is the greatest gift of a long distance courtship. Not just the mushy romantic stuff, fun as that may be, but everything that gives a realistic view into the person that you are.
Both of us made time for each other in our daily life and did not consider the other person as an "Internet romance". The computer was merely our way of communication, not a determining factor in how we saw each other. One of the most important things was involving our family and friends, and listening to their opinion about this courtship, about the potential marriage partner. We did not close ourselves off in a little romantic enclave but figured out how the new family we would form would fit in with the existing families from which both of us came.
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